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  • How to find employment with a criminal record in Australia

    When you have a criminal record, it is easy to disqualify or be sceptical of your chances when seeking admission, employment into an organisation or agency.

    For most people, applying for a role they are passionate and competent about can become a real internal struggle when they factor in their "criminal records" or police history. In recent times, the Australian government has become more stringent in upholding the legislations that guide recruitment, and internal risk strategy.

    What is a Criminal Record?

    A Criminal record contains all the releasable convictions or offences of an individual stored in a National Criminal Database. The police check can be issued by Australian police authorities and in most cases is issued by federal government accredited agencies like Australian National Character Check which streamline the national police check process and provide applicants a 100% online process via secure software systems that are aimed to improve community safety by the provision of timely and accurate Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check information.

    Most organisations, companies and institutions now request an updated National Criminal History Check record or a National Police Check before employing or admitting applicants to any roles. And for some “sensitive” roles, it is a mandatory employment requirement; examples include but are not limited to;

    Having a criminal record should not be an impediment or a barrier to landing the job you want, except where it is stipulated by a court/legislation. This does little to assuage the fears and scepticism in job applicants when they fail their criminal history record check.

    So, here are a few tips to help you overcome the self-imposed "stigma" of having a criminal record, and applying for a job;

    • Prepare a Strong application, and be intentional

      Most organisations/systems will not overlook competence in preference of "sterling behaviours". Even though records might play a role in the recruitment process, they should not take the place of competence unless required so by law.

      For anyone seeking to apply for a position, they are legitimately and legally qualified for, submitting a strong application wins most of the time.

    • Employers hardly go out for perfect records

      Most of the offences that constitute an individual's criminal record are usually committed far early in the person's life, and it in no way defines who they are currently. Most HR being amenable to this usually don't focus on "perfect records" (where applicable) but seeking the best-suited person for the job.

      Rather than alienating yourself from the opening, focus on accentuating the progress you have made in personal, psychological and mental development since your conviction.

    • Avoid applying to roles where your convictions are relevant

      If you were convicted of a crime bordering on financial misappropriation and illicit practices, strategically avoid applying for financial positions. Or If you were convicted of a traffic offence, avoid roles that include driving, navigating, and co. This way, you can concentrate your focus on roles where your convictions are irrelevant.

      The legislation leaves recruitment policies to each company's discretion if the conviction in the criminal background check is unrelated to the role applied

    • Confirm if your Conviction is “Spent”

      Some convictions are expunged from an individual's criminal record if they satisfy some certain conditions. Some of the conditions that may qualify a conviction as being spent are;

      •   Convictions where ten (10) consecutive years have elapsed for offences committed by an adult (not convicted in a juvenile court)
      •   Convictions where Five (5) consecutive years (3 years for NSW) elapses for offences convicted in a juvenile court (committed by a child)
      •   The individual must not be convicted of any punishable offence during this waiting period, or the period restarts
      •   Where a jail term is imposed, the crime-free period begins after the jail term
      •   Convictions stipulated by the court to be considered as Spent if the individual meets some criteria

      If you satisfy all of these conditions, and it corresponds to the State's Spent Convictions Scheme, you can apply to the Police to have your criminal records reviewed (e.g. when applying for a police clearance in WA, you must apply to have WA convictions expunged from your criminal history record).

      In some states, the offences will automatically be expunged from your Criminal records when you apply for a national police clearance certificate.

      However, no matter the conditions satisfied, some offences will never be considered as Spent. Such offences include;

      •   Sexually related convictions
      •   Convictions against corporate organisations and institutions
      •   Convictions stated by the regulations.
      •   Convictions for which a prison sentence of six or more months is imposed

      Even when you have a conviction not considered as "Spent", you can apply to roles not related to the offence as stipulated by legislation.

    • If they don't ask, don't disclose

      Some employers do not consider a Criminal record certificate a necessary certificate or document for employment; factory workers, foreman, bartenders, and so on. In such cases, the individual is not obliged to disclose details of their Criminal records.

