She sued the Federal and South Australian Governments, defended herself in a five-month court-case – and won!
In 1987 the South Australian government ceased funding the Christies Beach womens shelter, due, it said, to ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ of misappropriation of funds, sexual misconduct, intimidation, physical harassment, and unprofessional conduct.
Fifteen years later – June 21st 2002 – Supreme Court judge Justice Debelle said all these allegations were false, and the then womens shelter administrator Dawn Rowan, who largely represented herself, was awarded damages of half a million dollars. Taxpayers have paid millions, says Dawn, for the S.A. and Federal Governments to ‘defend the indefensible’. The saga isn’t finished yet. There’s an appeal pending – costs again courtesy of the Australian taxpayer!
I first met her via a phone call at an odd Easter hour six years ago.
‘Hi, my name’s Dawn Rowan. You don’t know me, but I’ve just heard you on the ABC. I’ve got to talk to you. Urgently!’
The radio program had been about the classical Christian discipline of Spiritual Direction – how we help one another to try to understand the ways of God.
In our first session she quickly tossed in her two main agendas. ‘I’m a therapist, working with the adult survivors of childhood ritual, satanic, emotional, sexual and physical abuse. I want to know where God was when those babies were born to be tortured.’
‘The second: I’m taking two governments and two TV networks to court. I’m up against the most powerful elites in our nation, and I need support somewhere!’
Two hundred counselling-hours later we’re still talking.
People like Dawn Rowan make interesting counsellees. I have clients who are psychiatrists, psychologists and, in my specialised work, many clergy and their spouses, and it’s intimidating to talk with someone who is analysing – albeit sometimes unconsciously – your counselling techniques. Dawn has herself been a counsellor since 1970 – in schools and the women’s liberation centre in Adelaide – before she managed the Christies Beach Womens Shelter. But I found her at all times to be emotionally genuine, scrupulously honest about her feelings and the events we discussed, able to cry (which happened frequently) and very fluent when she got angry about the abuse she felt she had received from various authority figures.
A dedicated feminist activist, Dawn, now 55, was probably the first person to identify the syndrome of ‘battered women’ back in 1981.
‘I identified a pattern of abusive strategies used by violent men and a pattern of responses by victims/survivors of this abuse and the common impacts on their lives. My 1981 analysis of the nature and extent of family violence and child abuse in our community is now accepted as commonplace knowledge. But back then I was described by those who were threatened by this new information as a ‘liar, exaggerator, and an empire-builder’. Even the ‘ideological watchdogs’ of the women’s movement attacked me and sabotaged my efforts to alert everyone about the realities of domestic violence through community education and training of professionals. We set up the Christies Beach Shelter on a profoundly different philosophy to that of the prevailing feminist position – to empower women and their children to access real choices.
‘I’ve learned that being twenty years ahead of your time is dangerous.’
Are you still a feminist?
‘I no longer define myself as a feminist. I’ve too often experienced in my counselling practice the results of women abusing others – or of being acquiescent in the abuse by others of children in their care. I’d rather help with a no-blame philosophy of human behaviour.’
Dawn’s case was heard in the South Australian Supreme Court over five months in 2001.
A qualified social worker (and high school music teacher) with no legal training, Dawn Rowan represented herself against four legal teams – including a QC, senior and junior barristers, briefing solicitors and other supporting legal staff. She ran the case with the assistance of her 20-year old niece, Felicity Lockwood, who also has had no legal training. Only in the final submissions stage did she get the help of a barrister – for one week.
On 21st of June 2002, after deliberating for nine months, South Australian Supreme Court judge Justice Debelle handed down a 300-page judgment. You can read it on the Australasian Legal Information Institute’s website: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/sa/SASC/2002/160.html .
In a landmark ruling he found that she had been completely vindicated after living for 15 years with vilification, humiliation and injustice.
Says Dawn angrily: ‘And these are the politicians we elect to high office in our sick system! Millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been spent defending the indefensible.’
‘This has been a 15-year legal campaign waged by the Federal Government (both Labor and Liberal) and the South Australian Government (both Labor and Liberal), to defend themselves against charges of misfeasance (abuse of public office), defamation, negligence and conspiracy.
