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Report on Inquest 4 March 2019



David Dungay Image 2


Coronial Inquest into David Dungay

Deaths in Custody  

DAY ONE 04/03/2019


  • Significant lack of training for correctional and medical staff in emergencies that require intervention.
  • Uncertainty surrounding Dungay’s behaviour and the extent of his aggression.
  • Witnesses reluctant to take responsibility, admit guilt or fault.
  • Revision of sedation/enforced medication policies and other safety procedures.
  • Unjustified choices/doses of medication used.


Below is a summary of the evidence given by two key witnesses in the case.

Witness Statement 1 

Relationship with Patient

To open the inquest, Rajana Maharja was brought to testify her movements during the death of David Dungay on the 29th December 2015. Rajana was a nurse at the correctional facility where David Dungay resided. Maharja explained that her prior dealings with Dungay were “occasional” and of which she recalled she knew him as a patient in Ward G of Long Bay Hospital.

Diabetes Management

On the date of the death, Maharja stated that the nurses (Zhu, Thapa and Newman), doctor (Dr Ma) and herself were all knowledgeable of the concern surrounding Dungay’s diabetic management. This included the fact that Dungay had consumed rice biscuits and as a result, quickly became agitated when instructed to stop consuming by a custodial officer. Nurse Zhu recounted this incident to her.

Maharja was questioned on what occurred after she had this conversation with nurse Zhu. Maharja claimed that she spoke to unidentified officers who requested Maharja write a medical certificate that would allow Dungay to be moved to a camera-cell.

Maharja told the court that her only concern with the biscuit incident was in regards to the risks it posed to Dungay’s sugar levels, which would be expected to fluctuate. Being a ‘clinical issue,’ Maharja expressed that this was a “clinical issue” which did not need to be dealt with by placing Dungay in a camera-cell – her opinion was in opposition to the custodial officer’s who intended to increase observation of the innate as per ‘procedure.’ 

Response to Patient’s Agitation

Maharja explained that she was located in the medication room when the ‘duress button’ sounded. Maharja claimed that herself, nurse Newman and Doctor Ma responded by beginning to resuscitate Dungay.

There was no indication in testimony of how, who or when the duress button was pushed, or if protocol was being followed as per outlined in Doctor Ma’s testimony (vitals being checked every 15 minutes until mobilization).

When asked what her role was in the resuscitation of Dungay, Maharja stated that she had great difficulty in recalling and expressing her actions due it being a high stress situation. However, she described her primary role being to maintain the airway by holding the jaw open and to get the air bag valve mask. She was prevented from doing so due to the excess amounts of thick vomit that was caused by the biscuits he had digested.

Nurse Newman assisted Maharja in opening the however, claimed that the food particles became too difficult to remove, and so attempted to perform a ‘hand-held suction.’ Maharja also states that Nurse Thapa came from another ward to assist – she does not recall her primary role in the incident. According to Maharja, Dr Ma was performing chest compressions.

Emergency Specialist Dr Brown has since criticised the actions of those involved in the resuscitation incident as adequate ventilation was not consistently provided to Dungay.

Questioning the Witness

Maharja was asked about her qualifications in CPR. She explained that the incident was her first experience performing CPR in a real emergency situation and not in simulation or educational role plays.

When asked about her training for emergency CPR since this incident, she struggled to recall when or what training she had completed in reference to new policies instigated by Justice Health. However, Maharja did state that a new team leader was appointed in the area of Emergency Training Services. The leader’s role is to ensure adequate execution of response checklists and foster more collaboration between Justice Health staff and Corrective Officers.

Maharja did claim to do further simulation based scenario training following the incident. When asked what she would have done differently in the incident, she said these new policies and plans would be implemented. Maharja and staff are alerted to changes in framework via headboards/emails. The discussion of frameworks was vague - Maharja has not been in similar situation of emergency resuscitation since 2015.


