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Justice Action is in the NSW Supreme Court to fight for detainees' right to information. NSW authorities refused to distribute the election special to prisoners or mental health patients. It went into five other states and territories prison systems, and all judges and MPs.


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Chronology of the Prisoner Movement in Australia

Dig deep in our penal history and you will find the underlying dynamics of Australian society.

Babette Smith (2010)

The history of the prisoner movement in Australia exists within the broader evolution of Australian class society. Since our transition from a penal colony into a nation-state, Australia’s problematic relationship with the past has been reflected in the formation of national and cultural identity and socio-economic and political shifts in its history. It was convicts and their descendants, responsible for clearing the land and building original colonial infrastructure, who came to develop a nascent form of Australian national consciousness distinct from their British gaolers. The treatment of the convict prisoner legacy by society and historians from the mid-eighteenth century until the emergence of revisionist accounts in the 1960s reflects the broader tendency of Australian history to marginalise or disregard disturbing aspects of our past. The history of the prisoner movement in Australia is therefore critical to understand the development of predominant notions of ‘Australian culture’, ‘values’ and ‘identity’. This project aims to understand and explain how Australia’s origins as a penal colony have shaped the profound role of prisoners in this process of social and cultural change. 


21st Century

2011 – Snapshot of the prison population by numbers Based on first day of the month averages, for the June quarter 2011, there were 83,573 persons under the authority of corrective services (excluding those in periodic detention). The total comprised 28,964 persons in full-time custody and 54,609 persons in community-based corrections, which consist of non-custodial orders served under the authority of adult corrective services agencies and include restricted movement, reparations (fine options and community service) and supervision orders (parole, bail and sentenced probation) (ABS 2011).

Nationally, the June quarter 2011 average daily imprisonment rate was 166 prisoners per 100,000 adult population. Northern Territory had the highest imprisonment rate (748 prisoners per 100,000 adult population), followed by Western Australia (262) and New South Wales (179). The Australian Capital Territory and Victoria had the lowest imprisonment rates (87 and 107 prisoners per 100,000 adult population respectively) (ABS 2011).

The average daily number of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult prisoners in Australia in the June quarter 2011 was 7,621, comprising 6,997 (92%) males and 624 (8%) females. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners represented 26% of the total full-time prisoner population in the June quarter 2011. The national average daily Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in the June quarter 2011 was 2,242 per 100,000 adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (ABS 2011).


Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Prisoners in Australia 2009 – Table 4 Crude imprisonment rates, states and territories, 1999-2009, Cat. No. 4517.0, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4517.02009?OpenDocument

2011 – Justice Action initiated the computer project, which resulted in 100 computers being donated to prisons from the corporate and community sectors. However once Corrective Services NSW became aware that Justice Action had facilitated the donations they ordered that the computers be returned to the JA office.

2010 The health and well-being of prisoners in 2010 (statistics compiled by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

Mental health issues

Prisoners in Australia have high rates of mental health related issues. In 2010, 31% of prison entrants reported having been told they had a mental health illness and 16% of prison entrants reported that they were currently taking mental health related medication. On entry to prison, almost one-fifth of prison entrants were referred to the prison mental health services for observation and further assessment following the reception assessment.

Almost 1 in 10 prisoners in custody visited the clinic for a psychological or mental health issue, and 1 in 5 prisoners in custody was taking mental health related medication. When looking at the type of medication, 18% of all repeat medication was for depression/mood stabilisers, 9% for antipsychotics, 2% for anti-anxiety medication and 1% for sleep disturbance.

‘Risky’ health behaviours

Prison entrants in Australia reported previously engaging in various ‘risky’ health behaviours, such as smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol at extreme levels and using illicit drugs. Four in five prison entrants reported being a current smoker, and three in four reported being a daily smoker. More than half of prison entrants reported drinking alcohol at levels that placed them at risk of alcohol-related harm, while less than 20 per cent reported that they did not drink. Further, two-thirds of prison entrants reported illicit drug use in the previous 12 months. These rates are all substantially higher than in the general community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison entrants were significantly over-represented in the entrants’ sample, with 43% being Indigenous, compared with 2.5% in the general population. Indigenous prison entrants reported poorer health behaviours than non-Indigenous prison entrants, and were more likely to be current smokers (89% compared with 79%) and to have consumed alcohol at levels considered to place them at risk of alcohol-related harm (73% compared with 48%) in the previous 12 months. However, Indigenous prison entrants reported lower level of mental health related issues (23% compared with 38%), use of mental health medication upon entry to prison (12% compared with 19%), and chronic conditions.

(Source: AIHW 2011. The health of Australia's prisoners 2010. Cat. no. PHE 149. Canberra: AIHW)

Furthermore, according to ABS data, ‘Over half (55%) of prisoners in custody at 30 June 2010 had served a sentence in an adult prison prior to the current episode. Of those prisoners sentenced in the last twelve months, 58% had a prior imprisonment’ (ABS 2010). This data highlights the role of the prison system as a catchment for disadvantaged groups, and one that continues to fail in addressing the deep-seated social disadvantage and isolation that contributes to offending and subsequent recidivism.

2010 – Justice Action opposed the Department of Health’s attempts to implement smoke-free policies in NSW mental health inpatient facilities, an environment in which 80 per cent of consumers smoke. A website was prepared to articulate these concerns: http://www.righttochoosealliance.com.au after requests for support from consumer representatives around NSW. JA argued that voluntary quit programs which couple education programs with quit-aids such as ‘nicorettes’ and patches would be more successful in the long-term than a blanket ban, whilst also upholding the ‘dignity of risk’ and rights of a vulnerable client group. However, the ban was upheld and as of 2011 the right of inpatients to smoke in mental health facilities had been rescinded.


Guards in Riot Uniforms outside Junee Prison 2009

Source: State Library of NSW

2007 – In consultation with women inmates at the Emu Plains Correctional Centre, Justice Action fought administrational changes to all-day visitations that reduced the amount of time mothers were able to spend with their children; however the campaign was unsuccessful and the issues of visitation remains an ongoing battle.

High Court win – On 30 August 2007, the High Court of Australia overturned the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 which said that anyone in prison when the election writ is issued would be disqualified from voting, arguing that these provisions violated the Australian Constitution and were therefore invalid (Vicki Lee Roach v Electoral Commissioner and Commonwealth of Australia, 30 August 2007, High Court of Australia).This means that prisoners serving a sentence less than three years can vote in a federal election. However, prisoners serving a sentence of three years or more remain ineligible to vote in federal elections for the duration of their imprisonment. 

2006 – Justice Action assisted the successful High Court challenge to return the prisoner right to vote. JA asked to present the case for prisoners before the Senate Inquiry in 2006.

ICOPA - Justice Actionhosted the Eleventh International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA XI) in Tasmania. Later in the year a JA representative also travelled to London and met with the Howard League, the oldest penal reform group in the UK established in 1866, who agreed to host the 2008 Twelfth International Conference on Penal Abolition, which was attended by Justice Action as the only Australian representative.

2005 – There are approximately 9,000 prisoners in NSW gaols, a 40% increase over the past decade. Tomeet the demand the Department of Corrective Services continues to construct new facilities. (ABC, Four Corners)

2004 – Leaders of ethnic gangs controlling crime and street warfare from behind bars are rounded up into an isolation wing of Parklea Gaol. One other leader is sent to the Supermax. (ABC, Four Corners)

2004 – Justice Action took up a position as a foundation member on the Justice Health Consumer Group, a group set up by Justice Health as required by the NSW Health Department, and tasked with monitoring the health of all NSW prisoners.

2003 – In conjunction with TAFE, Justice Action created a community mentoring course with special modules to address the needs of those in conflict with the law. The 22 graduates were mainly ex-prisoners.

2002 – ‘Standard minimum terms’ are introduced for a range of serious offences. These sentences can be reduced or increased by a range of mitigating or aggravating circumstances under the common law, thus retaining judicial discretion. (ABC, Four Corners)

§ 2001 – 'Ethnic clustering', dividing inmates according to race, is introduced at Goulburn Gaol to make prisoners easier to control. Aboriginal, Pacific Islander, Arabic and European prisoners are separated, with no contact between groups allowed (ABC, Four Corners).

2001 – The High Risk Management Unit (HRMU, also referred to by inmates as HARM-U) opened at Goulburn Correctional Centre, and was Australia's first Supermax prison at a cost of $20 million. Construction of the Goulburn Correctional Centre begun in 1880 in the Southern Highlands of NSW and was completed in 1894. The facility has also been known as the Goulburn Training Centre (1949-1950), Goulburn Reformatory and Goulburn Gaol (Ramsland 2011).

Currently the facility is classified as maximum security for males. The facility is the most secure prison within the NSW correctional system, and the inmates are subject to very strict daily regimes, and under intense scrutiny by security. Goulburn HRMU has received similar complaints from prisoners as were made about the now closed Katingal at Long Bay, which was dubbed the ‘electronic zoo’. These complaints include the lack of natural light and fresh air; no access to legal books; the use of isolation and solitary confinement as punishment; limited and enclosed exercise; mutilation and harsh treatment. The NSW Ombudsman's report in 2008 explained that there is ‘no doubt… that the HRMU does not provide a therapeutic environment for these inmates’ (Australian Prisons Project 2011).