‘We’d spent many exhausting years in the early 1980s trying to get adequate funding through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). We were so frustrated we even created ‘SAAP Sucks!’ badges. The levels of public funding were insulting. At the time the cost to accommodate one person per night in a hospital was $250, in a gaol $180, and in a women’s shelter $10 a night! Our shelter in Christies Beach ran a 24-hour, seven days a week service for approximately 300 women and their children a year with just five staff.
‘The saga really came to the boil in October 1986. Representatives of the South Australian women’s shelters unanimously called for the withdrawal of Dr. Cornwall’s Father of the Year award, which had been bestowed on him some months before. He was then the Minister for Health and Welfare in the Bannon Labor government.
‘This was duly reported in the Adelaide Advertiser the following morning.
‘Within three or four days Dr. Cornwall announced in parliament that he was establishing an ‘Independent’ Review (Rowland: always put ‘Independent’ in ‘quotes’!) of the management and administration South Australian shelters. But I believe he was really targeting the ‘bully girls’ as he called us, at Christies’ Beach. He saw me – probably with some justification – as the ‘ringleader’ in all this.
‘”Independent?” Dr Cornwall appointed all the members of the ‘independent review’ committee, including the chairperson Mrs. Judith Roberts, who continues to chair (or is a member of) numerous health welfare and education boards and committees, both in South Australia and nationally.
‘Our shelter at Christies Beach was singled out in the final report of the ‘independent’ review with ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ of misappropriation of funds, physical and verbal harassment and intimidation of shelter clients, professional negligence, sexual harassment of clients, and inappropriate and exploitative counselling practices.
‘On 11th August 1987 Dr Cornwall announced in the SA parliament, under parliamentary privilege, that he was defunding Christies Beach women’s shelter on the grounds of this list of ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ contained in the report Shelters in the Storm which was produced by the Roberts committee.
‘But a couple of months before, in June 1987, the minister and some committee members, obviously realising how damaging the allegations would be, actually sought formal legal advice from Mr. Brad Selway of the Crown Solicitors’ office regarding their liability in defamation should the report be released under parliamentary privilege.
‘In 1990 I filed proceedings against thirteen defendants – for defamation, negligence, and misfeasance (abuse of public office). The defendants were:
- The Commonwealth of Australia, the State of South Australia, Dr. Cornwall, Mr. Christopher Sumner (State Attorney-General)
- Ms Susan Ryan (Federal Minister for Community Services)
- Mrs Judith Roberts, Miss Judith Blake (a member of the Review Committee who was also chair of the Whyalla YWCA which ran a women’s shelter)
- Mrs Rosemary Wighton (Review Committee member who happened to be Deputy CEO of The Dept of Community Welfare, which administered shelter funds)
- Ms Colleen Johnson (Review Committee member, a senior financial manager in Dr Cornwall’s Health Department)
- Ms Robyn King (Review Committee member who represented The Commonwealth)
- Ms Harrison Anderson (‘independent’ paid consultant to the committee)
- The Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Network Ten.
‘In 1998 the charge of conspiracy was added following further examination of the relevant documents. Two more defendants were added: Ms Susan Varden (then CEO of the Department of Community Welfare, and currently CEO of Centrelink) and Mr. Peter Bicknell (then manager of the unit within the DCW which administered shelter funds).’
In a landmark legal judgment Justice Debelle found that:
- All the unsubstantiated allegations were false. ‘The allegations’, he said, ‘ were a shocking defamation’.
- Dr Cornwall, Mrs Judith Roberts, Mrs Rosemary Wighton and Ms Harrison Anderson were guilty of malice
- The Roberts committee and the consultant Harrison Anderson were guilty of defamation for the contents of the report.
- Mrs Roberts, the ABC and Channel Ten were guilty of defamation in regard to current affairs TV programs broadcast on 12 August 1987.
- Dr Cornwall was guilty of misfeasance
Justice Debelle said, in para 687: ‘These were serious libels. They charged the plaintiff and others at the Christies Beach shelter with conduct quite inappropriate in any field of employment, but the more so in a women’s shelter. The allegation of misappropriation of funds was, in effect, an accusation of theft. The allegations of sexual misconduct, intimidation, physical harassment, and unprofessional conduct, went to the very essence of the plaintiff’s employment as Administrator of a women’s shelter. When these allegations are viewed as a whole, it is difficult to think of a more serious defamation, particularly of a woman employed in a women’s shelter.’
