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Public hearing 27 - Conditions in detention in the criminal justice system, Perth - Day 3

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Publication date

CHAIR: Good morning, everyone. This is the third day of Public hearing 27 which is examining conditions in detention in the criminal justice system for people with disability. We commence with the Acknowledgment of Country, and I will ask Commissioner Mason to make the acknowledgment of the country. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you, Chair. Kaya. We acknowledge the Wadjak Noongar people as the original inhabitants and the traditional owners of the lands on which we gather today. Wadjak is where the city of Perth is situated. We acknowledge their ongoing spiritual and cultural connection to Wadjak boodjar. We acknowledge the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, where the city of Sydney is now located. We acknowledge and pay our deep respect to Elders past and present. We extend that respect to all First Nations people and acknowledge their enduring connection to land, sky, seas and waters. Finally, we pay our deep respect to First Nations people here today and who are following this public hearing online, on the mainland and on the islands, including in the Torres Strait, especially Elders, parents, young people and    with disability. Thank you, Chair. 

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Commissioner Mason. Mr Griffin, just before we commence, I understand there is an appearance to be announced for the Northern Territory, so I will just ask for that appearance to take place. Apparently not. In that case, Mr Griffin, let's proceed. 

MR GRIFFIN: They are on screen, Chair. 

CHAIR: Sorry, have we got someone on screen? 

MS CHALMERS: Sorry, Chair. Can you hear me now? This is Ms Chalmers. 

CHAIR: Yes, I can hear you now. Sorry, I couldn't neither hear you or see you. So, Ms Chalmers, you are announcing an appearance on behalf of the Northern Territory? 

MS CHALMERS: Yes, with the Commission's leave, and I'm instructed by the Solicitor for the Northern Territory. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you very much. Yes, Mr Griffin. 

MR GRIFFIN: Good morning, Commissioners. The first evidence to be given today will be the witness Jody Ann Barny, and we will be playing a pre-recorded evidence from her which I took on 24 August 2022. It runs for approximately 35 minutes. Commissioners, Ms Barney has also made a statement dated 8 September 2022, which appears in Tender bundle B at tab 29 and bears the identification of STAT.0594.0001.0001. In addition, Ms Barney made a previous statement which you heard in Alice Springs in Public hearing 25. That appears in Tender bundle B, tab 30. Reference STAT.0594.0001.0001. 

In addition to that, there is a transcript of the pre recorded evidence you will hear this morning, appearing at Tender bundle B at tab 38, identification TRA.3000.0015.0001. By way of background for those following this hearing, Ms Barney is a Biri Gubba woman with a South Sea Islander background. She is Deaf and communicates using Auslan and various forms of First Nations sign languages and written English. She is the founder of the Deaf Indigenous Community Consultancy Proprietary Limited and has been working in this field for a number of years. 

She is able to understand and communicate in excess of 20 First Nations sign languages, and has previously given evidence that there are in excess of 55 such languages. So, with the leave of you, Commissioners, I now will play the pre recorded evidence of Ms Barney. 

CHAIR: Mr Griffin, just a minor point. I think you may have given the same reference to the two separate statements. I think the statement of the 11 June 2022 from Ms Barney is – the reference is 0551.0001.0001. 

MR GRIFFIN: That's correct, Chair. Sometimes I feel like a computer programmer when I read out those references. Might we then – 

CHAIR: I won't make any further comment on that until later. 

MR GRIFFIN: Might I then proceed to the playing of the pre recorded evidence. 

CHAIR: Yes. 

(Video played)

MR GRIFFIN: You've had considerable experience with dealing with people with hearing loss in detention or in prisons. What particular characteristics spring to mind in relation to those people? 

MS BARNEY: Well, there are huge barriers within the detention system and the justice system. There's no visual information that's provided for inmates. People often don't know what's going on in those settings. There may be a lot of noises coming from random directions, instructions being given. And often Deaf or Hard of Hearing people who are in detention or in prisons are following other people blindly without knowing what's going on and that can become a little frightening for them. 

With the community that I work with, who don't have access to information and certainly not in their first language, they can become quite passive and withdrawn. They can become very anxious and very aggressive and confused, certainly, because of that. Often, people will assume there that their behaviour is dysfunctional, but it's because they don't understand and they are frustrated because there are miscommunications that occur in those settings. 

MR GRIFFIN: You say in your statement there are at least 55 First Nations sign languages across Australia. 


MR GRIFFIN: Is it correct that a lot of the people in prison or detention are not familiar with any particular sign language? 

MS BARNEY: In my experience I've had access to 55 different sign language systems throughout Australia, from a very young age. Often in detention settings, there's a lot of hand talk that happens, a lot of gestural communication that happens, and that's based on culture. Its context bound, and it's very much related to Country, and it can't be transferred to other Countries. 

Often, we learn how to communicate with each other. And in that process, we need to remember that Deaf people, who are profoundly deaf and use sign language, use a visual means of communicating and they are much more visually oriented people. They know how to adapt to different contexts in which they find themselves. But what we find is that there's a huge number of people who are hard of hearing, who don't have access to visual language. They can't learn that kind of way. And they're reliant upon other people to speak for them or they follow – they can't follow what the rules are, and they don't get that information. 

So, there are a lot of barriers for those kinds of people because they don't get the information they need. We have to remember that there's a cultural influence as well. Some communication cannot be spoken about, for example, Sorry Business. So, you will see completely visual communication being established to have discussions. And often, if I see or if there are Corrections officers that are working in prisons don't know those cultural protocols and processes, they may think that something is being planned or that they're being deceitful or tricky. 

There are lots of assumptions that are made by prison staff on those sorts of bases. And it's often where we see a lot of barriers that are created as well, where men and women in youth detention have one way to have their discussions with each other and identify each other and know where they come from, who their family members are and so forth, in a visual context. But then Corrections officers and Corrections staff aren't really sure what's going on and they get confused by what they see, and that can really make miscommunication happen. And relationships don't work well in that kind of environment, for both parties. And you can see there's a lot of suffering that gets created because of that. 

MR GRIFFIN: In your statement, you refer to many First Nations sign language systems form part of a multi modal communication system. For people not familiar with that phrase, what does it mean? 

MS BARNEY: It's a process whereby you can have your family spoken language existing, but you may also have kinship with another community. And so you learn the sign language of that community and maybe the language of your grandmother or grandparents and so forth. In addition, you may communicate with other people who are friends, and you learn from them. So, unfortunately, in the work that I've done over the last several decades, I can see that there are many clients out there who use multicultural, multi modal methods of communication but not fluently. They don't have one language in which they us fluently. 

In the broader Deaf community, there are people who can use Auslan and who can use that language fluently. However, if you're a Deaf First Nations person and you just have acquired a little bit of a variety of languages, it is very hard to integrate them into a whole and have a communication system that works, that you can use to communicate, which can be extremely difficult. And for people who are trying to communicate with that individual, if you don't know those individual sign languages, it can be extremely difficult to communicate with them. Plenty of linguists who approach me and ask me, "What on earth is this person saying?" and so I have to assist with that. 

MR GRIFFIN: Just going back to the question of assessments, there are certain standard assessments to check someone's hearing level. 


MR GRIFFIN: Are those standard assessments, insofar as you are familiar with them, appropriate for First Nations people? 

MS BARNEY: No. No. Unfortunately, no, that's not the case. In the Western medical system, audiology and the audiological assessments that are conducted is very disruptive. It's not culturally safe for people who don't know what it means and don't know what's going on. They don't know they have a hearing loss. They may be completely unaware about why the audiological test is being conducted. They have never seen other people in the community who have hearing aids or a cochlear implant or whatever. 

They have never seen the kind of technological devices that are used, and so the assessment process is foreign to them. If they haven't had any prior experience of that, then it's not culturally safe for them. And often I have clients who fake hearing. They pretend that they can hear. They press the device that they have been given to identify that they can hear a sound, but there is no regular assessments that are being conducted with our people. 

MR GRIFFIN: What would a culturally safe assessment process for those people look like? What would be its characteristics? 

MS BARNEY: Mm. I think as with any communication need that a person has it needs to be inclusive, it needs to be a visual language. You need to use body language, not only relying upon speech and hearing. Because if you are trying to work out what it is that's going on for a person and you are just relying upon hearing, then there's no context, and a lot of our mob simply don't understand it. They will ignore it. So, if they want to participate fully and entirely, they need to understand the importance of why hearing loss is an important factor. And you can actually fix it if you look after your ears, you look after your physical health and you have regular tests and so on. But access to those kinds of testing regimes is rare. 

MR GRIFFIN: If I'm a 18 year old First Nations boy/young man with hearing difficulties and I haven't been to court previously, how do you go about describing to me what's involved? 

MS BARNEY: Wow. It's extremely difficult. It's a hard concept to unpack for someone, and if the person has never had any exposure previously, no family experience of court or the legal system. It's the first time they've been in trouble. Often when I arrive to work with the person, it's important if they're in youth detention to be a bit more therapeutic and to counsel the person. When they turn 18 or 19, they go into the adult system, then there's no therapy approach. There's no counselling approach that's adopted there. It's difficult, it's hard, it's challenging. 

It's a huge change to adjust to, and I see in that situation where you are trying to explain what's going to happen, if you are on remand, for example, what does that mean? And I provide a lot of examples to the person. But before that, I try to establish communication with the person, what kind of language skills they might have, for example. Do they use a cultural sign language system and, if so, what is it? Can they speak or write English, for example? Do they use any technological devices to send SMSs or whatever. That's the first step for me, to establish that. Communication and language use. 

But we know culturally it's not really good to talk about yourself. It's not something people do. And so often I don't talk about myself. I talk about other people that I support. And that helps the client say, "Oh, okay. Well" – it's like telling a story, if you like. It's a narrative approach. And I might say something like, "Well, I know another young man like yourself. They are not in trouble but, you know, they've got a friend and they were driving a car and they were skylarking and joyriding and got into an accident and it caused a problem." 

And so you can see visually that the individual might get it. They're trying to work out what it means for them. And I might say, "Well, look, you know, this other guy got into trouble and was punished and had to go to court." So, it really depends, first of all, on the language level of the person I'm working with, if we have communication established and if we get visual support like flash cards that we might use or drawing pictures. I'm not really a great artist, I have to say, but I might say, "Well, you were in that house, you know. Where did you stand and what was going on and who were the other people who were there? Was there any food and did you take something out of the fridge?" Or so forth; things like that. 

And so, I will ask the client to draw a picture. Fortunately I have some people who are just brilliant artists and can draw really detailed drawings, and you can visually see what the circumstance was. And I will often ask them to talk about time, not in a western way like Thursday at 5 o'clock or whatever, but to maybe establish a story in that kind of way, through drawing. Culturally – I'm sorry to interrupt. You can't just say, "Here's a question, give me an answer." Culturally, that's not appropriate. That's why it takes a long time. 

MR GRIFFIN: In dealing with your clients in custody, do they always recognise that they have a hearing difficulty? And if they do, will they always come forward for assessment in those custody settings with detention or prison? 

MS BARNEY: No, not always. Probably around 80 per cent will be completely unaware they have a hearing loss because all of their family has the same kind of hearing loss and so it's normalised within their family group. They just have a loud family, they are always yelling or they use visual means to communicate with each other, and they're just simply unaware. And if you come along for a test, they might be reluctant to do that. 

The other issue is really about safety. If people find out that they can't hear well, they can become bullied – a target of bullying, or they might be scapegoated or they might be blamed for other things that happen within the prison system. We see a lot of issues occurring with how people don't want to make it known that they can't hear properly. They are quite secretive about that. 

MR GRIFFIN: Why are they secretive? 

MS BARNEY: Risk. They feel vulnerable. If you walk through the prison, you would know that you are constantly being looked at, scrutinised. It's like a fishbowl. You feel kind of stuck in the middle of that fishbowl, people looking at you constantly, other inmates interacting with you. Anything can trigger a person's fear or trigger their outburst. And so you become quite fearful in that circumstance. 

And there will be issues that I have encountered with people in detention who have a terrible time at different times of the day in terms of communicating well. In the morning, they will be alert, they will be feeling fine, have a good mood, they can see what's going on visually quite easily quite readily. But by the time I afternoon rolls around, they are getting quite tired and frustrated and just exhausted from constantly trying to lip read and trying to fit in and they feel very fatigued. 

And if there is also glare from the afternoon sun or flickering, it can be exhausting for them. It can be a very damaging time for them, because that's where they can be attacked, assaulted and so forth. And they miss out on information that's going on within the prison. 

MR GRIFFIN: In your statement, you refer to the fact that conditions like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, can also mask hearing loss. How does that manifest itself, in your experience? 

MS BARNEY: Okay. Often with both of those conditions, we see that – there are a few factors there. Hearing loss can also be a part of those conditions. It can impact on auditory processing skill. A person may be able to hear fairly well but be unable to make sense of what it means and can't process what the information means for them. And often clients that I work with who have those two conditions, along with a hearing loss, want to have social interaction. They want to participate in the community. 

And they can participate by observing things visually, but if they can't hear properly and process the information properly, it impacts them in a negative way. And if people find out they can't process auditory information, they label them as stupid or mischievous or cunning and so forth, and they may be a target of being attacked or intimidated. And often Corrections officers will say, "Oh, you know, it's just their behaviour. Go here, go there, get out."  You know. And often these staff are not aware of why there's an issue. 

So, young people and adults – and women in particular – a growing number of Deaf and Hard of Hearing women who are in detention now – are more reactive in their interactions. They are visually reactive. They will have a strong verbal outbursts, and often people will find that aggressive. They interpret it as aggressive or not respectful and not complying, which therefore means that there will be a punishment or they will have a black mark against their name for that non compliant behaviour, or they might then be denied something. They might miss out on something. 

I've worked with Deaf women who can't get a job in the prison, if you like. They can't find some kind of work in the prison because the officers will say, "You are argumentative. You don't listen to me. You don't comply" and so the female inmate misses out on being able to have those opportunities. They will become quite silent and may look as though they are quite argumentative and aggressive. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can I move now on to the issue raised in your statement about the use of informal spokespeople in detention centres instead of formally trained interpreters. What you can tell the Commission about that phenomenon? 

MS BARNEY: Okay. Unfortunately I have had a great number of experiences where I have arrived at the prison where there might be staff who will say to me, "No, look, it's okay. We have talked to the inmate already" and I will say, "Hang on, this person is profoundly Deaf, how did you communicate? Can you use sign language?"  And the response is, oh, no, there is another person here or another man or woman here who can come to interpret for maybe medical issues, for video interpreting into a courtroom. And I will say, "Just a moment. Is this person qualified as an interpreter?" And their response is, "Well, they know each other really well. They think - we think they are culturally appropriate they are good friends and so forth" but really the Deaf person is too terrified to say no and to decline the assistance and that they don't want it. 

But at the same time, there are other inmates who will say, "Oh, I will know about his information. I know his case. I know what's going on." And so that information can be shared and then used against the Deaf or hard of hearing inmate. It's terrifying, and it should not happen. But I've seen it happen so many times, and it's dreadful. 

MR GRIFFIN: So are there two types of people in that situation. One who purports to be the spokesperson for the Deaf person and the other who is characterised as their buddy – their friend who can speak for them? 

MS BARNEY: Mmm. Yes. There are often two people involved, the person who is kind of the representative – the spokesperson, if you like. Decisions might be made by the family of the inmate. We see this happens a lot where we have family kinship relationships and so forth. People will provide support in the process around cultural knowledge and can support the language and communication and interaction. And often that person then doesn't have a choice. They just have to comply. They just accept the person who is placed into that role. But at the same time, they have no really comprehensive skill. They have been located there by the family or because of kinship connection in order to be the spokesperson for the inmate, but they're only skilled to do that. 

MR GRIFFIN: Is one possible consequence of what you have just said that other inmates in a prison – other inmates in a prison could become aware of the details of a person's NDIS plan and its funding? 

MS BARNEY: Oh, yes. Yes. Absolutely. It's a huge issue. When I visit clients, I can have a private conversation with them in sign language. And if we are fast enough people who might be watching don't have a clue what we're talking about. However, if I'm there with another client who has very minimal language skill and understanding and talking with their NDIS planner or their advocate, there might be other clients located in the same area who can hear well enough to be able to overhear those conversations, and they will grab snippets of those conversations and discussions. It's not confidential at all. It's not a confidential process and it's quite dangerous, in my view. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can that information become currency within the prison which can then be use against the inmate? 

MS BARNEY: Yes. Indeed. For example, most mob, my mob, other mobs, don't really understand the NDIS and its processes. They believe that the funding will make them rich, that they will have a lot of money that's available to them and they will say, "You've got money, well, just give to me. You've got a card that you use to go to the commissary in the prison. Come on, put some money on that card so you can then go and use it." And they will say, "Look, I don't know, I don't understand about that." 

If they disregard those approaches, clients can feel isolated, more alone, more alienated, ignored, fearful and a whole range of other emotions. So, if I'm going to talk about the NDIS with inmates or what's going to happen for them on parole and after release and so forth, I need to make sure that it's as private as it can be for us to have those discussions. And often the client, whether it's a man or a woman, will say "Just be careful. Quiet. There are people watching us. Don't talk about that now." 

MR GRIFFIN: Moving on to another topic, you mentioned in your statement the desirability of training of detention and Correctional staff to be able to assist and understand detainees with hearing difficulties. You then go on to say that, in your experience, staff generally do not have the time to receive the training or there's no funding available for it. Can you tell the Royal Commission your experience of trying to initiate some form of training in relation to the issues you have been raising? What would it look like? 

MS BARNEY: Okay. A few years ago, I was working in Alice Springs in a detention centre – in a prison there, in fact. And after visiting a client who was in that facility, I asked if I could have a chat with the superintendent of the prison. I asked if I could have a quick chat and talk about how to support the staff and their interactions with the client, because that person had some serious issues and had committed a serious crime. So, we needed to know how to communicate with this person. 

Fortunately the superintendent was quite willing to organise for me to go along and have a chat during lockdown periods. And that was brilliant because I could then ask all of the staff, "What is it that you see? What are the things that are happening?" And you think, Mmm, I don't know what they are talking about or, I need them to know this, that or the other thing. I just asked that question of staff and got their feedback and their responses. And I gave them a lot of examples to say, "Well, look, if you see this kind of sign or this kind of behaviour, here is what it might mean" and they kind of connected the dots and it really was very helpful. 

Then I came back again – I think a month later I flew back into Alice Springs. And the client said, "Wow, this is great. They are trying to gesture and sign to me and point to things I need to know, and I can understand things now." And they got a job in the prison, "They gave me a job." So, I think that that was fantastic. That was a really good example. 

