Improper practices in youth detention: a national crisis?

In the wake of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, we have been heartened to see other State and Territory governments conduct reports into the conditions of their own juvenile detention centres. However, what has emerged from these reports are chilling stories of abuse, self-harm & the abandonment of our vulnerable youth to a system disinterested in their future. 

As a soul-crushing illustration, reports into Western Australia’s Banksia Hill Facility revealed that young detainees have been treated like they were the most dangerous organised criminals in the country. Troublesome detainees were controlled by restraints, flash bombs and shotgun laser sights. In a similar fashion over in NSW, six heavily armed tactical police sat in Parramatta Children’s Court at an appearance for two young co-accused in February this year.  

tactical officers with assault rifles

There is a worrying trend of militarisation in youth justice.

Labelled and treated as our society’s lowest from such a young and formative age, they understandably struggle to see themselves integrating into the community. Shockingly, since opening its business in 2016, the Banksia Hill Facility has seen six attempted suicides and hundreds of self-harm incidents.  

Some may argue that these incidents are the result of poor funding because government resources are better put elsewhere than criminals. The report into the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre (BYDC) concluded that staff were sometimes pushed to extreme solutions granted they were frequently required to work 12-hour shifts for days or nights on end.

Yet this does not explain the deliberate cruelty that a number of youth detention centre staff inflict upon the children in their care. The use of other young detainees as ‘enforcers’ by staff to intimidate other troublesome youth at the BYDC is one example of such a baffling lack of consideration for vulnerable and marginalised people. There is clearly a wider cultural issue of indifference to issues facing at-risk young people that enables heartless actions in youth detention. 

We have taken the first steps to correcting the mistakes of the past by bringing them to the surface. As informed citizens, we all play a very important role in questioning that indifference across the country. There is a compelling reason to act quickly and act now: if children receive no basic respect, as adults they will have none.

If you are needing help with basic human, civil or legal rights, contact O’Brien Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get help from one of our human rights lawyers in our Sydney office.

Why Access to Justice is Access to a Lawyer

When you think of what ‘justice’ means, your mind may turn to a familiar image of a blindfolded lady holding scales. We trust that, like those scales suggest, a good criminal justice system will afford fairness to those accused of breaking the law, ‘blind’ to a defendant’s wealth, power or status.

lady justice

Lady Justice: she may give a better result to those who can afford a lawyer than those who cannot

We know better than to say that’s reality. Yet, as Fife-Yeoman’s article about Sydney’s local courts earlier this week suggests, it may be one particular element determining whether for the same offence you cop a heavy sentence or walk without a conviction: access to a lawyer.

In a study comparing two Sydney local courts, it was found that the local court in Waverley where the median income is high handed down far more section 10 orders than the local court in Mt Druitt where the median income is lower. A section 10 order is given when the court is satisfied, even when there’s a plea or finding of guilt, that it is appropriate to order the dismissal of charges without proceeding to record a conviction.

This strongly indicates that people with the resources to afford legal representation are far more likely to obtain good outcomes in their cases. On the other hand, people who cannot afford a criminal defence lawyer may turn up to court unprepared. They may choose instead to represent themselves. As reflected in the numbers, this means that they may not have the court and legal know-how to present their case in the best possible light. Consequently, they are treated harshly by judges who do not see all there is to see about their situation. Worse yet, they may be unaware of their right to appeal a court’s decision if it is unjust.

If things are this divided across socioeconomic status in one city, it also raises questions about the slew of other characteristics across different States and Territories that may impact on a person’s access to a lawyer.

For example, it has been found that 94 percent of Indigenous Australian inmates at correctional centres in Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory tested positive for hearing loss primarily from untreated medical issues. This means that many of these individuals understandably avoided interaction with guards, parole officers and judges where their disability may have been revealed and addressed. Instead, they found themselves in a position where they could only agree with the sentence the magistrate handed down as they didn’t have the means to understand and put up a defence.

Commendably, there were a number of correctional officers who helped interpret the proceedings for the accused. However, this is not enough. Regardless of their background, people accused of crime need a lawyer in their corner who can help them navigate the system and actively represent their interests.

There should never be one law for those with privilege and another for those without.

