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ISSUE NO. 1

JULY 2024

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JULY 2024

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ISSUE NO. 1

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News and Investigations

Around the Country – July 2024

About Time

Ethan Cassidy

National

New laws to combat ‘deepfake’ porn

Sharing of ‘deepfake’ pornography is set to be illegal in Australia. ‘Deepfake’ is a form of artificial intelligence that digitally alters images or videos to replace someone’s face or body with another’s. Deepfake pornography is a clear invasion of privacy and can have lasting impacts on wellbeing and reputations. 

The new laws will make it illegal to share non-consensual deepfake pornography, whether in a private message to another person or on a public platform. The law works by adding ‘the dissemination of deepfake pornography’ to the extensive list of federal crimes that can be committed via carriage service – phone, video or internet-based technology. The offence will carry a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment. 

The Commonwealth does not have powers to outlaw the creation of deepfake pornography, however there is some movement in states and territories to address this. In federal law, creating deepfake content that is then shared adds an aggravating penalty of maximum one year imprisonment.

Community Legal Centres found to be underfunded and short staffed

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are in a state of crisis, a new report has found. The Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) found that CLCs are forced to turn away on average more than 1,000 people every day due to lack of funds. Many people use CLC lawyers when they cannot access legal aid due to the type of legal matter or income threshold issues. 

CLCs are vital to complement legal aid. They do similar work to legal aid services, but can also advocate with more freedom, both for their clients beyond the courtroom, and also for changes in the criminal justice system.

 

Reports into funding of CLCs have shown how these centres are under-resourced, facing staffing shortages and burnout. The NLAP found that current funding does not meet Australians’ legal needs. The report included 39 recommendations, and it's now up to governments across the country to consider and implement these improvements.

VIC

‘Prison-themed’ bar grotesque, say advocacy groups

A new prison-themed bar, ‘Alcotraz’, opened in Melbourne in June this year. In the ‘immersive cocktail experience’, patrons interact with actors in completing tasks, finally to be rewarded with alcoholic beverages. 

On arrival, patrons put on the classic orange jumpsuit and are provided a character and backstory. Their aim is to sneak alcohol through ‘corrupt guards’ and other challenges, and deliver it to the heads of a ‘prison gang’. 

Once achieved, patrons are awarded with cocktails made from the smuggled booze and drink them together in makeshift cells. The ‘experience’ has been heavily criticised by advocacy group Sisters Inside, which called it ‘grotesque’ and a ‘slap in the face’ for people who have been harmed by the prison system, stating that prison is ‘not a game’.

NSW

New ‘wanding’ powers given to police

In June this year, the NSW Government passed a law granting police the power to use metal detection ‘wands’ or handheld scanners to detect knives and other weapons. NSW police are granted the power to conduct random searches without a warrant in designated areas, including shopping centres, train stations, sporting stadiums and in places where instances of knife crime or other violence have been reported in the past 12 months.

The law is modelled on Queensland’s ‘Jack’s Law’, which was passed after the tragic stabbing of a 17-year-old boy, to try to prevent the possession of knives in public spaces.

 

The law also imposes stricter restrictions on the sale of knives to minors. It makes it illegal to sell knives to individuals aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse (for example, people such as cooks requiring knives for work or study). The law raises the maximum penalty for selling a knife to a child under 16, doubling the fine to $11,000 and introducing a maximum imprisonment of 12 months. 

The new law has been criticised by the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW, which said that the new powers will lead to racial profiling of Aboriginal and other minority groups. Advocacy organisations have also highlighted the lack of evidence that the law reduced knife crime in Queensland and said the government should move away from unverified punitive approaches and towards addressing the underlying causes of violent crime.

ACT

Independent review of First Nations over-representation in justice system

A recently commissioned report is part of the ACT Government’s attempt to reduce Indigenous incarceration rates by 2031, and will be led by the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney. 

The Jumbunna Institute will work with local First Nations communities, especially those with experience of the criminal legal system. 

The final report, due in late 2024, will suggest practical ways to reduce incarceration rates of First Nations people in the ACT. About Time will publish findings from this report in due course.

New, easier way to raise Human Rights complaints

From 11 June 2024, a new law came into effect allowing the ACT Human Rights Commission to hear complaints about alleged human rights breaches by ACT Government agencies and organisations. 

Previously, you could raise your complaint only with the Supreme Court, which is not easy to do and can be expensive. Now, you can raise a complaint with the Commission, which can offer confidential conciliation processes to address the complaint. However, you must first raise the complaint with the relevant ACT Government agency directly. 

The agency has 45 days to respond to the complaint and try to resolve it. If it does not respond, or if its response is unsatisfactory, you can raise the complaint with the ACT Human Rights Commission. 

The resolutions from these conciliations can vary and may include apologies, revisions to policies and procedures, or the implementation of staff training programs to prevent future breaches. In instances where conciliation fails to reach a satisfactory resolution, the Commission can make recommendations to the implicated public authority, outlining actions necessary to ensure compliance with human rights standards. 

For further information, you can write to the ACT Human Rights Commission at GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601.

TAS 


Tasmania set to introduce harsher punishments for offence of serious bodily harm against frontline workers 

In Tasmania, people convicted of causing serious bodily harm to frontline workers may soon face a presumption of a minimum of six months imprisonment for the offence. The draft legislation outlines that a court must impose at least six months imprisonment for the offence unless the offender is under 18; was suffering from mental impairment; or if the sanction is considered unreasonable or unjust in the circumstances. Frontline workers include correctional services officers, child safety officers, security guards, health workers, retail and hospitality workers, transport officers and more.

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Ethan Cassidy

Around the Country – July 2024

About Time

The latest criminal news from around the country, including new laws to combat ‘deepfake’ pornography, a landmark report on the CLC industry, and a review of First Nations over-incarceration.

From Galbally Parker

Report on the inquest of Heather Calgaret

About Time

Heather Calgaret was a proud Yamatji, Noongar, Wongi and Pitjantjatjara woman. She is remembered as a loving and smiling ‘mother hen’ who was a rock to her family and who loved and connected with her culture through her kids and art.

Ethan Cassidy

‘It saved my life’: The programs helping people in prison care for dogs

Denham Sadler

There is no doubt in Hayley’s mind about the importance of the program that allowed her to care for and train a dog while in prison. “It saved my life,” she says. 

Hayley had been incarcerated at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC) for 16 months before applying for its Pups in Prison program.

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About Time is the national newspaper for Australian prisons and detention facilities

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