Prison Issues

Prison Issues

Robert Veen Biography

60 year old Aboriginal man, Robert Charles Vincent Veen has served more than 42 years in prison after having received life sentences on two occasions. He was convicted for two separate counts of manslaughter, between 1975 to 1983 and again, between 1983 to 2015.

Life Prisoners' Inquiry Index Page 

Robert Veen’s case highlights what the lack of rehabilitative support in prison can cause. For his second life sentence he was held for twelve years past his release date finally being released this year after 34 years. He got the benefit of the Violent Offender Treatment Program but had been given conditional release as day leave and weekend leave for the previous several years. He learnt new skills to deal with his anger and frustrations.

Born in 1955, Bobby was a member of the stolen generation with a deprived childhood. A white family in Albury adopted him when he was two but was ultimately removed from their custody when he became too difficult to manage.  He attended primary school in Albury and then attended Wodonga Technical College until he was fifteen, reaching second year standard. The principal gave evidence that he had a good outgoing personality and was outstanding at the sports of swimming, football and cross-country running. However, according to court evidence, a male teacher at his school introduced him to homosexual activity and the trial judge also recognised indications that Veen’s once strong personality had gradually deteriorated as he began to feel the impact of the difficulties of a black person in a white society.

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Garry Page Biography

Garry Page has served 13 years in prison, between 1976 and 1989, of his indeterminate life sentence after being convicted of  malicious wounding with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm. Justice Maxwell deemed it necessary to deliver this sentence on Garry Page on account of his aggressive behaviour.

Life Prisoners' Inquiry Index Page 

While he was growing up, Garry lived with his abusive and alcoholic father. His father knocked him around a lot and forced him to fight. Garry began to retaliate and defended himself in response to the treatment he received from his father. He attacked his father, almost ending his life.

Garry, conscious of his behaviour and concerned about the impact he could have on the people around him, was proactive in seeking a solution. In 1972 Garry went to Callan Park to volunteer to have a bilateral amylgdalotomy, believing this serious surgical procedure could alleviate his aggressive behaviour. At Callan Park, Professor Kicoh diagnosed him as an aggressive psychopath and described his aggression as amounting to a ‘disability’ which warranted the operation. Despite his efforts, the operation did not provide the changes Garry hoped to achieve. The worst effect was the loss of memory, which Garry later found out, was not caused by the operation, but by alcohol consumption.

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John Killick Biography

John Killick is a 73 year old man with a strong sense of perception and standing within the prisoner community having lived in it for over five decades. He was only recently released on parole in January 2015. As a reformed ex-prisoner his special story is that he’s observed the desperation of lifers, understanding the experiences of those whom have nothing to lose. Life prisoners whom are offered no hope and classed as ‘dangerous’ to other prisoners and to themselves.  He has special experiences to share with the standing committee.

Life Prisoners' Inquiry Index Page 

Having been in and out of the prison system since 1960, John Killick was seen as extremely dangerous, to be excluded for many decades from the general community and portrayed as an untrusted person within society. He may infamously be known as Australia’s first ‘decimal currency’ bank robber and remembered for his part in an audacious and desperate escape in a helicopter, at the risk of his own life and others. Today he stands as a man in balance with the community, surrounded by supportive family and friends around him, having completed a book of his experiences and about to publish a second. John represents a man previously isolated and distrusted; now having recovered, he exemplifies the philosophies of hope, and effective rehabilitation.

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Latest News:

Invitation to Human Rights Watch Event 07/02/2018 - "Australia: Abuses against Prisoners With Disabilities"

The treatement of prisoners with disabilites within the correctional and justice system is a pressing issue. A large propotion of the prison population has a form of a disability - either physical, or intellectual. This proportion is greater than that of the general popultation. States and territories do not have an inititive to diagnose prisoners for mental illnesses and having diabled defendants being directed plead guilty by their lawyers is a common occurence due to the threat of indefinate detention - hence the high disabled population.  Conditions for disabled inmates are also problematic as there is little to no outside support from outside organisations and communities.