At this point the court had a break and the conclusions are as follows:

There has been poor training in respect to roles and responsibilities in areas of sedation and joint intervention - evidence drawn from witness statements demonstrates inexperience and incompetence.

Restatement of Facts

As court resumed, Maharja was once again questioned on her knowledge of the transfer, to which she claimed she was in the nurses station and did not see the transfer of Dungay from a non-camera cell to a camera cell.

She was also further questioned on her resuscitation training to which she added information about her first year of Nursing which included scenario based training at Long Bay Hospital learning centre. This detect training incorporated CPR training - the CPR coordinator acting as one of the educators in this course which she completed some time after starting in March 2013. Records from Justice Health indicated that she had not completed training since the 8th of April 2014, 20 months before Dungay’s death.

In response to not having completed a refresher course of CPR, she claimed she was on annual leave and not aware that her CPR course had lapsed, to which both parties are responsible to follow. Even though she had not done any practical CPR training in the fourteen months preceding Dungay’s death, she claimed to be confident in her skills as she had been assessed and checked whether she was competent or not in being assessed on a mannequin previously.

Maharja was questioned again about her roles during resuscitation (resuscitation lasted 17 minutes). Maharja claimed she and a colleague were working on the airway at the same time. Additionally, Maharja mentioned that at one point, a defibrillator was used on the victim’s chest. She was asked how long it takes for a defibrillator to deploy based on her experience, she could not answer for sure. She also cannot recall why there were long pauses taken between the 30 compressions and 2 breaths that should not have occurred (in line with proper CPR practice). She could not recall who completed the suctioning, or that a cap was left on the suction device, which was later found in Dungay’s mouth.

Following the Event

Maharja was asked whether she had continued to work in G Ward after Dungay’s death, to which she has (continuously and reasonably). She has also worked in the E and F Ward which are Mental Health Units.

Maharja was questioned on how practices have changed in enforced medication since Dungay died, to which she claimed there was now joint intervention with custodial services, and less enforced medication policies. She was also asked about the use of safety huddles in the Ward, which she claimed to occur at around 9-9:30 in the morning when doctors are around, however, was unsure whether these were used at the time of Dungay’s death.

Witness Statement 2

At this point, Dr Trevor Ma was brought in to answer questions. His representation raised an objection and under section 61 of the Coroner’s Act, to giving evidence regarding any aspect of the resuscitation unless provided with a certificate under 61(5) which would deem him potentially liable to civil penalty if the evidence proves. This certificate was granted.

Dr Ma offered condolences to the family, and wants to know more information about what occurred on the 26th December 2015. Dr Ma was a Psychiatric Registrar in 2015 working at the Long Bay Hospital for Justice Health, however is now working as a Staff Specialist at the Forensic Hospital adjacent to Long Bay Hospital and Silverwater Mental Health Screening Unit.

Details of Events

Dr Ma claimed that on the 29th December, a call was made by nurse Newman to raise the fact that there had been an attempt to move biscuits from Dungay. He did not know if this has occurred by physical means or a verbal de-escalation. He approved 10ml of midazolam and also 10ml Haloperodol to sedate Dungay based on his levels of aggression which the nurse has described as high. He was aware of Dungay’s diabetic condition.

Prescribing Medication

Dr Ma was asked whether about practices which involve examining the prisoner before prescribing - he claimed that there was a need to review Dungay, but it could be done before of after, as a review can occur after the mediation is administrated depending on the immediacy of the risk.

He was also asked to determine what was required in observations of the inmate following the administration to which he replied that prior to administration observations included – decreasing levels of consciousness, acute medical conditions, particularly off airway and breathing conditions and vital sign observations if possible. Following the administration of medication the patient should be continually observed every 15 minutes until the patient is mobilised.

Dr Ma also claimed that flumasinol injections were not available at this time (evidence to counteract an overdose of midazolam). In the event of his aggression, it was important to maintain the safety of the staff who are administering treatment.