October – A conference hears that mentally ill prisoners are locked in their cells at Long Bay prison for up to 23 hours a day and that 800 inmates require medical treatment to deal with acute mental illness, but only 90 beds are available at Long Bay’s hospital wing. (ABC, Four Corners)

'Ethnic clustering' is strongly criticised in an internal Corrective Services report which finds the practice increases tension and encourages gang formation. A crackdown begins on gangs, with 100 inmates identified as having gang affiliations. An internal report shows they are responsible for drug-running, prostitution, gambling rackets, standover tactics and theft. (ABC, Four Corners)

2001 – Justice Action initiated the Stop the Women's Jail Campaign after the government rejects the 126 submissions against the prison and only the Corrective Services submissions for it. Employed Kerry Nettle (later Senator) as the Coordinator.



2000 – A NSW parliamentary committee finds that the number of women being jailed has grown alarmingly. The committee report details a 40% increase in the female prisoner population since 1994; with a 14% increase of Aboriginal women in custody. Female prisons are rife with drug addiction, suicide and mental illness. (ABC, Four Corners)

Privacy of human genetic material – As the only group invited to make an oral presentation to the Senate Inquiry into the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Act in December 2000, Justice Action defended the privacy of human genetic material against the top four experts from the Attorney-General’s Department and the Federal Police.

1999 – An inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) into Corrective Services finds officers developed improper relationships with inmates by accepting bribes to tamper with prison documents. (ABC, Four Corners)

Drug questionnaire – Justice Action distributed the only questionnaire to prisoners during the NSW Drug Summit 1999 when six MP crossbenchers wrote, ‘The participation of Justice Action is absolutely crucial to deliberations at the Summit’.

The Prisoners Union – Justice Action facilitated the creation of the Australian Prisoners Union (APU). The APU was launched Saturday 17 July at the Clubhouse, Jubilee Park Oval, Glebe, NSW. It was created to be an independent union of prisoners and paroled prisoner to represent and advance the interests of prisoners and paroled prisoners, campaigning on a range of prison issues including: lack of legal aid; communication with the community including media; re-introduction of remissions; payment of proper employment entitlements for prisoners undertaking work whilst incarcerated; freedom of association for prisoners; visiting rights including contact visits; invasive searches of visitors; entitlement to computers; prisoner control of prisoners' services, including post-release services; as well as improved education and rehabilitation services.

Its founding statement says: "Fundamental human rights do not end at the prison gate. Society must acknowledge that prisoners are members of our communities, who will return to those communities after incarceration."

1997 – The 900-bed Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre opens at Silverwater, Australia’s largest correctional centre. (ABC, Four Corners)

Right to vote – Justice Action defended the prisoners’ right to vote nationally, giving the only oral evidence at the Senate Inquiry.

Criminal Justice Activists – Justice Action co-hosted the first national conference of community-based Criminal Justice Activists and forced the exposure and reform of the corrupt police practice of concocting confessions called the police ‘verbal’.


A typical cell at Silverwater

Source: SMH - http://www.smh.com.au/news/Business/One-final-look-back-then-off-to-jail/2005/04/14/1113251739669.html

1996 – Justice Action initiated ex-prisoner Richard Lynott's case against the NSW government for negligence due to its failure to supply clean needles and syringes in prison, later causing his death.

Mulawa Project – Justice Action coordinated the Justice Action Mulawa Project, which saw volunteer law students and solicitors visiting Mulawa Correctional Centre weekly, and the circulation of plain English legal/prison issue booklets into Mulawa.

KM1 herbal trial – In conjunction with Pride, Justice Action succeeded in having the KM1 herbal trial available for HIV+ prisoners.

Visits – Justice Action with the support of Corrective Services NSW conducted a survey of Long Bay visitors for one month, surveying and compiling the responses over 4000 visitors, these were followed by102 personal responses to JA after the initial survey.Initiated recommendations made in the Prison Visitors Survey Report and worked with Corrective Services to institute changes.

Acknowledgement - Justice Action was acknowledged in NSW Legislative Assembly by Jeremy Kinross as ‘consistently standing for the truth’. (NSW Legislative Assembly 20.6.96).

1995 – Justice Actionlobbied for the Wood Royal Commission and brought evidence on numerous issues including wrongful convictions, working with the Wrongful Convictions Group established within Legal Aid NSW. JA worked alongside Legal Aid to collate these complaints against Police officers proven to be corrupt.

Prisoner health Working with other groups, Justice Action formed the community policy about blood-borne communicable diseases in prisons, pressuring the government for immediate availability of condoms, clean syringes and dental dams.

Prison Watch – Justice Action held the position as Australian Coordinator for International Prison Watch, an international penal watch group based in France reporting annually on the human rights situations of prisoners globally.

1994 – The Australian Institute of Criminology reports a 40% increase in deaths in custody over the past two years. In all, 72 people died in custody in 1992/93 compared with 57 and 58 in the two previous years. (ABC, Four Corners)

1994 Junee Correctional Centre – The Junee Correctional Centre was opened as a medium/minimum security for males in 1994, and was the first correctional centre facility in NSW to be privately run. The GEO Group Inc designed, constructed and currently (2011) manages the prison under a single contractual arrangement with the NSW Department of Corrective Services (Australian Prisons Project 2011).


The front gates at Junee Correctional Centre

Source: State Library of NSW - http://digital.sl.nsw.gov.au/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?embedded=true&toolbar=false&dps_pid=IE565405&_ga=2.184456806.1338767921.1529634116-509559527.1453939395

1994 - Researchers Ken McCullagh and Trish Woods, The University of Wollongong, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre work to develop the “RAVEN” project and for the design, implementation and curation of an Aboriginal inmate cultural studies program at Goulburn Correctional Centre. An exhibition of the inmates work was curated by Ken McCullagh and was a success both fiancially and spiritually for all involved.

Inmates were introduced to computers which helped them improve their art skills. This was achieved through painting a mural covering the walls and ceiling of the Aboriginal recreation room. At the same time, inmates improve their painting techniques and organised an exhibition at the University of Wollongong. The proceeds from the sales were distributed to firstly the Department of Corrective Service who demanded the cost of art material recouped then to the families of the immates. The course was so msuccessful in getting the inmate working together to improve their condition and opportunities rather than fighting each other (which corrective services prefer) that Correctives Services subsequently reallocated the Goulburn inmates to other facilities and painted over the inmates mural, erasing it from history.

 1993 – NSW Prisons Minister Michael Yabsley says that rape is ‘inevitable’ in prison and that fear of rape might be a useful ‘deterrent factor’ to those thinking of offending (ABC, Four Corners).

1991 – The final report on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody makes more than 300 recommendations. The report finds that the disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal people are arrested and imprisoned in Australia is the principal explanation for their deaths. The Commonwealth says it will spend $400 million over five years to implement the recommendations. Critics subsequently claim that implementation has been slow and piecemeal. (ABC, Four Corners)

1990 – Borallon Correctional Centre in Queensland becomes Australia’s first private prison (O’Toole 2006).


Exercise yard at Boggo Road Prison, Queensland, 1989

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3798279


1987 – The Minister for Corrective Services, Rex Jackson, is convicted of conspiracy in relation to the early licence release scheme. Remissions are subsequently abolished. (ABC, Four Corners)

October 1987 – The Hawke Federal ALP Government announces a Royal Commission to investigate the deaths of 99 Aborigines in police and prison custody over a period of nine years. (ABC, Four Corners)

1985 – A task force finds 78% of women in gaol are addicted to alcohol or drugs, especially heroin. (ABC, Four Corners)

1983 Remissions programs are established in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. These programs were largely removed in the 1990s and replaced in NSW by ‘Truth-in-Sentencing’.

Rex Jackson –Allegations surface that the NSW Minister for Corrective Services, Rex Jackson, had accepted payments in return for granting early release to certain prisoners. (ABC, Four Corners)

1980 – Prison officers become frustrated at the swift pace and direction of the changes to penal administration – particularly on issues relating to prisoner rights – and react with a series of strikes. The Wran Government backs down. (ABC, Four Corners)

1979 – Goulburn Gaol inmates allege beatings by prison officers. A magistrate's inquiry finds evidence of assault by four officers, but no criminal charges are laid. (ABC, Four Corners)

Prisoners Legal Service – Justice Action was part of the initiating committee for the NSW Prisoners Legal Service following the Nagle Royal Commission.

Prisoners Union Liaison (P.U.L) - P.U.L was established by trade unions and prisoners at Parramatta Gaol in 1979, and was an important development of cooperation between the two groups. The main purpose changed from rights to employment post-release, and to a health and safety in following years.

October 1979 – A peaceful sitdown protest is held by inmates at Parramatta Gaol after the Wran Government’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against prison officers implicated in the Bathurst riots. (ABC, Four Corners)


Bones found in Parramatta Gaol escape tunnel, Dept. of Corrective Services, 12th floor, Goodsell Building, Sydney 1979.

Source: State Library of New South Wales

1978 – Nagle Report- The report by Royal Commissioner Nagle recommends more than 250 sweeping changes to the penal system. Most are implemented. He finds that the NSW Department of Corrective Services and ministers of both major parties had unofficially sanctioned the systematic brutalisation of prisoners at Grafton Gaol. (ABC, Four Corners)

The Wran Labor government begins reform. A new corrective services commission is established under chairman Dr Tony Vinson.

Justice Nagle condemns Katingal as an expensive ‘electronic zoo’. Recommendations from the Nagle report result in the closure of Katingal Gaol after only three years of operation.

‘Katingal became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the state’s prisons, a focus of public protest by an unlikely alliance of lawyers, journalists and unions.’ ABC Hindsight, 13 October, 2002. (ABC, Four Corners)

Prisoners Action Group (PAG) – hosted the defence of those accused of the Hilton Hotel bombing and employed the coordinator of the successful Anderson, Dunn and Alister campaign.