At this point in our interview we had to pause while Dawn tried to control her emotions. My wife Jan was with us, and we found ourselves sitting either side of Dawn embracing her while she sobbed.
In a while she resumed her story.
THE MYSTERIOUS MATTER OF THE MISSING DOCUMENTS
‘In my research I found that a whole cohort of documents related to this matter were missing. Government and other departments that we expect to keep good records “mislaid” key documents. Mysterious eh? That motivated me to add the conspiracy charges. Documents tend not to go missing all by themselves!
‘In paragraphs 87, 94 and 97of his finding the judge said:
“One curious feature of this litigation is the fact that files kept by the relevant departments, have, to a large extent, been lost or destroyed. Some files were destroyed or lost after this action had commenced. There were four State Government departments and one Commonwealth Government department involved in this matter. The four State departments were the DCW, the Crown Solicitors’ Office, the Police Department and Corporate Affairs Commission. The Commonwealth Department was the Department of Community Services… It is possible to understand that files from one department might have been inadvertently lost or destroyed. Coincidence cannot explain why files from five departments cannot be located…’
“It is not possible to identify a particular issue where the absence of document has had a material consequence. No conclusions can be drawn because of the absence of documents. Nevertheless, a sense of disquiet remains.”
Dawn added: ‘It’s obviously very difficult in law to prove conspiracy, but it was worth a try!’
The outcome? Justice Debelle awarded damages of $340,000, which -with interest – totalled $585,000.
Dawn, how to you feel about the findings?
‘First, they have made legal history in some respects. People can now more freely challenge the notion of parliamentary privilege. Politicians will have to be more careful about abusing their power and privilege. They are liable to be found guilty and punished for the ‘tort of misfeasance’ – abuse of public office.
‘I’m disappointed in the level of damages awarded.
‘But I want to pay tribute to Justice Debelle. He had a complete knowledge and understanding of the facts. His judgment was strong.’
How much did it all cost you Dawn?
‘Well, for a start, I have lived in terror. These “allegations” – every one in every detail – were 180 degrees opposite to reality. When the public statement about defunding was made, I felt that if I had said anything in public I would be found dead in the gutter. I totally collapsed. I’d only been given five minutes’ notice – at 4.55 pm on August 11th 1987 – before the announcement (made under parliamentary privilege) was headlines in TV news bulletins at 5 pm, 6 pm and 7 pm. I managed to get myself to a friend’s house, then was immobilized for three weeks. My personal and professional reputation was destroyed. My worldview was shattered, and my self-confidence disappeared. I have lived ever since – for 24 hours every day – with the terrible feeling that people see me as some sort of criminal. Once publicly accused you are never fully cleared regardless of legal outcomes. I still get distressed – as you’ve noticed many times – when I talk about it. And have you noticed that the media has kept an ominous silence about it all?
‘Some of my documents relating to the case vanished – from a friend’s home in Victoria, where I had been storing them for security.
‘Financially, I’ve spent about three quarters of a million dollars in costs – that includes hundreds of weekends studying and preparing for this case. In terms of lost earnings: add another $1 million. Emotionally, I’m not really up to working still. And did you know self-represented litigants get not one cent’s payment for their own preparation and court time – even if they’re vindicated as I was? (That was a high court decision to discourage non-legally-trained people running their own cases.) Some out-of-pocket expenses – photocopying, travel, etc. can be reimbursed. And note that damages awards pay only 4% simple interest. If interest were calculated at market rates, the damages would have been three times as high, ie. about $1 million
‘Within five weeks I fled to Victoria to find some means of surviving this total personal destruction. Since then I’ve had roughly an hour a week of therapy for 15 years.’
And how much has this 15-year battle cost taxpayers?
