People with a criminal record face a hard time finding employment and, although there are anti-discrimination laws meant to protect them and offer them a second chance, they are barred from holding certain positions. Those who want to pursue a career in sports are not exempt, so let’s have a look at the particular situation of sports coaches.
Can you work with children with a criminal background?
Before you can dream of coaching a major professional team, you will start by working with children at a sports club. Under Australian law, anyone working with or around children, especially in a position of trust, needs to have a Working With Children permit. For example, states like New South Wales (NSW) have strict character requirements for persons that work with children. All persons in NSW (including soccer coaches) are required to hold a valid working with childrens check NSW if they have any contact with children in the workplace. This applies to teachers, health professionals, children’s entertainers and, obviously, to coaches in any type of sport. The law is the same whether you volunteer to coach children at the local school or you’re looking for a paid position.
Working With Children checks are even more thorough than normal police checks. Does this mean that you can never be around children if you have a criminal record? Not necessarily.
What sort of offences disqualify you as a coach?
The regulations concerning the Working With Children checks vary across Australia, but what they do have in common is that people who have committed sexual offences of any kind can not be allowed to work with children.
The state of Victoria has one of the most comprehensive lists of offences that will result in you being denied the needed WWC permit. Anyone convicted of an offence of a sexual nature against a child is automatically barred from obtaining a WWP permit. At the same time, a rapist will also be re-rejected, no matter the age of the victim.
Among the other offences that make it impossible to obtain a WWC permit are selling or providing drugs to a minor, as well as failing to protect a child from harm or leaving a child unattended.
These regulations are meant to protect children from harm and to give parents peace of mind, knowing they’ve entrusted their kids to someone whose character is beyond reproach.
What is on your criminal record?
As stated above, the offences that make it impossible to work as a coach for young people are mostly of a sexual nature. If the offences on your record are of a different nature you might still obtain a permit. For instance, there’s no reason why a drunk driving offence committed years ago should stop you from being a good coach. People make mistakes and, in this case, the old offence indicates no danger to the children under your supervision as a coach.
On the other hand, a person with a history of violence might be rejected as this type of behaviour should not be allowed around children.
When don’t you need a WWC permit?
The exemptions from the rule are few and concern mostly volunteer work as a coach. However, these exemptions refer to people like teachers or police officers who have already had background checks when they were employed. Even so, people in this category have to notify relevant authorities about them volunteering at a children’s club and also if they are fired from their jobs.