After the Nagle Royal Commission exposures and government inaction, Justice Action runs a private prosecution against 10 Grafton and Bathurst prison officers and a doctor for four months working with law students and thirty-two prisoner witnesses.

 keep katignal closed

Chips Mackinolty Poster supporting the closure of Katingal

Source: State Library of NSW - http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=84620&PICTAUS=TRUE

1976 – Prisoners Action Group (PAG) worked with Women Behind Bars (WBB) to successfully change the law on provocation in domestic violence murder cases, with the focus on the Bruce and Violet Roberts Blockade.

1975 Women Behind Bars was formed in 1975 after a pregnant woman prisoner, Michelle House, was said to be kneed in the stomach by a female prison officer at Mulawa women’s prison in Sydney. WBB focused on the specific issues confronting women in prison, primarily concerning health and inadequate medical facilities.

Katingal – Katingal was designed to replace the intractable section at Grafton Gaol. Plans were devised in 1968, with first inmate occupants in late 1975 (Ramsland 1996). It was designed to house terrorists as well as problematic prisoners who had been identified as difficult offenders within the NSW prison system. It was dubbed as an ‘electronic zoo' by inmates due to its electronically controlled confinement with artificial lights and air, depriving inmates from almost all contact with the outside world. 'Katingal' is an Aboriginal word meaning separation from social control (Australian Prisons Project 2011).

‘Katingal Gaol, designed exclusively for violent prisoners, opens. There is no natural light in the cells, all the doors are electronically operated, food is passed through the hatch and prisoners are allowed no direct contact with prison officers. It costs $15m and is well over budget.’ (ABC, Four Corners)

The facility became the focus of much, mainly critical, media attention, and was heavily criticised by Justice Nagle in the Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons (1978), who recommended its immediate closure. On 17 March 1989 Michael Yabsley announced that Katingal would be re-opened as a correctional facility. When it was realised that the redevelopment of the site would cost double the $8 million allocated, plans were put on hold until a feasibility study was completed on the entire Long Bay prison complex. The re-opening of Katingal was never raised thereafter (Australian Prisons Project 2011).


Maximum Security at Katingal Gaol

Source: State Library of NSW

1974 – Major disturbances in Bathurst gaol in 1974 saw the complete destruction of the prison by fire. This followed five separate attempts to burn down the facility since December 1966 (Ramsland 1996). Nagle (1978) drew significant attention to the institutionalised brutality and poor conditions that had been endured by prisoners at the facility throughout this period. Today the facility is a minimum to medium facility for both males and females. It serves as a reception centre for prisoners in western NSW.

February 1974 – There is a second, larger riot at Bathurst Gaol. Petrol bombs are thrown about the prison complex and officers fire on inmates. The gaol is gutted by fire and costs $10 million to rebuild. (ABC, Four Corners)

1973 – Periodic detention is introduced in NSW.

Prisoners Action Group established: The Prisoners Action Group (PAG) was established in 1973 (as a splinter of the Penal Reform Council) and was concerned with activism and the abolition of the prison institution. It is a very radical and dynamic group advocating for prisoner rights through a number of different ways such as film-making, publications and demonstrations.

1971 – ‘The Bathurst Batterings’ was published in 1971 as a result of an incident that occurred in Bathurst Gaol on October 1970. As a consequence of the document the Penal Reform Council was formed in 1971 and aimed at sparking reform in the prison system and to provide legal assistance to prisoners.

1970 – Bathurst gaol is notorious for the major disturbances which occur in 1970 and 1974, which substantially contributed to the commissioning of the Nagle Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons (1978). A major riot erupts at the 19th century Bathurst Gaol, signalling deficiencies. Prisoners spend 18 hours a day in their cells and as there is no glass in the windows the bedding is often soaked by rain. Sewerage creates health problems as lavatories regularly overflow and cisterns jam. After the riot, some prison officers participate in a systematic flogging of prisoners. (ABC, Four Corners)

 bathurst gaol

Bathurst Gaol

Source: State Library of Victoria

1970s – Surge in Prisoner-led activism: This decade saw an unprecedented alliance between prisoners and those advocating reform from the outside, including the Council for Civil Liberties, the Penal Reform Council, and various lawyers and academics who worked to publicise the many allegations of brutality at Grafton and Bathurst in particular, which were later confirmed by Nagle (Australian Prisons Project 2011).

This decade also saw the development of a number of prisoner activist organisations such as:

Parramatta Resurgents Group

Despite some members of this group being regarded by Corrective Services NSW as the ‘most dangerous’ prisoners in the state, they engaged in sophisticated debates and were well aware of current political issues. In 1979 the Group ran a number of well-organised seminars, which was open to the public and academics and explored the experiences of prisoners. The Group also published a magazine, Contact, which had 34 issues before being halted due to security and censorship concerns

Parramatta Recidivist Group (P.R.G)

This group provided assistance to new prisoners to help their transition into prison life through facilitating acceptance of the harsh reality of prisons, through counselling and other programs.

Prisoners Legal Cooperative (P.L.C)

The P.L.C aimed to protect and promote prisoners’ and ex-prisoners‘ rights, through campaigning for their own Prisoners’ Charter of Rights. The Charter focused on mainly political and legal rights, but also included social and cultural rights such as marriage and educational rights. The Charter applied to all prisoners in Australia and had some tangible success, however it remains unclear as to how far reaching their influence was.

1969 – The Department of Prisons was renamed the Department of Corrective Services, reflecting a belief in ability of prison to reform. (Cullen, Dowding and Griffin 1988:16 in http://www.app.unsw.edu.au/section-2-major-themes-decade-0#80s)

1968 – The Katingal project proposes to house six categories of violent prisoners, including top protection cases, at Long Bay in special cells devoid of light and without the programs or privileges available to prisoners at other gaols. Katingal Gaol is built in secrecy.


Group of seated prisoners, State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, Sydney

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3095561


prisoner scrubbing at long bay 

Prisoner on knees scrubbing verandah floor, State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, Sydney



1951 – The NSW Probation service is started. In 1968, the Parole and Probation services were combined and placed under the Prisons department.

1950 – A classification committee is set up in NSW to match the prisoner to an institution and to devise a training program. The NSW Parole Board is established.

1946 – A report on prison reform finds overcrowding at Long Bay. It recommends that sewerage replace pan systems in major gaols and that prisoners should have two more hours each day out of their cells. (ABC, Four Corners)

1945 – Increasing tensions in the state's prisons and a number of serious assaults on prison officers lead to Grafton Gaol being used to house the most intractable prisoners. The penal methods at Grafton over the next 33 years are described as a 'regime of terror', 'brutal, savage and sometimes sadistic'. This period is labelled as 'one of the most sordid and shameful episodes in NSW penal history'. (ABC, Four Corners)

‘It became abundantly clear during the Commission’s hearings that the arduous duties required of [Grafton’s prison] officers largely consisted of inflicting brutal, savage, and sometimes sadistic physical violence on the hapless group of intractables who were sent to Grafton.’ Extract, Nagle Report, p.134.

1943-44 – Royal Commission begins looking at operations of Hobart Gaol.

1942 –TheGrafton Correctional Centre was opened in 1892 (Ramsland 1996)

The intractable section within Grafton began in 1942. It was felt that specialised treatment would put an end to the deviance and delinquent behaviour of the system’s most hardened criminals (Ramsland 1996). Throughout this period, prisoners received brutal treatment by prison officers, including a ‘reception biff' on arrival to the facility. The inhumane conditions within the intractable section at Grafton Gaol later came under the scrutiny of Justice Nagle in the Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons (1978). Today the facility is used as a minimum to medium security facility, housing both males and females. The facility is used to accommodate sentenced offenders and as a reception prison for northern NSW (Australian Prisons Project 2011).

1925 – Prisoners serving two or more years are allowed writing materials in their cells. (ABC, Four Corners)


Kathleen Ward, photographed on14 May 1925 at the State reformatory for women, Long Bay

1921 – The principle of the penal diet – food given according to the amount of work performed that day – is abandoned. Instead bonus payments are introduced for work beyond the allotted task. (ABC, Four Corners)

1920 – Bathing is allowed each working day instead of twice weekly. Calling at half-hourly intervals by night guards is abandoned. Lights in cells are allowed. (ABC, Four Corners)

1918 – Reading of newspapers is allowed but controversial articles are cut out to prevent any difference of opinion which could lead to disorder. (ABC, Four Corners)

1917 – Leg-ironing of prisoners in transit is stopped. Prisoners at Emu Plains and Tuncurry are allowed to play cricket and football and bathe in the river or surf. (ABC, Four Corners)


A leg iron

1913 – The first prison camp, an afforestation camp, is established at Tuncurry in NSW. In 1914 another is constructed at Emu Plains, with further camps constructed between 1927-31 at Brookfield, Mannus, Glen Innes and Oberon. Camps were also opened in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland (O’Toole 2006).



