Many young people looking to enroll in an Australian university of their choice are shocked to hear that they need to undergo a criminal history check. What’s going on? What did I do to deserve this? No need to take it personal, it’s got nothing to do with you. Background checks are standard procedure in the admission process of some educational institutions to protect vulnerable people students might come in contact with during their time at that university.
What educational institutions require background checks?
You must undergo a criminal history check when you want to study in an institution where you might have to interact with children over the duration of your studies. This concerns anything that has to do with childcare, including sports. The idea is that studying in a higher education institution is not just about lectures and writing essays.
Those account for a great part of the academic program, but students are also required to participate in hands-on training programs. If you’re going to teach sports to children, at some point during the course of your studies you will have to practice the theoretical things you learn by working directly with children.
You might not be aware, but in Australia, any individual working with children must obtain a Working With Children permit that includes a criminal records check. This requirement is aimed at protecting children from sexual predators or people with violent behavior. Teachers, coaches and even volunteers for children’s programs are also required to undergo regular police checks.
The same goes for studying for a medical profession. Doctors or nurses interact with all sorts of vulnerable people, including children, mentally disabled or elderly people. The question of your criminal record is important not only for your studies, but also for your future in the profession as people with serious offences are not allowed to work with vulnerable people.
How do I know what’s on my criminal record?
As a young and hopeful young person, you might not understand what’s that got to do with you, but the truth is that, although rare, there are cases of minors convicted for sexual offences against children.
If you were ever convicted of a minor offence as a minor, that will become spent in 5 years under the spent convictions scheme, that applies all over Australia. This scheme, however, does not apply to sexual offences. Those can and will be disclosed when you apply for a Working with Children permit.
Other offences, like public disturbances, drunk driving or shoplifting will no longer be disclosed after 5 years and, in any case, such minor offences are unlikely to prevent you from studying in a higher education institution.
If you are unsure what your criminal record looks like you can easily find out by ordering a background check yourself. All you need to do is look up an online character check agency like Australian national character check or Equifax, input your identity information, upload a photo and there you go. You’ll get your police clearance in a couple of days and you’ll know exactly what offences, if any, are on your record.