When it comes to making sure your ministry organisation is “legal”, it’s an important first step. But remember… it takes more than being “legal” to be “safe”.

The things your organisation legally must to do are:

  1. By law your organisation has a duty of care for those people who are involved with your organisation. This means you must take all reasonable steps to make sure the environment (space, leaders, culture) is safe. The following are really further legal expressions of this one principle…
  2. By law you must not allow a “Prohibited Person” to work with children in your organisation. Even though your organisation is not liable for the acts of a perpetrator, you can be liable of negligence for allowing an unsafe person to have access to vulnerable people.
    The trouble is that if you don’t ask them, they probably won’t come up and tell you. Therefore, it is legally inferred that you should ask people to declare they are appropriate people to work with children.
    But that’s not all…
  3. By law you must collect and verify the Working with Children Check Status (or State equivalent) of any person who works with children in your organisation. This might mean sighting their State WWCC card (like a licence), or it might mean entering their details online and keeping a snapshot of the result. IT depends on your specific State laws (see list of State WWCC requirements).
    E.g. Sally has been helping run the Sunday School during the 10am service for 20 years. She regularly teaches a class with other leaders present. Sally needs to apply for a State Working with Children Check Number and your Organisation needs to use the number to verify she is “CLEARED” to work with Children.
  4. By law, your organisation is responsible for ensuring that reports and allegations of abuse within your organisation are appropriately handled, and where required, reported to the Police or to another State Authority. This means you need some straightforward way of assessing and dealing with reports of abuse and people at risk of significant harm… something like a Response Process would be perfect.

Most laws around being a safe organisation are State based, so it’s worth checking if your state has any special requirements (see a full detail of all relevant State laws here).