Criminal Record Discrimination Project
The CIJ has been working with Woor-Dungin on this award-winning project that has achieved legislative change for those with historic criminal records in Victoria.
The Criminal Record Discrimination Project calls for a legislated spent convictions scheme to be introduced in Victoria. It also wants the state’s equal opportunity laws to be changed to prohibit discrimination against people with old and irrelevant criminal history.
Victoria is the only state in Australia without a spent convictions scheme. In addition, there are no protections in place in Victoria to stop people from being discriminated against on the grounds of old and irrelevant criminal convictions.
This means a police check can bring up even minor offences from years ago that can be used to discriminate against someone for employment, kinship care or housing.
Criminal records can provide further barriers to employment, as well as social and economic exclusion and poor justice and health outcomes. This disproportionately affects Aboriginal Victorians, who are over-represented in the criminal justice system and under-represented in the state’s work force.
In addition, the Criminal Record Discrimination Project also identified that up until 1989, members of the Stolen Generation and many non-Aboriginal Victorians were given criminal records as children when they were forcibly taken from their families and placed into state care. This is because the State did not distinguish between child protection and criminal matters.
In July 2018, the Victorian Government took some steps towards rectifying this, by legislating to remove the criminal records of those Victorians who had received them when as children and babies they were taken into state care.
However, the Government has to date stopped short of committing to a spent convictions scheme or amending the Equal Opportunity Act. These reforms have been endorsed by the Aboriginal Justice Forum, included in the Aboriginal Justice Agreement phase 4, and are actively supported by a broad range of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations and individuals. The Criminal Record Discrimination Project continues to call for these reforms.
In August 2018, the Criminal Record Discrimination Project won the Indigenous Philanthropy Award from Philanthropy Australia.
On 30 March 2021, the Spent Convictions Act 2021 (Vic) came into effect. The Act brings Victoria in line with other Australian states and territories by introducing a scheme for certain criminal offences to be removed from an individual’s criminal record.
Certain convictions (including convictions for all offences committed under 15 years of age) are spent immediately. Most other convictions become spent after a period of time (five years for a minor and ten years for an adult). More serious convictions (including prison terms over 30 months and sex offences) require a Court Order to become spent.
If an offence is spent, it is removed from a person’s criminal record and does not appear on a police check. However, law enforcement can disclose a spent conviction under certain circumstances, including as part of Working with Children Check applications.
The final components of the Spent Convictions Act 2021 (Vic) commenced on July 1, 2022. There is now a process for individuals to apply to the Magistrates’ Court to have more serious convictions spent and no longer appear on their criminal record in most circumstances.