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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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Christmas Island and Villawood independent review

Anthea Vogl
Federal

On 18 March 2011, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced that an independent review would be conducted into the March incident at Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre (‘CIIDC’). The incident referred to in the announcement relates to the escape of over 200 detainees from the CIIDC in early March and also to protests that took place the following week, involving detainees lighting a series of fires within detention (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘Independent review into Christmas Island Detention Centre protests and escapes’, Media Release, 18 March 2011).

Helen Williams, former Department of Human Services Secretary and Allan Hawke, former Department of Defence Secretary, have been appointed to conduct the Review, which is due to report to the Minister in July 2011.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 129

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Shield Laws

Lizzie O'Shea
Federal

Shield laws are designed to protect journalists and other commentators from being forced to reveal confidential information or sources. A new set of shield laws, championed by independent member for Denison Andrew Wilkie commenced on 13 April 2011. The Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Act 2011 amends the Evidence Act 1995.

Previously, journalists could be held in contempt of court if they refused to disclose their source. This is very much a real issue for journalists: in 2007, Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus were fined for being in contempt of court for refusing to reveal sources for a story about cuts to war veterans’ entitlements. The court found that journalists were not above the law when protecting their sources. They have no legal protection in these situations, even when attempting to comply with their own code of ethics. This has caused Harvey and McManus material difficulty personally and professionally. Amongst other things, their criminal records mean that working in the US is now practically impossible.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 129

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Mental Health Awareness@Law; A good start but nowhere near finished

Lloyd England
Federal

A newly published survey of 18 000 legal professionals commissioned by beyondblue, the National Depression Initiative, suggests recent work raising mental health awareness in the legal industry seems to be paying off.

‘There is less stigmatisation today because there is so much greater awareness about depression than when we started beyondblue in 2000 or carried out the last survey in 2007,’ Chairman Jeff Kennett said at the launch.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 129

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Legal recognition of the gender and sex diverse community

Simon Rice
ACT

The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council (‘LRAC’) has been asked by the ACT Attorney-General to inquire into and report on steps necessary to provide for legal recognition of the gender and sex diverse community in the ACT (transgender and intersex people).

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 130

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Youth justice

Tony Foley
ACT

Youth Justice in the ACT is currently subject to two overlapping reviews. The ACT Human Rights Commission is reviewing Bimberi Youth Justice Centre (the detention centre for young people in the ACT) and the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services is conducting a review with particular focus on the effectiveness of current diversionary policies and services.

(2011) 36(2) AltLJ 130

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