Dr Ma explained that when the alert occurred over the intercom, Dr Ma found Dungay unresponsive in a G Ward Cell. Originally, he thought that he might have aspirated on the biscuit and therefore began a resuscitation approach following the DRABCD method. He admits to checking the pulse and noticing that there was some food content and blood but not a major blockage. At this stage he chose to take part in chest compressions - of which he received training during basic life support in CPR on the 4th February 2015.

As a senior doctors and having additional training over the other staff (nurses) he undertook a leadership role in which he admits in hindsight he did not do efficiently, but at the time he did what was necessary. However, in his training he had only practiced on a mannequin as per certification - there was no training of assigning of roles managing for chaotic situations.


When asked if Dr Ma saw evidence of the chest rising and falling (to show the lungs between supplied with oxygen) he could recall being concerned about the adequacy of the air bag valve mask and claims that he attempted to correct his technique.

Dr Ma addressed that he interrupted chest compressions in order to address the fact that the thick vomit would not easily clear from the airway which meant he decided to put Dungay into the recovery position.

Following the Event

Dr Ma was questioned on his training in emergency response to which he confirmed that he had in the annual refresher of life support (which has not changed since the death of Dungay), and an advanced life support course in 2018.

Dr Ma was asked whether he was aware of changes at the Long Bay Hospital in regards to enforced medication and emergency sedation to which he is aware of a new collaborative effort between Justice Health and Custodial Services. Dr Ma also highlighted a reform in terminology: meetings called “safety huddles” are said to provide the staff with a better opportunity to assess risk and communicate delineation of roles in restraint and nursing.

Dr Ma admitted that he did not perform the resuscitation efficiently despite being employed as a Registrar. He also admits to the absence of an explanation regarding why Dungay’s aggression was deemed ‘high’ level (in respect to the staff’s observations).

Please see 'Report on Inquest 5 March 2019for a continued recount on this Coronial Inquest.




David Dungay Image




Expanding Berrima: women-only prison

More jails, more women in prison, more government failure
Media release NSW Greens: 23 July 2018

The NSW Greens claim that expanding Berrima prison by 500 beds and making it women only is an admission of failure from a Liberal National government addicted to a law and order auction.

The women in our prisons are overwhelmingly victims of abuse, crippled by financial distress and often self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Nearly 40% are Aboriginal. These are women that are in the greatest need of help and support, instead the Coalition government’s response is to lock them up and throw away the key.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said in a statement on Monday:
‘Expanding Berrima and turning into a womens-only prison is an admission of failure from a government that has become addicted to police, jails and punishment.

The NSW Liberal National government has directly overseen a 50% increase in the number of women in jail. This is a national disgrace.

Aboriginal women are the fastest growing cohort, making up making up just 2.2 percent of population but 38% of the prison population.

Almost half of the women in prison haven’t even been found guilty. They are overwhelmingly single mothers, locked up on remand with a short stay in prison enough to tear their family apart.

Even when women have been found guilty it is overwhelmingly women who have committed non-violent offences, who are victims of abuse and come from a seriously disadvantaged background. These women need help not a jail cell.
The growing number of women in prison should be a wake up call to fix the system that puts them there in the first place, not to waste billions more on new and expanded prisons.

There is one simple solution to the overcrowding crisis in our prisons, it’s not building more jails, it’s to stop putting so many vulnerable people in jail in the first place.’

Mad in Australia

This publication exposes the history of abuse of mental health patients in historical and cultural context. It identifies how the culture of doctors forcing medication on mental health patients began, in breach of their ethical obligations, and against the evidence of its effectiveness. It also offers solutions.

Download the latest edition here.

Hong Kong Interns

Group photos with our 2018 interns from Hong Kong.
Meet Wing, Myra, Albee and Sky!






