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500,000 Can Avoid Checks For Abuse

VICTORIAN children are at higher risK of being exposed to pedophiles than children in other states.
Child abuse experts said predators had easy access to children because the State Government continued to stall on introducing mandatory police checks.
Victoria Police yesterday revealed scores of Victorians, many in high- profile jobs and "positions of trust", could yet be charged in the child pornography crackdown.
Media director Stephen Linnell said information was being received daily.
"This information includes new names of individuals, some of whom may hold positions of trust across a range of professions and some who may work in high- profile roles within the community," he said.
An estimated 500,000 sports coaches, school cleaners and volunteers who work with children do not have to have criminal checks in Victoria.
Australian Childhood Foundation spokesman Joe Tucci said the State Government had left the gate wide open for predators. In New South Wales and Queensland, all workers who have contact with children under 18 are vetted by a special agency.
Mr Tucci said many pedophiles were already working with children in Victoria and demanded the State Government change the law.
"Any profession that has access to children is vulnerable to being used and manipulated by a sex offender," he said.
"The ones that are least policed, like maintenance staff, are probably the most vulnerable."
Mr Tucci put in a submission to a Department of Justice issues paper into police checks in February last year, but said the Government had not acted.
Attorney-General Rob Hulls promised tough new standards in 2002, but is yet to deliver.
Premier Steve Bracks this month slapped another six-month delay on presenting Parliament with revised laws ensuring compulsory checks.
Opposition community services spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the recent uncovering of widespread pedophilia had increased parents' awareness of the dangers.
"The whole issue of pedophilia and child pornography has raised the issue in the minds of parents, it has raised their concerns," she said.
"The Government needs to fulfil its promise, a clear promise made by the Attorney-General."
Australian Council of Children and Youth Organisations chief executive Netty Horton said most parents did not realise their children's carers had not been checked.
"I think the Victorian community assumes all these checks have been carried out," she said.
"They have not.
"The legislationi has been put in the too-hard basket. It is not a priority for them," she said.
Attorney-General Hulls said legislation was being introduced that would take into account reviews being conducted in NSW and Queensland.
"An exposure draft of the Bill will be available for all Victorians to comment on. including Mr Tucci, by the end of the year," Mr Hulls said.

AAP (26-10-2004)
Patrick O'Neil

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