Criminal Record Discrimination Project

Overview

The Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP) is an Aboriginal-led collaboration between numerous community and legal organisations.

It seeks to achieve the following reforms:

  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 with an irrelevant criminal record.

The project is driven by an Advisory Committee with over 50 members, convened Michael Bell, CEO of Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation and an Elder at the Portland, Hamilton and Warrnambool Koori Court.

 

Participants in the CRDP consultation process, April 2017

 

 Background

Victoria is the only state in Australia that does not have spent convictions legislation.

This means that even minor offences from over 10 years ago can still appear on a police check when somebody applies for a job. A person applying for a job who has a criminal record has no protection if an employer decides not to employ them because of their criminal record, even if the criminal record has no relevance to the job they are applying for and would not stop them from carrying out the inherent requirements of the role.

This represents a significant extra barrier for many Aboriginal Victorians looking for work, at a time when the government has committed to closing the gap in employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal people are over-represented in the criminal-justice system; they make up 28% of the prison population but only 3% of the total Australian population. Many factors have contributed to this, including poverty, institutionalisation and racism. Aboriginal people are also 20% less likely to participate in the labour force.

As a result, discrimination on the basis of an old or irrelevant criminal record disproportionately affects Aboriginal Victorians and compounds the disadvantage they already face.

 

The project

Organisations such as the Law Institute of Victoria have recently made the case for a spent convictions scheme in Victoria. Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project was set up to advocate for legislative reform from an Aboriginal perspective.

Woor-Dungin has been funded by The Myer Foundation, the Williams Fund sub-fund of Australian Communities Foundation and Victoria Law Foundation to work with its Aboriginal partner organisations, as well as groups such as Victorian Aboriginal Legal ServiceTarwirri and Law Institute of Victoria, on this project.

It is supported by a panel of experts who have generously agreed to provide advice and support. The panel includes academic staff from Monash University and RMIT University, and pro bono legal staff from law firms Ashurst and Colin Biggers & Paisley.

In February 2016 Woor-Dungin began gathering stories of how discrimination on the basis of a criminal record affects Aboriginal people, particularly those in rural and regional Victoria. The story of Uncle Larry Walsh is the first to be published. Direct support is being provided to people providing case studies, with follow-up legal advice and counselling services.

In response to requests from our partner organisations, Woor-Dungin also produced a series of fact sheets to help individuals with a criminal record understand their rights and responsibilities under current legislation.

You can read and download the fact sheets here.

 

Wenzel Carter, Peter Aldenhoven, Jarrod Hughes and Anne Jenkins at the CRDP consultation, April 2017

 

 Advocacy phase

In April 2017 Woor-Dungin hosted a consultation with community members and legal stakeholders on what spent convictions legislation and protection from discrimination on the basis of irrelevant records should look like in Victoria.

Prior to the consultation Stan Winford, Associate Director at RMIT University’s Centre for Innovative Justice, interviewed Aboriginal Legal Services from other states and territories to find out what they thought were the pros and cons of the legislation they have in place. This research informed the discussion.

Woor-Dungin produced a position paper summing up the recommendations from the consultation. This was distributed for endorsement and forms part of our submission, along with 11 case-studies of Aboriginal people with a criminal record who have experienced discrimination, to the statewide Aboriginal Justice Forum to be held in Swan Hill, Victoria, on 12–13 December.

 

For more information, please contact:
Stan Winford
Associate Director, Centre for Innovative Justice
RMIT University
Email: stan.winford@rmit.edu.au
Telephone: 03 9925 1189 / 0438 080 608