DownUnderAllOver

DownUnderAllOver

Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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Deaths in Custody

Steven Castan
Western Australia

The 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was marked by many marches and protests around the country. One such protest, organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, was held in the Perth CBD on 15 April 2016, calling for more action to be taken by the WA government.

The timing coincided within a few weeks of the final sitting days of the high profile inquest into the death of Ms Dhu, a 22-year-old Yamaji woman who died in custody in a South Hedland lockup while in detention for fine default.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 141

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WA prisons reform

Steven Casten
Western Australia

Specific management standards of female prisoners are set to be introduced across WA for the first time. These new standards will particularly affect indigenous inmates.

Until this announcement there had been no gender specific management rules and regulations. James McMahon, the Corrective Services Minister, noted the changes were aimed at culturally sensitive treatment of aboriginal women which will hopefully lead to a more 'meaningful interaction' with women in prison.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 141

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European lawyers and the defence of their international colleagues

Stuart Russell
International

French lawyers are establishing themselves at the forefront of the defence of their colleagues who are in danger or under attack. A number of new initiatives have been launched in France to strengthen the campaign to support their international colleagues.

The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger ('OIAD') was launched in Paris in December 2015, as part of European Lawyers Day and Human Rights Day. This April, the founding members of the Observatory — the French, Spanish and Italian Bar Associations — met in Madrid to sign the statutes of the organisation, which is based in Paris. The purpose of this Observatory is to defend lawyers around the world who are under threat in the exercise of their profession. Its aim is to include all French and foreign Bars and law societies which are interested in its projects.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 141

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Closing the Gap?

Stephen Gray
Federal

On 10 February, Prime Minister Turnbull released the 2016 Closing the Gap report.  He spoke of being ‘heartened’ at the ‘positive gains’ this year, while acknowledging that there had been ‘mixed results’.The ‘positive gains’ seemed a bit like cherry-picking from last year’s tree.  It is good that the Indigenous infant mortality rate is declining, although this was also evident in 2015.  While Indigenous mortality rates generally are also declining, the figure is difficult to interpret as ‘closing the gap’, since there are no new figures on life expectancy.  The PM pointed to ‘almost no employment gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous university graduates.  Again, this obscures the main issue, which is that there is no ‘closing the gap’ in employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 65

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Safety in family law

Janet Loughman
Federal

In each Australian state and territory, there are legal protections in many civil and criminal proceedings to prevent self-represented litigants cross-examining former partners where there is a history of violence, including sexual violence. These protections recognise the traumatic impact of cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses by perpetrators of violence.

There are no equivalent provisions in the family law jurisdiction. The Family Law Act contains no protection against direct cross examination by perpetrators or any specific protections for vulnerability in general, for example for witnesses with disability.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 65

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