Hundreds of religious groups and organisations in NSW have not conducted background checks on church leaders working with children, despite legislation requiring them to do so being in place for 15 years, reports The Australian.
Evidence tendered to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday shows almost half the 700 religious organisations surveyed were found not to have registered for the Working With Children Checks, as required by laws introduced in 1998.
"Religious organisations came to attention following evidence that, in some cases, the WWCC obligations were not being met," the July 2013 report from the NSW Children's Guardian states.
Overwhelmingly, those found to be not complying with the scheme were from the Baptist, Catholic and other Christian churches, the report said.
The true number of those not conducting the child safety checks could be even higher, as most of the roughly 4000 religious groups in NSW were not included in the audit.
"Probably the major issue for organisations . . . was that appropriate governance arrangements were either not in place or given little attention," because of a lack of resources "as well as an expectation or perception that someone else did it".
Giving evidence to the commission yesterday, the Children's Guardian, Kerryn Boland, said the system of checks, which assess an individual's history of reported inappropriate behaviour with children, recently had been overhauled.