And I know from other prisons that I visited that they're very overcrowded, there are too many inmates, there aren't sufficient staff numbers. There is a high level of turnover of staff and a lot of other training that's compulsory for them to undertake for compliance purposes. So, working with Deaf or Hard of Hearing clients is a very low priority, and learning how to do that better. You know, there are other issues of managing diabetes and so forth, other critical health needs that just aren't being addressed because there are other priorities that take precedence over that. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can I raise with you one of the recommendations you make at the end of your statement, which strikes me as being very practical and could be implemented very quickly, and that's the use of television screens to explain prison protocols, public health information and such information which would assist prisoners with hearing difficulties? Can you elaborate a little bit upon how you would see that working? 

MS BARNEY: Certainly. I believe that when men, women and youth are locked down overnight or, you know, from whatever time they're locked in – I think to myself, "What do they do?" They watch a lot of TV. So, the prison channel would be able to have information that they could broadcast in a visual way. They could use cartoon formats. They could use role plays and have the message then conveyed clearly, the same as they did with COVID information. That had a huge impact. It was great. And so that's where you would be able to disseminate information. 

The hospitals have a similar kind of system, I think, where they inform people who might be bedridden. They can watch their television and get information and understand what's going on for them. Perhaps we could have a same kind of system for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in prison. The same for people who have the double disadvantage of not being able to hear well and not being able to see well. People who have critical health needs, really, really critical illnesses are not getting the information appropriately. 

For example, a Deaf man who has diabetes, who might be in a cell with a hearing man – the man who can hear doesn't know how to communicate with the Deaf cellmate, doesn't understand diabetes at all, and if the Deaf or Hard of Hearing man has a hypoglycaemic episode, what do they do? What does their cellmate do? If the person who can hear is able to watch information on a screen and understand what to do, they know how to manage the situation and how to assist. Not become a doctor, of course, I don't mean that, but to provide critical assistance. They get enough information to make sure that their cellmate who can hear won't panic in that situation. 

MR GRIFFIN: You also make two deceptively simply suggestions: Visual alarms, as well as sirens, and good lighting. Why are those so important? 

MS BARNEY: Well, there are many reasons I could list. In relation to visual alarms, it would help everyone in the prison to be able to know what's going on, to know what the emergency is. Having lighting that is adequate improves visual access. You are able to see over long distances rather than trying to struggle in the darkness. It helps people who have dark coloured skin to be able to see other people's facial expressions. That helps a lot. 

It's very subtle but it's extremely important to have good lighting for visual communication. I'm not talking about spotlights; I'm just talking about adequate lighting that's bright enough to be able to see well. 

MR GRIFFIN: Jody, what's your principal take away message you would like to give to the Royal Commissioners sitting on this hearing? 

MS BARNEY: Mmm. People like me who work at the grassroots level, who work with organisations – peak organisations and so forth, who work with everyday legal people, practitioner, Correctional officers, prison staff, we need to have the conversation. We have the frontline conversations, people like me. But I have an issue with – when the system itself won't comply with what's required, won't provide access and training as a mandatory condition – as mandatory protocol, where court services and court organisations must provide access to interpreters. 

Principal judges, magistrates, and Chief Justices also have to learn about the importance of communication and access to language, because they are putting our mob into prison. And if they can't communicate and they can't understand and they don't know how it works, then we're going to have a failure. It will fail our mob. And it can be prevented. 

(Video ends)

CHAIR: Yes, Mr Griffin.

MR GRIFFIN: Commissioners, can I indicate to you that one week ago on 14 September, Ms Barney was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. And the citation indicates that she is to engage with professionals and leaders who are working with First Nations Deaf people in justice systems by visiting other leaders, maintaining legal access, using cultural sign languages to share experiences of working within the Western justice system, and create opportunities to design and implement First Nations Deaf principles relating to cultural access within the legal systems. To look at early intervention programs, advocacy and successful service delivery and create opportunities within the legal system across Australia. Global partnerships development and cultural professional exchange of research to eliminate racism and oppression amongst those people in custody. 

CHAIR: Thank you for that information, Mr Griffin, and I would like, on behalf of the Commissioners, to thank Ms Barney for the assistance she's provided to the Royal Commission, not only at this hearing but at another hearing as well and to wish her every success with the Churchill Fellowship, which is a wonderful opportunity for her and also for the people about whom she's been speaking today. 

MR GRIFFIN: Chair, might we have a short adjournment whilst we prepare the next witness? 

CHAIR: Yes. It's now nearly quarter to 10 Perth time, shall we resume at 9.50?

MR GRIFFIN: Thank you, Commissioners. 



CHAIR: Yes, Mr Griffin.

MR GRIFFIN: Chair, the next witness is Terry. He will take an oath. Can I indicate before he does that that the joint statement of Terry and Kara, dated 14 September 2022, is in Tender bundle A at tab 1 and bears the identification number of STAT.0624.0001.0001. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you. Terry, thank you very much for the statement that you have prepared together with Kara. We have that statement and of course we have read it, and thank you too for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence. We very much appreciate the assistance you are providing. 

If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of Commissioner Mason's associate, she will administer the oath to you. Thank you very much. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the oath. At the end please say, "yes" or "I do." Do you swear by almighty God that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

TERRY: I do. 


CHAIR: Terry, you will see that Commissioner Mason and Commissioner McEwin are in the Perth hearing room, as is Mr Griffin who is about to ask you some questions. I am located during this hearing in the Sydney hearing room, but we are all connected by virtue of the wonders of technology. So, I will now ask Mr Griffin to ask you some questions. 


MR GRIFFIN: Terry, you have a son who's known in these proceedings as Aaron? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: Aaron was diagnosed with ADHD as a child? 

TERRY: That is also correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: He started having contact with police at about the age of 12? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: As a result of the behaviour related to his ADHD, in your view. 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can you describe to the Commissioners what Aaron was like at that age? 

TERRY: He was very active. He took a lot of both my time and Kara's time to watch over him and make sure that, obviously, he wasn't getting into situations that were obviously – would lead to him injuring himself or, you know, in trouble. Yes.

MR GRIFFIN: He had been diagnosed when he was very young, hadn't he? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: And you and Kara immigrated from New Zealand about 25 years ago? 

TERRY: That's right. Yes.

MR GRIFFIN: And you have three children? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: How did his condition manifest during his schooling? 

TERRY: There were many incidents during his schooling where his behaviour was such that the school would call us to come and get him because they couldn't manage his behaviour. He would also run around the school grounds and not do what was required of him and also leave the school grounds and go to shopping centres and get on to public transport and various things like that. 

MR GRIFFIN: Very early on, Aaron had been prescribed Ritalin? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: I think you understand the purpose of that medication was. 

TERRY: That – the purpose of that medication, my understanding, was to enable him to focus on the task. It was sort of described to me that it was like, prior to having it, having three or four radio stations on at the same time and it would then enable it to be just the one station that he could hear and understand and focus on. So, yes, it enabled that clarity and function and focus that he needed to have. 

MR GRIFFIN: And was Aaron much calmer when he was on Ritalin? 

TERRY: Yes, he was. He was a lot easier to deal with. He was more aware of what was going on in the world around him and more compliant. 

MR GRIFFIN: And as a young child, he still was fairly spontaneous, wasn't he? You had to use one of the old style children's harnesses to make sure he didn't run off all the time? 

TERRY: Yes, that is correct. Especially we would go into shopping centres. Even if he was in a stroller with the straps of the stroller done up, we also had to have a harness as well and one of us had to watch him while the other did the shopping and was looking for what was needed. 

MR GRIFFIN: And when you immigrated to Australia, Aaron was about 3 years of age? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: And did you go and see a paediatrician when you arrived in Australia in relation to his health? 

TERRY: Yes. That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: And what happened during that consultation? 

TERRY: We were informed that obviously in Australia, the medication that he was prescribed previously in New Zealand wouldn't be able to be prescribed here and that he would have to go through different medications and, you know, try them to see if they would do the same job. 

MR GRIFFIN: Now, you're not medically trained, Terry, but you have a general understanding, I take it, that Ritalin had some controversy surrounding it. 

TERRY: Yes. Definitely. 

MR GRIFFIN: So did the Australian paediatrician prescribe some other medication? 

TERRY: Yes. The other medications that weren't obviously an amphetamine-based medications. 

MR GRIFFIN: And were they as effective as Ritalin had been? 

TERRY: No, not at all. 

MR GRIFFIN: And how did that manifest itself? 

TERRY: In escalation. In his behaviour of, yes, just – I guess, to sum it up, sort of being almost out of control. Constantly moving from one thing to the next and, you know, we would have to focus a lot on what he was doing to make sure he didn't injure himself or similar. 

MR GRIFFIN: And that eventually led to Ritalin being prescribed again, didn't it? 

TERRY: That is correct, yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Is it also the case that when he was about 12 years of age, Aaron was diagnosed with autism? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can you tell the Commissioners what were the circumstances of that diagnosis? 

TERRY: That was done through what was Disability Commission, I think it was, that was prior to the NDIS. He was referred on to them and a specialist there who diagnosed that he had autism also. 

MR GRIFFIN: When you received that diagnosis, did you reflect upon whether or not it could or should have been made much earlier than 12 years of age? 

TERRY: Yes. Because of experiences with another child and with his diagnosis earlier, we became aware that some of the behaviours that he was exhibiting were autistic behaviours. Was apart from his ADHD behaviour. 

MR GRIFFIN: And during his early schooling, Aaron had a habit of disappearing and getting on trains and travelling all over the place. Is that right? 

TERRY: Yes, that is very much the case. 

MR GRIFFIN: I think you observed that he became very well known to security guards on the rail network. 

TERRY: Yes. They would know both myself and Kara by sight and they would know that we would be there looking for Aaron. And they had a good communication between guards and very quickly we were able to locate where he possibly was. Because they seemed to all know him very well. 

MR GRIFFIN: And they were of great assistance to you and Kara, weren't they? 

TERRY: Yes, they were. No, there were many times that they provided great assistance and help. 

MR GRIFFIN: When Aaron commenced high school, he was prescribed Dextroamphetamine. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: What was the reason for that? 

TERRY: That was to – for his ADHD behaviour and that was also to help with his focus for schoolwork. 

MR GRIFFIN: And was he also prescribed clonidine? 

TERRY: Yes. That medication was to be given at night so that it would calm him and allow him to sleep at night. 

MR GRIFFIN: And both of those medications were of general assistance? 

TERRY: Yes. Both were very good. 

MR GRIFFIN: And also, in high school, he was in the education support unit. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: What does that mean? 

TERRY: It's a special class where the teachers are trained more to deal with children with disabilities and there are also assistants that help the teacher. So, there's a greater number of staff ratio to the children so that they have a greater chance of learning. 

MR GRIFFIN: Initially, that was of benefit to Aaron, as far as you could see? 

TERRY: Yes, definitely. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did it continue throughout his high school? 

TERRY: No, it seemed in the latter part of high school that the program was very much a repeat year to year, and he very quickly lost interest and started to disappear from school. Not go. And then, yes, obviously associate with people that weren't so desirable. 

MR GRIFFIN: And this disappearing and not attending school occurred in what would have been the last few years of his schooling? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: So, when Aaron ceased going to school, what was his level of reading and writing ability? 

TERRY: I would say very basic. He would write a – yes, a fairly simple sentence and, yes, the – his – I can't remember the word I'm looking for – the ability for one to read his writing was very difficult. Yes. It wasn't very clear at all. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did he have a wide circle of friends whilst at school? 

TERRY: No, he only had a few friends while he was at school. And – yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did his behaviour have an effect on you and Kara and your relationship with other parents at the school? 

TERRY: Yes. Very much so. We were mainly associating with other parents that had children with disabilities and, yes, certainly not with the mainstream of the school. 

MR GRIFFIN: You mentioned in the statement at paragraph 21 that Aaron is easily influenced by people because of his autism and because of his very limited ability to read people well. 


MR GRIFFIN: When you use the expression "read people well", what do you mean by that?

TERRY: Understanding that people's intentions, though they may appear friendly, were to benefit themselves and take advantage of Aaron in whatever way that they felt they could. You know. 

MR GRIFFIN: Was Aaron one of those boys that, when something happened, he was the one that got caught? 

TERRY: It seemed to be very much the case. Yes. He was at high school by various staff pulled up for being the one that was responsible for something happening. But then it seemed very much so that it was very regular that he was the one accused of what had happened. 

MR GRIFFIN: I want to now ask you some questions about his contact with the criminal justice system. Around 12, he started getting picked up by the police when he was across the other side of town? 

TERRY: Yes, that's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: And when he was about 14, he was caught throwing things off a freeway bridge on to – into oncoming traffic. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: What happened as a result of that? 

TERRY: He had to appear in court, and obviously he had a sentence where he had had a curfew. Also, he had, I think, some other punishments. I can't quite recall what they were at this time. 

MR GRIFFIN: And when you say he had a curfew, was that a court imposed order or was that sort of an unofficial agreement between you and the police? 

TERRY: That was more unofficial, initially. And – yes, obviously, yes, his understanding was that it was official. 

MR GRIFFIN: And you didn't disabuse him of that notion? 

TERRY: No. No, no. Definitely not. It was very effective at that point. 

MR GRIFFIN: Does it flow from that that, at that stage, you and Kara had a relatively good relationship with the police that were dealing with Aaron? 

TERRY: Yes. Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: It seems – correct me if I am wrong – that they were attempting to work with you to work out a practical response to his behaviour. 

TERRY: Yes, very much so. 

MR GRIFFIN: And you appreciated that. 

TERRY: Greatly. Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: But then subsequently he was arrested in relation to a property offence. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And he was remanded in a juvenile detention centre. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: What do you recollect about his admission to the juvenile detention centre? 

TERRY: It was a very difficult time for both him and ourselves. There were very – we tried to provide the prison with all information regarding his diagnosis of ADHD and autism and the medications that he was on, and also supply what medication we had to the prison so that he could start and continue, obviously, with the medication regime that he was on. We were informed, obviously, that medication would not be given in prison because of the type of medication and that he would only have his medication that he would be given at night, which was the clonidine. 

CHAIR: Terry, can we just go back a step. 

TERRY: Sure. 

CHAIR: In order for Aaron to go to the juvenile detention centre, he presumably had to go to the Children's Court and the Children's Court imposed a sentence. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

CHAIR: And were you or Kara with him in the court when that happened? 

TERRY: Yes, we were. 

CHAIR: Was he represented by a lawyer at that time? 

TERRY: I think so, yes. It would probably have been Legal Aid, the lawyer. 

CHAIR: Right. And do you remember whether the court was advised about Aaron's background and the diagnosis that he had received? 

TERRY: I can't recall whether that came up at the time. 

CHAIR: So as far as you remember, there was no particular provision made for him in any sentence or order of the court that took account of those conditions for which he had been diagnosed? 

TERRY: No, no. As far as I was aware, he was treated as any other child would have been, yes, without a disability. 

CHAIR: I see. Thank you. Yes, Mr Griffin. Sorry to interrupt. 

MR GRIFFIN: Just picking up from the questions of the Chair, was it the case that he was initially remanded to the detention centre? 

TERRY: Beg your pardon? 

MR GRIFFIN: Was he remanded to the detention centre before he was convicted and sentenced? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And so, your first experience with the detention centre was when he was on remand? 

TERRY: That would be correct. Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And just picking up on your answers a moment ago, you also provided to the centre letters from the paediatrician? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: And did you understand that the centre couldn't continue with the medications because they were amphetamine based? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: What did the staff of the centre tell you about getting Aaron back on medication? What was the process, if any, they described? 

TERRY: That he would not be given the amphetamine based medication and that there would be only the Clonidine that would be given at night and no other medication. And no program or consultation with anybody as to an alternative medication that he could have. 

MR GRIFFIN: Terry, are you familiar with the medical term "tapering" of medication? 

TERRY: Yes, I am. 

MR GRIFFIN: What do you understand that to mean? 

TERRY: That's where one is gradually reduced or increased – tapering, obviously, is reducing medication until – it gives time for the body to adjust to the difficult levels of medication. 

MR GRIFFIN: Is your understanding that that process is usually carried out under medical supervision? 

TERRY: Definitely, yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Am I correct in assuming from your previous answers that he went from taking the medication to nothing? 

TERRY: That's absolutely correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: With the exception of the Clonidine, which was to help him sleep? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did you observe any reaction by Aaron to the removal of the medication? 

TERRY: Yes. He became very withdrawn, and I am pretty sure we were told that also some of his behaviours had escalated when he was in custody. He would have been very difficult to reason with and know what was expected of him without the medication. 

MR GRIFFIN: In addition to his conditions, Aaron was physically quite small? 

TERRY: Yes. Very much so. 

MR GRIFFIN: And did that, to your observation, make him behave in a way which was concerned about his physical situation in the detention centre? 

TERRY: Obviously, we were concerned that he would be, obviously, maybe picked upon and, you know, his small nature, he would then not be able to really look after himself. Yes. 


TERRY: Vulnerable. 

MR GRIFFIN: Yes. I want to now move to events which occurred in the detention centre. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Which you deal with from paragraph 30 onwards in your statement. 

TERRY: Sure. 

MR GRIFFIN: Aaron told you and Kara that he had been raped by his cellmate. Is that correct? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: When did you find out about this either from Aaron or from the detention centre? 

TERRY: I had a phone call from the detention centre and was advised that Aaron wanted to speak with me and he, when I spoke with him, advised me that he had been raped and that, yes, he had told, obviously, the medical staff that this had happened. And then obviously the process has started where he was able to contact me. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did Aaron tell you when the incident occurred? 

TERRY: He informed me it had happened during the night, early hours of the morning and – yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And did he tell you whether he immediately reported it to the authorities? 

TERRY: Not at that time, no. It wasn't until the next morning when he went for a – to medical, I think it may have been, for medication or something like that that he informed them or when he saw a medical person. 

MR GRIFFIN: Was it the case that you heard about the incident from Aaron before you heard anything from the detention centre? 

TERRY: Yes. I only heard from him. 

MR GRIFFIN: How long after he told you this did you hear from anyone from the detention centre? 

TERRY: Only at the end of the call did someone speak to me to inform me that I could come to the prison and be with him at that time. I'm sorry. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did you  

CHAIR: Just to get the chronology straight – I just want to make sure I understand it. The rape occurred in the early morning, that is, after midnight. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

CHAIR: You had the telephone call with Aaron at about midday that day. That is some – presumably nine, 10, 11 hours later? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

CHAIR: And then during that conversation, you were told, as I understand it, that you could come the next day to the centre to see Aaron in person? 

TERRY: Yes. 

CHAIR: And that's what you did. 

TERRY: That is correct. 

CHAIR: So, on the next day, you saw Aaron at the centre outside of visiting hours? 

TERRY: That's correct. 

CHAIR: Mr Griffin may want to ask you, of course, some more questions about that but I just wanted to be clear as to which days we were talking about. Thank you. 

TERRY: Yes, sure. 

MR GRIFFIN: When you went to see Aaron, were you able to see him immediately? 