‘Well,’ she said, ‘do your own calculations. The outlay of taxpayers’ money is not just up the wall but over the roof! Factor in these costs:
- the Roberts Committee Review (which met for eight months)
- a three-month CIB investigation into the shelter in 1987 – no action taken
- a three-month Corporate Affairs investigation in 1987
- a Corporate Affairs trial against Dawn Rowan and two other shelter workers in 1988 for trivial breaches of the complex new Incorporations Act of less significance under the law than failing to register your dog. No charges were recorded.
- a South Australian parliamentary Upper House Select Committee which investigated the circumstances surrounding the defunding of the Christies Beach Womens Shelter (12 months in 1988-9) which criticised in the strongest possible terms the inclusion in the Roberts Review report of the unsubstantiated allegations
- SA Ombudsman’s Investigation (1989) – found that the DCW’s actions were unreasonable and unjust
- a Strike-out application taken out against Dawn Rowan by the defendants (date?) which was dismissed
- Stay of Proceedings taken out against Dawn Rowan by the defendants 1996 (which, again, was lost)
- Five-month trial in the SA Supreme Court 2001 – they lost
- Current appeals by all defendants against Justice Debelle’s judgment (probably another 18 months)
- Defendants’ application to stay the payment of damages to Dawn Rowan ordered by Justice Debelle – dismissed.’
Was the court-case an experience of unremitting seriousness?
‘Mostly yes, but Justice Debelle had a sophisticated and wry sense of humour. The funniest moment for me was when the barrister for the Commonwealth Government tried to deflect responsibility for this whole debacle to the South Australian Government, by insisting that the Roberts Committee had the characteristics of a State committee, not a Commonwealth SAAP/State committee. Summarising his case he said “If the committee looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck!” When I responded to this the next day I added “But, your honour, Mr Stanley did not ask ‘But what does it smell like?’ Upon which there was enthusiastic laughter (from most quarters!).’
Where to from here with the case?
‘The 13 defendants are appealing all the findings of the judgment. When? Who knows. Probably 12-18 months’ time.’
Finally, what do you think of our political and legal systems?
‘Anyone who doesn’t believe in conspiracies in high places is being simply irresponsible. Our Westminster system of parliamentary privilege can be grossly abused. Of course I’m not the only one to have experienced that! And our legal system, I believe, is not primarily a system of justice, but of order…’
And where is God?
‘I’m a “deconverted” Christian. I’d like to think that a beneficent God is up there somewhere, but I can’t figure out why people are allowed to get away with such terrible human injustices and wickedness. I have trouble with institutional Christianity but the Jesus I’ve studied was a rebel and fought for social justice – so I would have really felt at home with him.’
Dawn Rowan is director of New Beginnings, a counselling and psychotherapy practice in Melbourne for men, women and children who have experienced severe abuse.
UPDATE (May 4, 2006)
Dawn: ‘The South Australian Supreme Court has ordered me to pay the Commonwealth’s costs, heavily discounted to $380,000, effective as from last Thursday.
‘The other two parties – the ABC and Network Ten – are also submitting claims for their costs in this action.
‘And the State of South Australia is wanting me to pay their costs for the bias case submission against these three judges; the bias claim was dismissed.’
Dawn, what’s the ‘bias claim’ all about?
‘I made a submission to the Supreme Court claiming a “perception of bias” on the part of at least two of the three judges, which was not disclosed at any time in the trial: for example, one of the three judges had been in association with Judith Roberts on at least ten committees of various kinds, including the Flinders University Council.’
‘Let the Minister Beware”: Personal Liability of Politicians (Rowan v Cornwall).
‘… The sort of conduct that may be dismissed as little more than “robust politics” may now carry a very special and damaging sanction’… More:
Reporting on the bankruptcy hearing of 24th August 2007, Channel 7’s Today Tonight program said in part:
‘By reverting to ancient law – where a dispute is settled by an apology and a pledge to make good the original damage – Dawn has now circumvented the entire legal process. And because Dawn is indisputably in the right – in fact she is the wronged party – there is no debt to settle. Honour is restored with an apology to the court.’
See http://dawnrowansaga.blogspot.com/ for transcripts of two Channel 7Â Today Tonight programs on all this.
UPDATE: October 3rd, 2009
DAWN’S BANKRUPTCY IS NOW OFFICIALLY ANNULLED!
