Despite the Australian Senate in mid-March backing a motion calling for Federal assistance in releasing Rosie Annie Fulton from a Kalgoorlie-Boulder prison, Ms Fulton continues to languish. Promises have been made, including by Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, that the intellectually disabled Northern Territorian woman jailed without conviction for 18 months, will be transferred to Alice Springs to be near her carer, Ian McKinlay and her family.
Mr McKinlay said that he has been contacted by the Office of Minister Scullion and that they have promised that they will do everything that they can to organise for her transfer. Mr McKinlay launched a change.org petition to highlight Ms Fulton’s plight, and more than 100,000 Australians have signed it, petitioning for her release from jail. Ms Fulton, charged with minor driving offences will never stand trial because she is considered unfit to plead.
“Jail is no place for Rosie,” said Mr McKinlay.
Mr McKinlay has updated the 100,000 plus change.org signees that he is frustrated that three weeks have passed since the Senate passed the motion and since the various promises of support for Ms Fulton and that she instead continues to languish in a Western Australian prison.
Prison reform advocate and restorative justice academic, Dr Brian Steels of Curtin University’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies said that Ms Fulton should never have finished up in prison. Dr Steels said that legislative reform is urgently required to prevent this from happening again to any Australian. There are believed to be 50 Australians in prison – in Western Australia and the Northern Territory – without conviction who are considered unfit to plead, with the majority being First Peoples.
“For too long Western Australia has sat on legislation to enhance life opportunities for people with mild to moderate intellectual disability.”
“During the late 1970s and 1980s, many of the old and large institutions were closed down and small scale services came into being with the group home concept. Sadly though, community attitudes to more ‘at-risk and vulnerable’ people meant that these places, with their tight budgets, could not cope with high risk residents.”
“The result is well known, that anyone who does not fit within the normal range of behaviour is classified as ‘unfit to plead’ and sits in limbo. We used to have places where people who were unable to plead due to an intellectual disability could be looked after.”
“It is a blight on our society that this young woman cannot stay with relatives who love her dearly. In her case, home detention whilst on indefinite detention should occur on compassionate grounds,” said Dr Steels.
“We have the families, we have the surveillance, we have the money. The political is missing, and this goes back to Health Commissions that fail to advocate. The Commissioner for Children has failed this young woman, the Courts have failed her for not facilitating therapeutic interventions that are scoped within the laws. The Disability Services Commissioner has failed her for not intervening publicly. The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission have failed her for not making these cases a public interest matter long ago.”
Dr Steels said that where a Government cannot protect its most vulnerable people “even when they break the law, is a Government without a moral compass.”