TERRY: No. When I got to the detention centre, I was made to wait a number of hours before I was able to see Aaron. 

MR GRIFFIN: When you saw him, did he tell you about what had happened after he made the complaint? 

TERRY: Yes. He informed me that he had been instructed by staff for him and the cellmate – the person that raped him – to strip the cell of all bedding and for them to change their clothing and to take everything to laundry and see that it was washed. And – yes. That was – 

MR GRIFFIN: Did Aaron tell you he was told to shower and change his clothes? 

TERRY: Yes, that also was the case. He was told to shower and change clothes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And that direction also came from the staff of the centre? 

TERRY: Yes, definitely from the staff of the centre. 

MR GRIFFIN: Is it your understanding that the centre then notified the police? 

TERRY: That happened, yes, probably when I was at the detention centre. 

MR GRIFFIN: And also, what's known as the Sexual Assault Resource Centre. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Otherwise called SARC. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Do you have any knowledge, based upon any conversation you had, about what the police and SARC team did when they arrived at the centre? 

TERRY: Yes. I was present when SARC did their various examinations and testing and sample collections and – yes, I was present while that was done. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did the SARC give Aaron some medication? 

TERRY: Yes. He was given medication that would prevent sexually transmitted diseases. 

MR GRIFFIN: And was he transferred to the Royal Perth Hospital Sexual Health Clinic? 

TERRY: Yes, he was given appointments to visit them on a regular basis for testing for the next 12 months to make sure that he didn't have any sexually transmitted diseases. 

MR GRIFFIN: And there was also, I understand, a concern about HIV. 

TERRY: That is also correct. Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Just moving forward for a moment, the result of those regular visits to the Royal Perth Hospital resulted in what finding? 

TERRY: The finding that he didn't have any sexually transmitted diseases or AIDS or HIV. 

MR GRIFFIN: If I move beyond this part, did you at the – 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Sorry, Mr Griffin, before you go on, could I ask when SARC first met with Aaron and you were there, and then ongoing interaction – 

TERRY: Yes. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: – what was your perception of how the staff from SARC interacted with Aaron? Were they aware of his disabilities? Did they provide appropriate support? Do you have any observations? 

TERRY: Yes. My observations were that SARC themselves were very professional and that they were very sensitive to the process and to Aaron's needs. I would say I couldn't ask for more from them and, yes, the service they gave   

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: So, you say you felt they are disability aware or that they could provide sort of a tailored approach to Aaron. 

TERRY: Yes. Yes, definitely. They seemed to be able to relate to him and provide him with what I would call appropriate, yes, for someone who had these disabilities. 


CHAIR: Terry, as I understand it, the police and the SARC team arrived in the early evening of the day when you had spoken to Aaron? 

TERRY: Yes. 

CHAIR: Is that right? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

CHAIR: And Commissioner McEwin has asked you about the SARC team. 

TERRY: Yes. 

CHAIR: What, if anything, did the police say to you that day when they arrived and during the course of their stay at the centre? 

TERRY: Very little from the police at that point. Just virtually that, obviously, they would be investigating and that it would – you know, they would have to wait for the results from SARC and things like that and also there would be an interview of Aaron to obviously get his statement as to what had occurred. 

CHAIR: Did any – did any representative of the – representative of the police say anything about Aaron and his cellmate having showered before they were called? 

TERRY: Not at that point on that day when that happened. No. At a later stage, they did comment on it. 

CHAIR: The police did? 

TERRY: Yes. 

CHAIR: To you directly? 

TERRY: It would have been – yes, to myself and to Kara. 

CHAIR: And what did they communicate to you about that matter? 

TERRY: I'm sorry, can we repeat just that question. The point that you were asking specifically? 

CHAIR: Yes. I'm asking you about what the police told you. And I first asked you what they told you on the day they arrived, which is the first day that you saw Aaron, and you have indicated that on that day, they did not say anything about Aaron and his cellmate having showered before they were asked to come to the centre. And then I think you said that although nothing was said by the police at that time, something was said later. 

TERRY: Yes. Later on, they said that due to the results from SARC, that obviously there wasn't enough physical evidence present to proceed with a charge, in their opinion, it would be Aaron's word against the accused and that – yes   

CHAIR: I understand that. My question – and if you can't remember, then please say so, but my question was whether the police said that the fact that Aaron and his cellmate had showered before the police were involved had made some difference to the investigation? 

TERRY: No. Not specifically on that, as far as I recall. Yes. 

CHAIR: Thank you. Okay. That's fine. Thank you. Yes, Mr Griffin. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Terry, sorry, I have a follow up question from the Chair. What was your observations, if you can remember, of how the police were interacting with Aaron, and, again, it relates to my question about SARC. Were they disability aware? Did they tailor their approach? Did you have any observations? 

TERRY: At the time when SARC was there and the police made first contact, there was very little communication from the police as to what their involvement would be, apart from the fact that they would be speaking with Aaron and awaiting the tests. There was no comment on the fact, as I understand, of anything else apart from that. 


MR GRIFFIN: Were you present when they spoke to Aaron? 

TERRY: No. That was done – we were at the police – the Sexual Assault Squad headquarters and he was interviewed separately from us with a trained person – I'm not sure what they were specialist – qualifications were, but they were trained to speak with children that had, obviously, experienced sexual assault. 

MR GRIFFIN: Do you know whether or not the police or that trained person were aware of Aaron's disabilities when they conducted that interview? 

TERRY: I can't exactly recall, no, whether they were or not. 

MR GRIFFIN: Had you told the police of his particular disabilities? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And when did you do that? 

TERRY: That would have been at the time when they were at the prison. 

MR GRIFFIN: Aaron was subsequently released from the detention centre. 

TERRY: Sure. 

MR GRIFFIN: And my understanding was prior to his release, he had been kept in the medical unit at the centre for four or five days. 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: That was until his case was heard at the Children's Court. 

TERRY: That is right. 

MR GRIFFIN: During that period of time, were you allowed to spend any time with him? 

TERRY: No. The only times that we were allowed to spend with him would have been normal visiting days and times. 

MR GRIFFIN: Terry, to an outsider, assuming what Aaron described to you is what happened – 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: – one would imagine that parents would want to spend as much time with their child as possible. 

TERRY: Yes. Very much so. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did you raise with the authorities within the detention centre a request along those lines? 

TERRY: I'm sure I would have said to them that I would have appreciated to been able to see him and speak with him regularly, yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: Do you remember if you received any response? 

TERRY: Just virtually that the only times that would be available would be the normal days that one would visit. And that there was no consideration of special arrangement. 

MR GRIFFIN: How did this make you and Kara feel? 

TERRY: Very sort of isolated and almost dismissed, like it was not a concern and that Aaron would be quite fine and – yes. It left us very disappointed that there didn't seem to be a lot of care taken for him for what had happened at that point. 

MR GRIFFIN: When he was released from the centre, did you make any observations about how he was coping with the time he had spent in the centre? 

TERRY: Yes, he was very withdrawn and really not himself at all. He really withdrew into himself. Yes.

MR GRIFFIN: Can you give us some examples of that behaviour, how it was different from when he went into the centre? 

TERRY: There were different things that obviously would happen. He would obviously, during the day when he was awake, be withdrawn and not very communicative with us. But then at night, he would have night terrors. And there are times when I would be awoken by him and would go into his room and that he would be attempting to climb out of the bedroom window or virtually climb the walls of the bedroom, trying to escape from something. He seemed extremely distressed and, yes, it took a lot of effort to calm him and get him back to a place where he would be able to get more sleep. 

MR GRIFFIN: After his release, SARC offered him some sexual assault counselling? 

TERRY: Yes, they did. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did he take that up? 

TERRY: He did take it up, but it was very much not successful. During some of the counselling sessions, I was informed afterwards that he had said maybe a few words, if anything at all. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did that prompt you then to offer to attend any counselling session? 

TERRY: Yes, I suggested that maybe if I was present that I could prompt him into opening up a little bit more and to start sharing, you know, a little of what he was feeling and thinking. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did that lead to any change in his response to the counselling? 

TERRY: No. Very little. And he just – he completely shut down and wasn't – seemed incapable of sharing what he was feeling and thinking. 

MR GRIFFIN: You mentioned in paragraph 46 of your statement that when Aaron's case was heard in the Children's Court, the lawyer appearing for him requested a closed session. 

TERRY: That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: So, she could explain to the magistrate what had happened to Aaron in the detention centre. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And he was granted immediate release. Is that right? 

TERRY: Yes. That's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: Did he return to your home? 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: How would you describe his demeanour, his conduct upon his return to the home? 

TERRY: He was – yes, obviously, it is difficult for us in knowing how to relate with him because he was so withdrawn and that obviously the times when he would wake with night terrors that, you know, we were obviously having to take turns to calm him so it was very disruptive to the family life at the time. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can I take the opportunity to read paragraph 48 of your statement. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And then I will ask for your response: 

"Aaron has never received an apology or any other communication from any staff of the detention centre about how the assault was handled."

TERRY: Yes, that's correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: How do you feel about that? 

TERRY: Extremely disappointed. I feel that the whole thing from start to finish was mishandled. Covered up. And that impression formed very quickly from the time when I arrived at the detention centre and was made to wait an additional couple of hours when I would have assumed that I should have been able to go very much fairly soon through and be with him. But, no, I had to wait another couple of hours. It just left me totally dismayed and alarmed at what was happening. 

MR GRIFFIN: I will take this opportunity to ask you to indicate to the Commissioners whether, based on your experience, what happened to Aaron, what you would recommend should have happened? 

TERRY: I feel that someone should have been there to explain what the process would be and that obviously, for a start, that the instructions to obviously change clothing and shower and all those things that happened would not be the case. It should have been that the police, in my opinion, were the first ones to be called and from their direction, obviously, in that – and also SARC's input as to what should happen from there on. It seemed very much, yes, that there was no procedures or policies in place and they were making it up on the fly. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can I invite you to read out loud to those observing this hearing paragraph 55. 


"His experience in the detention centre is something that has traumatised us as parents. We were not able to protect him and that is something that we have great difficulty coming to accept."

MR GRIFFIN: Do you recognise there was objectively nothing more you could have done? 

TERRY: Yes. In time, I've come to realise that obviously, as a parent, he was in detention, there was nothing at all that I could have done to prevent what had happened or to change it. 

MR GRIFFIN: But despite that, you still have the reaction you just read out. 

TERRY: Yes. Definitely. To me, that is one of the greatest instincts of a parent is to be there to protect your child from whatever it may be, and when you are unable to do so, it – it has an effect on you that lasts for a very long time 

MR GRIFFIN: How old is Aaron now? 

TERRY: Aaron is in his late 20s. 

MR GRIFFIN: In brief, what are his current circumstances? 

TERRY: His current circumstances are that he, at times, is homeless and living on the streets. He does – is supposed to have carers and NDIS funding to provide him with a place to stay and those carers, but it seems to be a great difficulty for that to be organised to be something that is consistently in place. And that he has a place that he could call home and live in for a length of time. It seems very much a situation where it changes that he's shifting from one place to the next and in – what's the – it's like hostel, short term accommodation, which is not suitable at all. 

MR GRIFFIN: Can I move now to some recommendations which you want to suggest to the Commissioners. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: And the first is that children and young people with disabilities should have an advocate appointed as soon as they enter a detention centre. 

TERRY: That is correct. 

MR GRIFFIN: What's your thinking behind that? 

TERRY: I feel that a lot of children with disabilities struggle to understand what is expected of them in the prison system, where they should go, what they should do, and it becomes, I would say, very overwhelming very quickly. And if they had somebody there that they understood was there for them to answer any questions they might have and help them adjust to being in custody, it would be of great help to them. I think it would be, you know, very overwhelming without something like that. 

MR GRIFFIN: It appears from your evidence, Terry, that there was a disjunction between the care Aaron was receiving prior to detention and what happened during detention. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: How could we overcome that? 

TERRY: I think with having better trained staff and those that are specialised in dealing with children with disabilities and mental health so that their needs can be greater understood and met. Their needs so that, yes, they get the care and support they require. 

MR GRIFFIN: You also point out that either some communication or better communication with a detainee's treating GP or specialist or any other health or disability professionals would greatly assist? 

TERRY: Yes, definitely. To have that knowledge as to what their current treatment is in their past history, I think, would benefit all involved in custody and in caring for them while they are in custody to understand what their needs specifically are. 

MR GRIFFIN: There is also the issue of making an assessment about whether a detainee requires some protection because of their disabilities. 

TERRY: Yes. 

MR GRIFFIN: What are your views about that? 

TERRY: Definitely I feel that those that have, from my experience, autism are very easily groomed or led and influenced. So, they are very vulnerable to those that may seek to do harm to them. And, yes, if they were able to be in a single cell, then I think it would offer the protection that those that are very vulnerable need. 

MR GRIFFIN: Terry, is there anything you want to tell the Commissioners that is either not in your statement or I haven't covered this morning? 

TERRY: The only thing, I think, would be that at the conclusion of this, I would like to see it not only be the words and recommendations, but the actions – the implementation of the change. That, to me, is the most significant thing I would like to see out of this, is that there is some policing or enforcement of those changes that are recommended. It's great to have all the ideas of – and knowledge of what we need to do, but without the implementation it, to me, doesn't mean a great deal. And that's something I really look forward to seeing, is that change. 

MR GRIFFIN: And if the Western Australian government would seek to transform the way juvenile detention centres are managed, would you and Kara be open to being involved in that process? 

TERRY: Yes. I definitely would be. I feel we all have a duty, even as parents of people with disabilities, to share what we know and feel that would benefit all those that have difficulties and disabilities, and to work together to improve the system for all so that these things don't reoccur. 

MR GRIFFIN: Chair, they are the questions I have for Terry. 

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Griffin. Terry, if it's okay with you, I will ask my colleagues if they have any questions for you. 

TERRY: Sure. 

CHAIR: And I will start with Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you, Chair. I have just got a couple of questions, Terry. 

TERRY: Sure. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: When – when your son Aaron – excuse me – a child in detention, was raped, after that he was taken to the hospital ward or a medical unit which looked like a hospital ward. It's in your statement at 42. 

TERRY: Yes. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: It also says that he wasn't receiving any medication while he was in there in the medical unit. That's at 44. He was without his medication. 

TERRY: Yes. His amphetamine based medication wasn't given to him the whole time that he was in custody and, yes, that really had an impact on him, as far as his behaviours and just the way, I guess, he was. He just struggled to cope without it. I could see him, yes, obviously withdrawing very much every day that I had contact, whether it be via phone or when we visited him. I think there were two days a week that we visited him, and each time we could see that there was more withdrawing and less verbal communication from him. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you. The second question I have is about this word that we have heard in the Royal Commission called "intersectionality". Have you heard that word before and do you know what it means? 

TERRY: No. I haven't. I'm sorry. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Okay. Thank you very much. 

TERRY: Yes. 


CHAIR: Commissioner McEwin? 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you. Terry, thank you for your evidence. I have one topic or question. Can I take you to paragraph 47 of your statement? And that relates to the post detention circumstances. 

TERRY: Yes. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: It says that Aaron had to comply with split conditions. So, putting that aside, what, if any, kind of support or post detention support was Aaron offered or was the family offered? Were you referred to organisations? What can you recall from that time? And I want to understand then the link to the NDIS, if you can then explain that. 

TERRY: The only support that he was given was follow up at SARC for counselling, and from that also at a hospital appointment with the clinic where they obviously gave him medication for sexually transmitted diseases and did the various testing for that. Your further question was about NDIS? Exactly how he became connected with them? Is that what are you looking to know? 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Yes. So, you have just described that he had appointments in relation to SARC and then medication. What about more broad supports such as looking for employment, transitioning him back into the community? I'm seeing there you are shaking your head, so it sounds like none of that. 

TERRY: Nothing that I'm aware of, really, further from those two things, the hospital and SARC for counselling at that time. Very much, you know, only those two. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: So, it's fair to say, really, he – it would have been helpful, do you think in your opinion, if he had had support around, you know, integration back into the community, housing, employment, general – 

TERRY: Yes. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Okay. And then the NDIS at what point did he get on to the NDIS? 

TERRY: He initially was with the system before NDIS, so once the new NDIS system came into place, it was a matter of a transition through to that. And, yes, obviously that's been ongoing and, yes, with regular reviews. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Okay. Thank you and thank you again for your evidence. 

TERRY: Thank you for the opportunity. 

CHAIR: Terry, just a couple of things again to clarify in my own mind. When the events we have been talking about occurred, was this the first time that Aaron had been in custody? 

TERRY: Yes. Yes. 

CHAIR: And at the time these events occurred, he was actually on remand arising out of charges that he had presumably stolen property or committed a property offence. Is that right? 

TERRY: That is correct. 

CHAIR: And at that time, he was about 15? 

TERRY: I would say yes, he was. Yes. 

CHAIR: So not having been in custody before, he was charged with a property related offence and remanded into the detention centre, and two weeks later this happened? 

TERRY: Yes. 

CHAIR: Yes. Thank you. Terry, thank you very much for the evidence. We know that this is not an easy process for you or for Kara for that matter, and also, I think perhaps for Aaron, but we appreciate that you have been prepared to share your experiences and Aaron's experiences with us and to share your suggestions for how things could be improved. 

I can assure you that although we don't have the power, as such, to implement our recommendations, we are very conscious that any recommendations we make do need to be implemented and there is a big difference between recommending things and actually putting them into practice. So, that's something we are very conscious of and we hope will prove in the fullness of time that we understand what can be done and what should be done. So, thank you very much for all the assistance you have given to the Royal Commission. We greatly appreciate it. 

TERRY: Thank you for all you do. I think it's great that we have such Commissions and investigations and have that opportunity to share experience. 

CHAIR: Thank you, Terry. 

TERRY: For your time too. 


CHAIR: Mr Griffin, do we take a short adjournment now?

MR GRIFFIN: Take the morning break, if we could, Chair. 

CHAIR: Alright. It's now 10.50 Perth time. We will resume at 11.05. 



CHAIR: Yes, Ms McMahon. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you, Chair. Chair and Commissioners, you will now hear from Megan Krakouer, who is the Director of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project. Ms Krakouer will give an affirmation. 

CHAIR: Yes. Ms Krakouer, thank you very much for coming to the Royal Commission to give evidence. We appreciate the assistance you're giving to the Commission. We have your statement, for which we also thank you, which we have had the opportunity to read. If you would be good enough to follow the instructions of Commissioner Mason's associate, she will administer the affirmation to you and then I will ask Ms McMahon to ask you some questions. 

ASSOCIATE: I will read you the affirmation. At the end please say yes or, "I do." Do you solemnly and sincerely decline and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 



CHAIR: Ms Krakouer, just so you're aware, as you know, Commissioners Mason and McEwin are in the Perth hearing room, as is Ms McMahon. I am participating in the hearing from our Sydney hearing room and so I am joining remotely. Yes, Ms McMahon. 