Justice Health Failure

Media Release: July 12, 2018

“The repeated failure of NSW Health to supply evidence justifying the forced injection of Malcolm Baker caused an adjournment of the case. The Mental Health Review Tribunal ordered them to provide us with the documents". A photo and full report of this latest news is available here.

“Two days before the hearing Justice Health psychiatrists forcibly injected him with double the previous dose of paliperidone. This was despite requests to await the decision of the Tribunal. Malcolm gave evidence of the medication’s side effects, included dribbling, difficulty in speaking, memory loss, dizzy spells, high temperature, increased anger, agitation and anxiety. He said it made him sick and asked to be left alone”.

“Malcolm is a non-violent prisoner who has not harmed anyone or himself during his twenty-six years of imprisonment. He had immediately taken responsibility for his actions after a fit of jealous rage 26 years ago”. See Malcolm's full profile here

“Two earlier hearings in February and April of 2018 had resulted in orders that lasted respectively 2 and 3 months. During each period, Mr Baker was relocated to Long Bay Prison to be forcibly injected. On neither occasion was it justified by anything he had done, but the orders were too short for a Supreme Court challenge. On three previous occasions in 2012, 2015 and 2016 the Tribunal refused to give Justice Health the order it asked for, after Justice Action defended him”.

“We presented to the Tribunal Malcolm’s Personal Management Plan which had been created by him and his family, as a positive alternative to the forced Treatment Plan. He asked to be held in a safe area, as well as have access to education and work”.

“This behavior by the Health Department is part of the same mental health culture exposed with Miriam Merten and described officially as ‘lacking compassion and humanity’. It is ongoing torture of an isolated elderly man, and we intend to stop it”.

Mad in Australia - November 2013

Mad in Australia Update November 2013

This publication exposes the history of abuse of mental health patients in historical and cultural context. It identifies how the culture of doctors forcing medication onmental health patients began, in breach of their ethical obligations, and against the evidence of its effectiveness. It also offers solutions. Click the link below to readthe latest edition.
You can also download the latest edition (Nov 6, 2013) here.

Read more

The Combined Churches Report

An inter-church committee reviewed and reinforced an earlier report by the Churches, called Prison: The Last Resort (1988). It called for a bipartisan approach to prison policy, provided it addresses the main issues. The committee recommended (7) that overcrowding be reduced and other conditions be addressed. It also called for (8) the immediate implementation of measures that reduce the numbers of Aboriginal people in prison as referred to by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Inter Church Steering Committee on Prison Reform (1994) Prison - not yet the last resort: a review of the NSW penal system.

Failed Health Department Plan - Media 160518

Abuse in mental health normal

Media release Wednesday May 16, 2018
The callous disrespect exposed in Lismore Hospital to dying Miriam Merten will continue. Nothing in Health’s Implementation Plan will change the culture. There will be no ongoing objective accountability, no removal of legislative protections such as s.195 MH Act, no computers and phones in seclusion areas, no alternatives to forced treatment, and no independent consumer advocacy. The timetable shows no urgency for consumers getting on Committees and no structure for electing representatives. The endemic corruption of mental health, with noses in the NSW Health Department’s annual trough of $23 billion is disgraceful to all those who don’t demand structural changes after such an exposure.

The Review by the Chief Psychiatrist made very serious criticisms of the NSW Mental Health System. It said that the NSW Mental Health culture lacked compassion and humanity (p7) or real interest in the individual beyond risk management (p22). The System used coercive compliance, had no internal oversight even after the Merten death (p29), lacked guidelines, had little evidence of engagement with consumers and carers (p35), little involvement in care plans (p.36), had no examples of the necessary leadership required to give high-quality compassionate care (p24). The Review said that peer worker support was very limited with rare access despite being a vital resource to lessen seclusion and restraint (p33). It requires urgent action.