Everyone is entitled to a strong and respectful defence against criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime, don’t risk an unfairly harsh outcome by going without legal representation. If you are worried that you might not be able to afford a lawyer, we may be able to arrange legal aid to help fund your case. Contact us on 02 9261 4281 or on the contact form on this website for more information.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission: The Good & The Bad

Earlier this year, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (‘LECC’) replaced the previous Police Integrity Commission (‘PIC’) and a number of other institutions as the central committee for oversight of police in NSW. However, the benefits for accountability and efficiency are weakened by the government’s lackluster implementation and its failure to reform a key area of public concern.

The LECC is a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ kind of reform. On the plus side, it streamlines the police oversight process by bringing together a number of similar areas of inquiry. It does so by combining the investigative roles of the PIC, the Police Division of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Inspector of the Crime Commission into a single civilian body, all headed by the eminent Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams (pictured below).

Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams

Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams. Photo: Phil Carrick

Promisingly, the capacity to monitor police conduct has greatly improved, backed by the LECC’s royal commission type powers to hold public hearings in some situations. With the LECC, we can expect greater resources and less unnecessary politics between investigative institutions overseeing NSW police operations.

Now, let’s look at the minuses. For all its appearances of straightforwardness, the NSW government has maintained the status quo by only allowing police, not the LECC, to investigate other police in ‘critical incident’ investigations. These investigations concern situations where a member of the public or police suffers serious injury or death in the course of a police operation.

As one can imagine, this remains a big concern. It is not outlandish that police would have both the opportunity and the motivation to cover their mates in the aftermath of a tragedy. The numbers alone speak volumes: of the 62 critical incidents involving police from January 2013 to August 2015, only 2 adverse findings were made and there were no disciplinary actions taken against involved officers. It is the creeping possibility of such a conflict of interest, whether anything comes of it or not, that harms trust in the criminal justice system.

Of course, on paper the LECC can still use its powers of oversight in these investigations, but they have to leap a few hurdles first. To be allowed to physically observe critical incident interviews, for example, the LECC must first gain the consent of the person being interviewed and the senior critical incident investigator. Whether both their consent will always be freely given – well, let’s just say we’re not holding our breath.

Perhaps equally worrisome is the lack of a clear transition. Although given little news about which positions were filled, we were told that the LECC would start accepting complaints in March. That soon turned to May. Now, in June, a click of the LECC ‘Submit a Complaint’ button leads to an evasive statement that complaints will be taken ‘shortly’, and to refer any complaints to the PIC or Ombudsman.

Yet, as the PIC and Ombudsman continue to whittle themselves down to make room for the LECC, the situation gives pause for thought: who’s actually policing the police right now?

We cannot put the blame on police for working within the structures that have been given to them. However, we can say that we believe the NSW government has missed an important opportunity to confidently address the culture of police secrecy that makes the LECC’s practices necessary.

To make a difference, the transition process must be clear for all and ‘critical incident’ investigations must be firmly within the purview of the LECC.

The LECC is coming soon. If you are appearing at a public hearing of the LECC, you will need experts in your corner who have proven experience navigating commissions. Call O’Brien Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 or contact us via the form on this website.

Peter O’Brien interviewed about Dylan Voller on 60 Minutes

Last night, Dylan Voller was interviewed on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program. He spoke bravely about his past, the psychological impact of his detention and his hopes for the future.

Peter O’Brien, Dylan Voller’s lawyer, also appeared on the program. He spoke about Dylan and the toxic environment of the youth detention centre where he was held, saying it “wasn’t the type of system that was going to make a young boy a good man”.

As a firm, we continue to be proud of Dylan’s courage. Going forward, we also hope that his story can help make a positive change to our criminal justice system.

peter o'brien being interviewed by 60 minutes

Image: 60 Minutes/9NEWS.


In case you missed it:

See Dylan’s powerful tell-all story on 60 Minutes here (login required)https://www.9now.com.au/60-minutes/2017/episode-18

Or on 9NEWS: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/06/11/08/55/dylan-voller-unmasked-60-minutes-tell-all-story

And read the Sydney Morning Herald article: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/news-and-current-affairs/dylan-voller-told-60-minutes-he-felt-he-was-going-mad-in-nt-youth-detention-20170611-gwp25g.html

Inside the Numbers: the Child Abuse Royal Commission

The mind has difficulty processing numbers that are too large. Earlier this week the Royal Commission heard that members of the Catholic Church allegedly abused 4,444 children between 1980 and 2015. The abuse of so many children is, as Dan Box of The Australian said, “criminality on a scale previously unimagined.” With numbers that large, you have to constantly remind yourself that each of those four-and-a-half thousand digits is a little child.