MS McMAHON: Thank you, Chair. Ms Krakouer, as you were introduced, you are the Director of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project. Before we commence, would you like to introduce yourself. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thanks for that. So, I'm a Noongar person from Mineng Country. I have a large family, 13 brothers and sisters, and we have families all across Noongar Country and very much over into Victoria as well, so very large extended family. I just want to give evidence today also standing up for the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our community, black, white and brown brothers, having the extensive knowledge working in the prison system but also around homelessness, incarceration, deaths in custody, child removals. Thank you. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you, Ms Krakouer. And I'm going to give you a warning early to please slow down today with your evidence because of our interpreters and so our wider audience can follow along. Now, Ms Krakouer, you have provided a statement to the Royal Commission dated 16 September 2022. I understand there is one correction that you wish to make to that statement, and, Commissioners, that's at paragraph 20. The sentence commencing with the words: 

"I'm of the opinion, from my observations of the prisons and detention centres I have been to that they are..."

And you wish to insert the word "not" before "culturally safe environments"; is that correct? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: Now, with that amendment being made is that statement otherwise true and correct? 

MS KRAKOUER: Yes, it is. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. Just by way of background, if I could just ask you confirm that in addition to your role as Director, you have attained a law degree from Deakin University. 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct 

MS McMAHON: You have worked an Aboriginal Engagement Officer with Knowmore Legal Service, which was established in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: You have also worked as a Critical Outreach Responder in Western Australia with the National Indigenous Critical Response Service? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: And in 2020 you were appointed to the WA Department of Corrective Services Suicide Prevention Taskforce. 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct, following the five deaths of Aboriginal people in Western Australia in custody in the prison system. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. Now, if you could just give a brief overview of the work of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project, please. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you for that. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the Country that we are on today as Whadjuk country. Where I come from is Mineng Country, so Perth, around this area, is not from where I am – where I come from. I would also like to pay homage and respect to a person who I have grown so much admiration and respect for, and so much learnings and working together and fighting and advocating for some of the most marginalised and vulnerable, and that's my colleague Gerry Georgatos' extensive work experience, particularly with going to over 600 remote communities of the 1,200 remote communities right across the country. 

So, together, in the last three years, we've worked with 21,000 people right across the country. The most marginalised and most vulnerable, the critically vulnerable. And what makes our work so different is that there's a three approach that's intense psycho social support, the assertive outreach and the 24/7. So, always being available to a lot of the families. The work that we do is really extensive in terms of the intense psycho social support. 

That's lacking from the Western Australian mental health plan in Western Australia right now. Hence the number of people that are taking their lives. Within the last five weeks, we have had two Aboriginal men come out of a prison, unsupported, both dead to suicide. We can't continue to have this and that's why they – the conditions in relation to incarceration needs to be seriously abated so our people are given the same opportunities as everyone else and that place is not so much about punitive but about rehabilitation and restorative justice. That is being failed. 

MS McMAHON: Ms Krakouer, I'm going to interrupt you. I don't want to stop your flow at all, or the content of what you are saying, but if you could just slow down a little bit for our interpreters. Thank you. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. 

MS McMAHON: Please continue.

CHAIR: I assure you, you are not the first witness who has had to slow down. It's a general experience we have had, and I know it's sometimes a little difficult. So, if you wouldn't mind, it just makes it easier for us to follow. Thanks. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: I know Ms Krakouer has worked with Aboriginal language interpreters who don't speak English and that – in that regard, you have to speak in blocks. It can't be a run. That might assist Ms Krakouer because the Auslan interpreters are silent in that regard. But you have to speak in a block and then wait so that the interpreter can catch up. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. 


MS McMAHON: Thank you Commissioner Mason. 

MS KRAKOUER: So, the work is really extensive. The work is extensive because we have to go to people's homes because it's important. A lot of the critical and vulnerable will not walk in the doors of a service. So, we have to go to families and the families that we go to, there's a multifactorial of issues, and we work through those expertly and methodically, but also with a love and the care and the respect that these families deserve that are downtrodden and that don't have voices of their own to speak in ways they should. 

And too often the families, they are not heard, they are not validated, they are not listened to, and, therefore, how can the Department of Corrective Services, Department of Justice, the government for this – with the Mark McGowan leadership, how can they put in place working strategies if it is not known? And that's where I'm seriously concerned in terms of raising and elevating the deficit discourse of those that are being harmed, those that are being hurt, those that are being violated and, sadly, those families who are now dealing with a death to suicide after custody. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you, Ms Krakouer. I just wanted to confirm the work that you are currently doing with the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project, that's voluntary work? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: So, it's not funded, all of this work that you are doing with families and people in detention and prison currently; is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. It's about providing that love and support to the families that get their help. Sure, it would be great to be funded because what we do actually do save lives and it does improve life circumstances, because you have to be that beacon of light. Too many of our families do not have that light, do not have that hope, and that's why we need to reach. 

Now, in terms of it not being funded, I mean, sorry – sorry, excuse me. That's an indictment of the Western Australian government, and they should be ashamed of themselves for funding things that do not work. And I will give you two examples at Acacia Prison and also Banksia Hill where the approach worked and children did not return to Banksia Hill and there were less suicides and self harm – had no suicides, sorry, and less self harms as a result of the approach that we took. 

MS McMAHON: And, Ms Krakouer, what I actually want to do is go through each of those models in detail and, in fact, now. So, I want to focus first of all on the work that you and Gerry Georgatos, his daughter, and also the psychologist that you worked with, and I understand that this came about as a result of three deaths in custody, Aboriginal men at Acacia Prison. And you were, in fact, approached by senior staff at the jail to come in and do some work. Is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: Almost. So, in terms of SERCO, they had made contact with my colleague Gerry Georgatos because of all they're – because he has been very active in mediating and, in fact, he's a great human rights champion and very well known across the country. That's how the contact was made. Now, in terms of Acacia Prison yes there were three Aboriginal people that passed away in a period of three years, two to – one year, sorry. Three to – let me start again. 

There were three Aboriginal men who passed away at Acacia Prison within one year. Two to suicide, and one to a natural death. In fact, that one year, there were five Aboriginal people that passed away in Western Australian prisons. Three in Acacia Prison, one dear soul – rest in peace – at Melaleuca Prison and the other at Roeburne Regional Prison. 

MS McMAHON: And it's the case, isn't it, that there was a contract for initially six months to do work with people who either had self-harmed or who were at risk of self-harm, and then that contract was extended for two months, which meant that you worked in Acacia Prison from October 2020 to June 2021. Is that correct? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: And I also understand that that work was on a full time basis, you and Gerry and his daughter providing administration support. And that meant – and please correct me if I am wrong – that you were in the jails most days, sometimes more than five days a week, between 8 and 4 pm, 8 am and 4 pm, but then you also worked after hours with family and other services. Is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: So, in terms of – 

CHAIR: Ms Krakouer, can I just ask this. SERCO. What's SERCO's role at the prison? Is this a privatised prison or does SERCO have a management role or what? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. So, SERCO is the only private prison in Western Australia and they manage and run Acacia Prison. 

CHAIR: I see. Thank you. 

MS KRAKOUER: They are contracted by the Department. 

CHAIR: Yes. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. So, in terms of the set up for your work, before I start talking about the detail of the services you provided, were you provided space to work on a full time basis within the prison? 

MS KRAKOUER: We were. That didn't happen until about four weeks of us arriving at Acacia Prison. And then we started working in Oscar block. And in Oscar block, they had a multiple of services like resettlement and many others, and a lot of the programs were being run from Oscar block where that was very central and, therefore, it made it very easy to come into contact with the gentlemen at the prison. 

MS McMAHON: And so, in terms of access to prisoners, that wasn't an issue for you because of the nature of the work you were contracted to do inside the prison; is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: So, if you needed to see someone, you could see them? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. We had a strong relationship, and bearing in mind that I was on the Suicide Prevention Taskforce with the Department of Corrective Services, we had had strong relationships with the director at SERCO. And the amount of work that we did out in the community in relation to responding to suicides, helping and supporting families, advocating with families when there had been a challenge, for example, with Lacey Harrison with her daughter Denishar Woods. 

So, a lot of families knew who we were, so, therefore, we had a strong relationship, the credibility, the reputation to help and support families. So, in terms of having access to people in the prison, it was – it was really good. They were accessible and we could go to the units. We would go down to the detention unit where there were behavioural issues and speak to each and every single person who was in those hovels of human misery for hours and days on end. The same thing applied with the medical unit where we first came into contact with a young Aboriginal man who had self harmed the very first day that we arrived. 

MS McMAHON: Can I ask you about that particular example in a moment because I really want to focus on that first example. Is that okay –

MS KRAKOUER: Of course. 

MS McMAHON: – if I deal with that later? But I just want to understand some of the relationship issues first. So, it sounds as though, from what you're saying, that you had strong relationships with all staff at all levels but also that there was a level of cooperation with staff and the work you needed to do. Is that correct? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: Okay. Now, something I want to ask you about is about the PRAG meetings. That's the Prisoner Risk Assessment Group meetings. Now, my understanding is that they were meetings that were held daily that you and Gerry were invited to. Who else was at the table of those meetings? 

MS KRAKOUER: At the table, there were unit managers. There were also psychologists. There were key people in the prison. Also, some of the Aboriginal Liaison Officers. It just depended who very much went to the PRAG meeting. So, a lot of family – a lot of people in the prison system, like, for example, the Aboriginal Engagement Officers and us to some degree, if there was a family that were caring for, that we were helping, that we were supporting we would turn up to those PRAG meetings and work in partnership to ensure there was a plan going forward. 

So, that meant there was a person – as with the case which we will get to shortly – from two-hour watch to four-hour watch, and basically, we were trying to help this young man move back out to the general population. That's what – that's what the purpose of that PRAG meeting. The other thing too, is just because we have the relationships with so many in the community – and bear in mind 21,000 people right across the country that aren't being supported in the focus on Noongar country – those relationships were built. So, as a result, a lot of families, a lot of the people in the prison system would tell us things which ordinarily wouldn't be told to anyone else. 


MS KRAKOUER: And also, we had the contacts with the families on the outside. So, they were known to us. And that makes a difference in terms of saving lives and improving life circumstances. That rapport, that care, that love, that respect. That is what's missing from the prison system in Western Australia and, indeed, the 132 prisons right across this country today. 

MS McMAHON: And what you are talking about there – and am I right to say that – because of your relationships with the prisoners you were working with but also because of the cultural safety that you were bringing to those communications with First Nations men with disability, that they were making disclosures to you about traumas that they might not have made to other people. Is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's exactly right. 

MS McMAHON: And – sorry, yes. 

MS KRAKOUER: And there were times when we would tell the family what was – the individual what was happening on the outside with their family, and I refer to two young boys who passed away at the Swan River. One of the boys, rest in peace, his father is up at Acacia Prison and he was at the time and is still there today. But one of the other boys that passed away, his older brother was also in Acacia Prison. So, we were able to communicate and say, look, there's a coroner's inquest. And I thank the National Justice Project for running that case. 

"There is a coroner's inquest; there is going to be a lot of media this week." We had to make them prepared. So, as a result, we had organised visits for the family to come prior to it and make sure that there was support for the younger person in particular, knowing that he was going to see details of his brother drowning at that particular time and that would be televised. So, that's a relationship and the correlation that we had with the people in the prison system. They trusted and respected and cared about our work because we cared about them. 

MS McMAHON: And that, is it not, an example of holistic care in terms of understanding what's happening for that prisoner at that point in time for them individually and responding to that? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. And bringing that calm. The calm has to be brought into the prison and that's with true understanding and that – that love and redemptious approach. So, without the love and the calmness and the peace that we brought into that prison when listening and hearing and validating trauma and disabling trauma, people can't move past that. Because a lot of the families and a lot of the individuals in that particular prison, they had so many – so many issues. 

There was so much unaddressed trauma, and with unaddressed trauma it needs to be expertly worked through in a methodical, caring, loving way so you can disable the trauma and develop pathways forward. It's about hearing, listening, acting and being genuine. 

MS McMAHON: Now, before I continue, I just wanted to confirm with you that many of the men that you were working with, First Nations and non First Nations people, were people with disability? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: And that there was a high proportion, as I understand it from your evidence, of people you were working with who did have disability? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: Okay. Now, you have touched on cultural safety. There is two elements of cultural safety I just want to ask you about. And the first one you refer to at paragraph 40 of your statement, about touch. Now, the prison staff in your work at Acacia, they allowed you, did they not, to sometimes hug a prisoner, touch their hands and so forth when you thought that was appropriate? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: Can you just explain to the Commissioners and wider audience about the significance of touch from a cultural perspective and why, if is the case, you think that should be allowed in the context of supporting people? 

MS KRAKOUER: Of course. So, Acacia Prison as you know, that's a prison which is largely and hugely populated. There's about 1,500 men at any one time. Of that, when we were there was about 525 Aboriginal men that were in prison. We had worked with 1,200 people and substantially 400 people. Because we showed that kindness and that caring approach, that touch is really quite important. The – sorry – the hand on the – the hand on about the shoulder, the shaking the hand, the embrace. 

It brings that human side in terms of the compassion and then love and the respect, and that can actually bring so much calm to a person's life because all of a sudden, they know that someone is there. They care about you. Yes, we all make mistakes. Some people make mistakes that just shouldn't be done but it does happen, and that's why I believe in the redemption. But in terms of the touch, that was important because some of the families that we were working with, they had lost family on the outside to suicide or unnatural death or one of their Elders may have passed away. 

You see an Aboriginal person for the very first time, brother, I'm sorry about what happened to her, your aunty or your uncle or your little niece or nephew. It's about that respect and the respect has to be embedded – which it is not at this point – throughout the whole entire criminal justice system to make sure that our people are given a fair go and we are not subjected to any more violence that's been perpetrated right now which is causing harm and I will go so far and say death. 

MS McMAHON: And in terms of bringing the qualities of communication that you're talking about, is it your view that community based organisations such as your own and others that you – that you have listened to in this hearing over the week should be allowed access to provide that sort of support to people with disability? 

MS KRAKOUER: 100 per cent. 100 per cent. And that's what's missing. That is a missing link in the prison system and then too often we leave people feeling isolated, alone, not cared for, not provided the appropriate supports and equipment to live a normal life in the prison system. So, we are denying some of our most vulnerable people in the prison system access to the very fundamentals that we should all have as human beings in this world. 

MS McMAHON: Now, Ms Krakouer, in your statement you talk about the yarning approach, and, indeed, we have heard evidence on other days in this hearing about the benefits – real fundamental benefits of that approach of communication. But I want to ask you about the spaces that were available for you to conduct that sort of communication with your clients. Were Corrective Services flexible with you about being able to use whatever space you need to communicate in the way that you needed to? For example – 

CHAIR: Are we talking about Acacia? The prison, Acacia?


MS McMAHON: Yes, all of these questions are on Acacia, I should say. 

CHAIR: I'm not sure it's the Department, is it? It might be SERCO. I don't know. 

MS McMAHON: Sorry, the staff at the prison, I should say.   For example, in terms of flexibility, sitting on the ground, or whatever – you know, in open spaces with sunlight, were those sort of – that sort of flexibility open to you? 

MS KRAKOUER: There was incredible leadership at Acacia Prison, and he understood the nature of the work that we did and he saw the calm that we managed to bring into the prison by our approach. So, having access to the units, having access to the detention unit, where, you know, people were placed, having all access in the prison, it was really good. 

Now, there was a man who had contact – who had approached me because he heard me speak about sexual abuse and my work that I had done with Knowmore Legal Service as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse. And this was a beautiful, strong Aboriginal man, but he had so much unaddressed trauma. But he heard me speak of it in a group and he said to me, "Sis, can I have a yarn with you?" I said, "Yes, no worries, brother." 

And I said, "Where do you want to go? Do you want to go outside? We will sit on the grass outside and we will talk."  And that exactly is what happened. And, you know, it was in – I'm pretty smart in terms of a prison system, know what I can do and what I can't do, and we just sat. We listened to each other, we talked, and for the very first time, he spoke about his child sexual abuse which has been haunting him since he was 5, 6 years of age. 

In terms of the space, as mentioned earlier parts, there was a period of about four, five weeks where we didn't have a space. They were trying to make room for us going into the contract. But when we did get that space, we had one small room. And Gerry, myself, young Connie who also worked with us and also the psychologist who came in once every week, we were very popular, so sometimes there would be two, three, four, people trying to get our help in the room. 

And then there would be three, four five, six in the hallways on the outside. So, in terms of adequate spacing, we did have a room, but it wasn't fit for the work that we were carrying out. 

MS McMAHON: I see. Now, I would like to walk through some of the elements of the services that you provided. I'm just conscious of time so I won't – we won't be able to go into great deal for each element, but I want to draw some particular information from each element. And I – Commissioners, paragraph 37 of Ms Krakouer's statement really does detail the services. 

Now, first is intense support. Now, I just want to read the case study that I have – well, before I do, I might just ask you if you could just briefly indicate what you mean by the words "intense support". Because they are deliberate words that you use in the context of your service. 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. So, intense support is going over and above what you would do for your child, what any other individual would do for their child or their husband or their uncle or their nephew and working through their needs, catering for each and every single need to take the person to a better place, and that's where the validation comes through, unpacking those issues in such a way where there is that validation so you can disable, and that's where the assertive outreach comes into play. But in terms of the intense psycho social support, advocating, giving hope, practical support. You know, the radical transformation and the radical empathy, very much paramount to overturning the key failures with the prison system right now. 

MS McMAHON: And when you talk about radical empathy, just so others can understand the terms that you use, I understand that to be a fast approach. Is that what – is that a part of the element of radical empathy? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. We work with so many people and we do work unfunded, so you have to show empathy and you need to show people that you care, and that's the way people open up to you and be way more receptive. A group that do it really well over here in Western Australia is Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation. My nephew is in the room right now. But it's about giving people hope and practical hope, so I will give you that by way of just a short example. 

A young – a young Aboriginal man, he spent at least 20 years in the prison system, and we had engaged with him in the prison system. My colleague Gerry, he was approached by resettlement, said, he's getting out in two days, we haven't got accommodation. Gerry found accommodation for this young man. But he also came out of prison without any birth certificate. He had no photo ID except a little piece of paper that Department of Corrective Services give you upon release. So, it was very limited. 

So, I picked him up from the prison system, and I had taken him into Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation. And straightaway, they put him on a program. In that program, nine different certificates we got within a two-week period. All the while, we – I took him down to his accommodation, and prior to doing that, making sure that he had a bank account so his Centrelink payments could go into it. 

When a person is in the prison system, after two or three years their bank accounts close. So, that's really problematic, people coming out of the prison system without that. So, being able to provide all these practical measures and now this man who ordinarily would have returned, in his words, back to prison, is now stable with his mum and he's working. 