From Dawn yesterday (2nd October 2009):
“I have in my hand a ‘Certificate of Annulment’, dated 12 Aug 09, (letter dated 25th Sept 09).
I understand this means that the bankruptcy is ‘dead in the water’.
We’ve also had a verbal commitment from the Minister that the debt to the Commonwealth of Australia is waived although this is yet to be confirmed in writing.”
We’ll keep you up to date with developments.
After a quarter of a century we’re hopefully coming to the end of thisÂ saga: thanks everyone for your support, emails, petition signatures, attendance at vigils etc.
UPDATE: June 14, 2010: An email I received from Dawn a couple of weeks ago: “The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) froze my assets with one hours’ notice in a court hearing in Adelaide in 2005. My solicitors notified me it had happened 4 hours later.
“This ‘Mareva Injunction’ was the legal tool used to take COMPLETE control over every aspect of my finances, house & possessions in an instant ambush, & maintain absolute control for as long as it suited them. This was effortlessly achieved in our Australian ‘Democracy’ against an INNOCENT person, by gross abuse of power from the unlimited power & tax-payers’ money available to the Commonwealth Government.
“For 5 years I have not been allowed access to any more than $500 per week, regardless of major funds needed for defending the Bankruptcy proceedings the AGS then conducted against me over the next 3 years. I was also unable to pay any large expenses such as local council rates, house maintenance, superannuation contributions etc, with predictable results.
“However, when the bankruptcy was annulled in October 2009 through the decency and kindness of Federal Ministers Lindsay Tanner & Jenny Macklin, the AGS ignored their responsibility to REMOVE the injunction, & it took 6 MONTHS to finally get this cruelty cancelled (25th May, 2010)!!!
“1 hour to impose……6 months to remove!!!!!! Double standard?….. Deliberate abuse of power?….. Persecution by the AGS because I had the temerity to stand against their injustice?…”
Dawn has just submitted to the Australian Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, a submission for an ‘Act of Grace Payment’ – compensating her (a little) for the seven-figure sum of $A dollars she has spent fighting for justice in the courts, forfeited in lost earnings and superannuation, not to mention the personal/psychological trauma she has suffered for the past quarter of a century.
I’m writing a brief email to Federal Minister Lindsay Tanner, *and would encourage each of you to do the same*. Put it into your own words, but mine will go like this:
Dear Mr Tanner: first, thank you for the outstanding act of compassion you have shown to Dawn Rowan in annulling the bankruptcy order against her, and waiving her ‘debt’ to the Commonwealth.
We, her large group of supporters, have deliberately withheld exerting any pressure on you during recent months, while the Mareva injunction saga was resolved (it happened just a couple of weeks ago).
However, we understand that she is now submitting an application for an ‘Act of Grace payment’.
I would urge you to extend your compassion and generosity just this one last time, to compensate her for the horrific financial and personal toll this has taken on her life over the past near-quarter century.
(Rev. Dr.) Rowland Croucher.
On behalf of Dawn and her many supporters, could I encourage you to send a similar *brief* email to Mr. Tanner ([email protected]). Bounce any replies to me. Thanks!
UPDATE (September 12, 2010): Lindsay Tanner has retired from parliament, succeeded by Penny Wong. Please email her and ask to have this matter of an Act of Grace payment expedited. Twenty-plus years of persecution and suffering at the hands of Australian Government authorities is too long!
PS. If my fellow-clergypersons/ preachers want to use this material for preaching, try anchoring it in these texts: Luke 18:1-2, 2 Chronicles 19:4-6, Amos 2:6-7, 5:10-13.
JANUARY 2011 UPDATE:
APPLICATION FOR ACT OF GRACE PAYMENT TO HON. GARY GRAY AO MP
Dear (Australian) friends,
On behalf of Dawn Rowan’s Support Group, I’m asking a small favour from everyone of you as we reach the end of the campaign for justice for her:
1. Find your local Federal member of parliament (House of Representatives and Senate) from these lists:
2. Send them a copy of the letter below, with a personal note from you expressing your amazement that this can go on for thirty years!!!, and urging them to intervene/advocate for Dawn with Hon. Gary Gray to make a generous Act of Grace payment.