The case of Saeed Dezfouli shows that abuse of power is endemic to mental health, regarding the disabled as easy targets without rights. Locked in the Forensic Hospital Saeed has been refused access to a computer or legal information even though he has to argue for his freedom against the barristers of the Attorney General and Justice Health on a difficult point of law. The Medical Superintendent Dr Ellis stated that Saeed could handwrite his Submissions, would have no more than two hours a week with a computer, could borrow necessary books from public libraries, and would have no more than 30 minutes a week to access the internet, with a staff member using the mouse and keyboard. As a prisoner, he would get a computer and information.

Saeed’s case has international interest, where due process and the Rule of Law must be maintained. Justice Health submitted to the Mental Tribunal its concern about further criticism of Australia from the UN Committee of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with continuing media attention. It said that Saeed is costing them too much money and causing staff to be frustrated because he isn’t submissive despite being forcibly medicated. He and Miriam are examples of thousands of others where Health has lost its obligation to be person centred. It needs external and consumer monitoring as effective as the CCTV and media exposure for Miriam.

Prison Statistics from the 1st Decade of the New Millenium

The following section contains detailed information on deaths in both prison and police custody and custody-related operations since the program commenced. This information also presents, for the first time, data specifically relating to deaths occurring during police pursuits and shooting deaths in police custody.

The most recent statistics for New South Wales, produced by the Department of Corrective Services, states that there were 17 deaths in custody during 2004/5.  While 6 deaths arose from natural causes, the other 11 were a result of "unnatural" causes.

In Australia in 2004 alone there were 39 deaths in prison custody and 28 in police custody and custody-related operations. In total, 14 deaths were of Indigenous persons and 15 deaths resulted from hanging. One of the hanging deaths was of an Indigenous person. Eight deaths occurred during vehicle pursuits and another 6 deaths resulted from police shootings. All of the police shootings were assessed on review as justifiable homicide and all involved persons who had committed violent offences immediately prior to the shooting. The total number of deaths in custody is the lowest recorded since 1992.

2004 Results
The following information presents statistics on deaths in custody in Australian states and territories for the 2004 calendar year. The report provides comparisons by jurisdiction and Indigenous status.  Key findings were that:
Sixty-seven deaths occurred in custody in 2004 (39 in prison custody and 28 in police custody and custody-related operations).
Fourteen deaths were of Indigenous persons (7 in each of prison and police custody).
There were 14 hanging deaths (one Indigenous) in prison and 1 hanging death (non-Indigenous) in police custody.
Eight deaths occurred during motor vehicle pursuits (2 Indigenous) and six deaths resulted from police shootings (all non-Indigenous).
Violent offences were the most common offence committed immediately prior to the final period of custody in both prison and police custody and custody-related operations.

Prison Deaths: 1980–2004

A total of 1,095 deaths have been recorded in prison custody since 1980.
Non-Indigenous deaths have consistently outnumbered Indigenous deaths each year.
Despite some fluctuations in rates of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous deaths since 1982, the rates of death for both have become more similar since 1999 and both have begun to trend downward since 1999.
Hanging and natural causes have generally been the most common causes of death over this period.

Police Deaths: 1990–2004

The numbers of deaths in police custody and custody-related operations have remained relatively constant between 1990 and 2004.
Non-Indigenous deaths have been consistently greater than Indigenous deaths each year.
The numbers of deaths each year from hanging have fluctuated between zero and six.
The most common cause of death since 2000 has been external/multiple trauma.
Accidents have generally been the most common manner of death each year.
There have been 127 deaths during motor vehicle pursuits recorded between 1990 and 2004.

Current NDICP Dataset
The current data set of the NDICP covers a 25-year period, from 1980 to 2004. The data set contains details relating to 1,766 individual custodial deaths that include:

655 deaths in police custody and custody-related police operations;
1,095 deaths in prison custody; and
16 juvenile detention and juvenile welfare deaths.

The majority of deaths recorded in the NDICP are of non-Indigenous persons (n=1,425), with Indigenous persons accounting for approximately 19 per cent of all custodial deaths (n=341).