MS McMAHON: Now, have you just given an example of one of the elements of the support you give, which is safety plans and post release planning. So, thank you for doing that. Now, just in terms of the intense support, I just wanted to read that example that we referred to much earlier in your evidence. And this is on page 7 of Ms Krakouer's statement: 

"For example, on our first day of work at Acacia we were approached by the superintendent to go to visit a man who had seriously self-harmed. When we went to see him, he was sullen, sad and depressed. I sat down on the floor with him and just said, "What's going on with you, darling? What can I do?" He just started crying, and he told us about what he was going through. 

He immediately had a strong resonance with Gerry, and I because we knew his family on the outside. He and others in the prison viewed us as community people who cared, not prison people. Prison officers didn't have a relationship with him, and he didn't trust them. Gerry and I would go back and see him every day. We connected him to legal assistance, and he has stayed in contact with us since he got out of prison."

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: That obviously draws a lot of the elements of the sort of support you're providing as set out in your statement. 

MS KRAKOUER: Yes. That's correct. So, in terms of that assertive outreach, so whilst some services, they only operate – you know, I'm not referring to all – but some between 8 and 5. That wasn't our lot. That wasn't our mandate. We operated above that. So, I will give you one more quick example. A man had problems with contacting his woman, his missus. And he said, "I don't know where she is. I don't know what she's doing." And it was causing him a lot of anxiety and stress. So, I said, "Brother, what's her address? I know who she is. I will go around and see her." 

So I did go and see her – and this was after hours. I went and caught up with her, and I said, "Hey, your man is stressing out in the prison there. And he wants your number, if that's alright."  And it was no issue. She gave me the number and I gave it to him when I went back there. But I also took this woman, after making a visit, to Acacia Prison. And that brought calm to him and his life. It's just about treating people with human kindness and love and dignity and that is missing from the prison system, as I previously mentioned. 

MS McMAHON: And – 

CHAIR: Sorry, can I just – sorry, Ms McMahon, I just would like to ask Ms Krakouer a question here. The example that Ms McMahon read out that occurred on your first day of work at Acacia, was that your first day of work after you had been contracted by SERCO to work at the centre? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

CHAIR: You say in paragraph 23 that the contract was initially for six months but was extended by two months. Was there any reason that SERCO didn't extend it beyond eight months altogether? 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. So, there was budgetary issues, and I think there may have been some internal politics that was happening as a result. Commissioner, myself and my colleague, we are behind a class action against Banksia Hill right now, and we have collected 600 testimonies right across the state of Western Australia about the harm that has been perpetrated, and we are in contact with many families. 

So, because we didn't want to see any more humans suffering, and pain, we have teamed up with Levitt Robinson Solicitors in Victoria, in Sydney, and we are hearing the details of every single abuses and atrocities that have been inflicted upon younger and older. Banksia Hill has – was established in 1997. There has been 10,000 people that have gone through there. And right now, in Western Australia, we have one in 12 Aboriginal men that are in prison today. So, we needed to abate the crisis that is hurting and killing people. 

CHAIR: Yes. So, you think that those actions on your part have something to do with the contract not being renewed? 

MS KRAKOUER: I'm sorry, Commissioner, I didn't hear that. 

CHAIR: You – in your – to your understanding, it's your activities relating to Banksia Hill that may have had something to do with SERCO not renewing your contract for Acacia? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

CHAIR: Alright, okay. That's what I wanted to understand. Thank you. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you, Chair. Ms Krakouer, just in terms of the example that I just read out of the person that you assisted on your first day and other prisoners that you assisted, were any of them – did they need to be strip searched before you had contact with them?

MS KRAKOUER: No, no, they didn't because we were working in the prison. No one had to be strip searched. Whereas if you come in from a visit from the outside, it is known that the prisoners coming to the visits, they do need to be strip searched. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. And just at – just that example you gave about going to see the partner of the prisoner who was really anxious about non contact, did that have a de-escalation impact upon him in terms of his mental health or what he was going through? 

MS KRAKOUER: Absolutely. It did. I mean, it brought peace and calm to his life and he was able to communicate with people outside of the prison system that he loved and cared for. And that put a lot of – it de escalated many situations, and he still has a strong relationship with us today, and even though he's not released – he's still in the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison – I hear from him on a regular basis, and he calls me his best friend. And that's okay. 

MS McMAHON: Okay. And can I just ask, some of that other work that you are doing where you are going into the community, dealing with issues that's making prisoners anxious – would you like some water? 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. 

MS McMAHON: Family members and other issues that are making prisoners anxious, are you finding that that is important to de escalating and settling prisoners? 

MS KRAKOUER: Absolutely. It is very important. So, a lot of families on the outside do not know what's happening with their loved ones on the inside. There is a lack of – sorry, let me slow down. There is a lack of communication. After the riots which happened in Acacia Prison, several months after we left, which had men on the roofs and, you know, it was just chaotic – it was just catastrophic. A lot of families did not know what was happening to their loved one, and it caused a lot of tension and hurt.

And there is a fail over here, because in Western Australia, we have Department of Corrective Services, of course, and then they have the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme. And the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme was a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. They do not have enough Aboriginal people working in the prison system to help and support. So, that's a massive fail, and there is lack of communication, and the families do get stressed out not knowing if someone has self harmed, if someone had been hurt. 

There were cases in that particular situation where I was getting contacted around the clock, myself, my colleague Gerry Georgatos and my nephew Mervyn Eades, who runs Ngalla Maya, "What's going on with our loved one. We haven't heard nothing. We don't know if they are getting flogged. We don't know if they are getting bashed. We heard they are sleeping on the floor."

And this is one particular unit at Acacia Prison several months after we left, sleeping on the floors on mattresses the allegations were, rubbish. Some of the Aboriginal people working at the Acacia Prison at that point weren't able to go and have access to these men and bring this calm and communicate back into the – into the family. That's why there's a lot of hate and animosity towards this system that breaks and deprives of our liberty and freedom and our ways to get better. 

MS McMAHON: Now, I want to – I'm just conscious of the time. We have a little over 15 minutes or so. And I want to talk about Banksia as well, but before we conclude on Acacia could you – I know it hasn't been evaluated the work that you have done that, independently, but can you speak to some of the outcomes as you see them as a result of your work? 

MS KRAKOUER: Sure. Thank you. When we first walked into Acacia Prison, I spoke of a situation with a young man. But within the first quarter – and bearing in mind that there had been three Aboriginal people that had passed away within a one year period and one of the matters is in – in – well, basically in a coroner's inquest right now with another couple of days in December – but we had taken self harms from 33 to three within one quarter. Within one quarter. 

We have done something so remark, and the feedback from the people in the prison system and their families was incredible. Incredible because we had applied such a humane process and approach to dealing with people at risk and people in the system. So, you know, we were very fortunate because of the extensive experiential that we have and the experience that we have, but it was – it was an amazing experience. 

But in terms of the outcomes, yes, the prison system, the people that we come into contact with, with providing that practical support, referring to the Aboriginal Legal Service, referring to this one, that one, that could be done really quite quickly. We saw more calm. We had seen 33 self harms calm down to three within a very short period of time. 

We saw a lot of people who had previously had issues with the Department of Child Protection, which I will talk to shortly, have more access to their children. We saw more people leave the prison system because we had supported parole plans by way of doing support letters and, in fact, writing parole plans for some of these gentlemen in the prison. They were getting out and not returning, and those ones were going into full time employment. 

The Ngalla Maya program I referred to, over 400 people from the prison system have gone there. Many are employed today and, in fact, 18 are now buying their homes. So, this is a radical transformation and a radical empathy is very much missing from the prison system. Keep all that with the assertive outreach which is 24/7 so you can help and respond. The – I mean, it was just an incredible and I can tell you this right now, that was my favourite job ever, by working and caring about these fellas and helping them. 

The other thing too, just going up there Christmas Day, one of the fellas he said to me, "What are you doing up here? Shouldn't you be with your family?" My response was, "Yes, I am with my family, you buggers are in here." So, it's about loving and caring about others. But we had enormous outcomes, and you know, outcomes I have never seen before. And I was very fortunate because I was working with, of course, Gerry. And Gerry, to me – and he's an expert prison reformist and that's why we had the results there at the same time at Banksia Hill with very vulnerable cohorts. 

MS McMAHON: An I want to move on to Banksia but I just have one more question about Acacia. Did you think that your presence, you and Gerry and Connie and the psychologist's presence within the jail on a full time basis, either did or had capacity to impact the culture of the prison staff at Acacia? 

MS KRAKOUER: Absolutely, it did. Because people saw what we did worked. People saw the respect that we gave to many. People saw that we were involved in coronial inquests on the outside, and the calm that we bought to the people on the inside. So, the respect was there. Everything is all about education. People need to be educated in terms of ways of working with Aboriginal people. And, in fact, non Indigenous people too. Don't be judgmental unless you have walked through their shoes, because you don't know their stories better than them. So, yes, we had remarkable outcome. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. Now, in February 2020, you and Gerry were granted a one off funding to provide support and – for an eight week period to girls at Banksia Hill. And I understand that the majority, from your evidence, of girls that you supported were living with disability, including FASD and cognitive impairment. 


MS McMAHON: And many or perhaps most – you can tell us – experienced a trauma background as well? 

MS KRAKOUER: Sure. So, you know, a lot of the young girls that we worked with – and bear in mind that there were 18 young girls when we first walked in, and eight weeks later when we left, there was seven and no one had returned and that was because of the approach that I talked about.

MS McMAHON: Can I just interrupt you. I didn't catch that number, and I think it's a significant one.


MS McMAHON: You said there were 18 girls when you – 

MS KRAKOUER: Sorry, just getting over a cough. So, there were 18 young girls at the time that we entered Yeeda. So, Yeeda was where the young girls were accommodated. When we left eight weeks later, there was seven young girls. And there was intense supports and a wraparound that was provided to these young people to ensure that the safety nets were there, because a lot of the young girls were going back into very, very weak safety nets, and even completing bail was a massive challenge and that's why we have a lot of people returning to the prison system because they can't comply with some of the bail conditions which were imposed. 

MS McMAHON: Can I please just list some of the elements. If you could confirm what you were doing and then perhaps give some more detail afterwards. 


MS McMAHON: So the support that you were providing was you were applying similar elements that you did at Acacia? Is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: Exactly the same approach. 

MS McMAHON: And so the supports you were providing were individual and tailored to the person, to the young girl? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: You were writing culturally appropriate background reports for girls for bail and parole. Is that right? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. 

MS McMAHON: You were connecting the girls to housing and support – other supports for release? 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct 

MS McMAHON: You were actively involved in developing safety plans? 

MS KRAKOUER: Individually, yes. 

MS McMAHON: And you were assisting with release applications for these girls. Is there any other detail that you would like to tell the Commissioners about how you were supporting the girls? 

MS KRAKOUER: When we were first – it was a very rushed decision to get us in there. And that was when – when coronavirus was heightened over here in Western Australia. The majority of services, if not all, had pulled out of Banksia Hill because of the coronavirus, and there was the rolling lockdowns. And we finally got our guernsey to go in, not to babysit, but to care and basically show the way forward in terms of restorative justice and rehabilitation. 

The young girls that we had spoken to, we – you know, it was put on us, "Do you want an office?"  No, we don't want an office. We want to work amongst where the young girls are so we can help and support them and we have their presence. Each and every single young girl we had that conversation with, we had strong conversations, and, you know, we would have laughter and kindness and there was some girls in there with some tragic circumstances where there was child sexual abuse, the disabilities in terms of ADHD and the FASD and, you know, the autism and so forth. Some of these young children, they were suggested to that.

But in terms of detailing it, some of the – it is probably a narrative in Western Australia, so we took that into account when working with the young girls and we gave that hope and we gave hope in practical means, and that meant strengthening their safety plans for when they were going back into community. We must also remember that with – with Banksia Hill, the 40 per cent of young children in Banksia Hill are in the care of the Department of Child Protection, who are failing our people no end. 

So, 70 – between 64 to 70 per cent of people that go from Banksia Hill end up in adult castle estate, and that's why we need to abate the current crisis and the situation. But what we did different is that we listened, we validated, we disabled, and we set about positive pathways for these young ones, and we did it with the most kindness and loving approach. 

Gerry and I, we have got 11 degrees between us, so you so we know how to switch our talk. We have been experienced with dealing with many cohorts right across the country. In terms of Aboriginal people, we are very diverse. So, knowing what you can say, what you can't say, the cultural cues, but at every single stage of engagement, that love and that respect, and we had many young girls cry on us because, for the first time, they talked about their child sexual abuse. For the first time they talked about the atrocities and the hurt that was being perpetrated in their homes that they were returning to. 

Some spoke of the hurt and the harm they were receiving in care homes, group homes where Department of Child Protection was placing these kids and the kids would run away because they didn't want to be there because of the environment. So, this is my experience, and I must stand up and speak my truth for the thousands of people that I represent. Not only across the country, but in Western Australia, our brothers and sisters need immediate intervention in terms of how Departments of Communities, Department of Corrective Services, Department of Justice, and in fact the McGowan government continue to on oppress our people. We examine the oppressor all the time or the oppressed, but what about the oppressor that's perpetrating this harm and violence against our people? It can't continue. 

MS McMAHON: Ms Krakouer, I just have a couple of general questions before I just want to ask you some recommendations, and then the Commissioners will ask you some questions. Banksia Hill is the only detention centre in WA. In your view, from a cultural perspective in particular, if you start from the assumption that detention centres will continue to exist, where should they be located? Is it acceptable, I suppose, for there to be one and to be located? 

MS KRAKOUER: If there are going to be detention centres, it can't just be down here in the Noongar country. We have children coming from remote locations, from the Kimberley, some children coming from remote locations in the Pilbara. Children coming in remote locations in the Eastern Goldfields. So, it can't just be down here in Western Australia because that's a fail. Because some of these children, they are speaking different languages from other regions of Western Australia, and they don't have the adequate resourcing that is happening right in that place right now. 

So – but in terms of Casuarina Prison where 20 – where 18 young people were sent to on the 20th of July, 12 of those young children had disabilities. They were diagnosed with the FASD and so forth. And we have had engagement with those children. We have had engagement with these families, and they’re crying for help. But in terms of those children, and the strong conversations we have had, six young people, six young people, have seriously self harmed. Three of those young people have had to be resuscitated. 

The Department is not transparent with the information which needs to be in real time data. It can't just be about waiting for a year or two years when the Inspector for Custodial Services finally releases his report. Because after then, the fact is over and done with. We need real time data, and that would be one of the strongest recommendations that I make that is published on the Department of Corrective Services website as to the occurrences in terms of self harm, the disabilities. It needs to be present on their website so there is that accountability, that transparency in real time data. 

That is something that is being denied to us on the outside and also denied to the families. So, I take fire and I take aim at the way that there are problems in this system and these systems, and these problems have been known for years. Known for years. And what we are going to see is some of the evidence which – which is going to dress it up in terms of some statistical data. But we see it. We hear it. We breathe it. We feel it with the families and the children. 

One young child who was released from Banksia unit 18, he said to me this morning – he was released two days ago and his matter was heard by the Honourable Quayle J, and I was in the courtroom that day. He said he was locked down for 22 hours a day. And I said to him, "Darling, what about the education?"  And he said, "I went to school after three or four weeks because there was nothing available." And I said, "Well, what did that look like?"  And he said to me, "Sometimes, like, I went for 30 minutes. Sometimes a day. Sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes an hour." I said, "How often was that?"  "Oh, like two times a week." Like, seriously. Our children are being failed. And I cannot accept the failures, particularly when it's going to lead and cause harm to our people and so much so death. 

A young boy, he was hanging – hanging at unit 18. That never, ever happens. This young boy has got so much trauma. His mum and dad were killed in a car accident in 2015. His matter went to the coronial inquest in 2020. So, I have to question, those that have disabilities, where is the occupational therapists? There is none. There is none out at unit 18. We have Banksia Hill. There are already staffing problems at one location. Now we have two locations. Two locations. So, the rolling lockdowns, which the Department and others will say, well, this is problematic, well, when are they going to fix it? Who are the adults here?


MS KRAKOUER: It's not the children. Fix these problems so it doesn't become an issue the next year, the year after, the year after, so these children can get the correct supports that they need. And even the move from Banksia Hill to Casuarina Prison, some of the children, they had to give their permission to go across in the first instance. Some of these children have cognitive disabilities and impairments, and they are making decisions to go across to a place where there is lack of support, lack of support with people in terms of disabilities. 

But the other thing, if a child – and this has been one of the criticisms – if a child has to go to a confidential room, which I've heard that there is none, there needs to be three or four staff that take that child from one place to the next. So, the staffing lockdowns, the department needs to grow up and they need to ensure that this does not become a problem so all people in the prison system are given the opportunity to have that proper restorative justice, that proper rehabilitation, and bring that love into a prison system. Don't be so sensitive when we have programs that do work, but because of Banksia Hill class action, thanks to Levitt Robinson and Gerry Georgatos, that we aren't favourable. We are not the bad guys here. We are sticking up for a vulnerable  

CHAIR: I think we might just pause there, if you don't mind. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. 

CHAIR: I will just ask Ms McMahon if she has got further questions to put to you. That can be done then. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you, I just have a question and then I would like to hand over to the Chair. And that is, with regards to the development of Banksia Hill's operating philosophy, I just want to know whether or not any First Nations organisations that you have been involved in or have connections to, whether or not they have been consulted with regards to that philosophy. If you could just keep that –   

MS KRAKOUER: No, they haven't. I have mixed with a lot of families of young ones in the prison system and older, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It's a select few. 

MS McMAHON: Thank you. Chair, if the Commissioners have any questions? 

CHAIR: Alright. Thank you very much. I will ask my colleagues, if it's alright with you Ms Krakouer, to – if they have any questions and I will start with Commissioner Mason. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Ms Krakouer, thank you very much for your evidence today. One of the recommendations in your statement is about Aboriginal Medical Services having access to support people in custody. Just generally, what isn't happening now in terms of that access by the AMSs to – to support people in custody? 

MS KRAKOUER: Section 19 of the Health Insurance Act, the Commonwealth legislation, that needs to be amended. It needs to be amended so the Aboriginal Medical Services right across this country can go in and provide a safe, appropriate level of healthcare. And unless that amendment is done then we won't see the Aboriginal Medical Services work in the prison and claim their Medicare rebate. That is a massive challenge and that will actually lead to less people dying in the prison system. That needs to be changed. 

COMMISSIONER MASON: Thank you very much, and thank you again. 

MS KRAKOUER: You're welcome. 

CHAIR: Thank you. I will ask Commissioner McEwin if he has any questions for you. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you. I have one question, Ms Krakouer. You talked about the – how you began the program with Acacia, Banksia Hill. You talked about relationships and that you were known to people in the prisons, you knew their families and you had connections with management. And we have heard in Royal Commission, this hearing, that there is often a disconnect between frontline staff and the leadership management and that's stopping the inmate from getting appropriate support. Did it sound like you had already personal connections that you were able to work with management to get the work done or was there something else? 