      Specific legislation in Australian states protect persons with a criminal history from employment discrimination where the conviction has no relevance to the role.

    • Be passionate and honest in your Job

      Credibility and Honesty are virtues that you can perfect with long and intentional practice. Even before applying for a new role, be credible enough in your current role. Mostly, the recommendations from previous employers and professionals prove to be the biggest deciding factor in employment.

      If the applicant comes with an impeccable record/recommendation from a trusted organisation, or where their criminal record is a bit unrelated to the role, recommendations are useful.

    • Try not to fall into another conviction

      Many psychologists and criminal experts believe that criminality may be a recurring event. If you have a criminal record, you should be working towards overwhelming the influence of that record through impeccable, sterling and responsible living henceforth. Relapsing into another crime clouds your application with uncertainty to the employer/recruiter.

      Special appeals for good behaviours may arise if your last conviction was long ago.

    What you should know if you have a Criminal Record

    Having a criminal record can be bearing on the mind, but it doesn't mean you should close the door on your career. If it is your dream to work for a big corporation, it can still come to fruition with careful, smart and intentional practice.

    If your Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check (NCCHC) comes out with Disclosable court outcomes (DCOs), here are things you should know;

    • Not everyone is privy to your criminal records.

      If you don't assent to companies/officials to obtaining/disclosing details of your records, it becomes unlawful to disclose it. Therefore, if you don't feel comfortable with divulging your criminal records to an organisation, you can politely decline and seek employment elsewhere.

    • It is not a certificate of discrimination/marginalisation, but information.

      If you feel you are discriminated against/abused due to your criminal records, you can tender complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The commission seeks and pursues reconciliation and protection of an individual's right against discrimination.

    • The relevance of convictions to the roles is a big consideration

      For example; If you were convicted of a traffic offence, and it appears in your Criminal record, it can hardly influence employment decisions for a role as a Bartender, retail worker, and many other positions that do not require you to drive.

      Where the convictions are irrelevant or not “Serious”, companies apply their discretion in recruitments under their internal risk mitigation strategy.

      However, if you hold certain criminal records like a sexually related offence, you are excluded from getting roles in Health, Law, Teaching, Child care, and so on.

    • You can have your conviction rescinded in a law court

      Where further evidence arises that may prove your innocence in a conviction, you should seek the advice of a legal practitioner to seek redress in court. If your application is successful, such offence/conviction will be expunged from your criminal record, and you will become “free" in the eyes of the law.

      Consequently, when your criminal record is reviewed positively, you are free to apply for a job with an updated national police check certificate

    • Not all convictions are considered “disclosable”

      Depending on the state legislation and the Spent convictions scheme, some offences are not disclosed on your Criminal check certificate. However, you can only be sure of this when you apply for your Criminal History Check.

      If a conviction is not disclosed in your certificate, it means it is not considered relevant to the role/purpose for which you need the check.

    • Criminal records are valid throughout Australia.

      If you have a criminal record, it will most probably reflect anywhere you request a Police Check. Relocating to a different state to seek employment will not remove the conviction from your check certificate.

      A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check contains records of disclosable court outcomes from the following states and territories:

    Wrapping Up

    Most companies request criminal history checks or records to protect their brand, staff and resources from harm or damage. They also want to avoid serious, punitive actions from the government or regulatory authorities for defaulting on recruitments policies. However, this should not be the red light for you to apply for your dream job especially when the conviction is unrelated to the role.

    Although applying for a role as a person with a criminal history may be difficult, it is not impossible. There are cases where organisations have accepted and defended their action of employing persons who fail their criminal checks.

    In most Australian States other than Western Australia (WA), if you apply for a Police Criminal Check, all the offences that may qualify for leniency (Spent Charges) are reviewed, and then expunged from your criminal record. Individuals, businesses and enterprises can apply for Australian police checks through Australian National Character Check.

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