Thanks everyone (oh, and email me any responses you get).
To: The Hon. Gary Gray AO MP Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 25 January, 2011
Special Minister of State
Dear Minister Gray
I am writing as the convenor of supporters ofÂ Ms. Dawn Rowan.
Within the next fortnight I understand from your staff that you will be receiving a submission concerning Ms Dawn Rowan’s Act of Grace payment application.
It will detail the horrendous history of this case, which began in 1981, in which individuals and politico-legal entities have persecuted an innocent woman. The Christies’ Beach Women’s Shelter she led was defunded by the South Australian and Federal Governments due to false allegations against Dawn. She won the subsequent defamation and misfeasanceÂ (abuse of public office) case against the S.A. Government, the courts finding her innocent of every charge. The Supreme Court of S.A. determined it to be a ‘shocking defamation’.
Yet, perversely, costs to the value of Dawn’s home were awarded against her! As the proven innocent victim of government slander, she was the only one left with a debt!
You will be aware of the subsequent events: bankruptcy; later annulment of bankruptcy by Hon. Lindsay Tanner; Minister Jenny Macklin’s recommendation of a waiver of Dawn Rowan’s alleged ‘debt’ to the Commonwealth, and now, finally, an Act of Grace application in which her financial, professional and emotional deprivation and suffering will be acknowledged. She spent more than $1.5 million defending herself over 20 years of court hearings.
When Australian citizens/tax-payers have learned that an eight-figure sum of their money has been wasted prosecuting this case against an innocent woman (not to mention the astonishing fact thatÂ fiveGovernment departments destroyed or mislaid relevant documents relating to the case) they have been demanding some answers.
I want to pay tribute to Ministers Jenny Macklin and Lindsay Tanner, who have acted honourably and with integrity in the penultimate stages of this saga.
I encourage you to be generous in ascertaining and awarding a just and adequate payment as compensation for the suffering all this has caused Dawn Rowan.
I am happy to be contacted by phone or email if further information is required.
(Rev. Dr.) Rowland Croucher
LETTER FROM MINISTER GARY GRAY (2nd MARCH 2011)Â AND DAWN ROWAN’S RESPONSES
The attached is a point-by-point set of responses from Dawn Rowan to the Minister’s letter refusing any compensation for the abuses perpetrated on her by the Commonwealth Government.
My (Dawn Rowan’s) responses are bold and italicized, to highlight the deliberate efforts to mislead in the Minister’s 1 Â½ page letter. I take full and sole responsibility for all the comments here.
The original judgment by Justice Debelle found all four parties – the SA Government, Commonwealth Government, Channel 10 and the ABC TVÂ – guilty and liable for my costs. The Appeal Court (three judges) reversed the liability of the Commonwealth and the two Television networks. The State of South Australia and its representatives remained the guilty party: but these three judges made me responsible (as the innocent party) for my costs (approx. $475,000) and the costs of these three parties. The guilty party – the SA Government – was ordered to pay only its costs! Bizarre!
Note: all underlinings for emphasis in the Minister’s letter are mine.
Further background factual information: see the original 300-page judgment – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/sa/SASC/2002/160.html
HON GARY GRAY AO MP
Special Minister of State
Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity
Ms Dawn RowanÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â REF: C10/1768
PO Box 60
ST ANDREWS VIC 3761
Dear Ms Rowan
I am writing in reference to your request for an act of grace payment of approximately $3.5m for alleged psychological injury and financial loss due to the Commonwealth initiating legal action and bankruptcy proceedings and the alleged delay in removing an injunction over your funds.
Dawn Rowan’s response: ‘This document is malicious, designed to injure/assassinateÂ. Alleged psychological injury? My medical reports provide overwhelming factual evidence of the appalling psychological injuries I have sustained over the past 25 years.’
Alleged delay? For five years the Federal Government chose to keep my assets frozen: so that I was not able to freely access bank accounts and any other resources.
In reaching my decision, I have considered the information provided in your correspondence of 10 June 2010 and 2 November 2010, several letters of support and advice from my Department. I am aware of the circumstances of your involvement with the Commonwealth and the decisions made by the former Minister for Finance and Deregulation, the Hon Lindsay Tanner.
