Monday, 30 June 2008

Kiddy criminals, 8, let off with warnings

KIDDY criminals are being apprehended by police at an alarming rate of more than 50 a week for offences including assaults, car theft, malicious damage, armed hold-ups and drug dealing.

Figures on crime rates among 8, 9, and 10 year olds compiled by police show the distressing extent of the mayhem in some areas caused by children running wild.

Police logged 7724 offences by children under 10 between January 1, 2005 and September 30, 2007.

The crimes are very adult but police and welfare agencies admit they have no legal power to charge or punish these pint-size thugs, thieves, vandals and rapists.

The only option is a stern lecture and a call to parents, and possibly a referral to the Department of Community Services. Only when children are in the older 10-14 age bracket is there a possibility of an appearance in the Children's Court.

[No certainly not the only option. A better option for instance would be to teach all children 'equally' social skills in school or at the earliest intervention. Like, Social Responsibilities, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Self-Worth, and Life-Skills, now please read the links and don't be stupid all your life Daily Telegraph, That is if you want get out of the minimum security Prison Planet. PS) this world was not only made for the 'Takers' but also for the 'Leaver-Givers'. In Australia today up to three generations of parents don't have socials skills to pass on to their children. Publik and NSW Community News Network have been saying that for two decades, at least and why this society is falling apart is because of lack of understanding and ignorance - and not knowledge and understanding.]

The data was released following a Freedom of Information request and intervention by the Ombudsman after a nine-month delay.

The figures reveal:

* ONE murder last year by a 10-year-old, although details of the crime are not available;

* 141 sexual assaults and other sexual offences, including 31 by eight year olds;

* 41 robberies, including two involving firearms;

* 47 drug offences, including four where the children were dealing in cannabis, amphetamines or other drugs;

* 584 driving offences, including 113 by eight-year-olds;

* 355 break and enters, including 87 by eight-year-olds;

* 1109 assaults, including both domestic and non-domestic violence; and;

* 1613 cases of malicious damage to property, including 301 by eight-year-olds.

A police spokesman said children taken into ustody in this age group are returned to their parents without formal charging.

The youngsters do not face further action in court due to the presumption of doli incapax, the legal position that they are incapable of being held responsible for a crime.

"Children under 10 cannot be guilty of an offence. This is an unrebuttable presumption," the spokesman said.

It's not even automatic that the children's names are passed on to the Department of Community Services (DOCS). Only if there is a risk to the child's safety are police required to notify DOCS.

Former Children's Court Magistrate Barbara Holborow said there were more "feral" tender-aged offenders than ever. She said it's her experience that these children continue committing crimes until eventually they are old enough to appear in a Children's Court some years later.

"I don't know whether it's because so many parents are working by necessity, loss of parents' rights, poor discipline at home or whatever, but something is wrong," she said.

Victims of Crime Assistance League executive director Robyn Cotterell-Jones agreed.

"There's no fear any more in children about authority. They have the attitude that no one can touch me," she said.

Often the victims of child crimes were other children, especially in the area of sexual assault, she said. Ignoring the crime because the offender was under 10 may mean the victim does not get appropriate justice or help.

"The silencing mechanisms that are supposed to stop a child who does a crime being scarred for life may also mean horrible crimes are covered up," she said.


Government must do more to support families
The Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin must do more to support families instead of neglecting them because of the acute child abuse levels that are alarmingly high.

Govt, union defend remote community schooling
The Centre for Independent Studies says Aboriginal students in the Northern Territory are finishing school with the numeracy and literacy skills of five-year-olds.

Laws will push teenagers into adult prisons
TWELVE young offenders who have brought a court challenge against their transfer from juvenile to adult jails have been dealt a blow after the State Government rushed laws into Parliament that may ensure they are moved. Seven were shifted to adult jails from juvenile detention centres in March and April soon after their 18th birthdays despite judges' orders that they serve their sentence in a juvenile facility until 21 because of special vulnerabilities.

Teachers urge Govt to stem school violence
New South Wales teachers say the State Government should be putting more resources into tackling violence in public schools, after it was revealed 252 official reports of assault or serious threats were made last year. The figures are contained in reports released by the state's Education Department, which show more than 10 per cent of the state's schools reported at least one serious incident in the six months to September last year.

Principals agree: cut out social subjects
"The curriculum is far too crowded and we know from our research that not all schools can do what is being asked of them," she said. "The social responsibilities being placed on primary schools are ever increasing, taking time and resources away from our core business."

Jail parents of truants, says Iemma
EDUCATION and welfare experts have ridiculed Morris Iemma's plan to send parents to jail if their children repeatedly miss school, saying the policy is "heavy-handed" and will only hurt the most disadvantaged students.

Children 'sexually abusing classmates'
The inquiry has spent the last two days in Boggabilla and Toomelah, where about 70 people gathered to give evidence yesterday.

Intervention 'a smokescreen for land grab'
A delegate at an anti-intervention conference being held in Sydney this weekend says the general feeling is that the intervention is all about taking land away from Indigenous people.

Girls gone wild?
While these figures point to a disturbing trend, those searching for the reasons behind it paint a complex picture of women's changing identities, and an apparent acceptance of an increasingly violent culture.

Girls broke law to see jailed friends: Police
Two 14-year-old girls from Carnarvon, in central western Western Australia, who pleaded guilty to several burglaries, told police they committed the crimes so they could spend time with friends already in custody.

2nd Renaissance - Beyond Industrial Capitalism and Nation States
The very notions of the rule of law and judicial punishment are socially corrosive and damaging to the spiritual consciousness of both the people subjected to them and those that practice them. The following diagram shows the choices we have, right now, as the 2nd Renaissance gathers pace and a Level 4 Civilization lies ahead of us.

International Conference on Penal Abolition

The full agenda for ICOPA is now online, and pending any further changes, the line-up is looking like we're going to have a fascinating conference. With speakers coming to present papers from Brazil, Trinidad, Canada, Australia, USA, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa plus many more including the UK, we are really looking at a truly international conference.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Female prisoners hit record high

A record number of women now in NSW jails.

Latest figures released show the number of female prisoners increasing at more than twice the rate of men.

On June 1 women prisoner numbers hit 748 - a rise of 219, or 41 percent compared to June 2003. For men the number rose from 7565 to 9083, a rise of 20 percent.

Experts say a rise in the number of women abusing alcohol and using illegal drugs, as well as a greater willingness for judges and magistrates to jail women, is behind the jump.

Laura (not her real name) used heroin, speed and ice. She said: "You don't get enough money from Centrelink to support your habit so you have to do crime. Jail was a big wake-up call for me and I won't be back."

Law Society president Hugh Macken said the courts might once have been hesitant to jail women. Now, that applied less. But he said most women were given short sentences, restricting meaningful access to the jail's education and health programs.

More women were in jail because of a rise in average minimum sentences for those convicted of violent offences and the number on remand due to tougher bail laws.

"There has been an increase in the proportion of women serving sentences of five years or more."

Dillwynia general manager Shari Martin said many of the women had "tragic lives" dealing with unemployment, abuse and mental health issues.

"They might seem tough but they're quite vulnerable and have no confidence or self-esteem," she said.

Dillwynia offers literacy and numeracy education, behaviour management, drug and alcohol counselling and TAFE-accredited courses such as hospitality.

Each Tuesday the prisoners' children can visit. And all but maximum-security inmates have keys to their own cells.

But Ms Martin said that, despite the pleasant surroundings, inmates - from petty thieves to murderers - have to earn their place in Dillwynia.

If they don't comply with the daily prison routine they are segregated or transferred to the maximum security Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre in Sydney.

"They don't come here to be punished, they come to address their offending behaviour," Ms Martin said. "It's up to the individual to better themselves - we can give them everything they possibly need and all the help in the world but if they are not willing to change their lifestyle they get out and keep offending."

