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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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Queensland allows LGBTI couples, singles to adopt

Stephen Page

Queensland’s Parliament has passed an historic Bill to remove discrimination in adoption for the first time. The Adoption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 removes discrimination in the Adoption Act 2009 to now allow same sex couples, singles and those undergoing fertility treatment to be eligible to adopt.

The removal of discrimination against same sex couples brings Queensland into line with all other states and territories, with the exception of South Australia (which has its own Bill to remove discrimination in adoption) and the Northern Territory.

The Bill also makes it easier for those adopted before June 1991 to be able to find their family of origin.

The Bill received Royal assent on 11 November 2016.

The Bill requires a person, if part of a couple, to apply as a couple — but if they have separated, then a person can apply alone: there is no need in the case of married couples to wait for divorce. The two-year eligibility requirement for relationships has been removed.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 287


Human rights act and disability

Emma Phillips

Following a grass-roots campaign, and a Parliamentary Inquiry, the Queensland Premier has committed to introduce a Human Rights Act in Queensland. Although it is still unknown how the Human Rights Act will develop, the Premier is examining the Victorian model, which protects a core collection of basic civil and political rights. While all Queenslanders will benefit, a human rights act is likely to be of particular benefit to vulnerable people, including people with disability.

People with disability are frequently denied their choice of accommodation and support. Many young people with disability are forced to live in aged care facilities, enduring social isolation and denied access to appropriate, disability-specific supports and services, or in congregate settings with strangers and shared care not of their choosing. As with the case of the closure of the Barrett Adolescent (mental health) Centre, decision-makers can tend to make pragmatic decisions based on cost, convenience and expediency without regard for human rights. For former residents of the Barrett Centre, this had tragic consequences.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 287


Coronial proceedings: Queensland police shootings and mental health

Nick Collyer

A recent coronial inquiry examined the police shooting of Laval Zimmer in 2014. His death was just one of five Queensland Police Service (‘QPS’) shootings occurring in a period of just over a year. The common factor in each shooting was that the deceased had mental illness.

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (‘QAI’) received amicus leave to contribute and to make systemic recommendations around police handling of people with mental illness.

At the time of Laval’s death, he was on his mobile phone and talking to a ‘Policelink’. He had called to make a complaint, about police, alleging that they had used excessive force when arresting him just a few hours before. He had already been Tasered earlier that day outside a service station after being arrested in relation to a minor scuffle with a friend.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 288


Looking behind jury verdicts

Kellie Toole
South Australia

NH, Jakaj, Zefi and Stakaj v the South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions

In October 2014, four men faced joint trial by jury for murder for a stabbing that occurred during a confrontation in a night-club. They were each found guilty of manslaughter.

The trial judge directed the jury that they could find each defendant guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter or not guilty of either murder or manslaughter. She also directed that a verdict of guilty of murder had to be unanimous, but that any other verdict, including not guilty of murder, could be by a majority of 10 or more.

After the jury had finished its deliberations, the foreperson, in answer to questions from the judge’s associate, reported that the jury found each of the appellants not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 288


Further encroachment of mandatory sentencing in Tasmania

The Tasmanian Committee

Following on from the Liberal government’s introduction of a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for serious assaults against police officers, the Government is now seeking to broaden mandatory sentencing to other ‘frontline workers’.

The Sentencing Amendment (Assaults on Frontline Workers) Bill 2016 (Tas), if passed, will result in a minimum six-month mandatory term of imprisonment for persons convicted of a serious assault against frontline workers including ambulance officers, paramedics, nurses, child protection workers and correctional staff. Both Community Legal Centres Tasmania and the Law Society of Tasmania have argued strongly against the amendments with CLC Tasmania noting that the mandatory minimum sentence for assaults against police officers has had no deterrence effect with assaults against police officers having increased by 30 per cent in the year following its introduction.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 289


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