Image: Billy Cooper/ABC News

Image: Billy Cooper/ABC News

According to the data, the typical victim of abuse was a young boy, age 11. Gail Furness called the accounts of the abuse “depressingly similar”: typically, the boy would have had great trust for the clergy, likely inherited from his parents. That trust was violated in the most grotesque and criminal of ways. Perhaps the boy told his parents, but probably he didn’t – the Commission heard that the average time between the alleged abuse and the survivor coming forward is 33 years. In the intervening years, the child would have grown up ashamed and mistrustful, unable to form meaningful relationships, unsure how to act around children.

And, as Francis Sullivan (of the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council) reminds us, “let’s not forget the ripples of abuse”. For each child alleging abuse – each of the 4,444 – there are family members, friends and partners who have had to share in the darkness with the survivor. Some victims didn’t survive; they turned to alcohol and drugs – some couldn’t go on living.

Furness goes on to detail further similarities: “Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed.”

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has, time and again, proved its worth. This latest evidence is another testament to the value of this Commission. The scope and complexity of institutionalised abuse (such as that perpetrated by the Catholic church) is its own best cover; only a sustained focus will be able to appreciate the extent of the abuse. The Royal Commission has provided this focus, and its work ­– and the work of Commissioner Peter McClellan – should be praised in the highest terms. As citizens, we must match the effort of the Commission, and do our best to comprehend the size of this abuse. Understanding such large numbers will be difficult – on the brain and on the heart – but for the sake of each of the 4,444, we must not look away.

Survivors can contact the Survivors & Mates Support Network on 1800 472 676 or www.samsn.org.au.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Dylan Voller gives evidence before the NT Royal Commission

As a firm, we are extremely proud of Dylan Voller for his appearance before the NT Royal Commission. Dylan gave evidence about truly inhumane treatment he has suffered, yet remained articulate and courageous throughout. We hope that Dylan’s bravery in telling his story will lead to real change in the criminal justice system.
dylan-at-commission-screenshot

Indigenous crime is down, imprisonment up. Wait, what?

Indigenous crime rates are down, and down by a lot. BOCSAR has recently released statistics on the period from 2001 to 2015, which show that arrests of Indigenous people for violent offences have dropped by 37 per cent, and for property crime by 33 per cent. Amongst young Indigenous males, arrests for violent crimes have been more than cut in half: down by 58 per cent for those aged 20-24.

Photo credit: SBS 'Prison Songs'/SMH

These are incredible statistics. They indicate an approximate one-third drop in Indigenous crime rates, and should be cause for celebration. But – and when you’re talking about Indigenous criminal justice there always seems to be a but – BOCSAR released these statistics with another, less inspiring, set of numbers.

In the same period that Indigenous arrests fell, the number of Indigenous Australians in incarceration more than doubled. As an age-standardised percentage, the rate of Indigenous imprisonment rose by 40 per cent between 2001 and 2015. This. Does. Not. Seem. Right.

Basic intuition tells you that the less involvement a group has with crime and police, the fewer members of that group will be imprisoned. In this case, it seems like the exact opposite is happening. So what is going on here?

The short answer is political meddling. BOCSAR explains that the growth in Indigenous incarceration is due to three intersecting causes. The first is an increase in the proportion of Indigenous people who are charged with a crime actually being convicted for that crime. The largest growth in convictions occurred in the area of justice procedure offences (for example, breach of a community-based order or breach of a violence order). The number of convictions for justice procedure offences has grown by 1,746 over that 15-year period. In the words of BOCSAR’s report, “[t]he abrupt nature of the change in this category of offence between 2009 and 2010 suggests a change in policy rather than a change in offending.”

Aboriginal flag with justice now sign

Coinciding with this increase in convictions is an increase in the proportion of those convictions that lead to a prison sentence. This growth is sharpest in the offence categories of justice procedure offences and violent offences, but the new inclination towards incarceration is found across the board. BOCSAR writes that “14 out of the 16 offence categories show an increase in the proportion of convicted Indigenous offenders receiving a prison sentence, suggesting that harsher sentencing practice might be a significant contributor to the growth in the Indigenous imprisonment rate.”

