Criminalising disability: Federal leadership required to end the indefinite detention of people with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment

**MEDIA RELEASE**

 

Criminalising disability: Federal leadership required to end the indefinite detention of people with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment

The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs tabled its report on the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment Tuesday evening. The report makes 32 recommendations with a focus on law reform and coordinated policies and programs to support people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment outside the criminal justice system.

Damian Griffis, CEO First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) said: “The ongoing and indefinite imprisonment of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment is a serious abuse of human rights. We welcome the senate inquiry report and commend the senate for turning its attention to this issue. It is critical that swift action is taken in order to end the incarceration of people with disability and to provide appropriate support and services as an alternative to jail.”

Scott Avery, Research and Policy Director FPDN said: “By the time an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person with disability comes into contact with the criminal justice system, they will most likely have had a life of unmanaged disability. When disability is not recognised and addressed, contact with the police and courts are inevitable steps on a matriculation pathway into juvenile detention and prison.”

FPDN and La Trobe Law School were co-coordinators of the First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium’s submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment, which provided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on the recurrent and indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment. The First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium is an alliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations, disability, justice and legal researchers, Universities and Research Institutes.

Professor Patrick Keyzer from La Trobe University, co-coordinator of the Consortium, said: “The Commonwealth should implement all of the recommendations of the Senate Report, working closely and effectively with the States and Territories to assist these incredibly vulnerable people”.

Karly Warner, Executive Officer, NATSILS said: “The criminal justice system is increasingly and inappropriately being used as a default care provider for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, who have been forced into the criminal justice system early in life in the absence of alternative pathways,”

“Australia’s practices and policies towards people with a disability in the justice system fall short of international standards and Australia’s human rights obligations and, as a result, soaring numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability are cycling through the justice system where they are vulnerable a range of things including physical mistreatment, financial exploitation, and inappropriate decisions being made on their behalf.”

Scott Avery said: “Lasting solutions can be developed by bringing experts from both disability and justice together, standing side by side in all parts of the process.”

The First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium will be reviewing all the recommendations with a view to developing a plan for implementation and calls on Australian Governments to:

  1. Develop and support culturally-responsive, therapeutic and non-punitive sentencing and service outcomes other than prison for people with cognitive impairment
  2. Provide support for early assessment, diagnosis, support and intervention (including in the juvenile justice system) that prevents criminalisation and that is capable of identifying and addressing root causes of offending/anti-social behaviour.
  3. Engage in systematic, targeted, uniform, human-rights focused law reform that acknowledges individual needs
  4. Maintain political will and public sector leadership that is sorely needed to respond to the crisis of overrepresentation of indigenous people with cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system
  5. Develop more effective and properly supported policies and programs to identify and recognise people with cognitive impairment by the justice system
  6. Raise public awareness and knowledge in the community, within and across the criminal justice system and service systems to better understand why and how indigenous people with cognitive impairment come into contact with the criminal justice system.

The Indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia senate report is available online.

FIRST PEOPLES DISABILITY JUSTICE CONSORTIUM prepared a detailed submission to the senate inquiry. It is available online.

 

 

 

Conference: Policy and Research Director Scott Avery presented at Nga Pae o te Maramatanga

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Our Policy and Research Director Scott Avery attending and presented at Nga Pae o te Maramatanga  –
International Indigenous Research Conference at the University of Auckland. The research conference brought together Indigenous researchers and scholars from around the world to share experiences, research methods and study outcomes on issues which affect Indigenous people across the globe. Maori culture and ceremony were a feature and highlight of the four day event, of which Maori and other Indigenous concepts of ‘human flourishing’ was a key theme. Interestingly, one international keynote speaker, Sir Mason Durie, cited the imprisonment rate of Australia’s Aboriginal people as an example of how ‘too many of our people are languishing’.
Scott presented FPDN’s research program which involves collecting narratives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a lived experience of disability.  It covered the broad historical and social explanations  of why disability amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is under-reported in data and research, and hence negated in public disability policy,  and addressed the forces of intersectional discrimination which holds back the potential for a person who is both Indigenous and has disability. The presentation then looked at the inclusive methods used in the research, and that in reaching out to obtain the voices of people who have been historically marginalised in public commentary is in itself a form of healing and reconciliation, which in turn could form a foundation for the flourishing of First Peoples with disability community – consistent with a key theme of the Conference.
A special thank you to the Lowitja Institute for their research support grant which enables Scott to present and participate in learning experiences such as these.

Interview on lateline with Damian Griffis and Jonathon Hunyor on indefinite detention.

Last night on Lateline Jonathan Hunyor, CEO of The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and our CEO, Damian Griffis, were interviewed following an update on Rosie Ann Fulton’s situation in the NT.

Damian Griffis tells Lateline there is no support for Indigenous people with disabilities in the Northern Territory and the issue must be addressed immediately. While Jonathon Hunyor says jailing people with cognitive impairments is unacceptable.

You can watch the video online.

