Saturday, March 20, 2021

Aboriginal distrust of the police

Aborigines have a lot of contact with the police because they commit a lot of crimes. Those encounters often end up badly so there are calls for the police to "do something" about that.

They seem to overlook that they have in their own hands an excellent way to improve their relationships with the police: Stop committing crimes. Their high rate of criminality -- particularly among young Aborigines -- is bound to create dislike of them among the police and that will show, one way or another

"They don't like me, and I don't like them".

In one simple sentence, a young man laid bare his experience of the often fraught relationship between Indigenous children and police.

His words weren't said in a casual conversation on the street but in a courtroom — and that scathing statement is forming part of a high-profile coronial investigation.

Three years ago, when that young man was 17, he watched his two friends drown in front of him while they were all trying to escape from the police.

A group of youths ran into Perth's Swan River trying to outrun two police officers pursuing them after a nearby break and enter.

This week, that young man was forced to relive those traumatic moments for the coronial inquest into their deaths in Perth. His anger was palpable, his distrust of authorities clear.

The man, who for legal reasons was referred to only as "P", watched footage showing the police officers entering a powerful, wide stretch of the Swan River in a rescue attempt.

His response to the video of tactical response officers in the water was blunt: "He [the officer] could've gone in sooner."

The young man's words made it clear that he was unconvinced any police officer might try to save the life of someone from his community.

The coroner will eventually make recommendations about how to heal this relationship between the community and the police and ways to avoid such tragic deaths, but for the families involved it will never be enough.

If you can't understand that young man's anger and distrust, let me try to explain.

It's not just him, but his immediate circle and the broader Indigenous community who are angry that their people are still dying this way, despite decades-long calls for change.

In the past month alone, there have been several painful reminders for Indigenous Australians that reinforce their beliefs they can't always trust the state to keep them safe.

This month, there were three deaths in custody within weeks of each other, 30 years on from the royal commission that handed down 339 recommendations to stop this from happening.

Just months ago, tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets in Black Lives Matter protests, calling on the nation's leaders to change the record on Indigenous deaths in custody.

The most recent deaths were compounded by the bruising findings of a separate coronial inquest handed down this month into the 2018 death of Anaiwan-Dunghutti man Nathan Reynolds in a Sydney jail.

The coroner concluded that he died from an asthma attack but that the prison's health response was "confused, uncoordinated and unreasonably delayed."

Put simply, the state "deprived him of any chance at survival", the coroner said.

These recent deaths show us what lessons have been lost with the passing of time.

For years, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made national headlines, led news bulletins, exposed a nation's cultural and legal shortcomings.

The hope was that the findings in 1991 could heal the fractured relationship between the Indigenous community and the authorities they had learnt not to trust.

But recent weeks have shown that many of those lessons of honesty, transparency and accountability have faded, along with the hope of meaningful change.

Report after report investigates Indigenous over-incarceration, the causes and solutions repeated time after time — yet the situation does not improve and the community's trust erodes.

Since that royal commission, there's been an explosion in the number of Indigenous Australians locked up.

Back then they made up 14 per cent of prisoners, now it's almost 30 per cent.

Despite some moves to make prisons and police cells safer, there have been hundreds of Indigenous deaths in custody since that report was handed down three decades ago next month.

Two of the most recent deaths that happened in recent weeks were only made public under intense questioning in a parliamentary estimates session.

The New South Wales Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin defended the move to keep them private, but for the Indigenous community, the secrecy was salt in an old wound.

It was a reminder that after all these years the relationship hasn't changed.

Again, for the community, it was a reason not to trust; a reason to be angry.

'Soul-crushing' search for justice for families
Waiting for months or years to hear about the last moments of your loved ones has become a well-worn path for Indigenous families relying on the coronial process to deliver the truth.

The result can be "soul-crushing", according to Taleah Reynolds, who has lived through this harsh reality during the coronial inquest into her sibling's death.

Her 36-year-old brother Nathan died in his prison cell, just one week before he was expected to be released.

The coroner's report this month found "numerous system deficiencies and individual errors of judgment" contributed to the death and provided her family with little comfort.

"This can't just be treated as an accident — it must be recognised as a huge institutional failing and people must be held responsible," Ms Reynolds said outside court at the time.


A totally useless building watchdog in Queensland

A $770,000 dream home built for a disabled woman with money from her $6 million hospital negligence payout is to be bulldozed.

The demolition decision follows nearly three years of dithering by the State Government’s building watchdog, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.

“It’s been agreed it has to be demolished,” a spokesman said.

The decision has political ramifications. I’m told Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is losing confidence with Mick de Brenni, her trouble-prone Works Minister who has been unable to contain growing public distrust of the commission.