Source: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=203253

1909 – A separate prison for women is constructed at Long Bay. (ABC, Four Corners)

1908 – In his annual report for 1908, Frederick W. Neitenstein, Comptroller-General of Prisons observed: ‘... the Berrima Gaol has been closed, as the present system has no use for it. At one time it was amongst the principal penal establishments, as was primarily for punitive treatment of refractory and turbulent prisoners. To be liable to be sent to Berrima for "coercion" was a terrifying idea, and the methods employed – only a few years ago – at that place were severe indeed. The principal measures of "coercion," apart from flogging as a last resource, consisted of solitary confinement, dark cells, and various forms of ironing. Of these, prolonged detention in dark cells was the most drastic punishment. On entering into office, I made careful inquiry into this matter, and found that individuals were punished over and over again without checking offences or bringing better conduct. On my recommendation, therefore, all of these things were abolished, and one result has been that outbreaks and organised disturbances have entirely ceased, and serious misconduct has become a thing of the past. (Report of the Comptroller-General of Prisons, New South Wales for the year 1908, p. 3 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1909 vol 4 p. 47) Berrima Gaol was deproclaimed in a proclamation made on August 14, 1909. (14)

1903 Public Works Prison Trial Bay – The Comptroller-General of Prisons in the Report for 1903 observed as follows ‘For some years the prison authorities have viewed this place with disfavour… The lines laid down for the conduct of this establishment were not in harmony with the general system, and the association which was unavoidable did not assist reform. Its abolition is a relief to the general policy of the Department, and is also a gain to economical working’. (Prisons report for 1903, A. R. 1904, v.1, p. 697.)


Construction of the Breakwater at Trial Bay



Pentridge Prison Front Wall 1900

Source: photos Australia

1898 – Royal Commission into Western Australian penal system (O’Toole 2006).

1895 Captain F.W. Neitenstein is appointed chief administrator of NSW prisons and he brings about reforms that lead to a halt on the imprisonment of children and the placement of mentally disturbed people in prisons. (ABC, Four Corners)

1880-1890 – Significant period of construction and development of prisons in NSW, Northern Territory and Queensland (O’Toole 2006).


Prison in NT (we think Fannie Bay)

Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-N8lSydVh0v4/TgRKemyqBJI/AAAAAAAAAkY/WOTJP6soEh0/s1600/Screen%2Bshot%2B2011-06-24%2Bat%2BFriday%252C%2B24%2BJune%2B%252C%2B18.26.png

1878 – In 1878, a Royal Commission Inquiry was conducted into the management and discipline at Berrima prison after allegations of cruelty. The inquiry reported that prisoners had been subjected to punishments such as dark cells and gagging on repeated occasions. (Royal Commission Inquiry Appointed 2 July 1878 to Inquire Into and Report Upon the General Management and Discipline of the Gaol at Berrima. In Votes and Proceedings 1878-79 vol.3 p.1035.) One cell was used in the earlier years for spreadeagling prisoners. Two rings were placed in the wall four feet six inches from the ground and the prisoner to be punished had his arms handcuffed to the rings. Flogging was never known in the gaol. (Jervis, J. A. History of the Berrima District p.34).

1868 – Transportation of convicts from United Kingdom to Western Australia officially ends (O’Toole 2006).


Unidentified Tall Ship near Cape York

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/Unidentified_tall_ship_near_Cape_Horn_-_Nla.pic-vn3299637-v.jpg/220px-Unidentified_tall_ship_near_Cape_Horn_-_Nla.pic-vn3299637-v.jpg

1867 – Administrative responsibility for NSW prisons moves from the office of the Sheriff to the office of the Inspector General of Prisons.

From 1867, prisoners were classified under the British Crofton system according to the legal character of the offences and the length of the sentences they had been given. The Philadelphia system in the United States and the Pentonville Model system in England were also influential. There were three distinct divisions of Darlinghurst inmates – A, B and C. The A classification was for serious crimes and dangerous, intractable prisoners, while the C classification indicated those who had committed minor crimes or misdemeanours, such as inebriates, non-violent lunatics, debtors and others considered easy to control. The B classification fitted in between these two classifications.

In New South Wales, a solitary confinement regime for prisoners was organised from the Philadelphia system for up to nine months depending on the length of the sentence. The prisoner worked, ate and slept in his cell and took exercise by himself. The emphasis was on solitary and sorrowful repentance. The subduing state of solitude would lead, it was believed, to the maintenance of perfect order in the prison. Drawing from the convict era, colonial administrators chose to use physical punishment, by flogging, leg irons, solitary confinement and the gallows, believing it to have a disciplinary effect. Such punishments were gradually watered down. Underlying the penal system was the high Victorian notion of the possibilities of moral, social and spiritual reform of prisoners.

1866 Berrima – Until 1866 the supervision at Berrima was similar to that in any other prison until the treatment known as the ‘silent system’ was introduced. The first nine months of a prisoner's sentence was passed in silence, when he was not permitted to speak to anyone, not even a warden except in the way of business. All prisoners sentenced to five years or more served one-twelfth of their term in Berrima.

 berrima gaol

The Cells at Berrima Gaol

Source:State library of Victoria - http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/pictoria/gid/slv-pic-aab47542/1/a09135

1865 – In Queensland, the administrative responsibility for prisoners transfers from the military to the police.

1859 – In accordance with the Prisons Regulation Act, 1840 a Public Gaol was ordered to be established at Braidwood. This proclamation, dated 11 July, 1859 heralded a program of prison construction intended to replace temporary structures in country areas and expand metropolitan gaols. However, as a result of controversy generated by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper about substandard cell design within prisons, this government ordered the program to be reviewed.

The Colonial Architect was ordered to present revised plans and cost estimates in keeping with the new standards. Three different classes of gaols were planned, according to the size required, each class built to a standard design and price, being between £2,000 and £3,000. The cost quoted for the erecting the new gaol at Braidwood was £2 000. The gaol at Braidwood, designed to contain twelve prisoners, was completed over-budget at £2,339.

1856 – Convicts are no longer sent to Norfolk Island.


Remains of the infamous Norfolk Island Treadmill, a form of punishment inflicted on prisoners

Source: NLA - http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/4590004?lookfor=norfolk%20island%20treadmill%20{pi:nla.pic*}&offset=1&max=1


1854 – Eureka Stockade.

1849 – An inquiry into the administration of Darlinghurst Gaol finds ‘debauchery, drunkenness and irregularity of every kind’ and the officers involved are dismissed. (ABC, Four Corners)


DarlinghurstGaol and Court House, Sydney, 1870

1847 – The first gaol for male prisoners is built in Queensland.

1845 – Convict transportation to Van Diemen’s land ends.

1840s-1860s – An anti-transportation campaign was conducted during which Victoria and South Australia, having never received any convicts, loudly proclaimed they were convict-free. Support for the movement was achieved through scare tactics which threatened the risk of contamination by association and suggested persons who interacted with the ‘degraded felon’ would lose their social status. As a result, Victoria and South Australia created legislation to ban Van Diemen people from entering their shores. John West, the prominent figure in the anti-transportation movement, published two propaganda works called the Examiner and History, of which the latter was a primary source used by historians up until the late 20th century. The flag of the Australasian Anti-Transportation League Flag was the first design to include the Southern Cross. It is likely to have subsequently influenced the Australian, New Zealand and Victorian flags.

The primary move to abolish transportation was driven by accusations of homosexuality among the prisoner community. These unfounded stories led to public hysteria and in turn a spike in committals. It became impossible for people to support transportation. Even convicts began to believe the hype, lacking the confidence to debate the accusations.

Nicholas Bayley, a pastoralist, argued that through his 15 year experience with prisoners, he had the opinion that the stories were largely exaggerated if not false altogether. In fact, he argued that prisoners showed more gratitude for indulgences and their morality was equal to many immigrants he had met.

Ultimately, the success of the anti-transportation movement allowed the middle-class to rid themselves of the convict. A change of hands occurred between the middle-class and the working class, future generations of prisoners discovered they no longer had a place in middle-class, and thus stayed put in the working class. Noteworthy is the fact that not many who supported the anti-transportation movement realised that the fears of pollution, contamination and contagion were rooted in a fear of homosexuality. Unfortunately, the preceding six decades of Australia’s convict history was readily forgotten.

1840 – Transportation of convicts to NSW ends.

1839 – Berrima Correctional Complex is the oldest operating gaol in Australia. The facility was completed in October 1839 (Ramsland 1996), and was based on a radical design which was favoured in that period. Throughout the 19th century, Berrima Gaol carried a feeling of foreboding, with the most hardened criminals in the system sent there throughout that era. It was considered the ‘Siberia' of the NSW prison system, where’sensory deprivation and corporal punishment could be expected in an atmosphere of penal totalitarianism’ (Ramsland 1996)

1838 – First gaol established in Adelaide, South Australia.

 adelaide gaol

Adelaide Gaol

Source: Gill, Samuel Thomas, 1818-1880.drawing : sepia wash ; 9.7 x 13 cm.) http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an2376678

1838 – The policy of assignment, whereby convicts were assigned (effectively hired out) to private settlers for little to no pay at all (criticised as a system akin to slavery), ends in 1838.

1836 – First gaol established in Melbourne, Victoria.

1835 A parliamentary committee recommends the building of new prisons at Sydney and Parramatta. It is proposed that prisoners be physically isolated from one another and banned from communicating with each other. (ABC, Four Corners)

 convict labour

Convicts building road over the Blue Mountains 1833

Source: http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an6332110

1830 – First system of probation established in Van Diemen’s Land. Port Arthur penal settlement established in Tasmania (O’Toole 2006).


Port Arthur

Source: Etablissement penitentiaire de Port Arthur, Terre de Van-Diemen [picture]. 1854

1829 – Queensland’s first gaol – a ‘female factory’ – is built in Queen Street, Brisbane (O’Toole 2006).