Quote: All too willing to talk about minimum security but the real truth is what goes on in Maximum Security like the lady says, and doesn't say, that most of these women spend most of their time in Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre. Described as a hellhole with little or no programs or resources even compared to men’s prisons. A message for reporters. Read the links then go and do a story on hardship and not the rubbish about how good prisons are. Of course the prison system may not let you in there, why is that? No mention either about the current recidivism rate at about 50 percent? All prisons are a blight on society and only a spacebubble in terms of resources, compared to the wider community. Prisons mostly run on uncertainty, negative reinforcement, segregation and punishment, if prisoners don't accept their lack of opportunity. Shame on the NSW government. Get the the real story from people who have lived it at Justice Action


Return All Day Visits
The Department of Corrective Service has unexpectedly withdrawn traditional “all day visits” for family and friends visiting the women in Emu Plains. This has affected the children who relied upon that contact with their mothers. Children of prisoners are six times as likely to have mental health problems.

UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
HRMU at Goulburn, inmates can be kept in inhumane conditions for an indefinite period. Last year, the NSW Coroner was also highly critical that mentally-ill people are placed in isolation in the supermax prison,” Mr Murphy said.

Lock ya up valley plans proceed
The Queensland Government is foolishly ploughing ahead with plans to build Australia’s largest prison in the Lockyer Valley. The announcement that this incredible waste of money will proceed despite a 4% drop in crime rates and no proportional increase in population is shocking.It is expected that the first stage of the new mega-prison in the Lockyer Valley will be a women’s prison. In 1991/2 there were 71 women in prison compared with 334 in 2006/7. If the incarceration rate of women in Queensland has increased by nearly 500% in 15 years, we should be doing more than just building a new prison: we should be investigating the reasons behind this trend and addressing the underlying problems.

Girls gone wild?
According to Australian Institute of Criminology figures covering Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, overall female offending rates increased only for assault between 1995 and 2006. The rate rose 40% for women, compared with 15% for male offenders. Nationally, the imprisonment rate for women soared between 1984 and 2003, by 209% for women compared with 75% for men. So what's going on? Are women really becoming more violent?

We owe prisoners more than jail
Prisons are too important to be left to jailers, for the simple reason that the standard prison magnifies social problems. It is a congregation of people with an accumu–lation of risk factors for crime.

2nd Renaissance -38
The prison system has never been reformed except in name. The prison system is, by now, incapable of reform, and the same can be said for the law enforcement and justice systems which feed it. This reality applies in most nation states within the old Level 3 Civilization, it is not confined to Australia, Britain and the USA. But that doesn't make it right for those administrations to be engaging in the incarceration of women and children. The practice is barbaric wherever it is practiced and by whomever it is authorised and administered.

International Conference on Penal Abolition

The full agenda for ICOPA is now online, and pending any further changes, the line-up is looking like we're going to have a fascinating conference. With speakers coming to present papers from Brazil, Trinidad, Canada, Australia, USA, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa plus many more including the UK, we are really looking at a truly international conference.

Welcome to

Inmate Gaby's photostream

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Insane Hours: solitary confinement cells

DEBORAH RICE, PRESENTER: It's insane. That's what critics are saying about a new routine that keeps some of the state's worst mentally ill patients locked up in solitary confinement cells for eighteen hours a day.

But there's not a lot of sympathy for the group; they're the inmates of one of the country's highest security jails - Long Bay. And why should any of us give a damn about the comfort of the murderers and other criminals there?

Well, the longer lockdown has been introduced, at least partly, because it makes staffing the prison hospital cheaper. But Australia's peak mental health organisation says it's a false economy and it's demanding immediate improvements.

The man at the other end of this phone line is articulate.

CALLER: We are a proud nation, proud citizens of a civilised country.

DEBORAH RICE: He's apparently well-educated and rational.

CALLER: Over $3,765 dollars a week, New South Wales and Australian hard-working taxpayers are paying for every patient inmate in Long Bay hospital.

DEBORAH RICE: He's also criminally insane and he wants your help.

CALLER: They are turning us into zombies.

DEBORAH RICE: The State's worst psychiatric offenders are housed in the hospital at Long Bay correctional centre in Sydney. Many have committed horrible crimes including murderers and sex offences, but as forensic patients they've been found not guilty due to mental illness. It's a high security facility and until recently the inmates were locked in their cells at 9:00 every night. But in April, their routine was brought in line with the general prison population, forcing them into their cells just before four o'clock in the afternoon. That means mentally ill patients now spend around 18 hours a day in isolation and they don't like it.

CALLER: It makes you feel frustrated, outraged, angry and depressed, which is not therapeutic.

BRETT COLLINS, JUSTICE ACTION: Do you have a sort of sense of, you know, of claustrophobia?

CALLER: I have, for the first time in my entire life. I have been placed, upon my request by the doctor, on Valium because I have claustrophobia and without some medication such as Valium I wouldn't be able to cope with the 18 hours locking in solitary confinement.

DEBORAH RICE: Advocates for the inmates say cost-cutting is to blame. Locking them away for longer means fewer prison officers are needed.

BRETT COLLINS: So what have you got in your cell when you're locked in solitary confinement?

CALLER: I have six concrete walls plus a couple of boxes which I have my legal documents in; clothing in it basically. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, except, I mean, of course there is a toilet and a sink.

DEBORAH RICE: Many of the inmates have signed a petition saying their human rights are being trammelled.

BRETT COLLINS: It's a very, very long time to be in a cell by yourself and with delusions and all the others problems. No, there's no question that what they're complaining about is occurring.

DEBORAH RICE: But a lot of the people who are in the hospital are there because they've committed some pretty awful crimes. Why should we care about their comfort?

BRETT COLLINS: They're human beings. These are citizens. These are people who have not even been convicted of the offence for which they were charged; and some have not even been charged. Now these are people who are the most vulnerable of our citizens. So if we as a community don't show them compassion, it says something about us as a community.

DEBORAH RICE: And those who work directly with the inmates agree.

RAY GREGORY, PSYCHIATRIC NURSE, LONG BAY HOSPITAL: Anecdotally, there's been more increase in incidents of aggression around locking down and opening up times; patients will become frustrated, you know, banging on doors, shouting through the windows; a kind of ... just sheer frustration at being locked in for so long, especially when patients have other symptoms. They may be suffering from internal voices, so auditory hallucinations.

DEBORAH RICE: The nurses say, under the circumstances, rehabilitation of the patients is impossible.

RAY GREGORY: It's not just a matter of giving patients tablets and expecting them to improve. That's a small part of mental health treatment. Social interaction and mental health assessments is a huge part of those therapies and they go hand in hand.

DEBORAH RICE: So, how do you feel?

RAY GREGORY: Nurses are expressing a lot of frustration around this. It's very difficult seeing a patient you've known for maybe months or even years to deteriorate significantly and be unable to intervene in those situations. To deliver care through a locked door isn't easy.

DEBORAH RICE: But you do have access to the patients after the lockdown, though, don't you?

RAY GREGORY: We'd have to alert officers to come down, that we needed a cell door opening. We'd have to maybe phone another ward, get those officers on to the ward where the patient was, and then wait 'til three officers arrive and then open the cell door.

DEBORAH RICE: That would be particularly difficult in an emergency, wouldn't it?

RAY GREGORY: That's right, that's right, and the client group that we deal with are particularly vulnerable to self-harm behaviour, to suicidal behaviour.

DEBORAH RICE: We asked to see for ourselves inside Long Bay hospital; instead, corrective services allowed Stateline into Silverwater Gaol.

EMPLOYEE, SILVERWATER GAOL: This is a 15 bed assessment unit.

DEBORAH RICE: So, why are you showing me this facility instead of the one at Long Bay?

EMPLOYEE, SILVERWATER GAOL: The routine that we're proposing to put in place in the new Long Bay Hospital very closely resembles the routine that's in place in this centre.

DEBORAH RICE: A new forensic hospital is being built next to Long Bay for the psychiatric inmates. Patients there will come under the control of the Health Department, and they won't be locked in cells at all. But it won't be ready for six months, and until then the patients will continue under the longer lock down in the prison, though many of them will be in new cells like this with TVs.

LUKE GRANT, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, CORRECTIVE SERVICES: We had more time out of cells and we reduced it back in the centre when we observed that there were high levels of agitation and adverse incidents occurring in the afternoons. So we reduced the time out of cells and found a corresponding and very positive response which was a decrease in self-harm and also assaultive and other disruptive behaviours.

DEBORAH RICE: So, was the change for therapeutic reasons or was it a work practices issues?

