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Senate supports inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive impairment

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 2 Dec 2015

Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has secured senate support for an inquiry that will investigate the indefinite detention and imprisonment of people with cognitive impairment.

“People with cognitive impairment are being locked up indefinitely in Australia, we must do better”, said Australian Greens spokesperson on disabilities, Senator Rachel Siewert.

"People with cognitive and mental impairment can remain indefinitely without trial because in many instance there is no appropriate accommodation for them.

“It is time for us to crack open why this fundamental breach of human rights is happening right here in Australia, and how we can move to stop it.

“The area of cognitive impairment within the judicial system is a complex one and must be approached with that in mind.

“This issue came up as part of the Community Affairs Committee inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability and I'm glad we are following up the issue through this inquiry.

“I look forward to chairing the inquiry and hearing evidence so we can begin to address this issue at a national level”.

Terms of reference: 

*4 Chair of the Community Affairs References Committee (Senator Siewert): To move—

(1) That the following matter be referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 30 July 2016:

The indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia, with particular reference to:

(a) the prevalence of imprisonment and indefinite detention of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment within Australia;

(b) the experiences of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment who are imprisoned or detained indefinitely;

(c) the differing needs of individuals with various types of cognitive and psychiatric impairments such as foetal alcohol syndrome, intellectual disability or acquired brain injury and mental health disorders;

(d) the impact of relevant Commonwealth, state and territory legislative and regulatory frameworks, including legislation enabling the detention of individuals who have been declared mentally-impaired or unfit to plead;

(e) compliance with Australia’s human rights obligations;

(f) the capacity of various Commonwealth, state and territory systems, including assessment and early intervention, appropriate accommodation, treatment evaluation, training and personnel and specialist support and programs;

(g) the interface between disability services, support systems, the courts and corrections systems, in relation to the management of cognitive and psychiatric impairment;

(h) access to justice for people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment, including the availability of assistance and advocacy support for defendants;

(i) the role and nature, accessibility and efficacy of programs that divert people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment from the criminal justice system;

(j) the availability of pathways out of the criminal justice system for individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment;

(k) accessibility and efficacy of treatment for people who are a risk of harm to others;

(l) the use and regulation of restrictive practices and their impact on individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment;

(m) the impact of the introduction and application of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including the ability of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment to receive support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme while in detention; and

(n) the prevalence and impact of indefinite detention of individuals with cognitive and psychiatric impairment from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including the use of culturally appropriate responses.

(2) That for the purposes of this inquiry:

(a) indefinite detention includes all forms of secure accommodation of a person without a specific date of release; and

(b) this includes, but is not limited to, detention orders by a court, tribunal or under a disability or mental health act and detention orders that may be time limited but capable of extension by a court, tribunal or under a disability or mental health act prior to the end of the order.

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