2004 Findings
A total of 39 deaths occurred in prison custody in Australia in 2004. This figure is the same as that for 2003. Across the jurisdictions:

New South Wales recorded 14 deaths;
Western Australia recorded eight deaths;
Queensland recorded seven deaths;
Four deaths were recorded in both South Australia and Victoria;
One death was recorded in both Tasmania and the Northern Territory; and
No deaths were recorded in the ACT.

Comparisons with the Overall Prison Population
There were 24,171 prisoners in Australia in 2004 and, of these, 21 per cent (n=5,048) were Indigenous (ABS 2005).


Battling for right to communication

JUST US newspaper battle

Justice Action is in the NSW Supreme Court to fight for detainees' right to information. NSW authorities refused to distribute the election special to prisoners or mental health patients. It went into five other states and territories prison systems, and all judges and MPs. Read the latest Issue.


The latest edition of JUST US – Vol 4/1, was prepared for all prisoners and patients in forensic hospitals in early March. The newspaper informs prisoners and patients of their rights and eligibility to vote, while also providing an overview of the law and order policy positions of the ALP, the Coalition and the Greens from the CJC pre-election Forum before the NSW State Election. It was made relevant to all detainees wherever they are. Despite the right of all members of the community to have access to such information before they voted, NSW authorities refused once again to distribute Just Us.

NSW Corrective Services claimed by email that they already had “adequate sources of information about the election to distribute to offenders” but prisoners stated that they received nothing at all. This refusal to distribute followed two Supreme Court cases against them for the same behaviour. They feel they are above the law. It was in breach of their obligation to detail their objection, as Justice Fullerton decided in the Haque case in 2008. In the Scheff case in 2004 they forced prisoners to vote early to avoid Justice Smart's decision. We have asked the Minister for Justice and Attorney General Greg Smith to intervene. We decided to confront with Justice Health in court.

Justice Health justified their refusal to distribute Just Us because the newspaper “contains language and content that is political in nature and as such would not be deemed suitable for distribution within any NSW health facilities.” They had no conception of patients' rights to be involved in the community! They even blocked our lawyers led by the former Commonwealth Solicitor General David Bennett AC QC from getting instructions from patients. media release

On March 22, we took our case to the NSW Supreme Court so that Just Us might be distributed to patients in NSW forensic hospitals before the state election on March 26. Justice Health offered a settlement to give the paper to "those who hadn't voted", whilst it had instructed patients to return their votes the day before! It meant not a single patient would get the paper! Justice Health wanted to mark it  "not endorsed” and would not allow it to set a precedent.  We said "no".

Justice Health has fought us at every stage. They tried to strike us out to avoid the judge. media release This is despite their statutory obligation to "care" for their patients and under s.68 of the Mental Health Act to respect patients civil liberties in the least restrictive environment. They are used to total control and give Mental Health patients less respect than prisoners as patients are more vulnerable. It will be a defining battle for what health is about.  Who is central - administrators or patients?

Constitutional notices have been given to all states and territories Attorneys General. We have offered a settlement with a protocol for future access with an independent arbitrator to decide disagreement.  In the meantime, the newspaper is being distributed to prisoners and patients in other Australian states and territories. Just Us has also been sent to all members of the judiciary and representatives in all Australian parliaments. New Zealand has said it wants its own edition and that is currently being organised.

The UK prisoners newspaper "Inside Time" Editor Eric McGraw visited Sydney and talked with JA workers on July 8. Media release

Read Just Us – NSW State Election Special here.

Check out the article on New Matilda, about JUST US.


Parole is the conditional release of selected prisoners who have already served part of their sentence.  It means prisoners can serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a community corrections officer.


We are currently undertaking research on the issue of Parole in NSW, in response to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s (LRC) inquiry on this matter.

JA's preliminary submission (scoping paper) to the NSW LRC is available here.

Our full submission will be available later upon completion.