LUKE GRANT: Well, I think that's a case of two things coming together at the same time, so we were looking at reduced hours out of cells. But the decision for that was not based entirely on an economic rationale. It was also based on the fact that surveys of inmates indicated that a number of them preferred to be removed from the face-to-face contact. That if you're in the correctional system it can be fairly chaotic, and a lot of people like to have the time in their cells as opposed to being out when they're exposed to risks that they may perceive exist in that environment.

DEBORAH RICE: But inmates do have the choice of going to their cells to remove themselves from the rest of the inmate crowd?

LUKE GRANT: They can but can't lock their cells.

DEBORAH RICE: Are you seriously saying that inmates actually want to be in their cells for longer?

LUKE GRANT: I am. And what I would say from the literature is that what is useful is to have a variety of experiences. Some experiences that provide a lot of stimulation and opportunities for quiet time. We're trying to provide that balancing.

DEBORAH RICE: 18 hours in a cell doesn't sound like a good variety though.

LUKE GRANT: Um, well, 18 hours in a cell does sound like a long time.

DEBORAH RICE: According to some experts, it's way too long for psychiatric patients. Among them, Professor Paul Mullen, who's clinical director of Victoria's peak forensic mental health authority.

PAUL MULLEN, CLINICAL DIRECTOR, FORENSICARE: Left to themselves, the delusions and hallucinatory experiences become the sole way in which they understand and experience the world. The effect of this over any lengthy period is to potentially drive them further and further into their psychotic state.

DEBORAH RICE: The Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council calls the increased lock down cruel, inhuman, degrading. The mental health charity SANE urges the NSW Government to walk the walk as well as talk the talk on mental health services. And now the mental health council of Australia has written to the State Government demanding action.

DAVID CROSBIE, CEO, MENTAL HEALTH COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: Having worked in prisons, I can tell you that attending to people's mental health problems early is a very good investment, because if you don't, you end up with greater problems in the prison, not only around management, but around the need for acute care for hospital beds and for more intensive supervision. Isolating them further by locking them up at four o'clock is only gonna make the situation worse and end up costing you more and costing the community more.

LUKE GRANT: Other than the conjecture that people have made about what might happen, we've seen no evidence of people being driven crazy or harming themselves or all of those other things that are suggested might happen under this regime.

DEBORAH RICE: There are a lot of highly respective people, though, who are saying that there could be long-term consequences. Can you disregard all of that opinion?

LUKE GRANT: I think there's been some misinformation about the environment that offenders will be managed in.

DEBORAH RICE: And what are the claims by the admittedly disturbed petitioners?

LUKE GRANT: The author has been someone who has been a vexatious complainant, who has provided the type of commentary that's included in those letters and that petition over a period of time, including the time that preceded the change of routine. And should evidence be brought to light that suggests that we are causing harm to people, then we will modify our approach accordingly.

Updated: 30/6/2008 3:30 (AEST)

Jail strike: officers protest lockdown procedures

Angry prison officers have accused the State Government of keeping inmates locked in their cells for extended periods to save money.

Around 100 officers went on strike at Long Bay Prison today to protest over current lockdown procedures, under which inmates are kept in their cells for 24 hours.

The measure is traditionally used to allow staff to attend training courses but the union representing the state's prison officers said this was no longer the case.

"It seems to be a cost-saving exercise under the guise of training," chairman of the NSW Prison Officers Vocational Branch of the Public Service Association, Matt Bindley, said.

Mr Bindley said inmates were locked down in their cells for 24 hours once every fortnight. Ironically, around 300 inmates at Long Bay had to be locked down today in response to the strike.

A Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman said the jail is being staffed by executive prison officers. "Security is not compromised at all," she said.

The department's industrial officer has logged a notice of dispute with the Industrial Relations Commission over the dispute.

The strike will last 24 hours before the union meets tomorrow morning to discuss further action.

The union also claims staff are being given insufficient pay upgrades and lack of computers to cope with the department's new digitised reporting system.


UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
HRMU at Goulburn, inmates can be kept in inhumane conditions for an indefinite period. Last year, the NSW Coroner was also highly critical that mentally-ill people are placed in isolation in the supermax prison,” Mr Murphy said.

The decision contradicts Premier Iemma’s own specific assurances about Long Bay to Parliament in 2004 as Health Minister. He also declared on becoming Premier that mental health was his “light on the hill” by which he would judge himself to have failed said Justice Action spokesperson Michael Poynder.

The patients at Long Bay Hospital are now locked up at 3.30pm instead of 9pm, to cut costs, although all professional advice is that seclusion of these people will cause mental illness.

We owe prisoners more than jail
Prisons are too important to be left to jailers, for the simple reason that the standard prison magnifies social problems. It is a congregation of people with an accumu–lation of risk factors for crime.

Madness causing madness in prison hospital
“Fifty mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

Prison hospital lock-down: mental patients madness

“Prison authorities have ordered the removal of 28 officers from the prison hospital area as part of their ironically named “Way Forward”. This will lock patients into cells at 3.30pm instead of the current 9pm from April 2nd” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

Judges depart Red Mass
Bishop Peter Ingham reminded the Judges about locking up the mentally ill in prison and that they should not be dishing out double punishment to them.

International Conference on Penal Abolition

The full agenda for ICOPA is now online, and pending any further changes, the line-up is looking like we're going to have a fascinating conference. With speakers coming to present papers from Brazil, Trinidad, Canada, Australia, USA, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa plus many more including the UK, we are really looking at a truly international conference.

Family was troubled: neighbours

Police and ambulance officers at the scene.

Neighbours of a man and his three children whose bodies were found in their driveway say it was well-known in the area that the family had problems.

Police found the bodies of the 18-month-old boy, five-year-old girl, seven-year-old boy and 44-year-old man in a car in the driveway of a remote New South Wales south coast property.

Officers believe the four had been dead in the car in Pericoe, west of Eden, for a number of days.

They say their investigation is in its early stages but they do not believe anyone else was involved in the deaths.

Police say the children's mother has been found safe and offered counselling.

Police believe Gary Bell, apparently unable to cope with the breakdown of his 18-year marriage, put them in his car and killed them with its exhaust fumes. The 44-year-old father died alongside his children - Bon, 18 months; Maddie, 5; and Jack, 7.

The family was known to police and the Department of Community Services. A spokeswoman from DOCS says there were reports on the family in 2005 and 2006.

A relative who asked not to be named said Mr Bell was arrested after being violent against his wife, Karen, early on Monday.

"Police picked him up about 3 o'clock in the morning, took him to jail. Karen put an AVO on him again. Then he was let out. I don't know how he ended back up with the kids. Karen was staying at her mum's in Bega."

DOCS said it had been informed in recent days of an apprehended violence order against the man. "DOCS staff subsequently made a number of attempts to contact the family to provide support but was unable to reach them," it said.

Neighbour Tony Boller has lived in Pericoe for 36 years. He says he is devastated by the incident.

"I knew there were problems with the family. Everyone did, I think," he said.

Mr Boller, who has also raised four children in Pericoe, says it is a difficult area for raising a family.

"We've never even had anyone die of a car accident out here in all this time," he said. "There's been lots of conflict as well but not a resolution like this."

Local Jeff Knight says the community is stunned.

"It's a real shock. Things like this don't happen everyday in your neighbourhood," he said. "It's just out of the blue, that's for sure."

Mrs Bell had no idea. She was receiving counselling last night in Bega, where she had moved after the breakdown in the relationship. The family had moved to Pericoe Valley three years ago.

Dianne Auld, who lives on a neighbouring property about a kilometre away, said Mrs Bell was her niece.

"She's been away but they are still together, as far as I know," Mrs Auld said. "I spoke to her for a little while today. She's devastated. Nothing brings them back. It is just a terrible tragedy for this to happen. I do not know the story myself."

The tiny town of Pericoe is nestled deep in the Yambulla State Forest, just 10 kilometres north of the Victorian border. Mr O'Hara said ambulance officers who stopped at his home in Fulligans Road seeking directions told him they had received a "garbled phone message from a child" about the deaths.

Mr O'Hara has lived in the area for 30 years. He said Pericoe was "a dot in the dense, tall timber mountain wilderness" with about 45 people living on isolated properties. "It's wilderness. It's rocks and big trees and very little dirt and very little water. There are three dirt tracks leading to it.

