Unravelling the Ochre Card debacle

The union’s Full-Time Officers have demanded answers about the events of two weeks ago, in which a bureaucratic bungle saw hundreds of teachers and educators confined to desks due to their Ochre cards not being renewed on time.

We have been assured by Education Minister Seleba Uibo that she wants all steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The FTOs attended a meeting this week convened by her chief of staff with senior representatives from the NT Police, SAFE NT, DoE and Territory Families. All agencies agreed to work together to improve processes.

It was acknowledged that SAFE NT has a large work volume, currently processing up to 3000 applications for working with children clearances a week, however according to SAFE NT nearly all applications should be processed within one month from receipt. With more large numbers of teachers due to renew their Ochre cards soon, the Department acknowledged the need to get on top of the problem. 

An internal review will be conducted of how DoE manages renewal of clearances. If required, the Chief Executive will seek bulk exemptions from Territory Families if renewal applications can’t be processed in time.

With a review of the Protection and Care of Children Act due, there may be options to amend current laws to provide more flexibility in processing working with children clearances. The AEU NT suggested that, for teachers, allowing the working with children check to be conducted under the auspices of the Teacher Registration Board would streamline the process and reduce pressure on SAFE NT. We will pursue this option with DoE and the TRB, but these changes would take time.

For now, the AEU NT advises all members with Ochre cards to take the following steps:

  • Familiarise yourself with the relevant DoE policy and fact sheet.
  • Check when your clearance is due to expire and ensure all your details are up-to-date with SAFE NT.
  • Submit your renewal application with all required details as soon as you receive a renewal notice.
  • Track the progress of your application at the SAFE NT website. The online register will tell you when your clearance notice has been issued – due to delays with postage, it may take weeks for your physical Ochre card to arrive.
  • Notify your principal or manager if you are concerned your clearance won’t be renewed in time, so that an exemption may be sought.
  • Contact the AEU NT office if you have any further concerns or questions.

Remember that the cost of applying for and renewing your Ochre card will be reimbursed by your school on request.

* This article was adapated from Member Bulletin 3 of 2019.