Our Board member, Jane Rosengrave – finalist in Human Rights Awards 2016

Congratulations to our wonderful Board member, Jane Rosengrave. Jane has just been announced as a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Awards 2016. Please see information pasted below from the Human Rights website.

Congratulations to all finalists. An outstanding group of people.

 

Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award finalists 2016: Susan Barton, Yassmen Yahya, Shane Duffy, Jane Rosengrave, Catia Malaquias

Five inspiring Australians have been named finalists for the 2016 Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Individual Award.

“We received 42 nominations from outstanding Australians, dedicated to human rights at the community level,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs.

“All of these finalists are inspiring Australians who live and breathe human rights and work tirelessly to remind us how much one person can do to change the lives of others,” she said.

The finalists are:

Susan Barton is a revolutionary leader in the field of youth homelessness. As the founder and director of the Lighthouse Foundation for Homeless Youth, Susan and her team have developed a unique support model that allows complete rehabilitation into society for disadvantaged young people.

Yassmen Yahya belongs to an ethnic minority called Mandaeanism who have been persecuted for many years, most notably during the Iraq War. Today, the largest Mandaean community is in Sydney. Yassmen established a Mandaean Women’s committee to assist and encourage larger participation of ethnic women in the community.

Shane Duffy, a descendant of the Kalkadoon people of North West Queensland, has worked in human services for more than 25 years specialising in child protection, youth justice and family support. Shane has been CEO of the QLD Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service for the past 11 years

Jane Rosengrave is a proud Yorta Yorta woman with an intellectual disability. She is a passionate advocate for people with disability. Jane grew up in institutions and has experienced segregation as well as sexual and other violence, including domestic violence. She contributes to several organisations and shares her personal experiences publicly to raise awareness of the abuse and discrimination facing people with disability.

Catia Malaquias is a disability advocate, lawyer, mum of three and the director of Down Syndrome Australia and the Attitude Foundation. She also founded the Starting with Julius project which aims to transform cultural attitudes towards people with disability, by promoting disability inclusion in mainstream media, advertising and education.

This award is kindly sponsored by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Aunty Gayle Rankine appointed to new National Disability and Carers Advisory Council

Aunty Gayle Rankine, Chairperson of First Peoples Disability Network has been appointed to the Government’s new National Disability and Carers Advisory Council.

The Hon. Jane Prentice MP announced the new Advisory Council yesterday to coincide with the National Disability Awards.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Jane Prentice said the Council will provide advice to Government on issues of strategic importance at a time of major reform in the disability and carer sectors.

Aunty Gayle Rankine said: “It is an honour to be appointed to the National Disability Advisory Council and I look forward to making a contribution. It is critical that people with disability are front and centre as we go through the national changes to the disability sector,”

“I also welcome the opportunity to highlight the experiences of Australia’s First Peoples with disability and their families and communities. It is so important that our people are not left behind and have equal opportunity to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme and other supports.”

You can read more about FPDN’s Ten-point-plan for the implementation of the NDIS here.

 

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The Minister’s media release is pasted below and is available online here.

National Disability and Carers Advisory Council announced

The Coalition Government today announced the establishment of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council.

The new Council brings together leaders from business and the disability and carer sectors, to provide advice on proposed policies and legislation affecting people with disability, carers and the sector that serves them.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Jane Prentice said the Council will provide advice on issues of strategic importance at a time of major reform in the disability and carer sectors.

“The Council will play an important role in helping to drive the implementation of the overarching National Disability Strategy 2010-20,” she said.

“It will also look at reforms in disability employment and carer support, and the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including the interfaces with mainstream services.”

“Members represent every state and territory as well as business and the disability and carer sector, and advocates.

“I will co-chair the Council with Ms Keran Howe, who is well respected as a strong advocate in the sector and who has lived experience,” she said.

The Council will meet formally at least twice a year and establish working groups and community consultations as needed.

Members of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council are:

  1. Hon. Jane Prentice MP (Co-Chair)
  2. Ms Keran Howe (Co-Chair)
  3. Ms Donna Bain
  4. Ms Nell Brown
  5. Mr Paul Coates
  6. Ms Jennifer Cullen
  7. Mr Wilhelm Harnisch
  8. Ms Christine Kerr
  9. Mr Greg Madson
  10. Ms Jessica May
  11. Ms Teresa Pilbeam
  12. Mr Frank Quinlan
  13. Aunty Gayle Rankine
  14. Ms Sally Sinclair
  15. Mr Martin Stokie
  16. Mr Steve Vitone
  17. Ms Elizabeth Wall

Disability Awareness and the Northern Territory Royal Commission

In July 2016, Following the ABC’s 4 Corners program highlighting the abuse and neglect of young people in detention in the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister of Australia and the Attorney-General announced a Royal Commission into the detention of children and the child protection system in the Northern Territory.

In October FPDN’s Research and Policy Director, Scott Avery was called to give evidence to the Royal Commission. Scott’s evidence focused on the importance of ensuring that the justice system is adequately equipped to recognise and respond to disability.

Our chairperson, Aunty Gayle Rankine made a statements at the time of the 4 Corners report which can be viewed here.

Senate Inquiry Submission: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives on the Recurrent and Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment

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