22. Applying for a Working With Vulnerable People Card when you have a criminal record

In the ACT, you may need a working with vulnerable people (WWVP) card for certain jobs. To apply for a WWVP card you need to:

  1. Complete a WWVP application for registration on the Access Canberra website; and
  2. Attend an Access Canberra Service Centre, located at Belconnen, Dickson, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong or Woden to provide proof of your identity and have your photo taken.

Once you have done this and your application has been approved, you will receive your WWVP Card by post after Access Canberra has assessed your application.

It is an offence to engage in an activity that requires a WWVP card without having a WWVP card. If you do you could be fined up to $8,000 and in situations where you know you should have a WWVP card you could be fined up to $32,000, imprisoned for 2 years or both.

Can I still apply if I have a criminal record?

You are still eligible to apply for a WWVP Card, however you will need to disclose your conviction and non-conviction history (which includes spent convictions) for a risk assessment to be conducted. It is a crime not to disclose your offence, or not to disclose any information relevant to the application. You could be fined up to $8000.

Since February 2021, there are restrictions on obtaining a WWVP Card if you have been found guilty or convicted of certain offences. These restrictions only apply to working/volunteering with children or in an NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) activity. You may still obtain a WWVP for other purposes.

Class A offences (such as murder, assault against a vulnerable person, and sexual offences against a vulnerable person) disqualify you from obtaining a WWVP Card for these purposes. A negative notice due to a Class A offence cannot be appealed.

Class B offences (such as assault, sexual offences, and drug offences) may exclude you from obtaining a WWVP Card for these purposes, unless exceptional circumstances exist. A risk assessment will be conducted.

For more information on disqualifying offences, see Schedule 3 of the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT).

What is a spent conviction?

A ‘spent conviction’ is where you:

  1. were convicted of less than 6 months imprisonment; and
  2. have had 10 years being ‘crime free’ (or 5 years if you were dealt with as a child when you were convicted).

The ‘crime free’ period starts when a sentence of imprisonment is completed, or if no imprisonment is imposed, from the date of the conviction.

What is the risk assessment?

Access Canberra will conduct a thorough risk assessment of your criminal history (including spent and non-convictions), and any other information relevant to the background screening process. This includes whether you have been registered before or have had a previous negative notice.

You must provide your consent for a risk assessment to take place. If you do not provide your consent, you cannot be registered to work with vulnerable people.

When looking at a criminal offence, the Commissioner will consider:

  • the nature, gravity and circumstances of the offence
  • the relevance of the offence
  • how long ago you committed the offence
  • how old you, and the victim, were at the time of the offence
  • whether your circumstances have changed since the offence
  • your attitude to the offence
  • if any treatment or intervention was undertaken, any subsequent assessment you have had
  • the number of relevant offences; and
  • any submission made by the applicant addressing the above.

Is there anything that can help my WWVP application?

To help your application and to demonstrate that there has been a reduced risk, you can provide supporting evidence that:

  • any mental health issues and/or drug/alcohol abuse is being managed and has improved e.g., treatment plans, professional reports or assessments
  • you have had a change of behaviour and have matured e.g., supports letters from your counsellor, friends, family
  • you have greater social support and stability e.g., support letters from any services that you are engaging with.

A greater weight is given to references from people who have known you for an extended period of time and who may have specific knowledge of the offence(s) and any subsequent change in behaviour or circumstances, or people who are qualified to make these inferences about any change in your behaviour or circumstances.

What happens once I’ve been assessed?

Once your risk level has been assessed, you will be put into one of the following categories:

  1. General registration – You can work in all regulated activities
  2. Conditional registration – You can work in some, but not all regulated activities
  3. Role-based registration – You can only work in the role specified
  4. Negative notice – You cannot work in any regulated activity

What happens if I get a proposed negative notice?

A letter will state that the Commissioner intends to give you a negative notice. The letter will also state:

  1. the reasons for the negative risk assessment
  2. the steps you would need to take for the Commissioner to reconsider the decision; and
  3. if you don’t take steps for reconsideration of the decision, that the Commissioner must give you a negative notice.

If you receive this letter, you will need to ask the Commissioner within 10 working days to reconsider the decision and within 20 working days write a letter asking the Commissioner to reconsider the decision. If you do not send a letter, you will be given a negative notice.

If the Commissioner after reconsidering its decision does not change its decision you have been issued with a negative notice.

If you have been issued a negative notice, you cannot reapply for a WWVP Card for five years after the day you were issued a negative notice.

How much does a WWVP registration cost?

An application fee of $135 applies to people who are employed to work with vulnerable people. There is no fee for volunteers, but the fee must be paid if you are volunteering and also undertaking paid work with vulnerable people.

Contact Street Law on (02) 6218 7900 for more information.


The material in this fact sheet is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this publication without first getting legal advice about their particular situations.

If you would like more information, please contact Street Law on 1800 787 529 or Street Law is a program of Canberra Community Law Ltd.

© 2019 Canberra Community Law Ltd. Not to be reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.

Last updated: June 2019.

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