1829 – Queensland’s first Female Factory

Source: State Library of Queensland, no.153725 - http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/about_us/history/history.shtml

1827 – Campbelltown Gaol was built in 1827. Thomas Hammond (a local publican) was awarded a contract to convert Cooper's public house into a courthouse and gaol in November 1826. By 1833 the gaol was very overcrowded and in great need of upgrading. No improvements were made and the magistrates complained again in 1837. The authorities decided that a gaol in Campbelltown was unnecessary and a police office with cells would be sufficient. The gaol closed at the end of 1843, due to insufficient funds.

1825 – Norfolk Island begins to receive the ‘worst’ convicts from NSW and Van Diemen’s Land (O’Toole 2006).


Norfolk Island

Source:National Library of Australia - http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an8934779

1824 – The office of the Sheriff replaces the Provost Marshal in managing the colony’s prisoners (O’Toole 2006).

1821 – Governor Macquarie establishes the Female Factory at Parramatta for unassigned female convicts and imperial (local) female prisoners (O’Toole 2006). Women confined in female factories went through a strictly observed rehabilitation process that involved domestic duties and Bible readings. Female factories also served as places where marriage or domestic work arrangements for the women could be brokered by free settlers (O’Toole 2006).


Parramatta Female Factory, circa 1826

Source: Augustus Earle (1793-1838). Female Penitentiary or Factory, Parramatta [1826?]. Rex Nan Kivell Collection NK12/47.)National Library of Australia

1820 – Barracks are built in Sydney to house convicts.Until other accommodation was built prisoners lived in their own homes where they developed private lives and private possessions. They operated businesses in their homes. Their household provided board and lodgings and in many cases, employment, for later convict arrivals (Smith 2010).


1820 Barracks in Sydney

Source:Caserne à Sydney [Barracks in Sydney] 1835

(intaglio engraving, printed in black ink, from one steel plate printed image 9.2 h x 11.8 w cm)

1800s-1830s: Public executions took place as the ultimate punishment for the same range of crimes as in England. Executions for prisoners incarcerated in Parramatta Gaol were conducted at Castle Hill. Last minute reprieves occurred, but there were also gruesome spectacles to please the Sydney and Castle Hill crowds.

government jail gang 

A government jail gang, Sydney

Source: Augustus Earle (1793-1838), 1830, print: lithograph.) Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia1:nla.pic-an6065451. http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an6065451

1800 – The demand for labour grows and a system of ‘assigned service’ develops where convicts are assigned to private masters.


Between 1788 and 1868 (when transportation of prisoners to all colonies had ceased) approximately 138,000 men and 25,000 women had been transported to Australia (Smith 2010).

By contemporary standards the majority of convicts sent to Australia had only committed trivial offences (often minor property offences), but regardless were usually Australia-bound having been sentenced to either a seven-year, fourteen-year, or life sentence of transportation and labour. As late as 1837 the official list of offences for which sentences of transportation might be allocated contained over two hundred items (Scott 1916, Part 2).

The draconian nature of the criminal code created an environment where convicts felt that there was a difference between being a 'law-abiding' citizen and a 'decent human being' (Convict Creations 2010), stemming from the sense of illegitimacy surrounding transportation sentences given to many convicts convicted of poverty crimes in England.

This perspective is reflected in verses of convict poetry and song such as:

‘The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from the common

But leaves the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from the goose.’

And song verses like

‘He bade the judge good morning

And he told him to beware,

That he'd never rob a needy man

Or one who acted square,

But a judge who'd rob a mother

Of her one and only joy

Sure, he must be a worse outlaw than

The wild colonial boy.’

1797 – The first gaols (made of logs) constructed in NSW at George Street in Sydney and at Parramatta were completed in June 1797. Each was fitted with 22 cells, but both were burnt down in the same year by unknown arsonists, and then replaced by the more substantial sandstone dormitory buildings (O’Toole 2006).


A fleet of transports under convoy

Source:(London : Printed for & sold by Carrington Bowles, Published as the Act directs 9 Novr. 1781. 1 print : mezzotint, hand col. ; sheet 36 x 25.5 cm.)


1788-1797The whole of NSW a prison’ – Convicts/prisoners were housed in the community, initially in tents until barracks were built in 1820. Convicts were ‘working part of the day for the government and the rest of the day privately and [to] pay their rent.’ During this period ‘prisoners’ in Australia were overwhelmingly transported convicts rather than individuals convicted of an offence in Australia.


AIHW 2011. The health of Australia's prisoners 2010. Cat. no. PHE 149. Canberra: AIHW. Available at URL: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737420111&tab=2 [Accessed October 2011].

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2010, 4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2010, Available at URL: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4517.02010?OpenDocument [Accessed October 2011].

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, 4512.0 - Corrective Services, Australia, Jun 2011, Available at URL: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/C7D54274AB6A2EC9CA25790B00161F34 [Accessed October 2011].

Australian Prison Project, 2011, ‘Section 2: Major Themes by Decade’ in Key moments in Penal Culture in NSW 1970 – present at URL: http://www.app.unsw.edu.au/section-2-major-themes-decade-0 [Accessed October 2011].

Convict Creations - Thinking Different, Australian History – The missing links, 2010, Available at URL: http://www.convictcreations.com/history/index.htm [Accessed: October 2011]

Corrective Services NSW website, History of NSW Corrections, 2011, Available at URL: https://www.correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/CorrectiveServices/related-links/about-us/history-of-nsw-corrections.aspx [Accessed: October 2011].

Grabosky P. N., Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989, ‘Chapter 2: The abuse of prisoners in New South Wales 1943-76’ in Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector , Available at URL: http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch2.aspx [Accessed October 2011].

New South Wales. Parliament. Legislative Council. Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population. Final Report / Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population. [Sydney, N.S.W.] :The Committee, 2001; (Parliamentary paper ; no. 924), Available at URL:

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/1725/Final%20Report%20-%20Prisons.pdf [Accessed October 2011]

O’Toole, S., 2006, The History of Australian Corrections, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.

Ramsland, J., Prisons to 1920, 2011, Available at URL: http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/prisons_to_1920 [Accessed: October 2011]

Scott, E., Chapter 5 ‘The Convict System’ in A Short History of Australia, 1916, Available at URL: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200471h.html#ch5 [Accessed: October 2011].

Smith, B., 2008, Australia’s Birthstain: The startling legacy of the convict era, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Smith, B., Out of Sight, 2009, Available at URL: http://www.babettesmith.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8:out-of-sight&catid=3:articles&Itemid=10 [Accessed October 2011].

Smith, B, In a class of our own, 2010, Available at URL: http://www.babettesmith.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7:in-a-class-of-our-own&catid=3:articles&Itemid=9 [Accessed October 2011].

Vicki Lee Roach v Electoral Commissioner and Commonwealth of Australia, 30 August 2007, High Court of Australia.

Zdenkowski, G., and Brown, D., 1982, The Prison Struggle: Changing Australia’s Penal System, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Vic.

JA Report 2016

2016 in Review                                                                                                                 

2016 has been yet another busy year for the Justice Action team. Click here to read a report on the work we've done, and check out some photos of the highlights below.

Christmas Party

On Friday 16th December Justice Action had their annual Christmas Party to celebrate our achievements for the year.
The Christmas Party brought together the people we work for and represent, the sounding boards for our ideas, the people that offer us assistance and expertise and our very own interns.
See the festivities below.

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History of the Computers in Cells Project


21 April 2017 - Corrective Services NSW Responds to Community Justice Coalition Media Release:

From the Sky News article: "CSNSW said the importance of giving inmates access to computers for education and rehabilitation was recognised. 'Under the prison bed expansion program, CSNSW is also looking at ways of incorporating technology into new correctional centres and expansions,' the department said in a statement. It is incrementally rolling out technology but adopted a 'cautious' approach by prioritising community safety, the statement added"

21 April 2017 - Major News Outlets Report on Computers In Cells:

Following the media release on the 20th of April, a number of major news outlets covered the computers in cells issue. The story was covered on page 15 of the Daily Telegraph, as well as appearing digitally on the Sky News, News.com.au, 9News and The Australian amongst other outlets. 

20 April 2017 - Community Justice Coalition Publishes Media Release "NSW Needs Computers In Cells:

The president of the Community Justice Coalition, The Hon John Dowd AO QC, publishes media release highlighting the importance of having computers inside prison cells, as well as criticising the NSW government for "dragging its feet" in relation to the issue. 

13 March 2017 - Justice Coalition recieves Correspondence from Northern Territory Legislative Association:

Our friends at Community Justice Coalition received correspondence from Natasha Fyles of the Northern Territory Legislative Association, after she asked The Department of the Attorney-General and Justice to investigate its ability to support a web-based domestic violence program.

11 February 2016 - Correspondence from Secretary for the Premier:

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Catherine Cusack, responded on Baird’s behalf, expressing her appreciation for JA’s proposal. She advised JA that the issues raised fall under the responsibility of David Elliot, the Minister for Corrections, and that JA’s letter would be forwarded respectively.

3 February 2016 - JA Contacts Mike Baird about Online Counselling Proposal:

JA sent a letter to Premier Mike Baird, requesting his urgent attention, support and acknowledgement of our online counseling proposal. JA urged Premier Baird to read the information provided.

14 January 2016 - Liasion with Acting Commissioner for Corrective Services NSW :

JA received an email from Acting Commissioner Luke Grant stating, “Corrective Services NSW considers an online counseling service would not be appropriate without adequate support and engagement with mental health staff.”

15 December 2015 - Proposal Rejected by the Legislative Council:

Received correspondence from Natasha Maclaren-Jones of the Legislative Council, informing us that online council servicing in prisons “falls outside the scope of the committee’s terms of reference for the inquiry into the security classification and management of inmates sentenced to life imprisonment.”