Report on Inquest Last Day 8 March 2019

NSW Coronial Inquest into David Dungay      
Day Five (last day)   08/03/19

Key Points:

-       Problems in Corrective Services NSW, for responsible officer was unable to demonstrate ‘best practice’ in training and operations regarding de-esculation, and the safe management of inmates. The officer failed to locate in the NSW current manual a prior Queensland Coroner’s recommendations that no prone restraint be conducted on prisoners. There did not appear to be substantial progress in relation to some/all working guards obtaining specific training that was related to issues pertaining to Dungay’s death.

Poor progress was apparent regarding the training and delivery via an Operations Update on Corrective Services training of working staff on certain relevant issues: de-esculation not being an in practice priority; use of alternative equipment to riot helmets (to protect guards from spit); the failure to include Queensland Coronial Inquiry recommendations that relate to Dungay’s circumstances of death (but over a year prior to his death), advising that prone restraint technique NOT be used at all; the delivery of alternatives to prone restraint or of the risks of prone asphyxia to some/all staff, especially in Long Bay IAT; the use of ‘knee-ride’ pressure to an inmate’s back (that compresses the upper back) by officers/IAT.

-       The discussion and Coroner’s decision to not rescind a ‘Non-publication Order’ for the release to the public of the video that showed the failures of resuscitation that occurred after Dungay became ‘non-responsive’. This was despite requests by the Leetona Dungay Family and The Guardian newspaper, and options like the pixilation of faces.

-       During the court proceedings the Coroner provided time for each of the parent’s of David Dungay’s family to make separate ‘Family Statement’s.

-       Coroner Lee notified of the Time Frames for Submissions, and adjourned for the findings to be delivered at Lidcombe Coroner’s Court on 9am, 23 August, 2019

-       The inquiry ended with crowded public attendance in the public gallery, and with several major media present.

-       Post this inquiry, there was an emotional delivery to the media outside the court’s foyer of the Leetona Dungay Family’s ‘Family Statement’ (delivered directly by Leetona and her niece), and of the Hill Family (delivered on behalf of the family) ‘Family Statement’.

Below is a summary of the evidence given by witnesses, orders, family statements, and Inquiry submission & delivery of findings timetable.


Witness Statement 1 – ‘Officer U’ representing the Corrective Services Officers, IAT (Immediate Action Team) :

Dungay family’s lawyer, Mr Duncan Fire cross-examined Officer U about the Working Committee that was formed between Justice Health and Corrective Services in response to the issues of the Coronial Inquiry’s first two weeks of the Dungay case, raised post July 2018. (It was noted that Shaun Baggley is a member of the Working Committee - not cross-examined to date). The morning session focussed on the IAT obligation with ill persons to undertake a de-escalation strategies, to train ‘best practice’ including safety of staff and inmates, and regarding inmate safety the need and urgency in which alternatives like prone restraint practices are trained and implemented operationally.

Officer U was questioned as to whether the IAT recognised an obligation with mentally ill persons to undertake a de-escalation strategy, and, if there should be investigations into alternatives to prone restraint?   He answered that officers are trained to use the most effective restraints for staff, not to avoid prone restraint. There is a training package regarding the dangers of certain restraints, but not all staff are required to take this as a pre-requisite to work at IAT.

Mr Fire stated that Corrective Services’ ‘best practice’ should include the Queensland Coroner Court Mr Baggley’s recommendations that came out of the earlier death of Vaggs, which stated that prone restraints was not to be used in any situation by Corrective Services Officers. He asked Officer U if he could locate Baggley’s advice - that was to not use prone restraint - within the IAT officer section of the operations manual, and he replied ‘No, I cannot’. Officer U said the IAT & Corrective Services Officers were not trained to ‘not avoid prone restraint’, and it was ‘common in IAT to be used with enforced medication, but not so much outside of the Long Bay area’.

