Criminal records, discrimination and Aboriginal communities: enhancing employment opportunities

Bronwyn Naylor1, Georgina Heydon2
1Graduate School Of Business And Law, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, 2School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Criminal record checking is now widespread in Australia.   Aboriginal people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, for a range of reasons including historic levels of disadvantage, and therefore are disproportionately likely to be negatively affected by criminal record checking when seeking employment, when taking on community governance roles, when being considered as kinship carers and so on.  At the same time, productive and rewarding employment, and engagement in governance and community roles, are vital aspects of Aboriginal people’s participation, contribution and engagement across all parts of the Australian community.

This paper presents findings from research with employers, employment agencies and government organisations in WA and the NT about their practice, protocols and experience in managing the potential impact of a criminal record on Aboriginal employment.  The paper identifies four key elements which can give rise to good employment practice: broad engagement with Aboriginal communities; management of background checking; supporting applicants through the recruitment process; and positive risk management strategies.

Bronwyn Naylor is Professor of Law in the Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, and has degrees in Arts and Law from Monash University, and a Doctorate in Criminology from Cambridge University.   She has been teaching, researching and publishing in criminal law and criminal justice for over 20 years, and has researched and written extensively. including with colleagues, on the impact of criminal records on the rehabilitation of ex-offenders.

Associate Professor Georgina Heydon (Social and Global Studies Centre, RMIT University) specialises in qualitative interviewing, and has published numerous academic papers and a book on the topic of interviewing and information gathering in legal contexts.

Over the last ten years, she has been collaborating with colleagues in law and criminology to examine critically the ways in which criminal records are used in employment contexts.


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