14 December 2015 -Liason with Minister for Corrective Services:

Followed up on our legislative meeting by sending our counselling proposal to David Elliot, Minister for Corrective Services.  

23 November 2015 - Oral Presentation to the NSW Legislative In quiry:

On Monday 23rd November 2015, Justice Action presented orally to the NSW Legislative Inquiry on the security classification and management of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. The Committee’s terms of reference for the Inquiry refer to the provision of rehabilitative programs and services to lifers, and the need to report on the management of such people. During the Inquiry we put forward a proposal to introduce online counseling services in prisons for both “lifers” and all other prisoners.

Justice Action offered to provide a free pilot online counseling service. This was rejected, on the grounds that ‘mental health staff in counseling is the only means of intervention’.

29 January 2015 - JA liases with St. Vincent de Paul Society:

Justice Action sent their online services in prison cells proposal to John Falzon of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, our aim being to begin a relationship with a major national organisation.

27 October 2014 - Trial for Computers in Cells at South Coast Correctional Centre:

JA received an email from the Office of Hon Brad Hazzard MP that a trial of computers in cells at South Coast Correctional Centre would begin in November 2014. We were informed that computers in cells would expand to other prisons dependant on this trial. Mr Hazzard’s office also stated that in-cell connectivity was deemed cost ineffective in the majority of NSW prisons. 

14 July 2014 - Computers in Cells Proposal sent to Spokesperson for Justice and NZ MP:

JA sent a modified and expanded “Computers In Cells” proposal to Associate Spokesperson for Justice and New Zealand MP Raymond Huo. The twenty-three paged report focussed on online counselling in prison cells as a cost effective way to reduce crime. We received no response.

11 July 2014 - Proposal for Online Counselling in Cells sent to Corrective Services NSW:

In collaboration with anti-violence NGO Enough is Enough, JA designed another proposal for online counselling in cells. On this date it was sent to Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin. We received no response.

23 January 2014 - JA meets with Department of Corrective Services :

The Co-Ordinator of JA and three team members held a meeting with Department of Corrective Services officials Luke Grant and Joy Gault. This was initiated after an email from Peter Severin dated 23rd December 2013, who suggested a consultation in relation to computer communication. Our meeting discussed strategies for implementing computers in prison NSW-wide, as well as potential costs and sources of funding. Meetings with Luke Grant continued throughout 2014, on May 2nd and July 29th.

8 December 2011 - Support from NSW Teacher's Federation :

JA receives confirmation of support on their “Computer in Cells” proposal from the NSW Teachers Federation. 

16 November 2011 - Justice Action Produces Computers In Cells Implementation Strategy:

This draft implementation strategy outlines key focus areas as well as gauging support from key stakeholders including political parties. 

17 October 2011 - JA's Responds to National Cultural Policy Proposal:

JA responds to Mr Simon Crean’s 2011 National Cultural Policy Proposal. The Proposal recommended, “…encourage the use of emerging technologies and new ideas that support the development of new artworks and the creative industries, and that enable more people to access and participate in arts and culture.” In reply, JA asked Mr Crean to adopt their “Computers in Cells” initiative, forwarding the February proposal of the strategy to Mr Crean himself.

25 Feburary 2011 - Computers In Cells Recieves Strong Support From The Greens Party:

David Shoebridge of The Greens pledges support for the computers in cells project. 

February 2011 - Follow-up to Paper Published 

JA follows up the discussion paper with a proposal paper for future distribution. It outlines the reduction in recidivism and benefits in inmate education and employability stemming from computers in cells.

25 November 2010 - 'Computers in Cells' Paper Published 

JA publishes ‘Computers into Cells’ Discussion Paper.

The paper proposed the provision of computers in cells, noting the educational, legal, and social benefits, while showcasing successful examples in the ACT and Victoria. It also addressed Corrective Service’s concerns regarding illegitimate use and security issues, noting that these issues are easily solved by software packages such as PrisonPC, available at the time.

30 June 2006 - Committee for Project Established:

A project steering committee is established to ‘develop standards, processes and systems under which inmates will be granted controlled and secure access to computing technology.’ The project was aimed to ‘maximise the use of computing technology by inmates.’ It is said the project is to proceed in a stagedmanner.

Corrective Services indicates their consideration of strategies to allow access to computers in cells, ‘particularly technology implementation at the new Wellington Correctional Centre and the proposed South Coast facility.’ 

November 2005 - Lobbying and Meetings:

JA works with Kingsford Legal Centre to begin lobbying government and corrective services for computer access in cells.
 Meetings are held with the Minister for Justice the Hon. Tony Kelly, and Corrective Services. 

5 April 2001 - Motion for Acceptance of Computers:

The Shadow Minister for Community Services passes a motion calling on the government ‘to accept donations of computers into New South Wales prisons from private donors, where these computers will be used to promote rehabilitation of inmates and to reduce the rate of recidivism.’

The Opposition found it ‘laughable’ that 113 surplus department computers are enough to satisfy the needs of 7,500 prisoners. They suggested that Corrective Services needed leadership who ‘understand that computers can help,’ and looked for solutions, not problems with proposals to introduce community computer donation schemes.
They note their support of JA’s basic message that computers are required to ‘give inmates opportunities to become better people.’

13 September 1999 - Computers Revoked:

Commissioner of Corrective Services orders that donated computers be removed. The corrective services minister and the commissioner cite several reasons: the Inmate Private Property Policy, millennium bug compatibility, and the availability of hard copy education resources. It is suggested by Corrective Services that providing more computers will be done with their own surplus machines in a stagedmanner.

August to September 1999 - Donation of Computers

JA delivers donated computers from community to jails for use in wings. Computers are initially accepted and some installed.

25 June 1998 - JA Proposes Computers in Cells

JA proposes computer repair and return program in jails.

NSW Auditor: 75% Prisoners without Programs

This report was presented to the NSW Parliament by Ian Goodwin, Auditor-General, on the 3rd of May 2017. It found that 75% of prisoners identified as being in need of a program did not receive one by their earliest parole release date. Consequently, they were held in custody for longer than necessary, and in many cases, being released with little to no intervention to address offending behaviour. 

Other key findings included:

  • Program resourcing is insufficient to meet current prisoner demand
  • The accessibility of programs is limited for certain groups, particularly sex offenders requiring moderate intensity programs and serious violent offenders
  • The effectiveness of programs in reducing reoffending behaviour has not been established in the context of NSW


  • A more systematic approach to data is needed to adequately assess program effectiveness
  • Resourcing benchmarks must be established to meet demand for programs
  • Prison program performance indicators should be established, and monitored and assessed quarterly
  • There should be an independent evaluation of program effectiveness   

Townsend Cell Killing

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Media Article

Justice Action recently received correspondence from a prisoner at Long Bay Correctional Complex regarding the death of a prisoner in custody. The case is an example of the need for single cells in all prisons for all prisoners, so that people can retain some privacy and safety in prison.

The case in question involved the alleged murder of 71-year-old Frank Townsend in the Kevin Waller Unit of the prison. John Walsh, who was the cellmate of Mr Townsend at the time of his death, has been charged with his murder. Mr Walsh, who is currently serving a life sentence for a triple murder, is alleged to have murdered Mr Townsend in their shared cell in January 2017. According to a prisoner in Long Bay Correctional Complex, the circumstances in which this alleged murder occurred could have been avoided had Mr Walsh been kept in a single cell, and not been forced to reside with a cellmate.

According to the correspondence received by Justice Action, a psychologist at Lithgow Correctional Centre had assessed Mr Walsh, before he was moved to Long Bay, as being a “serious threat” to any cellmate he may be placed with. This information was included in his file, so that in the event of his being moved to a different prison, he would be kept in a single cell. It is also apparent from this source that Mr Walsh had, prior to the alleged murder, been internally charged with attacking inmates. Our source also states that Mr Walsh told staff at Long Bay Correctional Complex that, were he to be placed with a cellmate and not in a single cell, he would “kill him or be killed by him.”

Justice Action’s source further goes on to indicate that another former cellmate of Mr Walsh had been removed from their shared cell two days prior to the alleged murder due to “John’s erratic and aggressive behaviour for fear that John would attack/kill him.” Despite these issues, and Mr Walsh’s apparent admission that he would kill any cellmate placed in his cell with him, he was continually made to share a cell with other prisoners. In allowing other prisoners to be placed in a cell with Mr Walsh, Long Bay Correctional Complex was placing these prisoners at risk and placing no importance on their safety.  

While Mr Walsh has been charged with the murder of Mr Townsend, there has been no discussion of the responsibility of the Department of Corrections and the prison in regard to their duty of care in this case. By not allowing prisoners the option to have their own cells, they are depriving them of their privacy and their safety. According to a Community Justice Coalition report on cell sizes, every prisoner should be entitled to their own personal space to ensure that their right to privacy is actualised.[1] Further, the Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia 2012 states that accommodation should “respond effectively to the actual needs and risk status of the prisoner.”[2] It is evident in this case that the accommodation provided by Long Bay Correctional Complex did not correspond to Mr Walsh’s risk status or Mr Townsend’s safety needs. The Department of Directions appeared not to care despite the fact that it was warned.

[1] Community Justice Coalition, ‘Standardisation of Cell Sizes’ (2016), 3.

[2] Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia 2012 s 2.4.

