Woor Dungin

Woor-Dungin in Parliament

1 December, 2017

Stan and Bronwyn receiving Woor Dungin award

On 21 September, Victoria’s Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula MP, acknowledged the work of Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project in bringing to light the historical practice of charging children with neglect (and other ‘offences’) that led to them receiving criminal records. The Attorney-General said that he was “extremely concerned about the nature of these historical practices” and indicated that he had “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 work of the project also resulted in a motion successfully moved in the Victorian Parliament on 15 November 2017 calling for a formal apology to Victorian care leavers affected by these practices, and report on the response of the government to this issue, which received significant media coverage. During the Parliamentary debates the government re-stated its commitment to taking action to address this issue and foreshadowed a legislative response.

Woor-Dungin’s Criminal Record Discrimination Project will be presenting at the 49th Aboriginal Justice Forum to be held 12-13 December in Swan Hill, Victoria. 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. 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.

This project is supported by Stan Winford and Professor Bronwyn Naylor, who were awarded the Aunty Frances Bond and Aunty Glenys Merry award by Woor-Dungin for their work.

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26 September 2017

The Centre for Innovative Justice has continued to work with Woor Dungin on the Criminal Record Discrimination Project. SBS NITV published a story on part of the project, Guilty of Being Aborginal, featuring Taungerong Elder Uncle Larry Walsh.

The absence of a spent convictions scheme, and discrimination on the basis of irrelevant criminal record, together constitute a significant extra barrier for many Aboriginal Victorians looking for work, at a time when there is considerable disparity in employment rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across Australia (see Figures 1 and 2, below and bottom respectively).

Graph 1
Figure 1: Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years by Indigenous status, 2014–15. Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, p. 111

The problem is compounded by the fact that there is a lack of clarity around the issue of criminal record checks and how criminal record information should be used by employers and prospective employees.
CIJ’s Stan Winford, Bronwyn Naylor (RMIT Graduate School of Business and Law) and Georgina Heydon (RMIT School of Global, Urban & Social Studies) are partnering with Woor Dungin to develop a project designed to assist Aboriginal job-seekers to better understand how employers may make use of a criminal record, and what they are able to do to support their job application where they have a criminal record.

Provision of information from the project will enable job-seekers to make informed decisions about applying for work and to better prepare their application and any useful supporting materials.

The project will also enable more detailed and targeted information to be provided to employers (including, for example, Aboriginal corporations) about when and how criminal record checks should be obtained and how criminal history can be used and assessed to support Aboriginal employment, while at the same time managing any relevant issues of risk.

This should lead to more employers feeling able to employ Aboriginal ex-offenders. It should also increase the confidence of Aboriginal communities in understanding their legal obligations and their ability to employ community members, and should lead to more Aboriginal people obtaining rewarding employment.

Graph 2
Figure 2: Employment rate by Indigenous status persons aged 15–64 years, by remoteness, 2014–15.Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report, p. 111

Click here to read ‘‘Criminal records’ of children on being made wards of state’, a research paper by Professor Bronwyn Naylor of RMIT University

NITV’s The Point also covered the story in episode 84- linked here