MS KRAKOUER: No, you are absolutely correct. We did have those relationships and our work is known in community. You know, there were no barriers in that sense to providing a support service to – to some of the most vulnerable men and children. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: So it's fair to say then that that should be the case for anything. What we are trying to do in this space in terms of getting these direct services to the inmates through cultural connection, through knowledge, through the relationships you have built with government and so forth. 

MS KRAKOUER: That's correct. It's basically a no brainer in terms of providing that support and love to people that are very vulnerable. You know, there's people in the outside in the community that can do that type of work but we don't get the opportunity. Strong advocates like Hannah McGlade, strong advocates like Mervyn Eades, but because we challenge the governments on issues which causes harm we are seen as the bad guys and we are not the bad people. We are the good people trying to make a difference and bring about that systemic repair which is much needed to a terrible system hurting and killing people. 

COMMISSIONER McEWIN: Thank you. And thank you very much for your evidence. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. Appreciate your time. 

CHAIR: Ms Krakouer, I just wanted to ask a question about paragraph 31 of your statement where you refer to your colleague and yourself conducting outreach to prisoners inside Acacia and you refer to the Lima block which housed approximately 200 prisoners with disabilities and mental health issues. Can you just give us an indication of how Lima block is organised. How does a prisoner get into that block? What are the conditions? What are the restraints, if any? I don't necessarily mean physical restraints, what does this block look like? 

MS KRAKOUER: So in Acacia Prison you have, you know, your blocks. There's a K block which is Kilo, then you have your M block which is Mike, and Lima block we saw a lot of people with mental health impairments. They – there was a lot of medication that was provided to these – to these fellas. But, you know, there was cognitive impairment, the FASD, the ADHD, the dyslexia. They were some of the elements and disabilities that some of the men did have. So, we spent a substantial amount of time in Lima block just helping and supporting. But, you know, there was only a few of us so we tried other methods to help and support. That is one of the fails in terms of disabilities and the number of people going in there and providing the service –

CHAIR: I understand, but I was just interested in the people who were actually in Lima block. Are they selected to go in there because they have got disabilities of a particular kind? Is that how it works? 

MS KRAKOUER: I believe so, yes. And the other – 

CHAIR: Go on. 

MS KRAKOUER: – the other unit in Acacia Prison where is kind of like a mini hospital so to speak, and there is meant to be a much more higher level of care, is Foxtrot. Foxtrot is where a member of our community took his life, Jomen Blanket, rest in peace, which is happening before the Coroner's courts. But those people in people in Lima block they were selected, I believe, but it did have a cohort of people with specifically those types of disabilities. And they needed more support. 

CHAIR: Thank you. Look, I would like to thank you very much for the evidence you have given and for the statement that you have provided to us. You have given us some insights into how a different approach to people in prison and particularly First Nations people with disabilities might be assisted, and we are very grateful to you for the suggestions you have made and for the description you have provided of these services that you have introduced into the – these institutions. We very much appreciate the assistance you have given us and the ideas that you have presented to us. So, thank you very much. 

MS KRAKOUER: Thank you. I mean, the distortion of the truth by some of the others, some of the organisations, department, it needs to stop because it is causing harm and it is killing people.


CHAIR: Thank you. Ms McMahon, do we take a break now?

MS McMAHON: Yes, please. If we could have the lunch break now, Chair. However, would it be possible to come back at 1 o'clock Perth time rather than 10 past, because of time constraints of one of our witnesses in the last panel. 

CHAIR: Yes. Alright. Well, it's now 10 past 12 Perth time, we will resume at 1 pm Perth time, which will be 3 pm Sydney time. 



CHAIR:  Yes, Mr Griffin.

MR GRIFFIN:   Thank you, Chair.  Commissioners, the next witnesses are three experts who will provide insight into some of the themes and issues canvassed in this Public hearing from a human rights perspective.  The first witness who is appearing by AVL is Kriti Sharma.  She has made a statement dated 9 September 2022.  Ms Sharma is a Senior Disability Rights Researcher with Human Rights Watch, and she is giving evidence via AVL from Mauritius.

CHAIR:  I wish I was in Mauritius.   Carry on, Mr Griffin.

MR GRIFFIN:   The second witness is Deborah Kilroy OAM.  She has provided a statement dated 12 September 2022.  She is the CEO of Sisters Inside, and the Principal of Kilroy and Callaghan Lawyers.  And the third witness is George Newhouse, who has provided a statement dated 9 September 2022.  Mr Newhouse is the Adjunct Professor of Law at both Macquarie University and the University of Technology in Sydney and the Director and CEO of the National Justice Project.  Chair, I understand each witness will take an affirmation.

CHAIR:  Yes, thank you very much.  Thank you, Ms Sharma, Mr Newhouse and Ms Kilroy, for coming to the Royal Commission   in Ms Sharma's case, not quite coming to the Royal Commission   in order to give evidence, but, in any event, giving evidence.  We are very grateful to each of you for the statements that you have provided and which we have   each of us has read with great interest.  Just to ensure that you know where we all are, in the Perth hearing room, we have Commissioner Mason and Commissioner McEwin.  Of course, Mr Griffin is also in the Perth hearing room.  And I am joining the hearing remotely from Sydney.  If you would each be good enough to follow the instructions of Commissioner Mason's associate, she will administer the affirmation to you.

ASSOCIATE:  I will read you the affirmation.  At the end, please all say yes, or "I do."  Do you solemnly and sincerely decline and affirm that the evidence which you shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?







CHAIR:  Thank you very much. I will now ask Mr Griffin to ask you some questions.


MR GRIFFIN:   Commissioners, can I indicate that, given the backgrounds and expertise of each of these witnesses, I can safely say they could speak for many hours on many of the issues we have been discussing.  Unfortunately, we have only got a very short period of time this afternoon. In their statements, there are frequently detailed information and pertinent brief case studies to illustrate various points, which I commend to each of you, Commissioners.

For the purposes of this session, I have asked witnesses to indicate particular issues arising from their statements that they believe would benefit with further elaboration with oral evidence and I thank them for their cooperation in that extent.  The approach that I intend to take is I will nominate usually a particular panellist to give the first response to any question I ask, and then give the other panellists the opportunity to agree, disagree or comment on the primary answer.

But can I begin by asking what I might refer to as a universal question.  Members of the panel, this Royal Commission has heard this week and has received in written documents an observation particularly from the Inspector of Custodial Services in relation to the Banksia Hill Detention Centre that the centre lacks an overriding philosophy.  Can I ask each of you in turn to give the benefit of your experience to the Commissioners.  If one was creating a juvenile detention centre and, to a certain extent, a prison, what would the overriding philosophy look like?  What would be its characteristics, based on your experience?  And can I start with you, Ms Sharma?

MS SHARMA:  Sure.  At the moment, the overriding philosophy in corrections centres is the approach is the first priority is the security and good order of the prison.  And what we would want in a prison that is rights-respecting and provides humane conditions of confinement is a philosophy that is really focused around the individual and the characteristics and the support needs of each individual once they enter prison, focused from a disability perspective, particularly around reasonable accommodations and supporting their needs.

While it's a prison sentence, it is still the duty and obligation of the state to provide humane conditions, and this would include support services.  This would include, you know, providing access to programs, mental health care, really grounded in a recovery-based approach and person-centred approach based on human rights. I would say those are the three, you know, key aspects of what a philosophy of a prison should be, focused, obviously, on rehabilitation instead of just a punitive approach.  That would be, I would say, the main philosophy.

MR GRIFFIN:   Are there any international protocols or guidelines which would inform such an approach?

MS SHARMA:  To my knowledge, there isn't an internationally agreed philosophy on corrections, other than the fact that there should be preventative measures. So, people only come to prison as a last resort.  They are provided access to, you know, appeals processes, due process and access to justice before they reach prison.  And, of course, in terms of prison, it's really   should be focused on rehabilitation so that people, once their sentence is finished, they can fully integrate in society again.  Unfortunately, in practice, there is no country in the world that I know of where this is being done successfully, particularly from the perspective of prisoners with disabilities. 

MR GRIFFIN:   And in your particular role at Human Rights Watch, you look at many issues from a global perspective?

MS SHARMA:  That's right. 

MR GRIFFIN:  Ms Kilroy, can I ask the initial question to you as well?

MS KILROY:  Yes, thank you.  I think fundamentally, first and foremost, we have to work to decarcerate and abolish children's prisons as a matter of urgency, and that's happening in Hawaii right now.  In regards to a philosophy, I would suggest that it needs to be a values-based driven philosophy where human rights principles and conventions, human rights conventions, need to be articulated within that philosophy so that decarceration is clear working towards the final abolition of youth prisons.

MR GRIFFIN:   You mentioned Hawaii.  You have recently been in Hawaii.  Did you pick up any information relevant to this question in your time there?

MS KILROY:  Yes. So, in Hawaii, what's happened in last decade, the administrator of the Hawaiian Youth Correctional Facility and judges and community and the University of Hawaii and the Vance Institute of the USA have worked together to actually decarcerate where no children will be in a youth prison again. So, presently, there's no girls there and there hasn't been for a number of months, and there is 16 boys.

The prison has now been renamed and all the   the buildings on the prison property have been recommissioned and repurposed for Indigenous organisations to work and support the children. So, whether it's transitional housing, mental health, drug and alcohol, employment, training, and there is also organic farm, five acres of organic farm where the children work. 

So, it's very much driven by the Indigenous Hawaiian people's principles of how to work with their children long term. So, it's not just about someone coming into a prison having a program as a quick fix and then being released back into the same situation. It's about that ongoing support prior, where legislation   certain offences have been decriminalised and also, at the back end, for post-release support so that they are secured in accommodation, get employment and get on with their lives. 

MR GRIFFIN:   Can I pause there.  I should have said to each of you as panellists that these proceedings are utilising the services of Auslan interpreters so that the wider public can follow.  Can I ask each of you to try and slow down in your answers.  As the Chair will tell you, it's not a personal criticism.  Most witnesses are prone to speaking very quickly. So, if you could each keep that in mind, I will be popular with the Auslan interpreters.

MS KILROY:  I apologise.  I speak fast.

MR GRIFFIN:  Mr Newhouse  

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  Mr Griffin, sorry, can I just ask, decarceration, that's a very broad concept, and, as you know,  this is the Disability Royal Commission. What are one or two specific things that you suggest to us to   in relation to disability in terms of decarceration?

MS KILROY:  So, Sisters Inside is very much a values-based driven, as an Aboriginal organisation, so everything we do   I'm speaking fast again, aren't I.  Sorry.  Is based on decarceration. So, what that actually means is we will work with, for example, the children of women who are in prison or the girls that are in the youth prison so that they   if they have been criminalised, that we can keep them out of prison.  So we work, for example, in the watch house with all the girls and to support them for bail applications and then, when they have bail approved, that they comply with those conditions.

And when it's time for them to go to court and if they plead guilty to that offence, that we provide documentation or professional reports to the court for their sentencing so that they don't end up back inside the youth prison. So, it's about working to   at all stages of the spectrum of criminalization to (1) children not be criminalised.  If they are, how do we get them out in the first instance and keep them out.  If they are in prison, how do we get them out.  Like, so that could be a bail application in the Children's Court of Queensland if they have been refused in the Children's Court.  And then when they are released, to ensure that they have accommodation and all the other services that are required for them to continue on in the community.

MR GRIFFIN:   Thank you.  Mr Newhouse.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Look, colonisation of this land began as a convict settlement, and when you look at Banksia Hill, not much has changed in philosophy since then.  And when you look at the current philosophy, it's brutal, it's cruel and it's just punishment.  There is   I have had a lot of experience with children in Banksia Hill and in prisons in Western Australia, and there's nothing but punishment provided to any of those individuals.

But when you look at philosophy, I would like to pick up Ms Kilroy's points, and I accept them and adopt them all.  But I think some of the principles should be   and I think I'm reframing some of what she is saying, that the institution should be focused on the detainee or the prisoner and improving their health, their educational outcomes and preparing them for life outside of the youth detention centre or prison.  That's not what's happening at the moment.

And the centre should be transparent.  Bringing in independent people will shine a light on the awful deeds that are being done in prisons.  These are total institutions.  If you look at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, the same principles applied to children who were abused in the Catholic Church or orphanages or institutions.  Those organisations protect themselves, and it's exactly the same in prisons.  They run for themselves.

But the principle of philosophy should also be culturally safe, allow independent organisations to come in and provide services, not simply contractors of the departments who have to toady to them.  They should be respectful of difference and have, as a measurable goal, improvement in the lives of their charges, the people that are within the prisons.  At the moment, we don't measure any of that.  We don't measure the improvement in the lives of those who remain within the prison or youth detention system.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Sharma, do I take it from reading your statement that you would say people with disability should, whenever possible, be diverted from a custodial setting?

MS SHARMA:  Absolutely, but I would add a caveat to that.  It depends on where they are being diverted to.  And I think that's really important, when looking at prisoners with disabilities.  We cannot have a separate discriminatory or segregated system when it comes to prisoners with disabilities.  We cannot have, you know, people with   prisoners with psychosocial disabilities, mental health conditions, or cognitive disabilities being diverted to other types of institutions like forensic mental health hospitals, you know, or institutions where they do not have the same safeguards in place that a prison has.  They do not have the same appeals process.  They do not have the same, you know, right to lawyers.  They don't have the same, you know, protection in terms of abuses.  And that's something that I think is key when looking at diversion.

Yes, diversion is critical and essential, and ideally, you know, we should not have this number, this higher percentage of prisoners with disabilities in prison, but they should not be diverted to a discriminatory system where they may face additional and sometimes worse abuse. Including forced treatment; you know, seclusion; restraints, chemical as well as physical; and so I think that is really key when looking at prisoners with disabilities.

CHAIR:  Can I ask a question that might take us from Hawaii, as much as I have great respect for Hawaii. Is there anywhere in Australia that is actually doing some of the things that each of you advocate? Where is the best model in this country within our legal, social, political structure that gives us a lead as to what we might do in order to address the problems that each of you has articulated very clearly, but, as we all know, have been articulated for at least the last three decades?  So everything that you have said   and this is in no way a criticism   are things that have been said for decades.  Our problem is what are we going to do about it and how are we going to get to where we want to go?  Where is the best place in this country, if there is one, to start?

MR NEWHOUSE:  Can I possibly answer that, Commissioners?

CHAIR:  Please.

MR NEWHOUSE:  I was involved in a death in custody of a 19-year-old boy in the Western Australian system, and his mother told me   and this is not related to his death   but he was looking forward to leaving the custodial system and joining a group called Yeehaa.  And I asked her about Yeehaa, and it was an organisation that ran   that taught young men and boys to be stockmen or   I don't know if there were women involved in this group, but this mother told me that her son was looking forward to going there.

They taught them these skills during the day, and at night they learnt   they did schooling.  And she told me that every one of the boys that graduated from that course became valuable citizens with families and jobs today.  And I said to her, "What happened to that institution?" Because I wanted to use it as a model.  She told me that the Western Australian government defunded it. So, I don't know of any other institution that's doing anything like that, but that seemed to be a success to me.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Kilroy, do you have any examples which address the Chair's question?

MS KILROY:  Yes, thank you.  I don't believe there is any good practice with regards to any prison, whether it's youth or adult, in this country.  There's many community organisations, NGOs that actually provide very successful support for criminalised and imprisoned and I will talk about I'm with and girls.  Particularly I can talk about two of Sisters Inside's programs, the Yangah Program.  That's where we support the girls.  It's a bail support program.

And in that Yangah Program they are all Aboriginal staff, and that drive that organisation   that program.  It's been highly successful.  They run culturally informed programs away on Country.  All girls that have participated in that program have not been recriminalised and not re entered the youth prison.  Further, there was a program that was funded   and it was a decade ago now.  It was called the Special Circumstances Court.  It was a diversion court.  A therapeutic court.

And it was funded where organisations would be participating within the court.  Over three years, 297 women were referred to Sisters Inside within that program, and we supported them.  And it was 6 per cent of women were actually remanded in custody because there weren't mental health beds.  It was a court that was set up for people who were homeless, who had mental health issues, forms of disability, intellectual disability. So, it was very much targeted.

However, when the new government got elected, it was defunded and it finished. So, many of those women who were then   continued their life ended up being recriminalised and back in prison and so we saw a great spike of women with disabilities being remanded and sentenced back into the adult system.

MR GRIFFIN:   Did both those programs operate in the same area of Australia?

MS KILROY:  In Queensland.

MR GRIFFIN:   And when do you say, in respect to the second program, it was defunded or discontinued, what was the reason given for it being discontinued?

MS KILROY:  I believe it was the new government that was elected was the LNP and it was their philosophy.  They had a hard-line law and order philosophy, and so they defunded the Special Circumstances Court and the Murri Court at that time.

MR GRIFFIN:   Now, in respect to the Special Circumstances Court, was any independent evaluation carried out about that program prior to it being discontinued?

MS KILROY:  Yes, it was. Our program was independently evaluated.

MR GRIFFIN:   By whom?

MS KILROY:  By a woman called Susie Critchley in South Australia. 

MR GRIFFIN:  And in broad terms, what were the results of that evaluation?

MS KILROY:  That it was highly successful.  That what people called recidivist rate was down because only six women were returned to prison over three years.  30 per cent of the women that engaged in that program were First Nations women, and none of them returned to prison in that three year period.  So, it's highly successful as well as financially successful because it cost less to fund an NGO with two workers than it was to imprison women because of their disability. 

MR GRIFFIN:  Is that evaluation publicly available?

MS KILROY:  Yes, it is.

MR GRIFFIN:   Can you in due course let the Commission know where we can locate that?

MS KILROY:  Yes.  I believe it's on our website, but I can send a copy.

MR GRIFFIN:   Thank you.  Ms Sharma, picking up on the Chair's question, have you got any knowledge from your research in Australia of appropriate alternatives which have actually been tried and, if so, what was the result?

MS SHARMA:  So part of our research was really a comparative analysis across states.  And there are pockets of good practice in different states in different prisons.  For example, if you look at New South Wales, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service is a good model to provide access to support from the moment the person is picked up by the police to the moment the person enters prison.  It's a very good model that other states can replicate.

If you look at, you know, monitoring or oversight, Western Australia Inspector of Custodial Services is a great model that other states can replicate because it's independent, because it is reporting directly to Parliament, because it has, you know, adequate resources, to a certain extent, it's a good model for states where the inspector is located within Corrective Services and does not have the same ability to independently monitor.

When we look at mental health services in prison, the community model is actually a great one.  The Australian Government's own National Standards for Mental Health Services published in 2010 have been picked up and applied in other countries around the world.  It's recommended even by the World Health Organization.  And yet those same standards are not being applied within prisons.  If you compare across states in terms of, you know, support and mental health services, Queensland, although it is not perfect and, you know, as Debbie has said, there are a number of issues with it, it is still better than Western Australia.  Because the services are delivered by the Department of Health.

