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ABC Radio Alice Springs: The Malcolm Moreton Interviews

Dear ADJC Supporters,                                                                                

Please find the link to interviews with Emma Huskins on ABC Alice Springs concerning Malcolm Moreton. Interview 1 is with me and tells the story of how Malcolm and I came to know each other. Interview 2 is with Tania Collins Malcolm Moreton's lawyer from The Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. Interview 3 is with Mr Mark Payne Northern Territory Commissioner for Corrections. Interviews 2 and 3 are particularly worth listening to and concern the conditions under which Malcolm is currently held and the question of where should Malcolm be detained in order to receive treatment. Many thanks to ABC Alice Springs for taking such an interest in this issue.                                                                            

The Weekend Australian: What Happened to Rose Ann?

She was jailed indefinitely and released after
a public outcry. Now a free woman, has anything really improved for Rose Ann Fulton? 

By Richard Guilliatt

On a June morning in Alice Springs, with the chill of the desert night lingering in the air, an old sedan pulls up outside an engineering workshop on one of the town’s industrial backlots. From it steps a young Aboriginal woman dressed too scantily for winter in a baggy white T-shirt, knee-length shorts and sandals, her hair tied up in a bun. After bidding farewell to the driver, she walks a little unsteadily through the yard, past rusted storage containers, disused washing machines and piles of scrap metal, towards a small prefab demountable. Rose Ann Fulton is returning home after another perilous night on the streets...

First Peoples Disability Network Australia Interview With Damian Griffis: A Justice Scandal Hiding In Plain Sight: Australia Locking Up Intellectually Disabled

MARK COLVIN: Malcolm Morton is by no means the only intellectually disabled Aboriginal person locked up indefinitely without being convicted of anything.

It's another justice scandal hiding in plain sight in Australia. 

Damian Griffis is the chief executive officer of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia.

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Well we understand that there's still at least 38 people with disability indefinitely detained in prisons in the Northern Territory. We can't really be sure, I think it's an issue that's been covered up, to be frank. So I think we need to urgently understand how many people with disability are actually in this situation.

MARK COLVIN: Could you just explain to people because it's so little reported, how you can have a situation where Australians are in jail for years with no conviction. How does it work?

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Well generally speaking, people with cognitive impairment are either viewed to be unfit to plead because they may be considered a danger to themselves or a danger to others. 

And in that situation generally in other jurisdictions you would be referred to a forensic disability support system, so you wouldn't be sent to jail. But in the Northern Territory there doesn't exist that sort of system.

MARK COLVIN: And Western Australia too?

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Yes, as we understand in Western Australia. So what happens, the people are effectively accommodated in jail because that's the only facility that are available to people in that situation, so this is when they end up in prisons and being indefinitely detained.



MARK COLVIN: But you've been campaigning about this for a while. Has there been no move either in Western Australia or the Northern Territory to set up mental institutions where these people could be looked after other than in a jail or a watch house?

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: In Western Australia there has been some progress, where they've established disability justice centres, but in the Northern Territory there's been nothing meaningful happen at all. 

Ourselves and other advocates have been talking about this for a number of years and there hasn't been any progress on this issue whatsoever. We have attempted to engage the Commonwealth Government on this, to get them to show leadership in this area. 

The only thing that's happened to date is the Commonwealth Government has made what's called a voluntary commitment to investigate this issue. But we need a lot more than investigation, we need people to be more appropriately supported around their disability as a matter of urgency.

MARK COLVIN: You saw what happened with the Northern Territory juvenile detention, do you think that the only way to get people to listen will be to have them look, in other words, do you think the only way to draw attention to this will be to get photographs as they did on Four Corners?

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Well I think that's the tragedy here, Mark, is it takes people to see things with their own eyes before they actually believe that these things are happening. But if that's what required then that's what needs to happen. But what we need to recognise...

MARK COLVIN: What happens I mean if you put in freedom of information requests - have you tried that? 


DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Well, my organisation hasn't but people like Patrick McGee from the Aboriginal Justice Coalition have been doing that and I don't know that those things are often replied to, to be frank. 

So there's clearly a cover-up going on here and there's a culture of cover-up I would say within the Northern Territory. It doesn't just relate to juvenile justice, it relates to the adult prison population, it relates to Aboriginal people with cognitive impairments, who don't have their voices heard, are powerless in this situation.

We're in this situation because there’s a complete and utter failure of disability service system in the Northern Territory historically, and that's still the case today. There's a critical need for the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be playing a role here because all of these people in this situation are severely and profoundly disabled and they need urgent help.

