Staff at the Alexander Maconochie Correctional Centre have breached the Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Act, after forcibly strip searching a First Nations woman and sexual assault survivor. The woman has multiple lung and heart problems, the latter requires a pacemaker.
A review found that there was no legal basis for the ACT’s mandatory search policies.
Comment from DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara Senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe, the Greens spokesperson for Justice and First Nations:
“This is outrageous! The Inspector of Correctional Services’ report stated that corrections staff were not required to consider human rights when conducting a forced strip search. Is this how we treat Blak women?
“Our nation signed on to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) which requires a culturally safe, properly resourced, effective and independent oversight mechanism of places of detention.
“It’s critical that the Commonwealth Government shows leadership and provides the necessary resources to implement OPCAT. This is far too important to be patchy and inconsistent across state lines. We need federal leadership to ensure the dignity of everyone in this country is respected.
“First Nations people should be able to feel safe around people working for the government, instead of worrying if they’ll be another statistic in this country's violent past. Everyone, no matter where they are, has the right to be treated fairly and free from torture.
“We’re talking about a woman who had just been denied release to go to her grandmother's funeral and threatened to self harm. Before she could enter the Crisis Support Unit, policy required a mandatory strip search. How can they justify forcing a strip search on someone experiencing a mental health crisis?
“Up to 12 staff held her down. Footage shows the woman yelling that she couldn’t breathe, while staff said that this was ‘for her own safety.’ This is a gross miscarriage of justice. She could have died.
“This is a matter of life and death and we can’t rely on Corrective Services to correct themselves. First Nations people are dying in police custody and being traumatised by prison policies that ignore our human rights.
“The Greens are committing to keeping this Government accountable in relation to OPCAT - so that our people are culturally safe, consulted and empowered, every step of the way. Without independent monitoring of places of detention, more of our people will die in custody.”