‘Aware of the circumstances?’ I have appealed for any documentation attached to be used by the Minister in arriving at his decision, to be made available to me for comment. Response? Refusal. Therefore this minister has come to this decision based on two documents submitted by me out of a 25-year legal process and thousands of pages of documents in the Commonwealth’s possession. Departmental documents provided to me by Hon. Jenny Macklin and Lindsay Tanner contain evidence of a malicious campaign conducted by some bureaucrats against me. For example: a comment – against medical reports – by some bureaucrats in Jenny Macklin’s department that “Ms Rowan is not suicidal because there is no evidence of her having attempted suicide’!!!!
You have stated: “I believe that the Annulment of the Bankruptcy, rather than a simple waiver of the debt, acknowledges that the procedures by the Commonwealth were improper and should never have occurred at all. It would follow logically that the Commonwealth accepts liability for the extreme suffering on a day-to-day basis I have experienced since 2005”.
I note that you maintain that the Commonwealth bears some liability to you despite the finding of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia in which the Commonwealth was cleared from any liability upon appeal. It is my view that the appeal decision is the final and operative position regarding the Commonwealth’s legal involvement with you. While I consider that you did not frivolously or vexatiously take action against the Commonwealth, you did so knowingly, and the order for costs is an ordinary consequence of such action.
‘Cleared from any liability’? This is a cowardly statement – hiding behind a legal rather than a moral argument. My application for an act of grace payment was at all times based on MORAL not legal considerations.
Knowingly? What choice does an innocent person have, when scandalized in full public glare with false allegations made about them ofÂ sexual abuse, financial corruption, and unethical work practices released under parliamentary privilege (‘coward’s castle’)? AND DEFENDED FOR 25 YEARS BY THE PERPETRATORS AS ‘JUSTIFIED’… even after all allegations had been proved false and malicious in court?
This ignores the fact that the three judges conducting the appeal did not disclose previous associations with the guilty parties Â in this disgraceful episode of character assassination and abuse of political power. It is a criminal offence for judges not to disclose any association with people before the court.
Their ‘unbiassed judgment’, strangely, overturned the previous finding of Malice by the only Supreme Court judge – Justice Debelle – to have read the all the evidence and to have heard all the witnesses.
How can FIVE Government departments (Police Department, Corporate Affairs Commission, Crown Solicitor’s Office and Community Welfare in SA. and one Commonwealth Government – Community Services) ‘lose’ the same cohort of documents without a malicious conspiracy being involved??? Justice Debelle states in his judgment (June 2002: see paragraphs 87-94) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/sa/SASC/2002/160.html : ‘It is possible to understand that files from one department might have been inadvertently lost or destroyed. Coincidence cannot explain why files from five departments cannot be located.’
This begs the questions which must be asked by Autralian citizens: Why was this done? How was all this coordinated? Who did it? And why? This is not just about me – this is about all of us. We are all potentially abused when our ‘democratically elected’ Government is free to perpetrate these frightening, malicious abuses of power against its own citizens!
And why have the media been so silent about all this?
In accordance with his responsibilities for recovering debts under section 47 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act), the Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs was required to recover the debt which resulted in you being bankrupted. While I understand this caused you stress, I am satisfied that the Commonwealth’s actions to recover the debt were reasonable and obligatory.
Required to recover the debt? The Commonwealth Government claims to be ‘litigants of best practice’. They claim to be role-models for the Westminster system in Australia. God help us – in this context of denial of the truth, and exquisite practitioners of injustice. We are dealing here with a ‘LEGAL system’ not a ‘JUSTICE system’ – in which the truth is irrelevant. And the Commonwealth are indeed ‘best practice’ exponents of this shocking system!
There is always a discretionary power that can be exercised by our elected politicians. Reasonable and obligatory? That is maliciously misleading.
Although the former Finance Minister exercised his discretion and waived your debt, he did not have the power to annul your bankruptcy.
Didn’t he? The Commonwealth has complete discretion in terms of waiving so-called ‘debts’ owed to them. Check my earlier comment: there are discretionary powers frequently used here (often to politicians and their powerful mates).
