MEDIA STATEMENT: 24 NOVEMBER 2021
Abusers who commit serious animal cruelty will be permanently disqualified from working with children, and people who commit other animal cruelty offences will face increased scrutiny when applying for a Working with Children Check, under new laws passed in NSW last night.
For the first time, the RSPCA and Animal Welfare League will also be authorised under law to report animal cruelty charges and convictions to the Children’s Guardian.
These reforms were brought about due to the work of Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst, who has been lobbying the Government about this issue for the past 1.5 years.
Read the Bill here: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/bills/Pages/bill-details.aspx?pk=3925
Please see comment from the Hon. Emma Hurst MLC below:
Back in 2020, I learnt that a NSW man charged with stabbing a dog with a pitchfork six times, and leaving her strung up to a tree to die a slow painful death, was still possibly working with children. I was shocked to find that people convicted of high level, intentional acts of animal cruelty were not automatically disqualified from holding a Working with Children Check.
For the past 1.5 years, I have been lobbying to Government to fix this shocking oversight in our Working with Children Check system.
In May 2021, the Animal Justice Party passed a motion in the Upper House calling for urgent reforms in this space, and we have been working closely with the Government to bring this legislation before Parliament, which better recognises the link between child abuse and animal abuse.
A significant body of research shows that the abuse of animals in the home is a strong indicator that children are also being abused. One study found that in 83 per cent of households where animal abuse occurred, there was also the risk of child abuse.
Research has also shown connections between animal abuse and domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, gun violence and a higher propensity towards violence in society generally. We must recognise that people who harm animals are a risk to the broader community, and that in order to protect children, we should not allow them to obtain a Working with Children clearance.
This Bill will make urgently needed improvements to the Working With Children Check scheme by banning those convicted of serious animal cruelty from working with children, and making anyone charged or convicted of animal cruelty subject to special assessment by the Children’s Guardian. It will also ensure that the RSPCA and Animal Welfare League can report to the Children’s Guardian on animal cruelty investigations and convictions.
Shockingly, prior to this Bill, many animal cruelty offences were not mandatory triggers for assessment, meaning that animal abusers could slip through the system unnoticed. Even worse, animal protection authorities were not routinely reporting their charges and convictions to the Office of the Children’s Guardian, meaning large chunks of potentially relevant information were being missed. The laws have now been changed to correct that, and to ensure children are protected from animal abusers.
Our laws must recognise that people who harm animals are a risk to the broader community. Violence does not discriminate.
MEDIA CONTACT: ROSIE RAYNS, 0401 991 792