The so-called watchdog was initially handed a list of 59 defects in the home built on Marine Parade, Redcliffe, by Linda Hartman for her wheelchair-bound daughter Paige.

“It was supposed to be her ‘forever home’ for when (my husband) Rob and I leave the planet,” Hartman said.

Paige was left with brain damage after her treatment for a seizure was botched at Royal Brisbane Hospital when she was just 15 months old. She is now 24.

“She has no speech and has no capacity to understand anything,” her mother said.

“Paige requires 24-hour-a-day care. We feed her through a tube in her stomach.’’

The Supreme Court heard Paige was diagnosed with herpes simplex encephalitis in 1998 but suffered a devastating brain injury.

“In consequence of the damage to her brain, the applicant has been left profoundly disabled,” the court heard.

“She suffers from a range of physical and cognitive deficits with only a limited capacity to communicate.

“She is distinctly incapable of managing her own affairs.”

Hartman accused the QBCC of callously adding to her family’s torment.

She called for an inquiry into the commission.

“The system has to change,” Hartman said.

“They treated us like pigs.”

She said Mick de Brenni had declined to face her.

“I would really like to meet him.”

She said she had phoned his ministerial office and his electorate office in Logan several times to complain about the QBCC.

But she was repeatedly referred back to the agency by his staff.

An independent assessment also showed the home had rising damp.

Hartman and she and her daughter moved out in July 2019 after an enviro specialist detected toxic mould spores.

Hartman blamed the mould for an adverse reaction that caused Paige to be rushed to hospital. Paige required a sealed room like a hospital room with hydraulic lifts and no dust.

The Hartman case is one of hundreds that embroiled the QBCC in controversy.

State Ombudsman Anthony Reilly reported to Parliament that there are more complaints each year against the QBCC than any other statutory authority.

About 200 grievances are lodged each year.

De Brenni has failed to restore trust in the agency.

As complaints mount, the question must be asked: Is he up to the task?

De Brenni has declined to comment or be interviewed.

He has also ignored a call to publicly back the QBCC, whose board includes foul-mouthed CFMEU official Jade Ingham, who has a history of industrial unlawfulness and other Labor fellow travellers.

Regrettably, Hartman’s ordeal is far from over.

The QBCC approved the maximum $200,000 compensation under the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme it administers.

So Paige’s trust fund, administered by Perpetual, will be short by over $500,000 for a rebuild.

Perpetual has announced it is suing the builder, P.J. Burns.

Principal Rick Burns declined to comment.

However a staff member said: “There is more to this than meets the eye. It will come out in court.”

Meanwhile, a Brisbane doctor who criticised the QBCC for allowing an apartment block to be built too close to his home creating a fire hazard has blasted the Crime and Corruption Commission for failing to thoroughly investigate his complaint.

Junior surgeon Shaun McCrystal said the CCC had referred his complaint back to the QBCC in August 2019 under its “devolution principle”.

But the CCC failed to follow up.

“I’ve seen the CCC’s assessment documents, and they concluded the QBCC’s conduct was capable of amounting to corrupt conduct, so I don’t even think it’s up for debate,’’ he said.

“I thought (the CCC) would at least ask why I’ve had nothing but silence from the QBCC, particularly after the Premier’s office intervened and asked them to have another look at the allegations.

“It would be an understatement to say I’ve been left perplexed and extremely disappointed by the CCC’s inaction.’’


A Townsville homeowner who fears his house will be blown away in a cyclone has won a partial victory with a legal tribunal agreeing his house was built with the wrong cyclone rating.

Mark Agius successfully argued in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal that his $400,000 three-bedroom Mount Louisa house fell significantly short of critical structural requirements determined by Australian standards for wind classification and did not comply with the Building Code or strict manufacturer installation guidelines.

Agius said he was forced to begin civil proceedings against a Townsville builder because the State Government building watchdog, the QBCC, failed to enforce the Building Code once it was discovered the builder had downgraded the wind ratings from Cyclone 3 to Cyclone 2.

He engaged independent wind and building experts who pointed to 75 major defects, including structural faults.

The QBCC had treated him appallingly, he said.


Family questions ruling on doctor after granny’s horrific death

The family of a woman who died a painful death after her leg rotted plans to take legal action after a decision which found the woman’s doctor had NO CASE TO ANSWER. [Incredible]

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and its board investigated the doctor who treated Norma Palmer, while she was a resident at Regis Birkdale aged care home.

Mrs Palmer, 89, died three days after being rushed to hospital for treatment to a wound on her leg which had rotted to the bone.

Ms Palmer’s granddaughter Alana Hewett said she had contacted lawyers about the AHPRA decision after a coroner’s report said the failure to appropriately manage a lower limb ulcer contributed to the grandmother’s death.

