Media release: Aboriginal groups call for new laws to allow community members to move on after offending

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Aboriginal people in Victoria with a history of offending struggle to find work because an out-of-date legal system stands in their way, according to a coalition of Aboriginal and legal organisations.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