As the Commonwealth was the only proved creditor in your bankruptcy, and as the debt no longer existed because it was waived, the bankruptcy was annulled.
Re ‘proved’: This is because the Commonwealth was the only party to pursue me! See above: all three parties had the opportunity to pursue me for costs, but only the Commonwealth CHOSE to waste additionalÂ taxpayers’ money pursuing me to homelessness and destitution.Â Why did the two other parties – the ABC and Channel 10 – never pursue me for this alleged debt?
The former Minister also sought to expedite the annulment of your bankruptcy by waiving an additional amount of $6,283.74 which was owed to the trustee.
You also claim that there was a delay on the Commonwealth’s part in lifting the Mareva injunction. However, I consider that the removal of the injunction, which required a court order, was carried out in a timely manner.
Five years of frozen assets… The Government alleges that’s in ‘a timely manner’???
While you claim to be in financial difficulty, and are reluctant to apply for social security benefits, it is not appropriate to use the act of grace mechanism to circumvent existing mechanisms or legislation which may lead to eligibility for Government benefits. It is open to you to test your eligibility for benefits with Centrelink.
My financial condition has been fully documented for the Commonwealth Government. The word ‘claim’ is a carefully-chosen and misleading abuse of language. This is a smokescreen. This claim for compensation is a totally separate issue. It’s about losses incurred in my 25-year battle to clear my name, and be properly Â compensated for injuries perpetrated upon me by the Commonwealth Government.
Minister Gray: what would you have done if you had been vilified in this way?
On the basis of all the information before me, I do not consider it appropriate to authorise an act of grace payment to you as I consider that the Australian Government has met its moral duty in providing discretionary relief to you by waiving your debt and there are no special circumstances that warrant payment in this case. Accordingly, I have declined, pursuant to section 33(1) of the FMA Act, an act of grace payment of approximately $3.5m to you.
Regarding the Commonwealth’s having ‘met its moral duty’: I would challenge the minister to a public debate with me where he can attempt to justify his statement that he has ‘met [his] moral duty’ and that ‘there are no special circumstances’ in this case.
I have also enclosed an information sheet with the options you have in respect of the decision.
2 March 2011
Department of Finance and Deregulation
ABOUT THE DECISION
The act of grace and waiver of debt mechanisms are discretionary. This means that there is no automatic entitlement to an act of grace payment and/or waiver of debt.
Generally, a request will not be reconsidered unless you can show that the decision maker made a serious factual mistake or if you provide relevant new evidence.
A COMPLAINT TO THE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN
If you are dissatisfied with the way the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) handled your request for an act of grace payment or waiver of debt, you can ask the Commonwealth Ombudsman to investigate. Investigations are independent, informal, private and free. The Ombudsman cannot investigate actions or decisions by a Minister.
If the Ombudsman decides to investigate your case, you and Finance will receive a report of findings from the investigation. The Ombudsman may make a recommendation to Finance for the matter to be considered again, but cannot change the decision.
You can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman on the following details
Address: Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1300 362 072
Website: Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â www.ombudsman.gov.au
REVIEW UNDER THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS (JUDICIAL REVIEW) ACT 1977
Decisions about act of grace payments and waiver of debts can be reviewed by the Federal Magistrates Court and the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (ADJR Act). The grounds for review include a breach of the rules of natural justice or an error of law. You are also able to request a statement of reasons for the decision, within 28 days, under the ADJR Act. The statement will restate the reasons that you have already been given, formally setting out the facts, evidence used, and reasons for the decision.
The Court can set aside the decision and refer the case back to Finance for further consideration, but cannot review the merits of the decision, or substitute a decision to approve an act of grace payment or waive a debt. Regardless of any view expressed by the Court, a decision maker may again decide not to approve an act of grace payment of waiver of debt.
The ADJR Act prescribes various time limits and fees, and you may also face an award of costs if an application for judicial review is unsuccessful. You can find out more about your options under the ADJR Act and judicial review at www.fedcourt.gov.au
It is recommended that you seek independent legal advice if considering judicial review.
John Gorton Building, King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600 * Telephone 1800 227 572