BY CHALPAT SONTI
“WHAT’S the point of doing the crime, doing your time, if you have to live with it for the rest of your life?”
Those words by a prominent community member summed up at a sitting of a Victorian parliamentary committee in Heywood on Tuesday.
The Legal and Social Issues Committee was in the region as part of its inquiry into the possibility of introducing “spent convictions” laws in to the state.
Victoria is the only state that does not have the laws, which control how criminal records can be used and when they cease to be relevant – a spent conviction does not have to be disclosed when applying for a job.
But the issue has been brought to the fore thanks to the likes of the Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, whose chief executive Michael Bell is convenor of the Criminal Record Discrimination Project that is seeking to have laws introduced – its view being that Aboriginal people are unfairly discriminated against by being unable to live down a past in which they might be a victim of circumstance as much as anything else, and thus being unable to make meaningful contributions to society.