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Aboriginal people in Victoria with a history of offending struggle to find work because an out-of-date legal system stands in their way, according to a coalition of Aboriginal and legal organisations.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

Attendees at Woor-Dungin’s Income Generation and Resources Group workshop, 4 October 2017

Woor-Dungin’s latest Income Generation and Resources Group (IGRG) workshop was held on 4 October.

IGRG workshops are held quarterly and provide an opportunity for our Aboriginal community-controlled partner organisations to meet philanthropic grantmakers, pro bono service providers and student-placement supervisors.

Presenting at the latest workshop was Hayley Gallery, Charity Partner Manager at GoodCompany.

GoodCompany is a workplace-giving, charity-donation and skilled-volunteer platform founded in 1999.

Woor-Dungin’s partners consistently report finding IGRG workshops helpful and informative, and often follow up sessions with funding applications – sometimes with success.

Willum Warrain, for instance, applied for and received funding from CAGES Foundation for their Welcome Baby to Country initiative and for their bush playgroup, following EO Rachel Kerry’s presentation in April 2017. They also received funding from Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust’s Chris Friday Sub-Fund to help Aboriginal women fleeing domestic violence with rental bonds, following General Manager Carolyn Munckton’s presentation, also in April.

Tanderrum 2017. Photo courtesy of Sunarazzi Photography

The IGRG workshop was followed by a meeting with members of Towards a Just Society Fund, a sub-fund of Australian Communities Foundation, members of Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership (FIL) and members of Woor-Dungin’s partner organisations. The Towards a Just Society Fund is exploring ways of establishing an Aboriginal advisory committee to help inform its fund disbursement decisions.

The day was capped off with a visit by members of Woor-Dungin, our partner organisations and FIL to Federation Square to witness Tanderrum, a coming together of the five clans of the Central Kulin Nation co-presented by Woor-Dungin alumnus partner ILBIJERRI Theatre CompanyTanderrum opens the Melbourne Festival each year and has quickly become an essential part of it.

Woor-Dungin has recently entered the world of social media with our very own Facebook page. It had been on the agenda for some time, but it was the publication in late August of Uncle Larry Walsh’s story on NITV that brought forward our launch.

You can go to our Facebook page here.

New research shining a light on historical ‘criminalisation’ of Victorian children in care has been released by Professor Bronwyn Naylor of RMIT University’s Graduate School of Business and Law.

The paper, ‘‘Criminal records’ of children on being made wards of state’, shows that until 1991 there was significant overlap in the ways that the Victorian Children’s Court made child protection and sentencing orders, and protection orders appeared on the same register as sentencing orders. It is not clear that protection orders had the status of a criminal order but they seem to have often been experienced as if they were criminal. The welfare and criminal roles of the Children’s Court were separated by 1989.

Professor Naylor is a member of the Advisory Committee of Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project.

Read ‘‘Criminal records’ of children on being made wards of state’ here.