Asphyxia training is offered pre-placement in IOT officer role and during via online work yet is not required to start work. Training packages on asphyxia address statements like “ I cant breathe" as viewed as valid complaints of duress. One of the IAT Officers had used such knee pressure on Dungay’s back, but this was not taught within the training package.

Officer U’s reply regarding the operational use of prone restraint was that the IAT used to ‘not avoid prone restraint’, and it was ‘common’ in IAT’s to use enforced medication, but not outside the Long Bay area. Mr Fire questioned what alternatives existed to the use of riot helmets the IAT used, including whether face-masks were a viable option.   On the issue of equipment available to guards, for example, to stop being spat on, Officer U stated that officers especially in the IAT, while they used (riot) helmets, did have access to alternate equipment to protect staff’s face and eyes them such as gas masks   Asked, had anything changed since the Queensland Coroner’s Baggley Report, Officer U stated ‘No, not additionally’.

Regarding developing in future restraint alternatives for security operations, Officer U indicated that ‘eventually’ the number of restraints taught will change, but that the ‘IAT training package was not specific to prone restraint but to positional asphyxia’. It was acknowledged that any inmate reference to inability to breathe is recognised as a valid complaint of duress in asphyxia training. Officer U stated that Stage Two training is when staff are made aware of the signs of positional asphyxia, and added that claims of difficulty breathing can be misinterpreted by Corrective Services guards as non-compliance by an inmate. Officer U stated that every 2 years, online completion of training on positional asphyxia is to be done by IAT staff, and added, ‘Yes, a person could be rostered on without positional asphyxia training’. Officer U acknowledged that he had not had the training.

In relation to any proposal of increasing awareness on prone restraint, Officer U anticipated that ‘within the next 3 months training will be underway regarding prone asphyxia.   [Note: It is apparent that the formation of the Working Committee was not post Dungay’s death in 2015, but followed his Coronial Inquiry in July 2018, and that although Dungay died in 2015, and despite the working group, no additional operational changes have as yet been implemented.]

When asked about the IAT training package 2 in relation to the dangers of placing a knee on the back – ‘knee ride’, to which the C U referred to the large turnover of IAT staff.


Application to the Coroner to rescind a ‘Non-publication order’

On behalf of the Leetona Dungay family, Mr Fire sought for Coroner Lee to rescind the non-publication order for the video footage post Dungay’s non-responsive period. Extensive discussion about the capacity to change the order, the potential for public interest in showing the video, and particularly, that Mr Hill had conveyed to the Counsel to the Coroner that he was not wanting his part of the family to see this footage.

Questions referred to how this video may be in the public interest or to serve justice, and if anything had changed since the order was made that may influence the decision to change this order.   The inquiry is about material becoming open to the public, and an order for non-publication exists for exceptional circumstances, such as that which would render justice impracticable or not serve in the public interest.

Mr Windsor on behalf of Corrective Services listed 6 points about such orders: beginning with the necessity for open justice; including the interest of the Hill family; and concluded with Justice Johnson case where the deceased deserves ‘dignity and respect, even in death’. Family members and others in the public gallery reacted to this statement, and a family member responded “How dare you!” and left the court room, while others responded to him, “hear hear”

Mr Dawson, the representative for the medical doctors proposed an alternative to address concerns: that all faces including Dungay be pixilated.  

Mr Fire’s arguments to allow publication of the whole video were: it is important evidence; whilst it is distressing, the Hill family can take steps can be taken to avoid seeing it; and it would serve the public interest.

The Counsel for the Coroner argument included that there was ‘no basis’ and concerns that it would broaden the base of public interest concerns. After asking ‘What had changed since the order was made?’, Coroner Lee refused to rescind of the order, under Section 74 (1).