The third key factor driving up Indigenous imprisonment rates is the growth in remand (when an accused is refused bail). The number of Indigenous prisoners on remand grew by 238 per cent between 2001 and 2015. We’ve written about the iniquity of an overzealous bail system before: it takes individuals away from their community for no good reason (bail is, on principle, unfair: it locks up an individual prior to them being found guilty for a crime). We can now add another reason to oppose harsher bail law: it demonstrably contributes to the problem of systemic Indigenous disadvantage.

This, in the end, is the key point: while the non-Indigenous prison population has also risen over the same period, any increase in punitiveness tends to have a disproportionate effect on our most vulnerable groups. Apparently this is still the case even when offending is falling within those groups. These statistics show that the harsher punishments which are dished out to Indigenous people who come into contact with the criminal justice system dwarf the decrease in Indigenous offending. The statistical anomaly is not an anomaly at all, but just good old, old-fashioned, built-in disadvantage.

NTRC Day One: Setting the Stage

The first substantive day of hearings of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children introduced a few of the larger themes that the commission will be dealing with. Those themes are:

The “Inquiry Mentality”

A key concern amongst Indigenous leaders is that the current royal commission will merely be another talkfest (the comparison that is frequently drawn is with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the recommendations of which remain largely unimplemented). Peter Callaghan SC, counsel assisting the commission, tackled this concern head-on in his morning address:

“do we need to confront some sort of inquiry mentality in which investigations are allowed as a substitution for action and reporting is accepted as a replacement for results? The bare fact that there has been so much said and so much written over such a long time is suggestive of a persistent failure that should not be allowed to endure.”

We have previously written that, when it comes to recommendations, there will always be a gap between what is best and what is achievable – and that Mick Gooda and Margaret White know this. Gooda has said that he “shares the community’s fatigue with reports that achieve no change.” Setting up the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children was the threshold step; the ultimate test for this royal commission will be in the days and weeks following the release of the recommendations.

Photo credit: Helen Davidson for The Guardian Australia

Photo credit: Helen Davidson for The Guardian Australia

An Indigenous Inquiry

While the inquiry is not explicitly about Indigenous rights, the fact that 95% of juveniles detained in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal means that this commission will necessarily be an inquiry into systemic disadvantage within the Northern Territory. Again, Callaghan cut straight to the point when he said that while 30% of the NT population was Indigenous, almost all of the children in detention and 86% of children subject to care an protection orders in 2014/15 were Indigenous. In fact, Aboriginal people are over-represented in almost all of the metrics you don’t want to be over-represented in, including suicide and serious illness. Areas of Indigenous disadvantage overlap and compound each other. These “medico-social issues” will be examined by the royal commission, as they should be.

Human Rights and Children’s Rights 

Most of today’s time were taken up by a marathon testimony from Megan Mitchell, the Children’s Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Early on in her evidence Mitchell made the statement that “human rights are not rocket science, they’re pretty basic things that we would all understand that everybody needs to do well in life.” When it comes to the human rights of children in particular, one has to factor in another basic idea: “Children, by their nature, are developmentally vulnerable.”

As Mitchell stated, children are already at a relative power disadvantage compared to adults, so when children are placed in institutions that compound the hierarchies of control those kids are at much greater risk of voicelessness and abuse. Exacerbating this risk is the fact that when you incarcerate children you take them away from “their family and their natural advocates.”

Moving from the abstract to the practical, Mitchell made several concrete recommendations for ensuring the rights of children in detention centres. They were:

  • “Strong and robust oversight” of prison systems and guards, including the ability to make complaints. The right to make complaints must be well understood by child inmates.
  • “Well-trained and well-recruited staff who understand human rights” (the original Four Corners program revealed that some of the guards at Don Dale were former cage-fighters who had had as little as four days training before being placed in charge of children).
  • “Access to family on a regular basis” (for Indigenous youth, this right should also be extended to include continued access to one’s culture)
  • Access to independent legal advice and external legal remedies
  • Access to appropriate education

Justice Reinvestment

O’Brien Solicitors’ principal, Peter O’Brien, asked Megan Mitchell, If we tackled children’s problems when they were younger, could juvenile detention centres be obsolete?

This is essentially a question about justice reinvestment: the diversion of money away from prison and into communities, aimed at stopping crime before it happens (for a quick explainer, check out this NAAJA video). Justice reinvestment was the focus of a recent Four Corners program and is objectively a good idea – and as this royal commission wears on, more and more people will come to realise just how important an idea it is.