"Pericoe was the name given to a cattle station by a family that settled the area. About 30 years ago 15 partners came to the valley and established the commune on 1000 acres to go along with the flower era culture. Fulligans Road runs right through it. They called it Two Creeks but there aren't two creeks there.

"There was no set plan. Nothing was divided up, so people just picked their own sites and built what they wanted.

"The hippies didn't last, and other people have come and gone over the years. There are about 15 buildings there, from shacks to a few decent homes.

"People still live there. Most people over the years are single parents, men and women. A lot of the buildings at Two Creeks are derelict. You wouldn't know if there were people squatting or renting. It's a pretty fluid situation, people coming and going."

Crime-scene police from Sydney arrived at the property at 8pm yesterday and a guard was posted. The bodies were expected to be taken to a local hospital before dawn this morning.

A police spokesman said post mortem examinations would show how the father and children died. Police would not comment on whether they had been to the property before in response to domestic rows.

Families living in the area send their children to the primary school at nearby Towamba. But a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the children did not attend the local school.

Police, who arrived at the house first, said they had difficulty finding the remote property. When they arrived they had problems communicating because mobile phone reception was poor.

Fulligans Road is a dirt track, cutting through a dense forest of tall gums and a carpet of shrubs and ferns. Kangaroos bound across it and, further along, are long-established caravans in which families live.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said that while people might recognise their neighbours' names on their mailboxes, some might never have met. "Pericoe itself is really just a couple of farms. There's only about 15 people living out here in private homes. It's not a community as such."

Two Creeks was no longer a hippie commune, she said. "It's some sort of company where they buy shares and they get an allotment of land. I know that there's a few people that own shares in that particular property and have done for years."

Forensic officers will examine the area.

A post-mortem is expected to determine how the four people died and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

Gary Bell was a heavy drinker

ONLY by his death has the secret life of Gary Mark Bell been revealed. The man who killed his three children and himself last week on their remote South Coast property was really named Gary Poxon, a moniker he left behind when he abandoned his first partner and several children.

Publicly, Poxon was seen as a family man, the adoring father of Jack, 7, Maddie, 5, and the son named after an AC/DC rocker, Bon, 18 months. Privately, he was prone to drinking heavily. He made his own spirits and beer at their isolated farmhouse in a former hippie commune west of Eden. People close to his wife, Karen, say he beat her for the length of their decade-long relationship and she had tried many times to leave him.

The Bell family, lost in grief, want him to be forever known as Poxon. He had adopted the name Bell from his wife in an attempt to avoid his responsibilities to his first partner, a woman he referred to as "the bitch from Bega".

Ms Bell's last attempt to leave him was late on the Sunday before last, when her best friend, Tracey Wilson, drove her 45minutes out of Pericoe to her mother's house in Bega. Poxon had kicked her out of the house after another fight.

"He's done that to her three times," Ms Wilson said. "Karen always knew she could come to me and that she was safe. Gary was a very jealous man. He wouldn't let her have many friends and he was cranky at me for helping her twice before."

Despite the attempts to flee the violence, Poxon always had a sadistic trump card to keep Ms Bell returning. "He'd always keep the kids so she'd come back to him," Ms Wilson said.

Tracey Wilson was with her fiance when they found the three children dead with their father. "All I could do was scream," she said. "I screamed for an hour. Into the sky, just screaming."

Mitchell Heffernan, Poxon's former boss at Wilton Engineering, said Poxon arrived in Picton from Bega and first took up work at General Engineering Phoenix at nearby Wilton between 1990 and 1994. He returned to Bega but moved back to Picton in 1995, and worked as a welder for three years with Mr Heffernan's company.

"They were his second family," he said."When he came here in 1995 he arrived in Picton unannounced and I understand he was running away from four or five kids to a woman he kept calling the bitch from Bega," MrHeffernan said.

"He was a good Aussie rules player and played AFL for Bargo, but as a person he was an aggressive little bloke in his attitude. He stood about five foot six, had a chiselled jaw and was not very pleasant, very uptight, a little bloke with little-bloke syndrome."

Mr Heffernan said he understood Poxon was on the run from responsibilities to his other family. "I remember it was pretty drama-filled at the time. That is why he left us in 1998, because he didn't want to pay a cent.

"I was his boss and he threatened me a couple of times to step outside when I had to pull him up for something he did wrong. I remember him always complaining that he could not survive and that he could not rebuild a better life because of the money he had to pay. That is why he left us.

"After he left my business he had delusions of grandeur about starting up a business and hung around Picton, but nothing happened. Then he left."

It is understood Poxon's relationship with his parents was strained.

"Gary was aggro," Ms Wilson said. "I got along with him but I told him he was an arsehole when he needed it."

She said Poxon did not hit the children, reserving that aggression for his wife.

While Poxon kept up a friendly persona when he went into town, he rubbed some locals up the wrong way. He big-noted himself in front of the other men at Pericoe and boasted about places he had been to and things he had done. "He was a motormouth legend, you know? I never liked him," said Ms Wilson's fiance, who did not want to be named.

Judging by the handwritten résumé Poxon presented to get the only job he ever had on the South Coast, his life started with promise. He earned a scholarship to Hurlstone Agricultural High School. He went overseas and had patchy employment; he was never in one place for long.

Damian Foat, Poxon's boss at Sapphire Coast Engineering in Eden, said the family had arrived with problems.

"He was a pretty heavy drinker. As soon as he'd knock off work, he'd have a beer in his hand," Mr Foat said. By the time he quit, just before Christmas in 2004, it was to patch things up with Ms Bell, who would "take off" when the pressures of living with an unpredictable husband would become overwhelming. Those were the same pressures that had led her to stay in Bega before ringing police in Merimbula on Thursday to ask if they would check on the children. Ms Wilson said they would not, so Ms Bell asked for her help instead.

Ms Wilson rang the police, again appealing for them to go out. "The police said to me they didn't want to upset Gary," shesaid.

So on Friday morning she called in at the property with her fiance and her youngest son Lachlan, 4.

"I couldn't find them anywhere. I went through the house. I didn't think to look in the car," she said.

But her fiance did and screamed at her: "Get the f--- back in my car!"

Crying and shaking, Ms Wilson said yesterday: "I said, 'They're dead, aren't they?' … I wanted to rip the door off the car and just cuddle the kids. I let those babies down. I was too late. I got there too late."

It was Ms Wilson who then had to give Ms Bell the news.

"She was waiting for me to ring her and say the kids are alive. I had to tell her they were all dead. This is the type of woman she is: she said sorry to me for asking me to go out there and check on the kids. I don't want her to feel guilt for that."

The children were already being missed in the broader Towamba community. Local schoolchildren had made a heart shape out of stones on a sandy island in the creek, with the initials J, M and B, with the word "love" spelled out underneath.

Ms Bell spent Saturday night in the care of family, including her brother-in-law, who said: "Those three babies will go to heaven and that bastard will rot in hell forever. Those babies will be protected and looked after now. Simple as that."

Alister, who asked that his surname not be published, also said: "Every time when I was there, me or my wife, he always seemed to portray himself as justa normal character. He wouldn't show his anger in front of anybody. He wouldn't do it in public.

"He was a piece of work. He managed to just hide everything from everybody. He was a very good liar."

Alister said he was shocked when he learnt that Poxon had decided to adopt the surname of his wife.

"He changed his name. He decided to take on the Bell name. Don't ask me why. We all thought it was a bit bizarre. It was his decision. I genuinely thought it was a bit strange."

Friday, 27 June 2008

Govt 'should monitor extraditions closely'

A federal parliamentary committee has called for Australia to check on what happens to people who are extradited overseas.

The Federal Treaties Committee says Australia's responsibility should not end once a person is extradited from the country.

The committee wants the Federal Government to develop a system of monitoring the detention process, judicial proceedings, sentencing and imprisonment of any extradited person.

The committee chairman, Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, says Australia has a moral obligation to keep track of extradited people.

"There is currently no formal monitoring system for extradited persons, so we don't know what happens to them afterwards," he said.

The committee says a formal monitoring process would better protect human rights concerning extradition arrangements.