Triumph at the Tribunal - 27/05/15

Mental health consumers have won another battle against the use of forced medication. Kerry O’Malley is free of the label at last. But she was only one of fifteen thousand people in NSW currently having medication enforced under a CTO, being brutalised and degraded by the health system. They may or may not be mentally ill, and may never have been dangerous to themselves or others as required by the law but the forced injection is the only expression of "care". See photos (below) after the case and YouTube interview with Kerry.

Legal aid was refused, so Justice Action with Dr Yolande Lucire assisted in the representation of Kerry O’Malley, a long time victim of Community Treatment Orders (CTO). The Tribunal rejected the Health Dept application. See JA analysis of CTOs. Kerry and her sister Margaret now want to help stop this abuse generally, and for her case to be a public example. She will be writing a book about her experiences.

The Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) met to discuss the possible implementation of a new six-month order to enforce the use of Epilim, an anti-epileptic drug, on Kerry. She says it makes her sick, caused bleeding and lack of energy. Other drugs had induced depression and a death wish. Kerry also felt that such an order degraded her. She preferred to choose her own doctor. She had family, friends and support she trusts and wanted to be left alone by the Health system.

Kerry O’Malley’s case reflects the many injustices individuals face from Health Services, the MHRT and Legal Aid. Kerry approached JA to assist her to fight against the order after her application for Legal Aid was refused. The lack of legal representation for individuals in this situation represents a serious failure. A Community Treatment Order gives psychiatrists absolute power over the patient’s body and brain; informed consent to medication flies out the window.

William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, who said in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:  "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

JA supported Kerry through the development of her case and the tribunal hearing.

In preparation, the Tribunal insisted that we attend in Penrith at the Nepean Hospital via videoconference rather than physically in the hearing at their headquarters in Gladesville Hospital. They argued that this was necessary as: “The setup of the facilities here at the Tribunal are not conducive to having a number of people attend” and later “to assist with the smooth running of the hearing”. This is hardly appropriate when a Tribunal Hearing is supposed to be open to the public. 

This use of an electronic hearing, distances the decision makers from the humanity of those over whom they assert very personal power and impose their reality. They control physical health and brain functioning using state enforcement. JA insisted on physical attendance at the public hearing as is Kerry’s legal entitlement. We believe it is vital that the Tribunal members retain their humanity and recognise that they are wielding great power over other people. This issue was again raised during the hearing, when the video feed at Penrith was interrupted, with Margaret stating that the tribunal became very impersonal. 

In a detailed report, psychiatrist Dr Yola Lucire analysed the proposed medication’s potentially fatal effects already in evidence. She pointed out that the drug Epilim was “not approved” for any condition with which Kerry had been diagnosed, She reported on Kerry's past adverse drug reactions, some of which had been near fatal. She pointed out that at age sixty-five, the relative risk of death in persons taking an atypical antipsychotic is 70% higher than in persons not taking these drugs. She also pointed out that Kerry had never met the criteria for bipolar mania or for schizophrenia, yet she was being treated repeatedly with the drugs 'off label' which means that they had not ever been shown to be effective for medication-induced or stress-related problems and had never been approved for those conditions.

The Tribunal questioned Kerry herself, her sister Margaret and the Health Dept case manager Victor Borg. No evidence existed of a risk of serious harm to herself or others, despite that being a necessary condition for the CTO. According to Kerry it was a burden to keep these appointments as there had been little useful contact with the Health Dept, no useful psychiatric support or counselling, and no continuity of Case Manager.   

The tribunal concluded to dismiss the Health Dept application for a CTO. 

They determined that:

  • Kerry appeared to be symptom-free at the time of the hearing and any possibility of relapse (medication induced!) would not be catastrophic
  • The CTO was creating antagonism for Kerry with her doctors and caseworkers rather than benefit
  • There is family support who were willing to encourage treatment if needed as well as a private psychologist
  • The CTO, on balance, was less likely to assist her

Although this case was a success for Kerry and her family, it is always a fight to ensure cases before the MHRT are treated fairly and in the best interest of the individual. CTO’s cause the stigmatisation and disempowerment of individuals despite the stated encouragement of recovery principles by the MHRT.

Although some individuals such as Kerry argue against their orders, most are entirely powerless, unrepresented and end up in positions where they no longer make decisions for themselves, or are too sedated to know what is going on. The lack of legal aid compounds this heavy-handed injustice.

By reinforcing the practice of monitoring, avoiding and fearing mental health consumers, CTO use not only increases public support for legislation but also deters the mentally ill from receiving voluntary help and treatment.

Family, friends and voluntary professional support was available for Kerry, yet the Health Dept pursued its normal approach of wanting total control over her medications failing to recognise that all her disclosed breakdowns had occurred after general anesthetics or while Kerry was taking or withdrawing from enforced medications.

Unlike Dr. Lucire, who signed the Expert Code of Conduct to give evidence as mandated for all tribunals, NSW Health was represented by a nurse. If  doctors in NSW Health had to produce evidence in a Tribunal case and provide the opposing expert with records, they might think twice about making applications. Unless a person has the means and opportunity to provide a contrary opinion, a Mental Health Review Tribunal can be seen as a rubber stamp and a sham procedure.

Kerry O'Malley - Chemical Restraint in Practice 22/8/2017

Kerry O’Malley – Chemical Restraint in Practice
Report CTO order retained: 22 August 2017

Kerry O’Malley is a 71-year-old woman whose involvement in the mental health system over the last 47 years has revealed the extent to which draconian control and dismissal of individual autonomy is entrenched in the culture of Australia’s mental health system. She has been subjected multiple times to Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) and forcibly medicated with severe physical and social side effects. Working with Justice Action, Kerry was successful in having a CTO removed by the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal in May 2015. However the Health Department once again imposed a CTO on her in April this year, but the Tribunal refused to revoke it in an August hearing.

This report aims to raise awareness about Kerry’s situation and that of the thousands of others facing forced medication across Australia, and to get support for an appeal to the NSW Supreme Court, to establish respectful standards for vulnerable people. Kerry previously spoke openly about her situation, wants support and has asked for her case to be fought out as resolutely as possible.

In March 2017, Kerry was returning from a six-month holiday in Ireland, but was unable to return home as her tenants have remained there. Disturbed by the situation, she became sleepless and restless. In that state she was apprehended while wandering around and taken to St George hospital for seven weeks, then was moved to Nepean Hospital for three days before being released on a CTO. Whilst in St George Hospital, doctors administered multiple drugs to her, including: Paliperidone, Sodium Valproate, and Lorazepam. These drugs greatly disturbed her and caused severe side effects. A gene test in 2015 revealed that Kerry’s genotype prevented her from metabolising many common psychiatric drugs in strong doses, and that continued treatment with them would be counter-productive. Yet when Kerry and her sister, Margaret, raised these concerns with both St. George and Nepean Hospital staff, doctors did nothing whilst reassuring them the doses were small but failed to address their concerns directly. The indifference of doctors at both facilities is a toxic attitude towards mental health patients that disregards their personal autonomy.

On Kerry’s release from Nepean Hospital into the Penrith Community Health Centre on the 28th April 2017, she was placed once more on a CTO against her wishes, which covered a six-month period till 27th October 2017. While CTOs are ostensibly imposed out of concern for the safety of the individual and the community, Kerry has never demonstrated behaviour that may be deemed threatening to herself or to others. Her current treatment order was a result of her being found to be wandering ‘aimlessly’ in public. Moreover, she did not require medication while in Ireland, nor did she make any doctor’s appointments as observed from regular contact with her sister. This shows that given the right circumstances, including family and community support, Kerry is an independent and fully functioning member of society. The true threat lies in her being continually medicated against her will with medication that disturbs and reduces her as a person. Kerry has suffered a number of severe side effects under medication imposed by the CTO including anxiety and depression, which has prevented her from engaging in the community activities that she once enjoyed. In Kerry’s words, the last five months have been “very invasive” and “unhelpful”, which exacerbated the feeling that her life is not her own. No human being should be stripped of their dignity and autonomy in such a way, much less a vulnerable 71-year-old woman.

Hoping to revoke the CTO, Kerry once more sought the assistance of Justice Action. In two hearings on the 8th and 22nd August 2017, the NSW Mental Health Tribunal deliberated on new and convincing evidence relating to Kerry’s metabolic genotype with expert testimony by a trusted psychiatrist. Justice Action, acting on behalf of Kerry, argued that her current treatment regime under the CTO was unnecessary and unlikely to bring any long-term improvement, considering the negative short-term impacts on her physical health and social life. It became evident during the hearings that Kerry felt restricted and controlled by the CTO, and did not fully understand her rights.

Following the 8th August hearing, Justice Action put together an alternative proposal for a Personal Management Plan to allow Kerry a measure of agency and to preserve her dignity. She would receive treatment from her two preferred psychiatrists, with whom she had developed a longstanding and trusting relationship, and would also rely on the support of her family and friends including her sister, church friends, and Justice Action.

When presented with the opportunity to return Kerry’s autonomy and dignity in the second hearing on the 22nd August 2017, the Tribunal instead deferred control to the Health Department. Unbelievably, it did not find the CTO to be overly invasive, and declared it had taken Kerry’s needs into account despite her vocal opposition. Furthermore, the Tribunal’s dismissal of Kerry’s alternative Personal Management Plan fails to substantiate their claim of s 53(3)(c) of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), which states that CTO’s can be applied when there is a ‘previous history of refusing to accept appropriate treatment’. Kerry has already agreed to follow supervised treatment with her nominated health professionals. In the decision, Kerry was unquestionably deprived of her right to give ‘free and informed consent’ to the CTO, as stated under Article 25(d) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities. Justice Action seeks to appeal the decision on the basis that the tribunal has not properly considered the possibility of a less restrictive alternative to the CTO.

