News + Views

Reducing barriers to employment for Aboriginal people: Rethinking the Role of Criminal Record Checks Project  

This is a Victorian Legal Services Board funded project being carried out by RMIT University in partnership with Woor-Dungin. We are excited to announce that we will soon be welcoming new partners, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (VACCHO) and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation to contribute to the project.

'Ulupna Wanala (Home in Spring)’ by Renee Gray

We are now in the process of establishing an Aboriginal led Reference Committee which will provide advice, guidance and feedback to support the delivery of the project.

This project builds on the Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP), a project initiated by Aboriginal organisations associated with Woor-Dungin in 2016 which advocated for legal change, and the Aboriginal ex-offender employment project (AEOEP).

The CRDP had an important advocacy role and was influential in the Victorian Government’s commitment to pass spent convictions and anti-discrimination legislation.

The AEOEP aimed to provide immediate, practical support to Aboriginal Victorians who have a criminal record and are seeking employment.

The current project

Criminal record checking can be a major barrier to employment in Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal communities have highlighted the serious hurdles posed by employers’ use of criminal record checks, irrespective of the relevance of the criminal history.

This project will explore ways to improve employment opportunities for Aboriginal people, and to support employers in recruitment of Aboriginal people.

The aims of the project are to identify existing good practice amongst employers, and to communicate these practices to jobseekers and employers in ways that can be readily adopted. We will also be engaging employers and employees in an ongoing program to enhance Aboriginal employment, in partnership with Victorian Aboriginal communities.

Our long-term vision

  • To influence change in policy and practice amongst public and private sector employers and the broader community in relation to people with a criminal record seeking work.
  • Law reform including the establishment of a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria, and protection from discrimination based on old or irrelevant criminal history.
  • Reducing disadvantage for Aboriginal people in Victoria through increased access to employment and the removal of barriers to self-determination.

Our objectives

  • To facilitate employment of Aboriginal people by identifying legal requirements for use of criminal record checks and current good/best practice of employers in the use of criminal record checking and assessment and balancing of risk
  • To provide Aboriginal jobseekers, with a criminal record, with information and guidance based on knowledge of legal requirements and employer best practice to present their strongest case for employment to an employer.
  • To communicate these practices and learnings to employers, including government agencies and Aboriginal-run organisations, and to Aboriginal jobseekers in the most effective and implementable ways.

If you’d like to be kept informed about progress with the project, and/or to be involved in the project, please email

Please circulate this information to anyone, including community members, who may be interested in learning more or getting involved.

Naomi, Georgina, Bronwyn, Christa, Michael and Stan

 The team

  • Bronwyn Naylor, Professor in Law at RMIT University.
  • Stan Winford, Associate Director, Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ), RMIT University.
  • Georgina Heydon, Associate Professor, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.
  • Naomi Murphy, Wakka Wakka woman with lived experience; Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation Aboriginal Community Engagement Worker and former Woor-Dungin Aboriginal Ex-Offender Employment Project Worker. Naomi is also the VALS, Gippsland Client Services Officer.
  • Christa Momot, RMIT CIJ Stakeholder Engagement Co-ordinator and former Woor-Dungin Executive Officer/Community Development Manager. Christa co-ordinated the CRDP whilst at Woor-Dungin.
  • Michael Bell, RMIT CIJ Aboriginal Community Engagement Worker and former CEO Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation; Elder Portland, Hamilton and Warrnambool Court; Michael was the Convenor of the CRDP Advisory Committee.
  • Jarrod Hughes, Senior Adviser, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ), RMIT University.

For more information please contact

Christa Momot | 0411 701 288 |

Michael Bell | 0491 126 471 |