Climate change fight needs political ardour: Greenpeace

Greenpeace says the only thing Australia lacks in the fight against climate change is political will.

The environment group is stepping up its campaign on the issue, sending its ship the Esperanza to ports on the eastern seaboard to call for urgent action.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive Steve Shallhorn has a message for the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ahead of the release of the Garnaut report on climate change next week.

"We will be watching you over the the next weeks and months to make sure that you have the courage to lead Australia in an energy revolution to invest in energy, in renewable energy and to phase out the use of coal in this country," he said.

Housing dept under scrutiny over neglect

Better monitoring of public housing may have uncovered the problem earlier.

Questions have been raised about the role of public housing authorities in a case of alleged child neglect in Canberra.

A woman has been charged with neglect for allegedly allowing her four children to live in squalor.

The 35-year-old appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court yesterday and was remanded in custody.

The court heard police found the children alone in a house, in the inner-north suburb of Ainslie, which was littered with dog faeces, moulded food and rubbish.

But better monitoring of public housing may have uncovered the problem earlier.

Housing ACT have many questions to answer in relation to this case.

If there were regular inspections on properties where we can cleary see there is a mess then that should have been attended to by housing authorities.

They have some 40 housing managers to service over 11,500 properties, clearly they're under pressure and more resources may be needed.

The Housing Minister needs to really respond in saying why this property was not picked up during regular inspections.

Meanwhile, doctors are calling for a new parenting program to be rolled out in Canberra to help reduce cases of neglect.

Australian General Practice Network CEO Kate Carnell says the parenting scheme has been trailed successfully in Brisbane at a cost of about $20 per family.

"This is a program that's now been evaluated," she said.

"What it shows is that if it was rolled out right across Australia you would end up with 72,000 fewer parents reporting problems with depression, nearly 100,000 fewer parents using coercive parenting practices, a whole range of really good data that runs off the back of this."


Government must do more to support families

The Government needs to do much more to support familles so parents can afford to feed their children and to prevent children from neglect.

Disabled protected from sex predators?

Sexual predator laws in NSW have been broadened to include victims suffering afflictions such as Alzheimer's and the long-term effects of stroke.

Carers and others found committing sexual acts against people with cognitive impairments now face up to 10 years in jail.

NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos said the new laws were introduced into state parliament on Thursday to protect more people vulnerable to sexual attack.

"Taking advantage of a cognitively impaired person for sexual gratification is reprehensible," Mr Hatzistergos said in a statement.

Prior to the changes, the laws protected only people born with or who acquired an intellectual disability.

"With the introduction of these laws we are protecting a broader group of disabled people who are vulnerable to sexual predators," he said.

A new state inheritance law was also introduced to parliament on Thursday to simplify the administration of deceased estates.

"Moving between states is becoming more prevalent, particularly among baby boomer retirees so the argument for uniform inheritance laws has become more compelling," Mr Hatzistergos said.

Quote: Carers and others offenders? Don't they already come under the general human being type of offenders? And it would be hard to imagine that regardless of being born with or who acquired and intellectual disability a victim would not have been seen as disabled after any sexual offence had been committed. So these alleged new laws and penalties appear to be just filibustering like the government has just done something new? Does that mean prior these new laws that carers and others got away with the crime? I don't think so. It is easy for the Attorney General to grandstand on what is reprehensible like people don't know? If a person made a statement that was already seen by others as reprehensible how many political points should they get? There are lots of reprehensible acts and it is easy to make a statement that somehow gives John Hatzistergos a point when his government has failed miserably to govern NSW. And to rely on the most unpopular person in society and one of the most vulnerable in society for political credibility could also be seen as reprehensible. How about making sure that offenders get programs in prison for their reprehensibility?


Abusers free without treatment
HIGH-RISK sex offenders who need and want treatment are released without it because the state's only rehabilitation centre is ridiculously under-resourced, says a psychologist who worked on the program for a decade.

WA sex offenders missing out on rehab
It has been revealed that over the past year more than 60 per cent of sex offenders released from Western Australian jails did not complete rehabilitation programs targetting their crimes.

MPs baulk at rules on sexualisation

CHILDREN are increasingly exposed to highly sexualised images, a Senate committee has found - but it has stopped short of calling for tougher government regulation, which has angered parent groups.

The issue has been thrown into the spotlight by controversies such as the publication of photos of the 15-year-old Disney star Miley Cyrus topless in the magazine Vanity Fair.

Although the committee rejected tighter standards on what television and advertisers can show, it recommended a national sex education program as a way to teach children about healthy relationships and to help them "deconstruct" sexualised images.

It singled out raunchy music videos and toys such as Bratz dolls, but said "it is the primary responsibility of parents to make decisions about what their children see, hear, read or purchase.

"These parental decisions can have a significant impact on the market for sexualising products and services."

The committee has also suggested that television networks consider a dedicated children's channel and that publishers of magazines such as Dolly and Girlfriend investigate putting content warnings on covers.

Parenting groups were angry the committee did not take a tougher position.

"The reliance on industry bodies to fix most of the issues is misplaced. If these bodies were willing to take effective steps to address the issues they would have done so by now," the vice-president of Young Media Australia, Elizabeth Handsley, said.

The professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton, said: "The report fails to understand or reflect the level of community concern about the ways in which children are being sexualised by the media and advertisers and has largely ignored the evidence of harm presented to the inquiry by psychologists and other experts working with children."

More than a third of the people who made private submissions to the inquiry identified themselves as parents or grandparents who were concerned that their children and grandchildren were being subject to sexualisation by the media.

The Democrats senator Lyn Allison, who instigated the inquiry, denied the committee had failed to take the issue seriously. "This is a call to industry to shape up or we'll get tougher," she said.

A national sex education program would help children make sense of the images they saw, she said.

"People link the resilience of children to their education about relationships and sex. It's not saying education would fix exposure to images, but it would give help kids deal with them."

The advertising and media industry largely welcomed the report.

Helen Willoughby, the chief executive of the Outdoor Media Association, said: "We are yet to see the detail but we have been speaking with the Advertising Standards Bureau to look at ways to address issues over the past six months about addressing content issues as they relate specifically to the outdoor medium."

A spokesman for PBL Media, the owner of ACP Magazines, the publisher of Dolly, said: "We will have a look at whether we put any age-appropriate information on the covers." The peak body for commercial broadcasters, Free TV Australia, said in a statement that it believed there were already "clear protections" in place for both content and advertising. "We are confident that these are in line with community standards and do not sexualise children," it said.

Asbestos patients die awaiting compensation

PEOPLE suffering from the asbestos disease mesothelioma are dying before their compensation cases are completed due to a cost-saving system introduced in 2005, a Sydney judge says.

In a judgment handed down last month, Judge Bill Kearns urged the NSW Government to change the rules "with some urgency", saying the issue was causing additional anguish to claimants and compromising their ability to give lucid evidence.

The new system was brought in after the issue of legal costs in asbestos cases was raised during the 2004 furore over James Hardie's $1.5 billion underfunding of a compensation trust.

The Government responded by making mediation the standard method of resolving claims, with a set timetable.

A Government review of the first year of operation concluded that plaintiff legal costs were falling slightly and defendant costs were falling substantially.

Cases can be referred to a judge of the Dust Diseases Tribunal if there is medical evidence that a plaintiff is likely to die before the mediation timetable runs its course.

At a hearing in February, Judge Kearns said he knew of at least 10 cases in his two years on the bench where the plaintiff died within a fortnight of the case being removed from the claims resolution process under this provision.

"There is something seriously wrong with a system that, because of its structure, denies a plaintiff access to a judge until the last fortnight or the last few days of his or her life, and at a time when he or she is in a state of seriously poor and deteriorating health and with little prospect of his or her case being completed during his or her lifetime," Judge Kearns had said in February, in comments reproduced in his May judgment.

The Dust Diseases Tribunal referred Judge Kearns's comments to the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, earlier this month.

"He has asked his department to investigate the resolution process and any efficiency improvements as a matter of priority," a spokesman said.

The judge's comments "give rise to serious concerns", said Ross Letherbarrow, SC, chairman of the NSW Bar Association's common law committee.

