How an old conviction kept Casey out of a job

How an old conviction kept Casey out of a job

Monday, 5 August 2019

We worked with Casey (not her real name) when an old conviction prevented her from getting the job she desperately wanted. This is her story, in her own words

'I am a proud Aboriginal woman and a mum, and have felt first-hand the impact of criminal record discrimination and the Working with Children Check’s scheme on my ability to work.

'My whole life I’ve worked in a field to give back to my community and loved my job and the positive impact I could have.

'In 2016 and 2017, I was involved in some criminal offending. My issues started due to a drug addiction I had developed due to chronic health issues. After a lifetime of not being involved in any criminal behaviour or drug taking, I found myself in a dark place – for the first time I felt my life was out of control and my connection with my kids and my community failing.

While I accept my criminal offending, and take full responsibility for it, it was for minor property and assault charges, yet I was taken by the police and placed in custody. I got sent to a women’s prison and then a mental health facility with no idea of what was happening with my criminal charges. I felt lost and unable to understand what was going on. I ended up being inside for two to three months.

'I was represented by a legal aid lawyer, who advocated for a community corrections order (CCO) that was aimed at rehabilitating me. As my offending was rooted in my drug addiction and mental health issues, the conditions of the CCO were tailored to encourage my rehabilitation. Through the services and supports I obtained through my order, and my engagement with my community beyond this, I was able to maintain my abstinence, seek counselling and successfully complete many programs that helped me get myself and my family back.

'I felt I could be me again – that was until I told my employer about my offending and Human Resources told me that I could no longer work in my job due to the department removing my Working with Children Check and my criminal record. My immediate boss was really supportive but there was nothing they could do – I lost my job and I felt like I was back to square one.

'...every job I applied for, I got knocked back for my criminal record even though it did not relate to the work I was applying for. Each time I was told “Sorry Casey, if only it was not for your criminal record”. Because this was okay under the law and there was no time limit on when my criminal record would show my offending...'

'I made submissions to the department to get my Working with Children Check back with the help of another legal aid lawyer. I was successful because of all the references and support letters I could provide that proved I deserved to continue my work but also that others believed in me. Despite this, every job I applied for, I got knocked back for my criminal record even though it did not relate to the work I was applying for. Each time I was told “Sorry Casey, if only it was not for your criminal record”. Because this was okay under the law and there was no time limit on when my criminal record would show my offending, I fell into despair – without a stable job I loved I could not get myself and family out of financial insecurity. I could not move on with my life.

'It was only when my former boss advocated for me and rehired me despite my criminal record that I had the opportunity to re-enter the workforce and put my life back together again. I’m no longer financially struggling and I have been able to support myself and my children.'

More information

Read our submission to the Legal and Social Affairs Committee.

Learn about criminal records.

Read about Working with Children Checks.

Was this helpful?