There has been widespread criticism of parole in its current form. The uneducated public opinion that parole is a ‘soft option’ is mistaken. In fact, research has shown that parole has effectively increased the length of sentences in NSW.  Justice Action has recently been working on submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission on Parole, covering several areas of public concerns regarding the current Parole system:

1.   Sentence Creep

Parole as a function has had the effect of extending prisoners’ sentences.

The Nagle Report 1982 in New South Wales provided recommendations (96 & 97) that remissions should apply to both head sentences and non-parole periods. However, remissions were completely abolished in 1989 with the introduction of Truth In Sentencing laws. Although this was established with the expectation that it would reduce the general length of imprisonment, it actually increased the average overall time people spent in prison. The community bears the monetary cost of this extended period of incarceration.

2.   Reduced crime rates not related to increased imprisonment rates

The crime rate in the last 10 years has dropped worldwide, especially in developed countries. There is a large body of academic research that asserts various social causes for recent reductions in worldwide crime rates[1]. Research shows that there is no link between reduced crime and increased gaol sentences.  The analysis provided in the studies and articles below show that higher levels of imprisonment had no correlation with a drop in crime rates. Instead, reduced crime can be linked to increasing surveillance and security technology that effectively acts as a deterrent to crime. Other factors that are linked to this reduction include a decline in heroin use, an increase in security measures and a thriving economy. [2]


Links to articles:

There is significant research supporting the argument that Prisons cause crime[a4] . Lengthy prison sentences have been shown to disrupt a person’s existing familial ties, support networks and links to housing, as well as cutting off people from their former social responsibilities and functions. It can be said that appropriate parole conditions will reduce recidivism rates significantly compared to the alternative of extended prison sentences.

3.   Positive Engagement for Prisoners:

Agreed Parole Plans

Our core proposal is the Agreed Parole Plan (APP). The APP is a negotiated agreement between the State Parole Authority (SPA) and the person at the beginning of their sentence. The idea of actively involving prisoners in their future is encapsulated in the Justice Reform Initiatives. The APP should be created with the support of Corrective Services and the involvement of the community and families in this process. An APP proposed to the SPA should be created immediately after the sentencing hearing. It would also outline the requirements that need to be fulfilled by both the person in prison and Corrective Services in order for the APP to be approved for parole. The requirements should include programs such as reconciliation with family and possibly victims as well as training for jobs or other satisfying activities. It is essential that this is supported by the Department of Corrective Services. If the person has met these requirements at the time of the parole review, parole should be approved. This aims to remove the arbitrary aspects of decision-making in parole hearings and change the focus to one of social re-integration.

The APP aims to empower and provide incentive for people to use their time in prison effectively through their engagement in the services provided in prisons. Additionally, it will establish mutual expectations and obligations between the State Parole Authority, Corrective Services, the prisoner, their family, and the community at large.

This strategy, in conjunction with Justice Action’s Justice Reform Initiatives will provide for an effective use of a prisoner’s sentence and enhance the prisoner’s ability to resettle into the community while on parole. Giving prisoners something to work towards, by setting goals, definite plans and time frames will improve the current situation and encourage a more proactive approach to parole.

4.   Community Support: The SPA

The SPA should be seen as a positive mechanism for prisoners re-entering society. A greater cross-section of the community should be represented as community members in the SPA, with a particular focus on including minority groups. This is particularly important as minorities are often over-represented within the criminal justice system, yet under-represented in society. Justice Action suggests that half the members of SPA should be appointed by the Council of Social Service New South Wales (NCOSS). Former prisoners who have successfully integrated into society could provide invaluable insight to the SPA however under the current system (where all members are recommended by the Attorney General) figures such as the former commissioner of NSW corrections (and former prison officer) Ron Woodham are allowed to represent the community in the SPA as community members, while reformed inmates are not considered.

Parole officers currently play two roles that are in conflict with one another; they not only have a supervisory/security role but are also supposed to provide a supportive function. The latter role however should be delegated to other agencies such as a mainstream NGO.