The committee was "looking at the issue with a view to seeking changes to the system", he said.

Vincent Goldrick, a partner of the commercial law firm Goldrick Farrell Mullan, said he agreed with Judge Kearns's view that the previous system would have allowed more cases to be determined before claimants died.

Mr Goldrick pointed out that the strict requirements proving medical evidence of urgency were a problem.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Funding fall 'locks workers out of housing'

People who cannot afford to rent or buy suitable homes have been locked out of public housing because of a drastic fall in national funding, a Sydney conference has heard.

The conference, organised by affordable housing lobby group Shelter New South Wales, is focusing much of its attention on the State Government's plan to reform public housing in the wake of the funding drop.

The amount spent on Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements fell from a peak of about $1.1 billion in 1994-95 to $955 million in 2006-07, according to Federal Government and Parliamentary Library figures.

Inflation and rapidly increasing land prices have made this fall in funding much larger in real terms.

Shelter NSW executive officer Mary Perkins says the drop has barred many low-income working households from public housing.

"Over the last 10 years plus, our public housing system has been, by process of attrition, constrained of funds considerably," she said.

"In response to that, our governments have basically rationed it and targeted who's eligible and who's not eligible. Now we have a situation where only the most needy of the most needy are eligible for public housing."

Ms Perkins says this leaves many low-income earners ineligible for public housing but unable to afford to buy or rent suitable homes.

"We've created a new middle ground of people - people who were too poor to get into home ownership and who are too rich now to get into public housing, people who 20 years ago would have expected to have assistance in the public sector," she said.

"Those people are now struggling like mad in the private rental market in quite desperate circumstances."

'Targeting resources'

Housing NSW director-general Mike Allen says the department has to target its limited resources into areas that seem to be most in need.

"We are principally here to help those people who are on low income," he said. "That's our first and foremost priority."

Mr Allen says the department is trying to encourage the development of more affordable rental housing by other groups, including private industry, community groups and local government.

"We do have a role to also try and be a catalyst or a facilitator for other people to establish affordable rental housing that takes the pressure off the public and community housing system," he said.

He says he hopes federal funding will soon increase to facilitate a broader role for Housing NSW and fund more public and community housing.

"We've begun very positive negotiations with the new Australian Government around replacing our current Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement with a new national affordable housing agreement," he said.

"Those discussions and negotiations are only in their very early stages, but I'm very hopeful that they will lead to increased resources for us in NSW."

Government must do more to support families

Last year there were 60,000 cases across Australia where a child was at risk of abuse or neglect.

By Online parliamentary correspondent Publik

The Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin must do more to support families instead of neglecting them because of the acute child abuse levels that are alarmingly high.

Today a Canberra woman has been accused of neglecting her four children and in the past week other parents in Queensland and Adelaide have been accused of allegedly neglecting their children.

Families Minister says last year there were 60,000 cases across Australia where a child was at risk of abuse or neglect.

So why doesn't she increase support for them instead of trying to criminalize them? It is not a criminal act to be poor.

Child abuse through lack of support is not a crime if governments are not prepared to support struggling families.

Ms Macklin says while parents have primary responsibility for the care of their children, all governments must make sure child abuse cases do not go unattended.

But one of the things that is our responsibility is to step in where governments show lack of support for struggling families and child support.

Jenny Macklin says the Government's child protection framework will aim to increase the sharing of information between jurisdictions and better integration of services.

But what about better social support for families? How could she miss the point?

Any aspect of a new national child protection framework should include more social support not a big stick to lock up struggling parents.

The Government is also giving state and territory child welfare authorities the power to advise Centrelink to withhold welfare payments. What a joke.

The Government needs to do much more to support familles so parents can afford to feed their children and to prevent children from neglect.

To be confronted with severe government neglect of families and their children resulting in the horror of malnutrition or starvation, is pretty confronting.

It seems incomprehensible that these things can happen in suburban cities in Australia today.

Euthanasia bill may go to conscience vote

Greens Senator Bob Brown

A Senate inquiry has recommended parliamentarians get a conscience vote on a private member's bill designed to revive the Northern Territory's euthanasia legislation.

In a split decision, the inquiry decided Greens Senator Bob Brown's bill should be allowed to proceed.

It was intended to reinstate the Territory's right-to-die legislation that the Federal Government overturned more than a decade ago.

But the inquiry recommended the new bill be amended so that instead of reinstating the old legislation, the Territory is given the capacity to legislate again if it wants to.

Senator Brown is pleased with the decision but is not sure whether the Territory Government would act on its new power.

The Federal Opposition has indicated it would like to see the issue go to a conscience vote, but the Prime Minister has not indicated whether he would allow it.


Mercy killing verdicts reignite euthanasia debate
A euthanasia advocate is appealing for changes to the law after two women were yesterday found guilty of the manslaughter of an Alzheimer's disease sufferer. Shirley Justins, 59, was found guilty of the manslaughter of her partner Graeme Wiley, who died from an overdose of the euthanasia drug Nembutal in his northern Sydney home in 2006.

'Munchausen-by-proxy' mother sentenced

A young NSW mother who injected excrement contaminated water into her six-month-old baby son has escaped jail because of her youth and mental health problems.

In sentencing the woman from Moruya Heads on the NSW south coast, Justice Hilary Penfold told the ACT Supreme Court the offence was serious with "potentially serious consequences".

"It was only a matter of luck that (the mother) didn't cause her child permanent damage or worse," Justice Penfold said.

The 21-year-old woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty in April to intentionally and unlawfully administering an injurious substance with an intention to injure or cause pain and discomfort on January 5, 2006.

Her baby son, then six months old, had been admitted to Canberra Hospital on Boxing Day, 2005 with a bruised left foot and doctors had inserted a catheter.

But 10 days later the young mother "injected a substance containing contaminated water and faeces into the (drip) line .... causing his medical condition to deteriorate dramatically", the court heard.

A psychiatrist had told the court the mother probably suffered from a condition known as factitious disease, or Munchausen syndrome.

People with the disorder deliberately produce illnesses for the sole purpose of assuming the sick role.

When they affect someone in their care it is classified as Munchausen-by-proxy.

Justice Penfold today said the mother "acted under a strong compulsion" because of the disease, when injecting her son.

While the offence was serious and attracted a maximum penalty of five years jail, full time custody was not appropriate in this instance because of her youth and mental health problems, she said.

Instead, the mother was placed on a two-year good behaviour order with strict supervision.

She also must continue treatment for what doctors describe as a borderline personality disorder and depression.

Her son, now aged three, is in the care of NSW community services, with his mother being allowed 30 minutes of phone contact each month.

The woman was genuinely remorseful that her action had hurt someone she loved so much, Justice Penfold said.

Fury as DOCS 'lose' girl

Missing ... Lauren Ryall, 13.Unfortunately she did not go to the agreed destination and in hindsight there may have been a more appropriate response for this child

The Department of Community Services says it will review its procedures after a 13-year-old girl it placed on a train alone from Parramatta to Dunmore, near Wollongong, vanished.

Lauren Maree Ryall was reported missing on Monday afternoon after she failed to arrive at her destination. Police today said she had still not been found.

DOCS caseworkers had dropped the girl off at Parramatta station about 1.40pm on Monday. She was given a train ticket and lunch money, said Helen Freeland, DOCS executive director for operations.

"Lots of 13-year-olds travel on their own on the train," she said.

But her mother, Judith, said Lauren should not have been left to travel alone.

"It should never have happened it should never happen to any child," she said.

"Now my child is missing and DOCS have since told me that they can't do anything to help look for her because it's now in the hands of the child protection agency and police."

DOCS director general Jenny Mason said it was working with police to find Lauren as soon as possible.

"Unfortunately she did not go to the agreed destination and in hindsight there may have been a more appropriate response for this child," Ms Mason said.

"We are looking at our procedures and policy to minimise the chances of this happening again."

Judith said Lauren had called her on Tuesday night to say she was with a friend in Wyong. But Lauren hung up after less than two minutes when she found out police were looking for her, Judith said.

Lauren had travelled to Wyong with a girl, who had also been placed on the train at Parramatta by DOCS on Monday.

She had been placed in DOCS' care at the weekend after returning to her Wollongong home from a friend's house and finding her mother missing.