MARK COLVIN: You've taken cases like this to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. You've taken that to the committee that deals with that in Geneva. 

What sort of results have you had?

DAMIAN GRIFFIS: Well the committee's been shocked, to be fair. They've been staggered really that this is happening in Australia. So what we're hoping will happen is that we'll get UN officials coming out to Australia to investigate these situations for themselves. 

I think a lot of people are staggered that this happens in Australia, that there are people that are indefinitely detained without conviction and when you take those stories to the UN once they get over the initial shock of this happening here in Australia, they naturally get very concerned about it and want to investigate, and we certainly hope that the UN will do that.

MARK COLVIN: Damian Griffis, chief executive officer of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia.

Unfitness to plead and indefinite detention of persons with cognitive impairments: addressing the legal barriers and creating appropriate alternative supports in the community

‘Unfitness to stand trial’ rules in Australia have been the subject of human rights and law reform enquiries in recent years, following concerns that such rules may violate the rights of people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system. ‘Unfitness to stand trial rules’ refer to procedures by which courts decide that a person cannot meaningfully participate in and understand criminal trial proceedings brought against them. Such rules are designed to prevent disadvantage by ensuring that people receive a fair trial. Yet unfitness to stand trial provisions have the potential to create a separate and lesser form of justice for people with cognitive disabilities.

At worst, people with cognitive disabilities found unfit to stand trial are subject to indefinite detention, including being detained for longer than if had they been convicted and sentenced in the first place.

The aim of this project is to develop practical and legal solutions to the problem of people with cognitive impairments, including Indigenous people with cognitive impairments, being found “unfit to plead” and subject to indefinite detention in Australia. A secondary aim is to better ensure that people with cognitive disabilities can meaningfully participate, on an equal basis with others, in criminal proceedings brought against them. This secondary aim responds to the issue of people who may not be able to understand and meaningfully participate in a trial, but who nevertheless proceed through typical trials due to the inappropriateness or inaccessibility of unfitness rules in their current form.

The project is funded as part of the Australian Government Department of Social Services, National Disability Research and Development Research Scheme.

Project Aims:

  • Analyse the social, legal and policy issues leading to unfitness to plead findings and indefinite detention in Australia, with a strong focus on the experiences of Indigenous people
  • Provide and evaluate supported decision-making for up to 60 individuals with cognitive impairments who have been charged with a crime and who may be subject to unfitness to plead processes
  • Recommend options for the reform of unfitness to plead law and policy

The expected outcomes are the:

  • Analysis of the differences and similarities in unfitness to plead laws and policy across the Australian states and territories
  • Development and evaluation of a practice model in supported decision-making in the criminal justice context that can be used in Australia and abroad
  • Creation of recommendations for law and policy reform in compliance with human rights standards.


Professor Bernadette McSherry (Foundation Director, Melbourne Social Equity Institute), Professor Kerry Arabena (Chair of Indigenous Health), Dr Anna Arstein-Kerslake (Melbourne Law School), Dr Piers Gooding (Melbourne Law School) and Professor Eileen Baldry (School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales).

For enquiries, please contact the post-doctoral researcher for the project Dr. Piers Gooding. E: Ph: +61 3 8344 0910


New project to tackle the detention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities‘, Louis Andrews, Anna Arstein-Kerslake, Piers Gooding and Bernadette McSherry for Croakey, Wednesday 6 January 2016

Please find the full paper below- 


Unfitness to Plead And Indefinite Detention Of Persons With Cognitive Impairments: Addressing The Legal Barriers And Creating Appropriate Alternative Supports In The Community 

National Summit: A Line In The Sand   

Findings by the Australian Human Rights Commission: The Attorney General has today tabled in Parliament the Findings by the Australian Human Rights Commission regarding four Indigenous Australians indefinitely detained in the Northern Territory.

On November 21st 2014, the Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign with the Support of the First Peoples Disability Network hosted a National Summit whose aim was to draw a 'Line the Sand' to mark a new direction in responding to people with cognitive impairments, particularly Indigenous Australians, who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Disability, legal and human rights advocates from around the country discussed and sought to fresh ideas and perspectives on the imprisonment and indefinite detention in prisons of people found unfit to plead and why Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected by this practice.
Many thanks to Knierim Brothers Productions for the excellent work in pulling this photographic representation of the Line in the Sand Summit. 

Line In The Sand Summit 2014

Dates And Events


Mr Marlon Noble

Ms Roseanne Fulton

The ADJC is campaigning on the indefinite detention of Aboriginal people  across Australia

This situation is in breach of Australia’s human rights obligations, including those rights contained in the:

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Un Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)