If the community has a greater involvement in the parole process, the parolee will find it easier to re-integrate into society. Consequently, the rights and benefits of the parolee must be acknowledged and clearly established to all parties involved. These rights and benefits include access to family, community support groups, and social workers. We need to begin treating people in prison as people waiting for and wanting to change. They need to be provided with adequate support for this to be effective on our community.

5.   Privacy

SPA hearings must be made private, similar to the Family or Children’s Court, ensuring that vulnerable parolees are protected during their transition back into society. Currently, the nature of Parole Board hearings allows the media to access and publicise information, much of which is negative and focused on the offender’s past. Open parole hearings cause a great deal of public censure and mistrust of the individual despite them having already expiated their guilt, served a large portion of their sentence and deemed to be ready for release. The persistent media attention essentially makes integration much harder for parolees.





[1] Paresh Kumar Narayan & Russell Smyth, (2006) Temporal causality and the dynamics of judicial appellate caseload, real income and socio-economic complexity in Australia. Applied Economics 38:19, pages 2209-2219.

Michelle W. Trawick & Roy M. Howsen, (2006) Crime and community heterogeneity: race, ethnicity, and religion. Applied Economics Letters 13:6, pages 341-345.

[2] Weatherburn, D., Jones, C., Freeman, K. and Makkai, T. (2003), Supply control and harm reduction: lessons from the Australian heroin ‘drought’. Addiction, 98: 83–91. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00248.x

Australian Prisoners Union


Human rights should not end at the prison gate. Society must acknowledge that people who go to prison are also members of the community, and almost all will be released.


The APU was launched on Saturday 17 July 1999 at the Clubhouse, Jubilee Park Oval Glebe, NSW, to represent and advance the interests of people detained in prisons and hospitals. Its founding beliefs are based on the promotion of their human rights.

The APU is an organisation focused on a range of issues including:

  • Occupational health and safety
  • The right to choose or refuse services such as medical, educational and legal
  • Right to choose to smoke                      
  • Computers in cells
  • Encouragement to develop


Statements of support for the Australian Prisoners Union came from: Dorsey Nunn, Legal Services for prisoners with children, USA; Rittenhouse A New Vision, Canada; National Association of Ex-Offenders, UK; Prison Activist Resource Centre, Berkeley, USA; Prison Justice and Development program, Manila Philippines; Law Society of NSW Human Rights taskforce; Sisters Inside, QLD; Western Legal Services, VIC; Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, NSW; Community and Public Sector Union, NSW; Campaign for Equity Restorative Justice, Vermont, USA; Redfern Legal Centre Management Committee, NSW; Prisoners Legal Service, QLD; Raze the Walls, USA; The Prisoners Rehabilitation and Services Operations Foundation, Philippines; NSW Teachers Federation; Lee Rhiannon MLC, The Greens NSW; Laurie Ferguson MP, Australian Labor party and Arthur Chesterfield-Evans MLC, Democrats.

'As a prisoner I believe it is our basic human right to bring the Australian Prisoners Union to existence and to have it formally recognised and supported.' said Garnett Nuggins, an Aboriginal prisoner at Sir David Longlands Jail, QLD.

'The warmest congratulations on your initiative to establish the APU. It is indeed exciting news to hear that people who have been or are imprisoned will now have strong representation through your organisation.' said Lee Rhiannon MLC, The Greens.

If you would like to become a member of the APU please send us a membership form.

What contributions or ideas do you have that would strengthen the APU? What are your top priorities?

Tell your friends too. The bigger we are, the more work we can do.


PO Box 386, Broadway, NSW 2007       Ph: 02 9283 0123 Fax : 02 9283 0112

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Justice Action
Trades Hall, Level 2, Suite 204
4 Goulburn Street
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

T 02 9283 0123
F 02 9283 0112
E ja@justiceaction.org.au
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