"She had gone out on Friday, I'd given her permission to go to a friend's place [and] I'd come to my cousin's house," said here mother.

"Lauren didn't realise I was at my cousin's place and gave herself to police on Sunday night."

Police were duty-bound to report the matter to DOCS, Judith said.

Lauren's parents were separated, and her father lives in Queensland.

Lauren's mother said she had previously contacted DOCS to help "straighten my family out".

But she was upset DOCS had placed her daughter on the train alone.

"If I can just save one child or one parent what I've been through in the last 48 hours, all of this would be worth it," she said.

The furious father of the 13-year-old girl says the organisation has not even contacted him.

Lauren's father, John Ryall, said police had told him they knew "roughly'' where Lauren was.

"It's a matter of time before they get her,'' he said.

However, he remained furious at what had happened.

"They (DOCS) neglected to tell us for two days that [Lauren] was with a known runaway 15-year-old girl, I had to find that out through the police,'' Mr Ryall said from Mackay, where he lives with his 14-year-old son.

"I'm not really comforted with the company she's in. Every night I go to sleep and I don't know if these people are into drugs or sex.''


Mr Ryall struggled to contain his anger when asked how he felt about DOCS letting his daughter board a train alone.

"I'm a crane driver and we've got a duty of care to people at work. If I put someone in that much danger I could lose my job.

"I want her safe and then I'm going to take these people apart. I'm going to write representations against DOCS, I'll need some legal help here.

"They're not getting away with this crap. She could be dead. I know Sydney.

"At one stage I thought I'd never see her again. It's sheer luck for DOCS people she's still living and breathing.''

Mr Ryall said it had been agreed some weeks ago that Lauren would move to Mackay to live with him.

DOCS contacted Mr Ryall on the weekend after Lauren entered its care, he said.

"They were going to arrange for her to be kept until she could be sent up here to North Queensland to be with me,'' he said.

"Next thing I hear [from Lauren's mother, Judith] DOCS had put her on a train.

Haven't heard a word

"I haven't heard a word from DOCS [since Lauren went missing], I haven't even gotten a courtesy phone call.''

He said he would resist any moves by DOCS to place Lauren in foster care after she is found.

"Once she's checked out medically, I don't want her anywhere near DOCS. I don't trust DOCS.

"Every minute she's missing, that's a minute of my life when my heart stops, I'm crying myself at night, dreaming about her when she was a little girl.

"She's still a little girl.''

Ms Freeland said: " The choice that our caseworkers have to make is do they spend a whole day either driving her home or taking her by train or do they go out and respond to the urgent cases that have come over the weekend, and these are very difficult choices that we make every day."

Updated 6:14pm (AEST)

Police say she was found at about 11:30am AEST today on a train heading to Cronulla.

They say she is safe and well.


DOCS insiders blow whistle on tragedy
DOCS workers have detailed a catalogue of failures that have left at-risk children in unsafe families and put staff in danger, as officers struggle with crippling vacancies in a department top-heavy with managers and with a dysfunctional records system.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

DIY dentist ends four-year wait agony

A NSW man who has been on the dental waiting list since 2004 was in such excruciating pain that he took the extreme measure of pulling out one of his teeth.

For four years, Jeffrey Miners has survived on a daily cocktail of painkillers but four weeks ago, his excruciating gum pain was no longer bearable and he pulled out the tooth.

The 58-year-old, who has other complex health problems, has been on the NSW dental waiting list since 2004 and still has no date for his surgery despite urgently needing 13 teeth extracted.

Mr Miners, of Bega, had heart bypass surgery in March and is now fit enough to undergo dental surgery, but he has been told that he faces at least another 18-month wait before he can be operated on in Sydney's Prince of Wales hospital.

Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said it was outrageous that almost 160,000 people were still waiting for necessary dental treatment in NSW.

"Patients like Jeffrey Miners are waiting in pain and undertaking drastic action because health minister, Reba Meagher, has failed to give them appropriate dental care," Mrs Skinner said.

"You don't need to be a dentist to see that patients like Jeffrey Miners need urgent dental care, but the Iemma Government is so incompetent it can't even get that right."

New Senate will be unstable: Democrats

Outgoing Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja says federal parliament's upper house after July 1 will be a very unstable place and there is a "hard, long road" of compromise ahead for the Rudd government.

The Greens, Family First's Steve Fielding and anti-pokies campaigner Nick Xenophon will hold the balance of power, ending the coalition's three-year control of the Senate.

Senator Stott Despoja said people had better get used to the situation.

"The government's going to have to bargain, and negotiate, and compromise, and do deals with the cross bench senators," she told reporters.

"Welcome to a very unstable place. Certainly after July 1, any one senator can kill a bill, or kill a government policy."

Senator Stott Despoja said balance-of-power situations in the past had worked well, especially when the Democrats held that balance.

But without the Democrats it was hard to predict what would happen.

"I suspect that some legislation will be held up.

"I'm sure some things will be blocked, but I can see a hard, long road of negotiation and compromise ahead for this government.

"My message today is ... who knows what the future holds?"

All four Democrats senators are leaving parliament at the end of this week after the party failed to win a seat at the November federal election.

But the Democrats are planning a comeback in a different guise, forming a new political entity with other minor parties.

Charity calls for petrol relief

A charity is calling for petrol companies to help them cope with the rising cost of fuel.

Mission Australia's uses vans to provide services for homeless people on the streets of inner Sydney.

But it says the vans cost $100 to fill up and it is struggling with the high cost of petrol.

Charity spokesman Daniel Petsalis says it wants petrol companies to make a donation.

"It'd be great to see one of our petrol companies come forward and help us with a donation or talk to us about discounting our fuel costs longer term in recognition for the problem and assisting us," he said.

Mr Petsalis says he wants to see fuel companies donate petrol or offer discounts.

"Charities do have a number of vehicles, other charities do, but Missionbeat's sort of the only one service of its kind across the country that's providing that street outreach and assistance to homeless people," he said.

Indigenous boarding schools 'tragedy'

An Indigenous research fellow at Sydney University says the Federal Government's commitment of almost $12 million to upgrade Indigenous boarding schools is a tragedy.

Vicki Grieves from the Department of Anthropology says governments keep looking for a quick fix when it comes to Aboriginal affairs and tend to adopt a one size fits all approach to Indigenous people.

Ms Grieves says boarding school is not a viable option for remote Indigenous education in central Australia.

She says a more culturally appropriate curriculum is needed.

"How is it that you can shift this Western curriculum into Aboriginal communities and expect it to work?" she said.

"Children need to be able to build on what they already know.

"If you've got an assumption that children are going to know the same kinds of things as kids in suburban Sydney or Melbourne then you're not going to be successful as a teacher."

She says there needs to be a lot more research into remote Indigenous education to develop a more culturally appropriate curriculum.

"If you go there and you find out where they're actually coming from, [if you] actually incorporate their language and Aboriginal English into the classroom, incorporate what they think is important," she said.

"People are now using, for example, the very complicated kinship systems in communities to teach mathematics. How come people haven't thought of this before?"


Union urges PM to act on Stolen Generations promise
The Australian Education Union (AEU) wants the Federal Government to follow Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations with a significant funding boost for Indigenous education in the Northern Territory.

Union calls for $2.9b to fund education shortfall
The Education Union is calling on the Federal Government to provide an extra $2.9 billion in funding for public schools

Govt, union defend remote community schooling
The Centre for Independent Studies says Aboriginal students in the Northern Territory are finishing school with the numeracy and literacy skills of five-year-olds.

Aboriginal inmates '22pc and rising' of prison population
The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health says new research is urgently needed to address the worsening rate of Indigenous incarceration.

Porn ban in Indigenous communities 'racist'

The Australian National Adult Retail Association (Eros) says the Federal Government's ban on X-rated pornography in Aboriginal communities is pointless, racist and should be revoked.

As part of the Government's intervention, X-rated films were banned from Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

Eros's chief executive Fiona Patten says there is no proof that the ban has reduced the level of sexual assault in the Territory.

She says it would be better to educate Aborigines about film classifications and what they mean for children.

"It's inherently racist and inherently patronising and it goes back to the times of the 30s and 40s when you would say its all right for me to read Lady Chatterly's Lover but I wouldn't want my servants to read it," she said.