What does that mean?  It means that when a service is delivered by the Department of Health, the client is the prisoner.  The client is no longer Corrective Services, and that means that the interests and the wellbeing of the prisoner come first before a responsibility to the prison.  That's critical.  It means that the Health Department delivering services will ensure that the approach is more therapeutic, there is continuity of care before and after prison, there is access to the prisoner's medical history and records, which means from day 1, they know how to support the prisoner.

The staff are better trained, there is doctor patient confidentiality, which today does not exist when Corrective Services delivers the same services, and I would say most importantly the quality of care is much closer and more comparable to community standards, although we know it can be much improved.  But I would say, you know, these are the different types of   you know, elements that can be picked up from different states to apply a model that is more recovery oriented, which is trauma informed, you know, and really centred around the individual rather than the interest of the Corrective Services and the prison.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Sharma, can I just follow up from what you have just said, Australia being a federation, in recent times when the national government has imposed some scheme, be it Pink Batts or school playground equipment, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work all over the country.  Usually at great expense.  When you did your research, you were looking at each state and territory and what they were doing.  Were they talking to each other about what they were doing?

MS SHARMA:  To a very limited extent.  I would say there is, you know   there is willingness.  I don't think there is   the willingness is not there, but the focus still remains the security. So, when the interest of the prison conflicts with the interest of the prisoner, security is going to take the front seat, and that means that, you know, the services are not always geared towards the person. So, there is information sharing.  It's not like there isn't any.  Even when we talk to the Inspectors of Custodial Services, you know, they are talking across states, but not to the extent that we would like. 

And I think the focus really needs to be on good practices. On a   from a perspective of prisoners with disabilities, this has not been done enough.  You know, there is no recording of models that have worked that are then shared across Corrective Services and different prisons. So, there is a lot of variation.  Even within the same state amongst prisons. 

MR GRIFFIN:  Does that mean different jurisdictions all in their own time try and reinvent the same wheel?

MS SHARMA:  It's quite different. I don't think they are, you know, reinventing the same wheel across states.  But, yes, and I think the context is very different.  You know, if you take a state like Western Australia, where you have, you know, a severe overrepresentation of prisoners who are Indigenous, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, if you compare just the prisons that are in the south of the state versus regional prisons towards the north, there are huge differences.  And so I don't think they are even sharing enough information between prisons in their own state and replicating those practices enough.  We also see a difference between private and government run prisons.

MR GRIFFIN:   I will come back to that in a moment.  There is just one question I want to ask Mr Newhouse, picking up on something Ms Kilroy said.  Ms Kilroy referred to the Special Circumstances Courts.  What's your view on the effect on First Nations people being sentenced, based on your knowledge of courts such as the Murri Court in Queensland and Walama List in New South Wales, as a means of diversion from custody?

MR NEWHOUSE:  Alright. Before I do, I would like to take Ms Sharma's point about the Department of Health a step further.  It's my experience in New South Wales, for example, that the Department of Health does get involved and there is a prison   sorry a hospital inside Long Bay prison.  But there are some conflicts there and the health workers become subservient to the guards for their safety and also because of the militaristic style structure of a prison.

But I strongly advocate for Aboriginal Medical Services to be allowed in, independent disability services to be allowed in, for every disabled prisoner to have an NDIS case worker, leaving aside funding, to advocate for that prisoner to provide appropriate services. So, I accept and adopt the suggestion of the Department of Health, but I would go even further.  The more independent organisations and community based organisations that are allowed into prisons to see the horrors of what's going on it creates transparency and openness and they can actually advocate, whereas state organisations often feel like they are vassals to the organisation.

MR GRIFFIN:   Can I pick up on that answer before I leave it.  Based on your experience around Australia, I understand that in some states, health services within prisons are provided by the Health Department or an offshoot.


MR GRIFFIN:  Whilst in other states, the health services are part of Corrections.


MR GRIFFIN:  In your experience does that make a difference on the ground?

MR NEWHOUSE:  Absolutely.

MR GRIFFIN:   In what way?

MR NEWHOUSE:  Western Australia is one   is one of the worst systems in the provision of healthcare in   in detention or in prisons.  That's because it's the Department of Corrective Services that actually provides that care, not an independent department.  The standard of healthcare is abysmal.  We see suicide after suicide.  I'm involved in six deaths in custody at the moment and, in my view, a lack of appropriate care is a major contributor to those deaths.

The death I mentioned earlier of the boy who was looking forward to going to Yeehaa, 19 year old boy with rheumatic heart disease, they lost his file.  He was waiting to see a cardiologist who could have saved his life, and he died waiting because the Department changed service providers and they lost his file.  This is what's going on in Western Australia.  It's scandalous.  And, in my view, Aboriginal Medical Services should go in immediately and provide those services to Aboriginal prisoners, and independent disability organisations should be providing services to all prisoners and detainees with a disability.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Kilroy on that topic?

MS KILROY:  Look, the issue is   so, in Queensland, Corrective Services used to have the health services, and then there was advocacy around for Queensland Health to take them over, which they have, and Queensland Health has been running a medical service for some time.  But that doesn't mean that it is working really well.  The issue is that they are working in a prison, and the good order and security of the prison is the priority. So, they have to fall behind that. 

So, if there's a lockdown, for example, then the medical staff can't go around the prison to give medication to the women, so they will miss out on their medication.  If there's not transport available to take a woman to a hospital to be treated, she won't be taken. So, she will miss her appointment, she will miss her operation, or her specialist appointment.  So there is a huge issue.  We have women's prisons over in Queensland where there is not even staff 24 hours of medical people. 

So, the main prison, the remand reception prison, the Women's Correctional Centre, does not have medical staff after about 9 pm and, again, early hours of the morning.  We know when the most distressing time for people, and people with disabilities, because they are kept in solitary confinement usually, is in the early hours of the morning when they are in the deepest depths of despair and loneliness.  And so if you are buzzing and buzzing   and we know that and being involved in coronial inquests where a woman is buzzing for assistance and nobody comes.  That's just the reality.

So, what we need to do is that we need to let the prison run the prison, and then every other service must be run by an external organisation. So, whether it's an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or a disability organisation, or whatever organisation it is, so that they have free access to move in and out of the prison, which will actually then ensure transparency and accountability.  There also must be independent advocates allocated, and I don't mean other women or other people in prison because they are allocated ad hoc now for people with disabilities and it's quite dangerous and distressing for those   

CHAIR:  Can you just   can we remind you just to slow down a little. 

MS KILROY:  Sorry, yes.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Kilroy, the general approach is that you speak at the rate   

CHAIR:  There won't be any sanctions imposed.  It just means we can actually keep a record of what you are saying.

MR GRIFFIN:   A good rule of thumb is to take the rate you speak at and knock 50 per cent of it, and that will then come across as a rate that can be dealt with by everyone listening.

MS KILROY:  Thank you. I don't know if    I will try.

CHAIR:  Mr Griffin is a model and an example to us all.

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  Ms Kilroy, can I ask   speaking of models, Chair, Ms Kilroy, what would that look like in practice?  What would a model for the coordination of services or   that Mr Newhouse and Ms Sharma have described?  What, in practice, one or two key elements?  Would it be the prison co ordinating it or more sort of a wider coordination mechanism?

MS KILROY:  I think it needs to be a wider coordination so that we open up   look, if the community wants prisons and we want to incarcerate people, then they must be held accountable and they must be transparent. So, we need more people involved.  What we've   what I've experienced, you know, of the last five decades of my life of being a child incarcerated in a youth prison, a woman incarcerated in an adult prison and now the CEO of Sisters Inside and a lawyer and watching the changes over those years, way back when in the 70s, those external organisations were coming into the prisons.  And so that was already happening.

But as the prison system, the industry got bigger and expanded, then more funding was allocated by the government to that Department of Prisons or Corrective Services, whatever you want to call it, and then external organisations, whether they were funded organisations or volunteer organisations, were actually pushed out.  And now what we have is renegotiation of contracts by Corrective Services, usually, about how you can access a prison, when you can access a prison and what you can and can't do. 

So, it's very much a surveillance carceral model where the NGO can't actually get on with their work.  There was a model in Scotland where the   okay   there was a model in a Scotland women's prison where the superintendent left the prison gates open of that old prison back in the 90s.  In a little village.  Which allowed the local bowling women to come in, which allowed you know, many volunteer organisations as well as NGOs to come in and out of the prison.  And the experience was there that no one ever ran away, escaped, if you like.  And if a woman did escape, it was because, usually, of what was happening to her children in the community and she was concerned. 

So, it's about working from a position of being humane and respectful to other human beings.  And like I said, if we want prisons   which I don't   we actually need to treat people with respect and dignity and as individuals, not a one size fit all. Because it doesn't work.  It fails us and we will continue to have another Royal Commission in another decade and we will be repeating ourselves again.

CHAIR:  We might give Mr Griffin a chance to ask a question now.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Can I just add to that.

MS SHARMA:  Because I   go ahead, George.

MR NEWHOUSE:  You go. Well, very quickly.  I acted for Cornelia Rau in 2005.  One of the recommendations of the Palmer Report, because she was incarcerated with a serious mental illness   and I'm not revealing anything that isn't in the report   the recommendation there was for an independent medical and health oversight committee separate from the Department of Immigration, and that was a very effective mechanism for holding them accountable.  And I strongly recommend that.

MR GRIFFIN:  Can I just pick up on a question I asked some time ago, Mr Newhouse, for your response.  I referred to the Special Circumstances Court Ms Kilroy referred to and I asked you whether, on your view, First Nations sentencing courts such as the Murri Court in Queensland and the Walama List in New South Wales are an effective means of diverting people from the criminal justice system.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Yes.  And the Koori Court in Victoria.  These are mechanisms that have been used on the east coast very successfully to involve the community, to ensure that there is a rehabilitative approach and yet hold young people accountable in some ways for what they have done. So   and some of the courts are involved with adults as well, but I strongly recommend those processes, and they're something that should be looked at across the nation.

MR GRIFFIN:   I would now like to move to the situation with detention centres and prisons where the person is going into those environments, and we have heard evidence this week about what would be appropriate screening and assessment of people when they go into custody.  Can I go back to you, Ms Sharma.  Have you looked at the question of screening and assessment?

MS SHARMA:  We have and, you know, what we find is the problem really starts with the lack of proper assessment.  Without identification of disability upon entry into prison, the person cannot be supported once they go in.  And this is the kind of critical information that you would think Corrective Services regularly, you know, collects, but if you ask states   you know, we have done this with Queensland and Western Australia   they do not have any disability disaggregated data.  They do not have a sense of how many people with disabilities, which types of disabilities are in their prison.  So to be able to support them and have a sense of their support needs is a far cry.

Today, disability identification relies heavily on self reporting, which is inadequate.  Since many prisoners are not aware of their disability, do not identify as having one, have never been diagnosed prior to entering prison or hesitate to even disclose it because of stigma.  And the problem really lies in the training of prison staff.  Our investigation found that the staff do not have the time, training or tools to identify people with disabilities and their support needs.  The training that prison staff get today, they have a small component of a disability and a mental health training, but there are no refresher and ongoing courses, and these courses are not meaningful.

They do not give the staff adequate information, awareness and knowledge to really engage and support people with disabilities.  And this is   you know, this was told to us by Corrective Services staff.  This was told to us by prisoners across the spectrum that this is not being done.  Because of this, what happens is the consequences are very serious.  Due to the lack of training, custodial staff then fail to recognise behaviour associated with a disability and therefore misinterpret a person's behaviour as defiance or disobedience.  They think they are "acting up." And as a result, their responses, instead of supporting the person, can be punitive.

We documented a number of instances where the person, you know, had acted in a behaviour which was resulting from a disability which was really a cry for help and instead of supporting them, they were punished.  They were sent to detention units or segregated.  And this really leads to an overuse and disproportionate use of solitary confinement on prisoners with psycho social and cognitive disabilities, which are    

MR GRIFFIN:   I will come back to that issue in a moment, but I want to concentrate on the screening and assessment.  It's obviously difficult for anybody to carry out that task if a person doesn't divulge relevant information to them.  You would accept that wouldn't you?

MS SHARMA:  To an extent, yes.

MR GRIFFIN:   Yes.  Who should carry out the screening and what information do they need to do it adequately? 

MS SHARMA:  The assessment?  If we are talking within the Corrective Services context, the assessment is preferably to be carried out by the Health Department, which is hopefully the same provider as in the community.  Second, they need support and training from disability rights organisations, from people who are working in disability services externally.  And I would say, you know, if you look, for example, at mental health conditions, especially when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, there is a model. 

You know, the Mental Health Act, for example, provides an option where the mental health assessment can be   of a person who is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander can be conducted in collaboration with First Nations health workers or significant members of the person's community, including Elders and traditional healers. So, that model is there under the Mental Health Act but it isn't applied in prison and that's the problem.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Kilroy, can I put the same question to you.  Screening and assessment, who does it and what information do they need to do it adequately?

MS KILROY:  I think the step before someone being sentenced to prison, that that assessment needs to be done within the community or directed by the courts. So, the majority of people who end up in prison are sentenced from, like, a magistrate's low level court.  They do the bulk of the matters.  However, Legal Aid doesn't fund those specific expert reports.  Where if people are sentenced in the higher court   District Courts, Supreme Court, or their equal   you can apply for a professional report to be undertaken, and then the court will recommend an order that that report follows the person into prison and it would have recommendations from that expert about what needs to be implemented.

We actually see all the time, particularly in those reports that are ordered, for example, from the Supreme Court, that they are not necessarily sent to the prison in adequate time, or the prison can't find them, because I have the prison ringing me asking me to send the report because the woman is saying "I've got a report and I have to do these specific programs or get assessed further." And the prison won't act on it.  That report also needs to follow the woman too, to the Parole Board so that everyone has the same information across the board.

What we see, it is very siloed and ad hoc, and the prison system starts from scratch every time.  If Mary comes in, even though Mary has been there before, they will treat her as a clean slate and then have to reassess her again within whatever terms they do, and it's usually by a nurse.  And when I talk about that external services need to be funded and not have the prison do that, you need to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners assessing the women in the first instance at induction. 

And the women will know very quickly that that external organisation is there and that they are credible and they are supportive and they hold their information in confidence. So, the women will disclose.  The fear of women disclosing at that induction time   and it's the same in police watch houses when I ask the questions   is fear of being put in solitary confinement if they say they have some type of disability, and that's the concern.  Because that's how the prison deals with people with disabilities.  If they are different, not able-bodied, then they will be put in isolation.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Can I just carry on   

CHAIR:  I think we might just give Mr Griffin a chance to ask another question now before we run out of time.

MR GRIFFIN:   Just to clarify one thing.  The non-funding of expert reports is based on your experience in Queensland?

MS KILROY:  Yes, correct. 

MR GRIFFIN:  Because it does vary from state to state. 


MR NEWHOUSE:  Just to add to that, there are young men in youth detention in WA today who speak an Aboriginal dialect that no one in Perth understands.  Certainly no one in Banksia Hill.  How are you going to assess them?  And the assessments are complex.  They need to be culturally safe, no matter what group they come from.  But also I think it's really important to look at education as well.  We shouldn't just be assessing people's disabilities.  It's a critical issue, but so is their education.

Most of the prisoners and detainees that I see are illiterate.  They are   they are not given any educational opportunities.  There is no assessment of their baseline.  There is no assessment of what they need in detention or in prison.  In youth detention, they get thrown a scrapbook and told colour in or work on this yourself.  Half of them can't even read and no one has assessed them. So, this assessment process needs to be with occupational therapists, teachers, psychologists and culturally safe practitioners.

MS KILROY:  A holistic response.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Correct. 

MR GRIFFIN:  I want to move on to another discrete issue which has become the subject of evidence in this inquiry.  And that's the use of isolation or confinement once someone is in a prison or in a youth detention centre.  Can I start with you, Ms Sharma.  In your statement, I think your ultimate recommendation is that the option of isolation should be illegal.  Is that correct?

MS SHARMA:  The option of solitary confinement of people with disabilities.


MS SHARMA:  Not isolation, yes 

MR GRIFFIN:   Yes. In those circumstances, what happens if those running one of these places has an inmate or a detainee that is behaving in a way which might be putting at risk the staff or other inmates.  If you make it illegal to isolate somebody, what are your options?

MS SHARMA:  So we are not saying that it's illegal to isolate someone.  That is something that prisons do regularly for different purposes. What we are saying is  

MR GRIFFIN:   But I thought your recommendation was that that should be illegal.

MS SHARMA:  So, not isolation. Solitary confinement should be illegal.

MR GRIFFIN:  Solitary confinement.

MS SHARMA:  Which means that being locked up in a cell for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.  That means only contact with guards does not count as meaningful contact.  And when this goes in excess of 15 days, it becomes prolonged solitary. So, what we are calling for is for state and territory governments to ban the practice on prisoners with disabilities, because we find that today it's being overused, disproportionately used to punish, manage, but also ostensibly to protect or keep prisoners alive.  And this is something that is extremely damaging to prisoners with disabilities. 

So, what the prison can do in these situations.  The solution would be (1) to ban it in legislation, including isolation, you know, use of solitary confinement as well as isolation or behavioural management techniques that amount to it and the way to solve, you know, this issue, if someone is in crisis, what do you do?  What we are talking about is we are saying that prisons can come to a decision where segregation of a person is necessary for a general   you know, from the general prison population as a disciplinary sanction.

But it should not amount to solitary confinement which means they should receive at least 20 hours a week of out of cell time, they should get access to mental health service, they should get access to activities, including mental health programs, and really have human contact with other individuals without which it is extremely damages, and there's a lot of research internationally, including in Australia, which finds it has long term impacts.  What can the staff do instead?  The staff should really be trained in de escalation techniques.

That would mean a prompt assessment and intervention in cases and crisis.  Using problem solving methods with the person concerned.  Being empathetic and reassuring.  Using stress management or relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises.  Giving the person space, offering the person choice.  Giving the person time to think.  These are all de escalation techniques that are routinely used and are very effective but are not being done in prisons.

So it's   it's something that, you know, international legislation is very clear on.  Under the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, keeping prisoners with disabilities in solitary confinement amounts to torture.  It is something that should not be taking place.  Experts on torture, the subcommittee on torture, the minimum standard of rules for the treatment of prisoners, all say that it should be prohibited.  Doing this is inhumane and should not be legal across Australia.

CHAIR:  Can we move from the   can we move from   and I don't underestimate the force of propositions that we find in international human rights instruments and the objectives we are trying to achieve. How do we get there? What are the practical suggestions for doing the things? Of course, yes, you want a process that allows for all these supports, individual support.  But within the prison systems of the kind we have now, you're not going to retrain wardens, for example, to perform the kind of functions you are talking about, I don't think.