Kerry has sought the assistance of Justice Action in order to seek the revocation of the Community Treatment Order, which permits her subjection to such a process. The Community Treatment Order, administered by NSW Health, undermines Kerry’s individual agency as it mandates medical intervention based on their challenged diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Kerry’s lack of participation in her own medical treatment has had negative consequences for her quality of life and diminishes her ability to have her opinions heard. Clearly, despite the negative consequences of a CTO on Kerry’s life, the Mental Health Review Tribunal dismissed an application to revoke the CTO on the 22nd of August 2017.

This report thus aims to lay the basis for a challenge to the NSW Supreme Court.

CTO Legal Basis

As held in Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479 at 489, a prerequisite to the medical treatment of an individual is the need for the individual’s consent to that treatment. Forced medication is exceptional. Subject to procedural safeguards, it is permissible when justified by necessities recognised by the law: Harry v Mental Health Review Tribunal (1994) 33 NSWLR 315 at 323.

It can be agreed that the application of a CTO and forceful medicating practices, in any circumstance, is a violation of an individual’s most basic human rights, which also fails to uphold specific sections of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW).  As reaffirmed by the UN within the Convention on the Rights of a Person with Disabilities, which is founded on the basis of ‘inherent dignity, and individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices’, the CTO stands to strip these rights from Kerry. 

The requirement for the least restrictive method in s 53(3)(a) contradicts the CTO, which serves to impose control upon Kerry’s life, even when she’s happy to agree on voluntary treatment alternatives. The inhumane conditions imposed by the CTO further restrict her full and effective participation and inclusion within society. Furthermore, Article 25 specifically requires ‘health professionals to provide the same quality to persons with disabilities as to others, including on the basis of free and informed consent’. In this sense, her right to equality has clearly been ignored.

Additionally, Kerry’s treatment under the CTO exacerbates her previous negative experiences within the health services, as all health professionals consulted in the treatment remained focused on her ability to relapse. This argument is supported by Dr. Suman’s admission at the Tribunal, who made clear that Kerry’s psychiatric history would indicate a relapse would occur three to six months after being taken off the CTO. This value judgment is based on a probability that Kerry’s medication is currently effective in maintaining her condition, thus taking away the medication undermines her ability to be ‘successful’. However, Kerry’s ability to function and maintain quality of life under her current medical regime is impaired and that is an important consideration that has been neglected.

Side Effects

A 2015 pharmacological review and a 2017 independent home medication review noted issues with Kerry’s ability to correctly metabolise her current medication, leading to severe side effects. Side effects of Kerry’s current medical regime include headaches, memory impairment, dizziness, feeling physically ill, disturbed thoughts, sleeplessness, visual problems, drowsiness, anxiety and severe depression. Her continued suffering of these side effects indicates the current medication regime imposed on her by the CTO is inappropriate and potentially lethal. Not only has her physical condition significantly deteriorated, but her social engagement and support has diminished greatly due to the imposition of the CTO. Kerry regularly enjoyed community and church-based activities that helped improve her mental state, including teaching scripture in a local school, Irish dancing classes, sewing groups and meeting friends for coffee in the mornings.

The CTO, however, cut her off from these activities; made it difficult to get out of bed, and caused constant feelings of anxiety and depression. Her involvement with authorities over the years has strained family relationships, where police had come to her house multiple times, including one occasion where they broke the lock of her front door and left her with a large price to pay for the replacement. Kerry feels that her distress was increased after multiple visits from police and ambulances to her house leading to her being alienated from her surrounding community, and leaving her embarrassed due to being labelled as ‘mentally ill’. As Kerry is unable to drive when medicated and has limited access to public transport, she has experienced restrictions of travel for ordinary day-to-day tasks such as shopping for groceries. In short, the CTO deprives her of the social network that could otherwise expose her to opportunities to improve her mental state.

Meaning of Less Restrictive Care

There is no definition in the NSW legislation of the meaning of “care of a less restrictive kind”. As Beazley P held in Attorney General for the State of New South Wales v XY [2014] NSWCA 466, the context and purpose of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) indicates that “care of a less restrictive kind” ought not to be confined so as related only to the extent and type of leave which a patient may be granted. The objects of Part 5 of the Act include the provision for the care, treatment and control of a patient. The principles of care and treatment of persons with a mental illness include that a person should receive treatment in “the least restrictive environment enabling the care and treatment to be effectively given” [s 68(a)].

Significantly, as Beazley P highlighted, the words “care”, “treatment” and “control” are all distinct objects. The word “care” as used in s 43 encompasses a person’s overall care, including care in the sense of physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. It includes the provision of what is necessary for health, welfare, maintenance and protection. That is in addition to the physical controls that are placed on a person, including the extent of leave that a person is given and whether that leave is restricted and unrestricted.

Further, as Brereton J stated in S v South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Area Health Service and Anor [2010] NSWSC 178, the legal question to be satisfied is if “no other care of a less restrictive kind consistent with safe and effective care is appropriate and reasonably available”, and that the patient “would benefit from the order as the least restrictive alternative consistent with safe and effective care.”

Both cases indicate that coercive treatment is unacceptable if the person wants effective support in another form. In Kerry’s case, she wants a less restrictive version of a treatment plan that takes into account her genome types, side effects, and personal well being to be consistent with safe and effective care.


The Tribunal dismissed the application for the revocation of the CTO and said it had:

  • Taken into account the needs of Kerry Anne O’Malley
  • Considered the past history of non-compliance with her medication resulting in readmission to hospital
  • Regarded with uncertainty the alternative treatment plan being presented by JA
  • Given credit to JA for working towards a plan, though it missed an “important ingredient” as a treatment plan and was rather a supporting plan
  • Clear evidence that the people looking after Kerry at the moment (her Treating Team) had shown to the Tribunal they are listening to Kerry, and prepared to modify programs, and to meet her needs within the bounds of a CTO
  • Decided that the current plan is not overly invasive. It sets out obligations for Kerry and her current team.

Grounds of Appeal

The ground for an appeal available to Kerry is on the basis of s 67(1)(b); ‘on any question on law or fact arising from the order or its making.’ This would entail proving that the Tribunal misapplied the law or did not duly perform the task entrusted to it by legislation. We are arguing that this is because the tribunal did not properly consider s 53(3)(a) of the Act;

“That no other care of a less restrictive kind, that is consistent with safe and effective care, is appropriate and reasonably available to the person and that the affected person would benefit from the order as the least restrictive alternative consistent with safe and effective care.”

The Tribunal ignored that the proposal Justice Action had developed for Kerry should have constituted a less restrictive treatment option to a CTO. In determining whether a CTO is the most appropriate option available, the court may take into account legislative principles for care and treatment under s 68 of the Act. These principles include taking reasonable steps to ensure the person is able to be involved in work and the community wherever possible; be provided with appropriate information about their treatment and any alternatives; be able to be involved in their treatment and taking as many steps as reasonable to obtain the person’s consent to treatment. Kerry’s physical and social side effects (refer to side effects listed above) of the medication forced on her from the CTO severely impacted various aspects of her daily life. Her subsequent complaints and objections to treatment went unaddressed for a significant period of time. Health Services have not actively taken reasonable steps to ensure she was involved and as willing as possible in her treatment.

Justice Action had prepared an alternative personal management plan that satisfies s 53(3)(a) and which was not properly considered. It involves medication that would be prescribed by Dr Lucire, that takes into account her genome profile, psychological therapy conducted by Dr Chaturvedi, a social support system made up of Kerry’s sister Margaret and her local community, and an advance directive clearly detailing Kerry’s own treatment directives. Thus the CTO should be revoked, as there are treatment options available of a less restrictive kind that are consistent with safe and effective care. This plan would benefit Kerry by taking into account her consent alongside her physiological, psychological, and social needs, whilst reducing the distress she experiences from the current CTO.

Miriam Merton Mental Hospital Death Inquiry

Media Release November 9, 2017


The death of Miriam Merton in the Lismore Hospital mental ward, lying naked in blood and faeces while a nurse casually mopped around her, shocked everyone. The video footage and media had truthfully exposed the culture to the public forcing accountability. Yet no-one proposed that solution or other ways to prevent similar suffering in the Parliamentary Inquiry into her death last week. This failure shows the corruption in mental health, with noses in the Health Department’s trough of over $20 billion.

The Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies in announcing the Inquiry said on May 12 that ‘she closed her eyes because the vision was too horrible’. The Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said that ‘this poor woman was treated in a way that none of us could ever really have imagined’. Chief Psychiatrist Murray Wright said the staff involved ‘failed on every level’. But none of the leading organisations nor the Health Department itself addressed Miriam’s death and prevention in their presentations, they just wanted more money.

Our team brought lived experience before the Inquiry with Kerry O’Malley, Douglas Holmes and Dr Yolande Lucire giving oral evidence and a submission. Kerry O’Malley shared her trauma of being abused under Community Treatment Orders, forcibly medicated with disabling side effects and callously ignored.

“I have a wide network of family and friends who support me, and I just want the Health Department to leave me alone,” said Kerry O’Malley.

We referred the Committee to the Our Pick Report and Mad in Australia where the abuse of people like Miriam Merton and Kerry O’Malley was researched, their isolation exposed and a solution proposed. We asked the Committee under its charter, to support the use of Rose Cottage in Callan Park for a consumer run organisation, at no cost to the government, to ensure mental health consumers had their own independent base to do the work of Justice Action. These vulnerable people need responsive representation.


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