"The absolute hypocrisy of this is that sexually violent R-rated material that may depict sexual assault and even child sexual assault is absolutely legal to possess and view in and display in the remote communities.

"It is very negative towards Indigenous Australians."


Abandon NT intervention: Commissioner
The Northern Territory's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald says the Federal intervention into remote Aboriginal communities should be abandoned and the legislation underpinning it should be repealed.

Stolen generation compensation ruled out
A FEDERAL parliamentary committee has recommended a "healing" fund be set up to help members of the stolen generations, but knocked back the suggestion of compensation payments.

Retailers' warning on welfare card shop spies
EMPLOYEES across the country will be at risk of entrapment by government "spies", retailers have warned, under a Federal Government proposal to control fraudulent use of a new welfare debit card.

Budget to roll out new welfare card
Welfare plan: The new card will be initially rolled out in NT Indigenous communities. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says the Rudd Government's proposed welfare debit card is not the best way to help struggling families.

Union urges PM to act on Stolen Generations promise
The Australian Education Union (AEU) wants the Federal Government to follow Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations with a significant funding boost for Indigenous education in the Northern Territory.

Racism to blame' for Aboriginal health problems
The Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTAR) group says racism is directly to blame for many health problems in the Aboriginal community.

Union calls for $2.9b to fund education shortfall
The Education Union is calling on the Federal Government to provide an extra $2.9 billion in funding for public schools

Govt, union defend remote community schooling
The Centre for Independent Studies says Aboriginal students in the Northern Territory are finishing school with the numeracy and literacy skills of five-year-olds.

Police cannot cope with backlash
Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, has warned the Federal Government that many indigenous people displaced by the emergency intervention are creating unrest and straining police capacity.

2020 Indigenous youth delegate calls for national body
An Indigenous youth representative at this weekend's 2020 summit says a new national Aboriginal body should be created to avoid some of the add-hoc policies surrounding the federal intervention.

Call for new indigenous body
Former ATSIC Commissioner Klynton Wanganeen says he will raise the idea of a new national body to represent indigenous communities at the 2020 Summit.

Aboriginal delegation heads to UN
The National Aboriginal Alliance is taking its concerns about the Northern Territory intervention to the United Nations

Roxon signs off on Indigenous health pledges

Indigenous Australians will have access to the same health services as the rest of the population by 2018, under a Federal Government plan.

Indigenous welfare quarantine scheme gets go ahead
Parents in four Cape York Indigenous communities could soon have their welfare payments quarantined if they do not take care of their children and homes and do not stay out of trouble with the law.

Discrimination Act should apply to intervention: Calma
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner wants the Racial Discrimination Act immediately reinstated in the Northern Territory's Indigenous communities.

Aboriginal inmates '22pc and rising' of prison population
The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health says new research is urgently needed to address the worsening rate of Indigenous incarceration.

Carbon sink tax bill 'seriously flawed'

There were extraordinary scenes in the Senate last night as the Greens combined with the Nationals and the Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan to attack part of a tax bill.

It was originally drafted by the previous Coalition government and has been reintroduced by Labor.

It gives a full tax deduction for the cost of planting forests as carbon sinks.

But Senator Heffernan, the Nationals and the Greens argued passionately in the Senate last night that it is flawed.

Senator Heffernan says the bill does not stop the trees being cut down or allowed to die within a year.

"There is absolutely no way in this legislation that you can prevent me from planting these trees and the year after I collect the tax deduction - me ploughing them in," he said.

"It is a national disgrace if we allow this Parliament to pass this legislation in the full knowledge that it is completely and fundamentally flawed."

Greens Senator Bob Brown agrees the bill is seriously flawed.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Jocye has called it a load of rubbish.

"Its very rare - to be honest - I would agree with the Greens but tonight's going to be one of those nights," Senator Joyce said.

But Government Senator Stephen Conroy says the bill was initially brought in by the previous Government.

"To be muttering up the back about what an evil plot this is - its your bill," he said.

The senators do not deny that they are negotiating on ways to to fix the problems they have complained about.

The Coalition is understood to be discussing technical aspects of how to do that.

Wesley Fitton jailed after internet sex sting

A 42-year-old Sunshine Coast father of three has been jailed for using the internet in an attempt to procure a child for sex.

The Supreme Court in Brisbane heard in August 2006, Buderim man Wesley Ronald John Fitton struck up an internet conversation with a covert police officer posing as another man living at Redcliffe.

Fitton asked to speak to the man's 12-year-old daughter and in September began conversing with another officer posing as the girl.

On several occasions Fitton sent images of adults engaged in sexual acts and activated a webcam to show himself undressing and performing a sex act.

He also tried to arrange to meet the girl at Redcliffe prior to his arrest.

Chief Justice Paul de Jersey jailed Fitton for three years and ordered he serve a minimum of nine months.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Govt moves to change sex offender laws

The Queensland Government will change its sex offender laws so more dangerous prisoners might be kept in jail indefinitely.

The Government commissioned a review of the Dangerous Prisoners' Act after community concern about the release of serial offender Robert John Fardon.

Police Minister Judy Spence says Cabinet has endorsed all 22 recommendations.

At the moment, violent offenders are only considered for indefinite sentences if the maximum penalty for their crime is life.

But the Government will take laws to Parliament later this year lowering that threshold to crimes that attract a 10-year sentence.

Ms Spence says it is just one change that has arisen from the review of the Dangerous Prisoners Act.

"As well the report recommends that in future Corrective Service officers will determine where sex offenders who are released from prison on supervision orders will live," she said.

"We will also allow Corrective Service offices to allow whether these people indulge in alcohol."

The Government also wants voluntary chemical castration to be offered more frequently.

"In some cases chemical castration can help offenders who have high levels of sexually deviant arousal or high levels of libido," Ms Spence said.

"But it can only work if the offender wants to participate in this program and the offender is willing to go along with psychiatric treatment at the same time."

Under the changes, prisoners who have been indefinitely detained will have their cases reviewed every two years instead of annually.

Quote: These draconian laws have nothing to do with the rehabilitation of sex-offenders nor do they account for what rehabilitation sex offenders get or have received in custody to date. On the contrary these draconian laws allow for the blatant disregard of prisoners’ rehabilitation whilst in custody and rely merely on warehousing such prisoners indefinitely because of the lack of programs in the prison system. What the community should be asking for is the alleged Corrective Services to show the community exactly what programs prisoners’ have received in custody to date, the reason for the failure to rehabilitate them in the first place, whilst they are in custody, before drafting draconian laws? Draconian laws mean that the government’s department of alleged Corrections has failed one of its mandates and instead of providing programs now expect taxpayers to foot the bill for their failure once again.


Draconian scheme to stop changing names
Convicted sex offenders who try to change their names to avoid detection will be stopped under a new national proposal.

New sex offender laws passed in Victoria

Sex offenders who have committed crimes against adults will remain under close supervision after their jail term ends under a new Victorian law passed through state parliament.

Serial rapist gets indefinite sentence
A serial rapist and paedophile whose crimes date back to the 1970s has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail.

Reduced sentence for female sex offender
A 35-year-old Melbourne woman who had sex with a 15-year-old boy has received a reduced jail sentence because treatment is not available to female sex offenders in custody.

New jails ahead of crackdown
TWO new jails will be built in Victoria under a $600 million budget initiative designed to ease overcrowding in the state's prison system. The sex-offenders wing to be upgraded at Ararat Prison houses some of the state's worst pedophiles, including Brian Keith Jones, or Mr Baldy. He and others have completed their sentences but are deemed such a risk to the community that they are housed outside the prison walls but inside its perimeter, under extended supervision orders.

Tough new laws for sex offenders
Under the new laws, serial rapists could be made to wear electronic bracelets or be confined to houses within prisons.

Abusers free without treatment
HIGH-RISK sex offenders who need and want treatment are released without it because the state's only rehabilitation centre is ridiculously under-resourced, says a psychologist who worked on the program for a decade.

WA sex offenders missing out on rehab
It has been revealed that over the past year more than 60 per cent of sex offenders released from Western Australian jails did not complete rehabilitation programs targetting their crimes.