So, how are we going to do it?  Can we use the NDIS, for example?  Why can't we use the NDIS, almost every   not every, many of the people that we have been talking about at this hearing will be people who are either on the NDIS or are eligible for it.  They just haven't got there yet because they don't know how to, and no one is helping them to or whatever.  We have to find a way, don't we, of bringing into these systems the expertise, the people that have got the skills you are talking about, and it's a very difficult task because it has to be grafted on to a punitive system.  One that's been entrenched for centuries.  Okay.  What are the mechanisms we can use?  Well, surely the NDIS is one of them.  What other things can we use?

MR GRIFFIN:   Can I suggest Mr Newhouse might take that question, Chair.

CHAIR:  Mr Newhouse, yes.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Alright. I agree with you, Commissioner.  You can't train prejudice and culture out of people in a day.  It will take time.  I think there needs to be law reform.  If you look at the recent case in WA where the Supreme Court declared   made a declaration that holding children in solitary confinement was unlawful, that would be a good start.  The Inspector of   

MR GRIFFIN:   Custodial Services.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Custodial Services in WA has been saying this for years.  It is in his reports, and he does a great job, but this government is not listening, and they need to act. So, law reform is necessary to outlaw the form of solitary confinement that Ms Kilroy has been talking about. People can't complain in prison. If they do complain, they get punished by guards. So, there needs to be a secret mechanism or one that's holistic amongst the whole cohort so that punitive action and victimisation and retribution cannot be meted out to prisoners and inmates who complain.

Spit hoods must be banned; strip searches outlawed.  If you have been sexually assaulted, can you   particularly as a child, can you imagine the impact that strip searching has on you?  Transparency is essential, Commissioner.  Every time we go to take action on a complaint, guess what, there is no video evidence.  In Western Australia, they will tell you, "We   we record over it every 30 days." Right.  That's the   that's the situation.  Guards cover up cameras whenever they are about to assault someone.

There needs to be CCTV footage running in all public areas 24 hours a day with live streaming into the Inspector's offices, and the video footage   you can laugh   you can laugh   and that footage needs to be kept for five years so that these young, vulnerable people can actually have some accountability.  When guards go into cells they need body cams and there should be audio as well.  And you can laugh but this is a very serious point.

NDIS and Medicare end at the gates of prisons and youth detention centres.  They need   those   both those services need to be funded.  And I agree with you, Commissioner, having a   a case worker, an NDIS case worker who can actually advocate for you would have helped the witness yesterday, I believe, and would help all prisoners and detainees with a disability.

Can I raise another issue.  It's quite controversial.  Coroners in many states have been charged with investigating deaths in custody for 30 years, since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and many are not doing their job.  Ms Kilroy and I discuss this regularly.  There are coroners who will only look at the immediate cause of death of an individual.  Quite often, it's related to a lack of medical service or racism or discrimination.  They refuse in many states   in particular, I will name Queensland and Western Australia   some in Queensland, but Western Australia is particularly bad.  They refuse to look at the systemic problems within prisons and carceral areas.

And you should not be doing this job. We should not be having to expose this kind of problem at a once in a generation Royal Commission. Coroners should be doing this job every time they have to look at a death in custody. And I come back to my point earlier, that the focus of prisons and youth detention centres should be the individual. At the moment, they run around the institution. If you start setting key performance indicators based on the plans that the individuals receive when they go in, the assessments, let's measure the improvement in those   the individual throughout their journey.  If you are not measuring it, it's not happening. So, I've spoken   

MR GRIFFIN:  Can I just pause there, Mr Newhouse.  Chair, I want   I note the time.  I want to give Ms Kilroy an opportunity to make any comment, given the fact that she's the panel member who has been in prison.

CHAIR:  Certainly. Yes.

MR GRIFFIN:   And then I want to give   

CHAIR:  We are not going anywhere, as far as I know.

MR GRIFFIN:   Mr Newhouse has to leave.  But   and I also want to give the Commissioners an opportunity to ask any questions, even if that means coming back to me if we have got more time after.  But, Ms Kilroy, you have had the most first hand experience of things such as solitary confinement and how things operate.  What has it all taught you?

MS KILROY:  As a child that was kept in solitary confinement for the majority of my time, I still carry that trauma.  It was the most horrific experience.  The most degrading, traumatising experience.  And the most tragic thing about us as human beings is that we continue to put children and adults in solitary confinement.  We continue to use other carceral mechanisms that cause trauma as well within the   within the cell of   when you are in solitary confinement. 

So, strip searching. The use of restraints, chemical and mechanical restraints. Spit hoods. Spit hoods are used more on women with disability than any other cohort in the prison system.  And that's because Corrective Services say we are more emotional. So, it's not because we are more violent. I think the Chair asked a question about behaviours. Behaviour is reactional. If you are treated badly, you will react badly.  We must abolish all those forms of restraints and trauma and torture, because they are already recognised universally as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. So, they must be abolished. 

We must abolish solitary confinement, strip searching, mechanical, chemical restraints and spit hoods because the end result for many is not only deaths in prison but, on release, deaths in the community.

MR GRIFFIN:   As I indicated, Chair, I would like to give Commissioners the opportunity at this point to ask any questions, given the time.

CHAIR:  Can I say, if Mr Newhouse has to leave, that's fine, we won't take it amiss if you leave.  We can continue for another few minutes. So, it's entirely a matter for you.

MR NEWHOUSE:  I'm happy to wait a few more minutes, but please excuse me if I  

CHAIR:  When you need to leave, feel free to do so even if we are continuing.  Yes, what I might do now is ask the Commissioners if they have any questions for you, and I shall commence with Commissioner Mason.  Do you have any questions for any member of the panel or for the panel as a whole? 

COMMISSIONER MASON:  I do have one question, Chair, and we have heard today and in this session of evidence around these solutions, the strategies being talked about for decades and particularly since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.  I just have a simple question. It might not be a simple answer, and if it's not a simple answer, then I will leave that for others to say.  But who decides on these changes?  Who makes that ultimate decision, particularly, for example, here in Western Australia, of these recommendations, of this case for change?  But at the end of the day who decides in Western Australia?

MS KILROY:  I think the simple answer is that governments in power make the decisions to change.  And we have successional governments that roll over and over again of the same two, really, political parties that really have no courage to stand up for children and people that are criminalised and imprisoned, and it's time that we prioritise human beings and their treatment over property.  We live in a racial capitalist world that prioritises property over people, and that must end.  Otherwise we are just going to be keep repeating the cycle for decades to come.

MR NEWHOUSE:  I think there's an opportunity that might come out of this Royal Commission for the Federal Government to get involved.  If we are talking about having NDIS and Medicare access to prisoners, that's money and that's something that the Federal Government could do to bring the states and territories together.  There is no effective coordination.  Everyone in every state gets to make their   the leaders of government in each state make their own   and territory   make their own decisions.  I think the Federal Government has a role to play in improving the lot of disabled people in detention and in prisons.

CHAIR:  Well, in the two areas we are particularly concerned with that intersect here, that is, First Nations people and then people with disability, both of those areas are plainly areas that the Commonwealth has legislative power it chooses to exercise.  There are, of course, delicate questions of federal state relations and the complications of our criminal justice system that includes a federal criminal justice system and state run penal institutions and so on all has to be taken into account, but there is no doubt about the power of the Federal Government and Federal Parliament, more accurately, to contribute constructively to this area. That may be a matter of political will or judgment in particular cases.


CHAIR:  Commissioner McEwin?

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  Thank you.  Thank you to all three of you for your evidence.  Some of you have said that more training is necessary, and we've heard that constantly this Royal Commission.  Can any of you point me to any evidence or research that actually shows that more training has been effective in changing culture, behaviour, empathy   it's a very long list.  I would like to know, is there any evidence out there that training alone has resulted in systemic change and the ones that we are talking about here at this Royal Commission for people who are disabled people?  And I will direct that to any of you.

MR GRIFFIN:   I think Ms Sharma may be in a position to answer. 

MS SHARMA:  Sure.  I think if you look at the World Health Organization, they have an initiative called the Equality Rights Initiative which targets, you know, particularly looking at mental health, you know, changing attitudes around mental health, eliminating coercion for mental health.  It's a program that has worked.  There's a lot of evidence of it having worked across 31 countries currently around the world.  It's a program where we see attitudinal change on mental health.  We see recovery-based approaches, attention to human rights, all resulting purely from this program.

Currently, the WHO is offering it free. Prison staff can do it online. It's accessible virtually and we would also be happy to facilitate, you know, assistance from the WHO with Corrective Services, with state governments, and it's something that can be easily rolled out.  Now, training alone is not going to change the whole landscape.  But training is a very important part of it.

And I would   you know, second what Debbie and George raised in terms of bringing community organisations into prisons.  Increasing partnerships with Aboriginal organisations to deliver services in prison, with disability organisations and really engaging in a comprehensive way.  What this means for the state, it doesn't have been to a resource intensive recommendation.  It means diverting resources that are currently going into prisons, currently going exclusively into Corrective Services, to more community based interventions for them to enter prison and provide services to prisoners. So, I would say there is evidence and it can be applied quite easily, I would say, to Corrective Services.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Can I answer that.  Both Ms Kilroy and I work with a critical race theorist, Chelsea Watego, Professor Chelsea Watego in Queensland.  She's of the view   training is important, and I'm not dismissing anything that Ms Sharma said, but you can't train away racism and prejudice against people with disability.  You need accountability and transparency; right?  Without that   and   if you don't hold people accountable for their abuses   which is why I suggested CCTV, because that's the only defence that some of these people have against the abuses of their guards   you will not see change.

You need law reform to ban solitary confinement for the good order of the   of the institution.  I have seen boys locked up in solitary for 300 days or more for the good order of the youth detention centre.  Now, unless that's outlawed legislatively, unless people are held accountable, the people that did that got promoted or moved to other sections of the public service.  Until that happens, you won't see cultural change, in my view.

MS SHARMA:  I would just second that and to say that the Royal Commission really has a unique opportunity. If that's included in your recommendations, we really can push for change on the ground and, yes, it could be ground breaking, if that's something the Royal Commission could recommend.

MS KILROY:  If I could just   one thing I would like to contribute is training and education is really important; however, it's like police.  Prison officers are   there have been so many resources thrown at them and we still have the same result.  Where we need to focus is on education and training for people who are actually incarcerated.  What we have in Queensland is the policy is jobs, jobs, jobs for people in prison to get employed when they are released, but if they don't have the capacity or the education to be able to do that, they are never going to get a job.

When I was in prison and it was a   last in prison and the window of reform was about education, education, education, and it was also a policy of the prison system at that time that any staff who worked in there had to have a tertiary education. So, there was a prison officer that started a university degree the same day   or the same year that I started my social work degree.  After about six months, that policy was just banned for prison staff.  She never finished it.  I continued on and did a law degree as well as a Master's in Law.  She still works as a prison officer.

And so, we need   the resources must go to people who are in prison.  Staff need some training, obviously, but let's focus on those that are actually in the cages and educate them at whatever level that must be so they can walk out.  Because we all know in this room that education gives us so many more choices in life.

COMMISSIONER McEWIN:  Thank you.  And also thank you to all of you for the work that you are doing in the justice system.  Thank you.

MR GRIFFIN:   There is one issue, Chair, I wish to clarify to each of the witnesses.

CHAIR:  Yes.

MR GRIFFIN:   The general view seems to be the responsibility of the Corrections department is to maintain good order to confine the people for a period of time to protect their staff.  We have spoken about community organisations having access to prisoners for various reasons, I understand.  What about other organs of the state, the Department of Health, the Department of Housing, the Department of Education?  In your view, do they have a role? Or are they, to use my word, similarly tainted by lack of independent from Corrections?  Ms Kilroy.

MS KILROY:  Yes, of course they have a role.  Absolutely.  Where we know one of the most fundamental issues of why people with disability end up criminalised and in prison is because of homelessness. So, of course, Department of Housing must be involved to actually secure housing because if   I believe if they had housing in the first instance, stable, safe housing, they wouldn't be criminalised while homeless. So, there's absolutely   the thing   the problem with departments is they act as silos.

And so, someone in a department may be providing a particular service, say housing, and you have a housing application in, if you go to prison, it's suspended. So, you are not moving up the list of priority housing. So, when you are released, you have got to start again.  You know.  And, federally, if you are on a Disability Support Pension and you're in prison for longer than 13 weeks, it ends.  Your NDIS package, if it comes up for review and if the prison doesn't undertake and ensure that review happens, you lose your funding. 

So, when you   and we have women that are being held in prison that can't get accommodation because they no longer have the NDIS funding and because parole can't assess somewhere where they can live. So, there is all that complication. So, of course, all those departments do play a huge role, but they seem to stay in their lane once someone goes to prison and not actually continue the service.

MR NEWHOUSE:  Can I add to that and then I will go.  I think you have raised a really good point.  All those departments have a role to play in assisting the individual, but they need to be coordinated by an independent case worker.  You see this model   I know it's working in New South Wales; I think it's national now   in the Health Justice partnerships. So, a lawyer is allocated to a hospital emergency ward. Homeless people arrive in a hospital ward, and they receive a coordinated response from the Department of Housing, from a medical aspect, from their legal aspects, and that's the kind of coordinated response that the individual needs in prison or youth detention.

And it's a great suggestion that all these departments need to be involved.  It's not that they are compromised by being organs of the state, but they need to be harnessed together, otherwise you do get the silos that Ms Kilroy is talking about.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Sharma, does your research support the proposition put by Mr Newhouse?  We can't hear you.

MS SHARMA:  Sorry, I would agree, you know, that they definitely have a role to play and there needs to be coordination.  And it really needs to have an integrated approach.  You know, as Debbie was saying, your NDIS benefits can get suspended. Your housing application gets suspended, and that means that once you are released, you are more likely, in many cases, especially with people with disabilities, to re-offend or, you know, commit another crime very often   prisoners told us themselves   to just get back in and have housing and to have access to food.  And we should not be a society where, you know, recidivism occurs because we are not supporting them on the day people get out of prison.  That's not really how a rehabilitative system should work.

MR GRIFFIN:   The final question I want to address to you, Ms Sharma, and to Ms Kilroy, in light of the Chair's observation that we are working in a real world where you have to try and graft on to a long term system suggested changes, from a practical point of view if you had to nominate one or two things that we could do tomorrow, what would it be, Ms Kilroy?

MS KILROY:  It may not get done by tomorrow because it needs some political will, but to legislate to end any forms of solitary confinement and any of those other mechanisms that I talked about   spit hoods, chemical, mechanical restraint and strip searching   will make a huge impact on people's lives in prison because they are not experiencing that violence on a daily basis.

MR GRIFFIN:   And presumably make an impact to their post prison life as well?

MS KILROY:  Exactly.

MR GRIFFIN:   If they are spared that experience.

MS KILROY:  Yes.  And more so if we look to the front end, the other would be to look at the programs that actually work. So, I spoke about the Special Circumstances Court, for example, and that's a model that could be operated across the country in all jurisdictions as a therapeutic jurisdictional court and that it's funded and ongoing but not cyclic with political periods of government.

MR GRIFFIN:  Ms Sharma, what would be your wish list of immediate change?

MS SHARMA:  I would second what, you know, Debbie just said.  Prohibiting solitary confinement for people with disabilities   and it is possible, both in the legislation and policy.  The second thing I would say, which is vital and practically can be done is really reforming mental health services in prison, as I said, for them to be delivered by the Department of Health.

Having robust one to one peer support programs by and for people with lived experience which are implemented in close collaboration with Aboriginal led organisations and Aboriginal health services to ensure they are culturally competent, including developing a strategy of engagement with family and friends, and providing, you know   connecting with support networks for the prisoners so that reduces the risk of self harm and suicide.

We need to have more staff that are First Nations people in mental health teams servicing prisons.  There needs to be an increased partnership with Aboriginal community based organisations to deliver services in prison.  We need to ensure prison and mental health staff receive, as I said, the free WHO training on Quality Rights and we need to ensure, you know, as has been said before and as Megan said very well in her testimony earlier today, mental health services need to be comprehensive as opposed to simply prescribing medication.  There needs to be one on one counselling by trained professionals    to be you know    intervention   

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Sharma   Ms Sharma, we lost your audio for about 10 seconds. I wonder if you can just recap on what you said recently.

MS SHARMA:  Sure.  The last point I was making was that mental health services need to be comprehensive as opposed to simply prescribing    it needs to include individual one-on-one counselling by trained professionals.  It needs to happen in a timely manner without having to wait weeks or months.  There needs to be early intervention and support from the day the person enters prison with regular follow-up, and it needs to be delivered by mental health professionals from outside services    opposed to trying to hide that information and trying to, you know, hide the fact that they have a disability in the first place. 

So, these are two recommendations I would say can definitely very practically be implemented quite quickly, and I would really call on the Royal Commission to include them in their recommendations.  And the last would be to age   to have a recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years of age.

MR GRIFFIN:   On what basis do you make that recommendation?

MS SHARMA:  There has been evidence that has already been presented in front of the Royal Commission on that.   As Debbie talked about, you know, the trauma, the abuses that we see in youth detention, the traumatising impact it can have, the fact that a child at that age has not   does not have the development, physically and mentally, to have the same responsibility that    have    a variety of reasons why that should be the case, and I will also refer you to our reports which are in evidence which provide more detail on this.

MR GRIFFIN:   Ms Sharma, the same might apply to young men in certain situations, but I will leave that today.  Chair, they are my questions for the panellists.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you very much indeed, Ms Kilroy, Ms Sharma and Mr Newhouse in absentia, for the very detailed written statement you have provided and the very thoughtful comments we have heard this afternoon.  There has been a very   this has been a very useful discussion with a rich blend of ideas for us to consider.  And we are very grateful to you for the thought that has gone into your contributions to the Royal Commission. So, thank you very much, Ms Sharma, continue to enjoy Mauritius.  Ms Kilroy, enjoy Perth and, Mr Newhouse, he can enjoy whatever he's gone off to.

MS KILROY:  Chair, I would also   sorry if I could apologise for speaking so fast, and I will take that learning   

CHAIR:  Ms Kilroy, you don't need to apologise.  You are in a long line of people in this Royal Commission who have spoken too fast, and it's not confined to witnesses, I should say. So, you have no need to apologise whatsoever.  Now, tomorrow is a public holiday, a day designated as mourning for the late Queen Elizabeth II.  That means that we will not be sitting as a Royal Commission tomorrow.  We will, however, be resuming on Friday, and I take it, Mr Griffin, we will be resuming at 9 am?

MR GRIFFIN:   We will, thank you, Chair, and Ms Wright of Senior Counsel will be taking the first witnesses.

CHAIR:  Yes.  Thank you very much. So, we will adjourn until 9 am on Friday.  Thank you, everybody.