Pupils at risk from Blue Card fail­ure

Townsville Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - SAM BIDEY

THE State Gov­ern­ment has promised to close a dis­turb­ing loop­hole which al­lowed a teacher’s aide, who al­legedly showed Townsville pri­mary school stu­dents a naked photo of him­self, to gain em­ploy­ment with­out a Blue Card.

But for the fam­ily of an al- leged vic­tim, La­bor’s elec­tion pledge is too late. Po­lice al­lege a teacher’s aide, who was em­ployed de­spite not hold­ing a Blue Card, showed a naked im­age of him­self to three Year 4 boys.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Kate Jones has an­nounced La­bor would adopt a “No Card, No Start” pol­icy.

This would close a loop­hole which al­lows full- time staff to start work while their Blue Card is pend­ing.

The par­ent of one of the al­leged vic­tims wel­comed news the prob­lem was be­ing ad­dressed but ques­tioned how such a loop­hole was even al­lowed to ex­ist.

“This should have hap­pened a long time ago,” the mother said. “I thought that’s what Blue Cards were all about. I thought you had to have one be­fore you could be em­ployed to work with kids.

“If this law was in place be­fore ( the al­leged in­ci­dent) my son wouldn’t have gone through what he did. Right now he’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent lit­tle boy... he’s scarred.”

The Bul­letin un­der­stands the al­leged of­fender, who faces three counts of ex­pos­ing a child un­der 16 to an in­de­cent im­age, had told the school he was in the process of ap­ply­ing for a Blue Card when he was em­ployed in May.

The al­leged of­fence was on Oc­to­ber 19, five months af­ter the ac­cused was hired. A Blue Card Ser­vices spokesman said stan­dard ap­pli­ca­tions, with no po­lice queries, were aimed to be fi­nalised within 28 days. The spokesman said un­der the cur­rent sys­tem paid em­ploy­ees at schools must have ap­plied for a Blue Card be­fore start­ing any child- re­lated du­ties. A week af­ter the al­leged in­ci­dent Ms Jones an­nounced she would over­see a re­view into the mat­ter and how the teacher’s aide was hired with­out a Blue Card.

The pro­posed change to close the loop­hole al­low­ing Blue Card ap­pli­cants to be em­ployed fol­lowed rec­om­men­da­tions from that re­view.

“His­tor­i­cally, this has been a use­ful op­tion for em­ploy­ers who have dif­fi­culty re­cruit­ing staff to ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas,” Ms Jones said.

“But as we mod­ernise the ap­pli­ca­tion process and be­gin de­vel­op­ing an on­line sys­tem, this is no longer nec­es­sary.

“It’s far more im­por­tant that we close any loop­holes that might re­sult in harm to our chil­dren.”

Ms Jones said the Queens­land Fam­ily and Child Com­mis­sion Blue Card Re­view, re­leased in Septem­ber, found Queens­land had one of the strong­est Blue Card sys­tems in the coun­try.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment agreed with rec­om­men­da­tions to mod­ernise the ap­pli­ca­tion sys­tem, in­crease the num­ber of peo­ple who re­quire Blue Cards, and broaden the range of of­fences that au­to­mat­i­cally ex­clude ap­pli­cants.

No one from the school nor the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment has been stood down de­spite calls from al­leged vic­tims’ par­ents for sack­ings.

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