Challenging Criminal Records and Discrimination: Improving Employment Opportunities for Aboriginal Job-seekers

Bronwyn Naylor

RMIT University

Bronwyn Naylor is a Professor of Law at RMIT University, and has been researching and advocating in criminal law and criminal justice for many years. She has written widely on the impact of criminal records on employment opportunities for people leaving the criminal justice system, and on related justice issues, with her co-presenter, and is currently working with Aboriginal communities in Melbourne on this subject.

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. At the same time, productive and rewarding employment, and engagement in governance 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 and welfare agencies and NGOs in WA and the NT about their 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.