“I am still completely baffled at the decision made by the medical board,” Ms Hewett said.

“I will not rest until I believe justice has been served for her.”

The AHPRA investigation found there was insufficient information to show the doctor had not practised to an accepted standard.

AHPRA national manager Mark Braybrook said the board completed a risk assessment into the doctor. “We made a permanent record of your concerns about the practitioner on our database,” Mr Braybrook told the family in an email. “We have advised the doctor about the concerns that you raised.

“We then considered the information you provided with your concerns, the information that was available on our database, including previous concerns raised, and information that was relevant about the practitioner’s work environment.

“After taking these steps and considering all of this information, we believe this is all that is required at this time. We have decided not to take further action.”

Mr Braybrook said the Aged Care Quality Safety Commission dealt with complaints about multiple practitioners who would have provided care to Mrs Palmer.

He said AHPRA only progressed individual concerns when there was a risk of harm to the public that would not be adequately managed by the practitioner or their employer.

Ms Hewett’s complaints about Regis Birkdale were also lodged with the Aged Care Quality Safety Commission, which found Regis Birkdale did not consistently provide a satisfactory level of care to Mrs Palmer and that there were “significant gaps” in pain management and wound management.

ACQSC commissioner Janet Anderson said a surprise visit to Regis Birkdale in December to assess personal care and clinical care benchmarks found the service compliant.

“Should the commission have ongoing concerns about care and services at Regis Birkdale, the commission will take a proportionate, risk-based approach in determining any regulatory response,” Ms Anderson said.

State Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the case was a matter for the federal authorities. “This is a deeply concerning and distressing case and it was shocking to hear,” she said.

“Private aged care is the responsibility of the Commonwealth regulator and we would expect the regulator to do everything possible to protect residents.”


How much UQ spent on Drew Pavlou disciplinary action

The stunning amount the University of Queensland spent on legal advice as part of its disciplinary action against anti-China activist Drew Pavlou has been revealed.

The University of Queensland spent more than $280,000 on external legal advice in its disciplinary hearings of anti-China activity Drew Pavlou, but rejected claims it was “pursuing” him.

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese told a Senate hearing that claims from Mr Pavlou that the university sought to make an example out of him because China was a lucrative source of revenue was a “conspiracy theory”.

It comes as the university said China’s coercive behaviour had become “more blatant” in the past three years and universities recognised the need to diversify international students.

CCC rejects Pavlou’s corruption claims

Mr Pavlou told a Parliamentary hearing into national security at universities last week that his suspension from the university was a politically motivated “investigation in search of a crime” and an example of “moral corruption”.

Mr Varghese, a former Australian diplomat, said the proceedings against Mr Pavlou were not politically motivated, but a matter of misconduct which went to a disciplinary committee and then to a university senate appeals committee.

He said nine of 11 charges against Mr Pavlou were dismissed and his suspension was dropped from two years to one semester.

“If it were in fact a kangaroo court it would be one of the rare occasion a kangaroo court dismissed most of the charges and reduced the penalty,” the chancellor said.

“My view is it was handled in accordance with established processes.”

Mr Varghese said three law firms were engaged for legal advice during the process, one each for the disciplinary board, the senate disciplinary appeals committee and the university administration at a cost of $287,000.

On a different line of questioning in the committee, Mr Varghese also said China’s global tactics, which included appealing to groups including business and universities to convey a message to decision makers, had become more assertive in the past three years.

“What we’ve seen since then is not just a ramping up of China’s coercive behaviour and a more blatant use of economic leverage, but also a recognition in the Australian community, and I would extend that to large parts of business and also now the university sector, that on some of these core issues there was a need to take action and hold firm,” he said.

“Universities were alway conscious they needed to diversify the source country of their international students and that an over dependence on one country was exposing them to a level of risk.

“The bottom line remains as we look to the post-COVID period … and the resumption of international students coming to Australia that we pursue a diversification policy with more success than we have up until now.”




1 comment:

Paul said...

No one comes out of the Regis Birkdale travesty looking like roses do they. Neglect evident right through, from Doctor to supervising RNs to care assistants. I not only stand by what I said a few weeks back when this subject came up, but I'll add easy and unchallenged medical billing for services that don't actually involve the laying on of eyes on anyone. The Doctor can turn up at the Staff Station, ask the Nurses how the patient has been, the nurses, not getting information fed back by the unskilled workers (and/or not having looked themselves), may say there haven't been any issues that they know of, Dr makes a note in the record, bills the fund/Medicare and goes on his way. You can get a lot of billing done this way. It's a consultation with an advocate for the patient who can't speak for herself, right?

I know nothing directly of this case and I can think of a few mitigating factors that may have seen this slide through past the keeper, but I can't think of many that don't involve a layer of neglect.