Mitchell’s reply was “Probably. Most of the risk factors that predispose children to a pathway into the justice system are fairly obvious from a young age. [If we could deal with those factors at a young age] I think we would be a much better position to ensure that children don’t end up in the juvenile justice system in the first place.”

Earlier in her evidence she also made the remark that “being in a jail is not good for kids. At the end of the day it mostly entrenches criminal identities and associations and, for mine, that’s not a good investment in kids.”

Practical Difficulties

The evidence of the second witness, Carolyn Richards (the former Northern Territory Ombudsman), was unfortunately interrupted by technical difficulties. While I don’t want to say that a dodgy Skype connection is proof of an impaired royal commission, these kinds of technical delays don’t do anything to alleviate concerns about the royal commission’s tight timeline. The royal commission has only 25 public sitting days scheduled in before it has to produced its report in May next year. At 25 days, this royal commission has been called the “speediest in history”.

Many groups have already raised concerns about short timeframe of the royal commission, including the commissioners themselves. There have been tentative signs that the commission may request an extension of time, and George Brandis today said that such a request would be looked at “sympathetically”. When the royal commission was first announced, the incredibly intelligent Gillian Triggs made the suggestion that the commission be conducted in two phases: the first phase to produce a quick report into the Don Dale abuse, and the second phase to look into youth detention more generally. In our respectful submission, Mr Brandis, the two-tiered approach is still a very good idea.

Media contact: Please contact our office at the number below.

Contact O’Brien Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 to set up a free appointment with the defence lawyers in our Sydney office.

What’s Happening in The Northern Territory?

There are several Don Dale-related legal proceedings happening in the Northern Territory, so at times they tend to blend into one another. Each of these proceedings, though, has different legal (and social) significance, so it is worth spending a bit of time to untangle them from each other.

There are three main proceedings: the royal commission (obviously); Jake Roper and Dylan Voller’s civil suit against the Northern Territory; and the civil suit of the four other boys who were tear-gassed in Don Dale. Let me give a bit more detail about each one:

The Four Boys Suing the Northern Territory:

  • Four Corners showed footage of six boys being tear-gassed inside the solitary ward of Don Dale Detention Centre. Two of those boys were Dylan Voller and Jake Roper, and those two are jointly suing the NT Corrections. The four remaining boys – whose names have been suppressed – are bringing a separate joint suit against the Northern Territory in relation to the tear-gassing incident. These four boys are suing for battery and assault.
  • This case began its hearings on September 26. A lot of the evidence is simply reminding us of the appalling things we already knew: that there was no running water in the tiny cells; that the boys were kept in solitary confinement for 15-17 days before the gassing incident; and that the boys were locked up for 23 hours per day. But the case has also brought to light some new evidence. This ABC article contains some distressing, previously unseen footage of a boy being placed under a spithood and shackled at the hands and legs. We also now know that the official incident report significantly understated the amount of tear gas that was actually used.
  • The other thing to know about this case is that the Northern Territory was originally counter-suing two of these boys for damage they caused to Don Dale after breaking out of, and then back into, the detention centre. The Territory government dropped that counter-suit after public outcry.

Dylan Voller and Jake Roper’s Suit against the Northern Territory:

  • Dylan and Jake are taking a joint action against the Northern Territory in relation to the tear-gassing incident, with a few differences to the above case. Dylan and Jake are suing for battery, assault, and also false imprisonment. For those who are interested in using the law for social good, this case could be very interesting in asking questions of legality around the use of solitary confinement within prisons.
  • One unique factual element of the Voller/Rope case is Roper’s age – Roper was just 14 when the incident occurred. Following the tear-gassing, the on-call magistrate gave permission for five boys to be transferred to the adult prison for holding. That night, all six boys were transferred to the Darwin Correctional Centre. This was an obvious breach of the Youth Justice Act, which places an absolute prohibition on sending people below the age of 15 to an adult prison. The morning after the transfer the error was discovered, and Roper was moved out of the adult facility. (All of this information can be found in the Children’s Commissioner’s August 2015 report).
  • The start date for the Voller/Roper suit has not yet been listed (we’ll post an update when the case is listed).