Family statements presented to Court:

Ms Leetona Dungay who has been leading the legal actions to investigate the death of her son - David Dungay - and attending all of the Coroner’s Inquiry, introduced herself and thanked the Coroner for allowing her to speak in court. With family members around her, and at times teary, she read from a prewritten script[1] that offered personal, family remembrances: of how David made it to Year 10 certificate and got a job after leaving school, how he managed his diabetes, and that he was enjoyable family member. Cynthia read a poem about her deceased brother, as did his nephew who read a poem David had written while in jail about how he was languishing in prison.

Counsel read the statements from Dungay’s father, Mr. Hill, and one of David’s brothers, Jack

The Coroner banned news media from recording family statements.

Time frame for submissions (before 5pm) was announced by Coroner Lee as:

17 May              Counsel Assisting the Coroner

7 June                Mr Fire, Dungay Family lawyer

21 June             Other submissions

5 July                 Responses by Counsel Assisting the Coroner

The case was adjourned, with findings to be delivered at Lidcombe Coroner’s Court:

Friday 23 August, 2019 9am

Post Court Family Statement read to the Media:

Leetona Dungay script presented to Coroner Lee and after court, to the media: 

Following the closure of court proceedings Leetona Family gave a media presentation of their Family Statement they had earlier presented in court time, read out be a family member while outside of the foyer of the court.

The lawyer for Hill family read out a letter written by father and son of David Dungay.

[1] Leetona Dungay script presented to Coroner Lee and after court, to the media: Https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=783468022030582&id=100011021732369



Death of David Dungay Jr

David Dungay


Timetable: Coroner's findings on September 13
JA Submission to Coroner
Family statement to media 8 March 2019
Report on Inquest last day 8 March 2019 
Report on Inquest 4 March 2019
Report on Inquest 5 March 2019
Report on Inquest 6 March 2019
Report on Inquest 7 March 2019

David Dungay Jr, was a 26 year old Dungatti man, who died on December 29, 2015 in Sydney's Long Bay Prison Hospital. In an attempted cell transfer, Dungay had refused to stop eating a packet of biscuits. As a result, six guards held him down in a prone position, administering a sedative while nursing staff and four other guards looked on. He called out twelve times that he couldn't breathe before losing consiousness. By the time the guards realised the seriousness of the situation, several minutes had gone past before basic life saving support was attempted. Still, only two compressions were undertaken. Dungay had gone into asystole arrest, otherwise known as irreversible cardiac arrest. 

For the full storyThe tragic death in custody of David Dungay

Media Links 

Watch ‘The Guardian“ articles and videos about the Death of David Dungay
The Guardian ran a series of ‘Behind the Lines’, ‘Breathless’ podcasts as well as articles specifically on Dungay’s death in custody:


Other Media Articles on Dungay Case
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/moving-out-of-squalor-to-an-uncertain-future/news-story/f8479a188e3dc22799a0a2a76a5886de https://www.macleayargus.com.au/story/5426815/peaceful-protest-as-family-searches-for-answers/

Major Issues


Duty of care for complex health needs, forced medication & use of dangerous restraint (page 7)

Black Deaths in Custody in Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Indigenous Incarceration is a national tragedy that demands action

Deathscapes - Mapping Racialised Violence in Settler States

Institutional Abuse & Discrimination, Coronial Inquiries
Amanda Dissel & Jody Kollapen, ‘Racism and discrimination in the South African Penal system.’  Penal reform International, 2003, NCJ number NCJ 206983  https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publicatins/abstract.aspx?ID=206983
Barbara Chambers and Jan Pettman, ‘Anti-Racism: a Handbook for Adult Educators.’  Human Rights Commission Education,  Series No. 1.   Australian Government Publishing Service,  Canberra, 1986.
Chris Owen, ‘Every Mother’s Son is Guilty: Policing the Kimberly Frontier of Western Australia 1882-1905.  UWAP Scholarly, 2016.
http: //www.uwap.uwas.edu.au   
Charles Reasons, ‘Racism, Prisons, and Prisoner Rights.’  Issues in Criminology, Volume 9, Number 2 (Fall, 1974), 3-20, page 3.

