In each issue of the Alternative Law Journal, we run an Opinion. Although not necessarily the Opinion of the issue editors, sometimes it will be an editorial which attempts to unify the issue theme, and will point to issues raised in the edition. Other times, the Opinion will be a controversial piece designed to publicise or encourage discussion on a particular topic. But, no matter what, our Opinions are always worth reading. Here are the Opinions that we have published recently.

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Guarding against 
law and order excess

Hugh de Kretser

Last year Kumanjayi Langdon, a proud and respected 59-year-old Warlpiri man, died in police custody in Darwin.

His crime? Police suspected he was drinking in a park. He wasn’t causing any disruption, and was polite and cooperative at all times.

Despite the offence carrying a maximum penalty of a $74 fine, he was handcuffed in public and put in the cage on the back of the police van. Police issued him with an infringement notice but still detained him, searching him and placing him in a concrete cell in the watch house with strangers. He died around three hours later of heart failure.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 150


In  terms of gender equality, we really must do better

Kate Jenkins

I began my new role as Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner knowing there are three areas that require immediate attention.

We have to address the prevalence of violence against women and girls in this country. It's a disgrace.

We also have to address the lack of diversity at decision-making 
levels. Women are significantly under-represented in management and at board level in the public, private and community sectors and in government.

And without equal pay and better lifetime economic security for women and girls, we will never achieve an equal society. In Australia today, the average, full-time, weekly earnings for women is 17.3 per cent less than for men. This really needs to change.

(2016) 41(2) AltLJ 80


Community legal centres face funding crisis

Amanda Alford and James Farrell

Legal need is difficult to measure, fluctuates over time and is influenced by a range of factors, however it is  clear that there is significant legal need in Australia. This has been highlighted by a number of key inquiries and reviews,1 including the key (but conservative and now outdated) Legal Australia–Wide (‘LAW’) Survey, which found that 50 per cent of respondents experienced one or more legal problems in the previous 12 months.2 While unmet legal need is more difficult to measure, the Productivity Commission estimates that ‘around 17% of the population or just over a third of those with any legal problem experienced some form of unmet legal need’.3

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 2


Fair’s fair, inside and out

Deborah Glass

The annual reports of Victoria’s first Ombudsman, Sir John Dillon, appointed in 1973, listed with some pride the reforms his office had pushed through during its inaugural years of operation. Dillon was particularly pleased that he had secured beds for prisoners held in Pentridge Prison’s notorious H Division and had stopped the practice of prisoners breaking rocks.

Dillon also expressed surprise at the number of complaints he received from prisoners: in his first year of office, 391 out of the total of 1334 complaints.

While conditions in Victoria’s prisons have improved markedly over the decades, prisons are still the highest single source of complaints to my office.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 224


New laws criminalise recording of information and whistleblowing

George Newhouse and Greg Barns

whistleblower-skneebone-smThe Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth) (‘the Act’) commenced on 1 July 2015. It places onerous secrecy restrictions on anyone who works for, or provides services to, the Australian Border Force (essentially Customs and Immigration and Border Protection workers or contractors) or the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (together known as the ‘Department’).

The Act is far-reaching. It covers state, territory and foreign government employees. Workers such as medical practitioners, allied health professionals, nurses, counsellors and teachers, need to be aware that when they are treating or otherwise providing services to asylum seekers, they are actually providing services to the Department. Consequently, they are subject to the secrecy provisions of the Act.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 150


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