Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:22): I think today is a very good day to speak about the report into a legislated spent convictions scheme—a controlled disclosure of a criminal record information framework for Victoria—because today the government introduced a bill for spent convictions. This is a very memorable day because it is a day that we have been waiting for for decades. In fact in 1987 the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that we introduce a scheme to protect the disclosure of historical criminal records. Fifteen, 20 years ago nearly every state in Australia adopted a spent convictions scheme—except Victoria. Now, I know Victoria wanted to, but it just could never get the political motivation to do it. So today is a good day. I am very pleased—and I think this is the great work that committees do—because the legislation reflects the recommendations made by this report. And the foundations of the recommendations in this report are from the stories we heard from people who were affected by not having a spent convictions scheme in Victoria.
For many the term ‘spent conviction’ is actually a difficult term. It is hard to define, and I think this is what the committee found. In fact the committee thought that this would actually be better classified and better described as a controlled disclosure of criminal record information, because that is what it is.
A spent conviction does not mean that your conviction and your criminal past is erased. It means that you can control who that past is disclosed to. Post COVID, given we have seen incredibly high levels of unemployment, we are going to be seeing people seeking jobs everywhere and this is going to be more important than ever. Just in 2017 there were 700 000 police checks in Victoria. That is 700 000 people who had to declare possibly a mistake they made in their past to a prospective employer. While you should not judge people on mistakes they made in their youth, people are judged on those. The report shows that the inquiry found that was one of the biggest barriers to employment. And not only that but we heard from people who wanted to work for the dole to improve their prospects of employment but the mistakes they had made in the past that left them with criminal records excluded them from doing even volunteer work, from even being involved in kinship care and helping foster children from their own families. We know that we have made it harder to get jobs, so today is a great day. Today is the day when many of those people know that they can now move on, that they can now have a future.
I would really like to recognise some of the people that helped us, certainly those at Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, who invited us onto country to talk about the stories. Uncle Wenzel Carter was part of the Woor-Dungin program that really looked at how we can reduce recidivism in our Aboriginal community, how we can reduce the over-representation in our criminal justice system of Aboriginal people. He said, ‘It is a life sentence after the sentence has been served’. That is the case currently in Victoria, but hopefully not for long. I will leave the last quote to Uncle Larry Walsh, a Taungarung elder, who said, ‘It is hard to live a life where everyone has respect and admiration for you and then all of a sudden something you did as a teenager is being held against you’. So today, for Uncle Larry Walsh, I am pleased to say that this is about to change.