Need For Criminal/Civil Liability
Peter Grabosky, Anita Scandia, Kayleen Hazelhurst, Paul Wilson, ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody’.  Australian Institute of Criminology: trends and issues, Canberra May 1988.L. v. Commonwealth (1976) 10 ALR 269; Howard v. Jarvis (1958) 98 CLR

Black Deaths in Custody - New York and Internationally







The Behrooz Ghasemi Case

The Behrooz Ghasemi Case


Mr Behrooz Ghasemi, an inmate at Parklea Correctional Centre, has filed several complaints against Parklea for denying, hindering and impeding his right as an inmate to access to justice.

Firstly, Mr Ghasemi was denied legal services of legal resources for his upcoming criminal and civil proceedings. He was not allowed to forward legal documents to his legal adviser by the Corrective Service NSW due to the fact that it is not within the scope of Parklea to provide assistance for civil proceedings.

Secondly, the “networked” computers that are provided within the prison have constant connectivity issue for the past year. This hinders or impedes Mr Ghasemi’s access to justice, as it is part of the policy that inmates have access to networked computers for legal purposes. For example, the limited access to the Legal Info Portal. 

Lastly, Parklea is not providing a library with adequate materials to inmates in order to meet their legal needs. 

Robin Smith

Mr Smith was denied access to his own court transcript due to copyright concerns raised by Smith’s solicitor. This has restricted Mr Smith’s ability to make informed decisions in regards to his impending appeal.

Mr Smith’s solicitor has informed Justice Action that Mr Smith is allowed a hard copy of the transcript, however, only after the appeal. A digital copy could not be provided. Nevertheless, this copyright concern outlined by Mr Smith’s solicitor is inconsistent with the principles and rules outlined on the official NSW Court websites, where it states that:[1]

The parties to the proceedings or the legal representatives are entitled to obtain a copy of a transcript for a set fee.

Furthermore, in accordance with Supreme Court Practice Note No. SC Gen 2, parties involved in the court matter as well as their legal representatives are permitted to access the transcript from court proceedings.[2] This is reaffirmed on the Supreme Court Website, which states that while the photocopying of court transcripts is not permitted under copyright laws, the reproduction of transcripts is permitted in regards to its use in court proceedings.[3]

Hence, Mr. Smith and his legal representatives are entitled to copies of his court transcript, to ensure that he is fully informed and able to participate in his upcoming appeal process. Access to court transcripts whilst incarcerated is a long process which lacks thorough information, and particularly limits prisoners’ fundamental access to justice.

It is essential to have access to transcripts and other materials in order to prepare the best possible case for the accused and ensure his right to a fair trial.

 NSW Department of Justice, Court Transcripts (Web Page, 20 April 2016) <www.courts.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/cats/support/transcripts.aspx>

[2]Supreme Court of New South Wales, Practice Note Gen 2 of 2006 - Supreme Court – Access to Court File (Web Page, 3 January 2006) pt 6.

[3] Supreme Court of New South Wales, Transcripts (Web Page, 8 February 2017) <http://www.supremecourt.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/sco2_transcripts/sco2_transcripts.aspx>.



Robin Smith

Mr Smith was denied access to his own court transcript due to copyright concerns raised by Smith’s solicitor. This has restricted Mr Smith’s ability to make informed decisions in regards to his impending appeal.

Mr Smith’s solicitor has informed Justice Action that Mr Smith is allowed a hard copy of the transcript, however, only after the appeal. A digital copy could not be provided. Nevertheless, this copyright concern outlined by Mr Smith’s solicitor is inconsistent with the principles and rules outlined on the official NSW Court websites, where it states that:[1]

The parties to the proceedings or the legal representatives are entitled to obtain a copy of a transcript for a set fee.

It is essential to have access to transcripts and other materials in order to prepare the best possible case for the accused and ensure his right to a fair trial.

[1] NSW Department of Justice, Court Transcripts (Web Page, 20 April 2016) <www.courts.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/cats/support/transcripts.aspx>.


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