Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP) has released a position statement following the motion successfully moved in the Victorian Parliament by Greens MP Nina Springle MLC on 15 November calling for a formal apology to Victorian care leavers for the historical practice of charging children with neglect (and other ‘offences’) that led to them receiving criminal records.

Recent investigations by the CRDP, in conjunction with Professor Bronwyn Naylor of RMIT University, highlighted the historical issue of criminal records obtained by children on entering the child-protection system. This was due to the overlap between the ways that the Victorian Children’s Court used to make child-protection orders and sentencing orders.

Victoria’s Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula MP, acknowledged the work of the CRDP in bringing this issue to light, and said that he was “extremely concerned about the nature of these historical practices.” In a letter to Michael Bell, CEO of Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation and Convenor of the Advisory Committee of the CRDP, the Attorney-General stated:

I have asked the Department of Justice and Regulation to advise me about actions to address these historical practices, including any legislation that may be required to correct these records, so that care and protection orders for children are recorded appropriately.

The CRDP is pleased that the Attorney-General is taking action and acknowledges the Greens for moving the motion.

While it is very important to correct the historical injustice of these records, they are part of a larger problem and, for the people who have been affected, like Uncle Larry Walsh, it’s equally important to address the ongoing issue of a lack of a spent convictions scheme in Victoria, and the absence of any protection from discrimination on the grounds of old and irrelevant criminal history.

Click here to read and download the full position statement.

Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project will be presenting at the 49th Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF), now to be held 12-13 December in Swan Hill, Victoria. The AJF was postponed last month due to the passing of a significant community elder.

The AJF is a quarterly meeting for the Victorian government to hear the views of Victoria’s Aboriginal communities on justice matters. It emerged from the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, a partnership that was established in 2000 between the Victorian Government and Victorian Aboriginal communities to improve justice outcomes for Victorian Aboriginal people.

Woor-Dungin has assembled a coalition of stakeholders to present our submission, including Simone Spencer from Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Wenzel Carter from Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association, Naomi Murphy from Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) and Stan Winford from RMIT University.

The submission, the result of an extensive consultation process, is intended to make the case for the following reforms in Victoria:

(1) the introduction of a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria, and
(2) an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record.

Aboriginal people in Victoria are disproportionately disadvantaged by the lack of a spent convictions scheme and the absence of any protection from discrimination on the ground of irrelevant criminal records.

Our submission will attempt to demonstrate why this is a priority area for reform for Aboriginal people in Victoria and has been endorsed by a broad range of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stakeholders, such as VALS, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association and Law Institute of Victoria, and individuals including Uncle Larry Walsh and Uncle Jack Charles, whose stories underpin the case for reform.

  • Read more about the Criminal Record Discrimination Project here.
  • Read and download the CRDP Aboriginal Justice Forum media release here.   

FIL Emerging Leader Peter Aldenhoven (centre), with Wenzel (left) and Taneisha (right), at the 2017 FIL Leadership Awards. Image courtesy of Willum Warrain’s Facebook page

Congratulations to Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association President Peter Aldenhoven on becoming a 2017 Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership (FIL) Emerging Leader.

Willum Warrain is one of Woor-Dungin’s partner organisations, and Peter is a Woor-Dungin full member.

Two other Emerging Leaders were named as well, Kathryn Coff and Catherine Coysh.

The announcement was made at an evening reception organised by FIL at Treetops, Melbourne Museum, on 24 October.

Previous FIL Emerging Leaders have included Culture Is Life CEO Belinda Duarte, who collaborated with Peter on Woor-Dungin’s and FIL’s webinar ‘Right Way, Which Way, Wrong Way?’, and Weenthunga Health Network‘s Stephanie Armstrong, who is also a Woor-Dungin full member.

You can read more about FIL here.

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We’ve just heard that due to the passing of a community Elder, the 49th AJF in Swan Hill has in fact been postponed until further notice.

On Friday of this week members of Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP) will submit a paper to the 49th Aboriginal Justice Forum, to be held 26 and 27 October in Swan Hill, Victoria.

The Aboriginal Justice Forum is a quarterly meeting for the Victorian government to hear the views of the Aboriginal community on justice matters. It emerged from the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, a partnership that was established in 2000 between the Victorian Government and the Koori community to improve justice outcomes for Victorian Aboriginal people.

Woor-Dungin’s submission, the result of an extensive consultation process, is intended to make the case for the following reforms in Victoria:

(1) the introduction of a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria, and
(2) an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record.

Victoria remains the only state or territory in Australia without a spent convictions scheme, and is one of several states yet to enact equal opportunity protections for people with irrelevant criminal histories.

Aboriginal people in Victoria are disproportionately disadvantaged by the lack of a spent convictions scheme and the absence of any protection from discrimination on the ground of irrelevant criminal records. In the absence of legislation, the release of criminal history in Victoria is based on the
exercise of a broad and ill-defined discretion by Victoria Police.

Our submission will attempt to demonstrate why this is a priority area for reform for Aboriginal people in Victoria and has been endorsed by a broad range of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stakeholders, such as Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association and Law Institute of Victoria, and individuals including Uncle Larry Walsh and Uncle Jack Charles, whose stories underpin the case for reform.

The CRDP is an Aboriginal-led collaboration between numerous community and legal organisations established to address calls from the community for a response to the issues faced by Aboriginal people dealing with the lack of regulation of criminal records in Victoria.

  • Read more about the Criminal Record Discrimination Project here.
  • Read and download the CRDP Aboriginal Justice Forum media release here.   

Uncle Larry Walsh, whose story will feature in Woor-Dungin’s submission to the 49th Aboriginal Justice Forum. Image by Sandy Scheltema

Aboriginal people in Victoria with a history of offending struggle to find work because an out-of-date legal system stands in their way, according to a coalition of Aboriginal and legal organisations.

Groups including the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Koori Court elders and Law Institute Victoria have thrown their weight behind a push for reform coordinated by Woor-Dungin that will be discussed at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in Swan Hill, Victoria, on Friday 27 October.

The coalition will argue that Victoria should catch up with the rest of Australia by introducing new laws to provide certainty and clarity about their records, and allow people with old and irrelevant criminal history a fair go at finding work and contributing to their community.

The coalition will be explaining the benefits of the reform and highlighting the support within the community for change, given the positive benefits expected for Aboriginal employment and economic participation, self-determination and Aboriginal healing.

In all other Australian states and territories, old and irrelevant criminal history becomes ‘spent’ and need not be disclosed to prospective employers after the person has been offence-free for a lengthy period of time, usually 10 years for offences committed by adults. This is known as ‘spent convictions’ legislation.

Uncle Jack Charles, whose story will feature in Woor-Dungin’s submission to the 49th Aboriginal Justice Forum. Image courtesy ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Many other states also have provisions in their Equal Opportunity legislation that provide protection where a person has been unfairly discriminated against because of a criminal record if it is old and irrelevant to the type of work they’re involved in.

These laws all have strong safeguards that ensure that all criminal history is disclosed where relevant to the role.

The coalition, which is called the Criminal Record Discrimination Project, argues that both these approaches should be adopted in Victoria as a matter of urgency.

 

Read and download the full media release here