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.