Royal Commission:

  • The royal commission will examine the Don Dale tear-gassing incident, but that will only play a small part in the proceedings. The reason why the royal commission was established was because there is reason to believe that the abuse within Don Dale is merely the outward result of a failing system of juvenile justice. The terms of reference authorise the royal commission to inquire into the treatment of detainees, the culture and management of prisons, the NT government’s role in permitting the abuse to continue, the medical services available to kids in detention and possible deficiencies in the NT’s child protection system. That’s a lot to look into. We sincerely hope that the commission has enough time to make a thorough investigation, but questions have been raised about the six-month time frame.
  • At the end of this inquiry, the two royal commissioners – Margaret White and Mick Gooda – are “to make any recommendations arising out of your inquiry that you consider appropriate”. That’s a deceptively simple statement of an immensely complex task – without a doubt the most difficult task the commissioners will face. When it comes to recommendations, there will always be a gap between what is best and what is achievable. White and Gooda will want to avoid falling into this gap, and it has previously been said that Mick Gooda “shares the community’s fatigue with reports that achieve no change”.

Northern Territory Royal Commission: Day One

Northern Territory Royal Commission NTRC Banner

Day One of the Royal Commission wasn’t day one in any substantive sense – it was merely a directions hearing, the purpose of which was “to inform key stakeholders and the public about the nature and scope of the Commission”. Regarding the scope of the Commission, it has become clear today that the inquiry will focus on a ten-year window, from August 2006 until August 2016. That period will be wide enough to capture all of the abuse experienced by our clients – Dylan Voller and Jake Roper – and will hopefully be wide enough to examine the root causes of the abuse within Don Dale and other youth prisons.

The proceedings officially began with statements from each of the commissioners. Commissioner Mick Gooda (former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner) stressed the fact that community engagement – especially the engagement of Indigenous groups – will be critical to the success of the Royal Commission. To that end, the Commissioners have met with groups across the Northern Territory and have employed two “senior Aboriginal people” to liaise with the community: however, there are concerns from some Indigenous groups that these efforts are not comprehensive enough.

Commissioner Margaret White AO used her opening remarks to very helpfully explain the processes through which witnesses are summoned or seek leave to appear before the court. She also stated that:

“There can be no one in our community who is not anxious to find out if there are ways to bring about a significant reduction in child offending so that those children may live fulfilling lives in harmony with their own communities and so that a broader civil society may prevail, overall, in the Territory.”

Following the openings from the Commissioners, the two counsel assisting – Peter Callaghan SC and Tony McAvoy SC – had the chance to slot in their two cents. Callaghan should be applauded for mentioning the importance of diversionary measures in preventing crime, stating that “There are obvious and profound benefits, for the children, their families and the community, if such measures can be deployed successfully.” McAvoy likewise deserves praise for directing the attention of Commission to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). You might not know it in Australia, but human rights conventions exist for a reason – to set a minimum standard of behaviour for the treatment of the most vulnerable members of society. Australia would do well to put more focus on human rights instruments, and this royal commission is a very good place to start.

With all the pre-written formalities over, Commissioner White invited the lawyers in the room to publicly record their applications to appear before the Commission. This wasn’t strictly necessary (the applications also have to be formally submitted, and it is those paper applications which matter), but this part of the day provided a bit of levity. The lawyer for NAAJA was at first unable to explain what his acronym means,* prompting Commissioner White to joke that “the Territory is more full of acronyms than any other place I’ve ever encountered”.

The Commission will begin its main hearings in mid-October. When it does get underway, some the best Twitter accounts to follow are:

@nedavanovac

@katewildabc

@nadiasdaly

@heldavidson

@james_oaten

@james_felicity

@jacqueline_e_b

(If we’ve left anyone out, please get in touch and we’ll add them to the list)

Speaking of Twitter, there was some online confusion over which hashtag to use: #rcnt or #NTRC. Our view on this doesn’t matter a whole lot, but – for the record – we prefer #NTRC. It’s cleaner, you know. Less likely to be misconstrued.

The deadline for the findings of the Royal Commission is 31 March, 2017.

Update: The current Children’s Commissioner, Colleen Gwynne, has just held a press conference in which she made it very clear that “there needs to be a really broad high-level reform of youth justice and whatever that model will look like, it’s got to be significantly different to what we have now”. Colleen Gwynne is the successor of Dr Howard Bath, who was initiated this instrumental investigation into the tear-gassing incident.

Media contact: Please contact our office at the number below.

Contact O’Brien Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 to set up a free appointment with the defence lawyers in our Sydney office.