As many as tens of thousands of Victorian children who ended up with criminal records by being placed in state care may finally have their convictions expunged.
The Victorian parliament has backed a Greens motion to start the process to erase the offences and deliver a formal apology.
It is not known how many wards of the state ended up with convictions but the Greens say tens of thousands may be affected.
Until 1991 children placed in state care were charged with being in need of protection, which then appeared on police criminal history records.
The charges have been a source of confusion, frustration and anger for many care leavers, Greens deputy leader Nina Springle said on Wednesday.
“Care leavers shouldn’t be forced to carry these convictions any longer,” she added.
The problem stemmed from a failure in the old Victorian Children’s Court system to distinguish between children in need of protection and those who committed criminal offences, with both protection and sentencing orders appearing on the same register.
In a research paper released in August, RMIT University Professor Bronwyn Naylor said it was not clear that protection orders had the same status as criminal charges but people experienced the orders as though they were criminal.
While the wardship records remain on file, police no longer release them as part of a police records check and acknowledge they are not BOOKr.VIP to criminal acts, she noted.
All parties joined the Greens to support an official apology to children convicted for needing protection, Ms Springle added.
“Parliament has resolved for the government to establish the scale of this problem and work towards an apology for these practices and expungement of convictions,” she said.
The Greens expect once the number of people affected by the issue is known, the necessary legislation to clear the records and formally apologise will go through parliament in early 2018.