Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry transcript

Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry public sitting transcript Steven Unthank appearance 8 June 2011

“During the “Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry” Steven Unthank presented a verbal submission in relation to the Victorian Working with Children Act 2005 (the Act) and the persistent problem of the failure of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses to comply with the legislation. Based on Unthank’s submission, the Inquiry Panel in their January 2012 report (Cummins Report, Volume 2, chapter 14.5, page 353), stated:

“The Act is an important element of the legal framework in place to protect vulnerable children. It is appropriate for there to be not only an effective response to any complaints of potential offences committed under the Act, which is the responsibility of Victoria Police, but also for there to be proactive administration of the Act by DOJ. In that regard, any future review of the operation of the Act would benefit with the recording and reporting of data in relation to investigations and prosecutions under the Act as well as the number of active audits undertaken by DOJ of religious and other organisations that involve working with children, on their level of compliance with the requirements of the Act.”

As noted above, DOJ records data relating to the application and issue of Working With Children Checks and published these on its website. The recording and reporting of data on the number of investigations and prosecutions for breaches of the WWC Act is not recorded.”

In the State of Victoria, breaches of the working with children laws are a Level 7 offence and carry up to 2 years imprisonment, in addition to a potential fine of $29,313.60 (240 penalty units) for an individual and $146,568.00 (1,200 penalty units) for a corporation or body.

A failure, or a refusal to comply with working with children laws, by an organisation, religious or otherwise, may be an indicator of the systemic failure of such an organisation to view the physical and sexual safety of children, with whom they work with, as a responsibility and priority; and also may be an indicator of their underlying attitude towards child protection that may place current and future children at a very high risk of being physically or sexually abused.” – S162B A1_Steven Unthank_Public.pdf (