Sunday, December 23, 2007


Thanks everyone for your support of Dawn...

Lindsay Tanner, Federal Minister for Finance, is being 'briefed' about the case

Dawn got a letter this week saying her money will not be part of the bankruptcy settlement (she's not earning enough)

And that's all!

Stand by: if they come to take her house - which could happen anytime - I'll be mobilizing everyone to contact the press/radio/TV to get a crowd out there...

Some Liberal pollies in the last government argued that 'we can't override the legal process' - but they did (through Kevin Andrews) in the Dr Haneef case...

Happy Christmas!

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Here's a letter sent by a friend to his local re-elected Labor candidate. You can use it to frame your own:

Dear _ _ _ _

First, my warm congratulations on your re-election, and particularly your
elevation as Minister for _ _ _ _ ! A huge responsibility, but one for which
you are well equipped. Like the rest of the cabinet, you will be very
busy! But it is an exciting time, with Kevin Rudd providing the sort
of leadership that is needed. God knows just how much it is needed in the
deep and complex issues our world is facing, and from the heart I say a
profound "God bless"!

In these next few days you will,of course, be swamped by the calls of
duty - which makes me hesitant in even approaching you at this time. But I
have contacted you before about this matter - the vindictive, even though
legal, pursuit of Dawn Rowan: a lady known to be innocent, but who dared to challenge the South Australian, supported by the Federal Government.

She ran Women's Refuges in Adelaide, aroused the hostility of "big wigs"
with friends in the South Australian parliament, was shamelessly defamed in
parliament - so that she took them to court for defamation, and won, with
$500,000 damages awarded.

The SA Government, supported by the Federal Government, appealed. Although Dawn won the appeal, the judges removed the liability of the Commonwealth, ABC & Channel 10 and, going against established legal precedence, ordered Dawn to pay all their costs and her own: and remember she is an innocent person!!! Surely they should have been paid by the guilty party: the Government of South Australia!!!

At this moment, all her assets are being assessed - and she will soon be declared bankrupt and stripped of her house and everything that she owns!

All it needs, I understand, is for a Minister of the Crown to say to the
bureaucrat administering this - "Hold it--pending further investigation."
Without such a stoppage, she is finished, and a terrible injustice will have
been perpetrated.

Please, can you ring/see Robert McLelland, Attorney General, and encourage
him to put it on "hold" until, in due course, the case can be re-examined.

All strength to your elbow!

_ _ _ _ (Rev)

P.S. During the legal process, the relevant files in 5 SA government departments apparently "went missing"! It was carefully planned skulduggery! And no one has been called to account for this criminal activity!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

17 NOVEMBER 2007

There's really nothing new to report since the last entry here, a month ago.

Dawn is working with her Legal Aid lawyer to put together a list of her 'assets and liabilities' so that the process of dismantling her life and possessions - especially her home - can continue.

It's federal election time here in Australia, but the bureaucracy - with its cold, hard, uncaring, legalistic approach to matters legal - still functions.

But perhaps if the Howard Government is tossed out (quite a possibility) we can begin again with the new boys and girls of the Centre/Left, who claim to be more compassionate. It still wouldn't hurt for us all to appraise our local candidates of Dawn's situation...

I have another letter here from a right-wing Liberal federal parliamentarian (Peter Dutton, Federal Member for Dickson, Queensland, Minister for Revenue & Assistant Treasurer). When I get it transcribed, I'll post it here with Dawn's comments, if she's up to it.

Dawn is still very depressed. Pray for her.


"Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. " Eleanor Roosevelt.


Rowland Croucher

Monday, October 15, 2007


Dear friends,

Events are moving very quickly. As some aspects are confidential (due to legal toings and froings) you'll forgive me if I'm not specific at this time in those areas. Watch this space!

Here's what I think can be published here:

1. Dawn is very low, depressed, reclusive: as is perfectly understandable. I have not spoken to her in the last couple of weeks, but last week my wife Jan met her briefly, and yesterday we sent her flowers. Please pray for her.

2. The bankruptcy processes are proceeding: papers came to Dawn's (Legal Aid) lawyer in the past couple of days. A key question at the moment is: 'What further legal options are there, if any?' I'll keep you posted.

3. A small group has been formed by those of us close to Dawn to support her at this time. We met last Friday night (without Dawn, who was too ill) to update each other, and study alternative options for Dawn.

4. Even if lawyers/'hard men' like Philip Ruddock and Mal Brough (see the last blog entry) seem to think that the 'due litigation process' has to continue irrespective of the fact that we are dealing here with a real, live, breathing/crying human being, I reckon all our pollies and wannabe pollies at this election-time ought to be appraised of the manifest injustice being meted out to Dawn by the cold judicial process. (And Coalition propaganda wants us to be afraid of the 'hard men' in the Union left! How hypocritical!).

I'm a swinging voter: the bane of party politicians and pollsters. I vote for issues and people of perceived integrity. But this time I'm campaigning to vote out the Howard Government. I have five friends in the House of Reps and the Senate, and they have been unable to persuade their cold hard colleagues who are running with this bankruptcy action to desist. So I visited the local Labor Party candidate's office yesterday (first time I've ever done anything like that), and had a good talk with Mike Symon's campaign manager, promising help to get him elected in this marginal seat of Deakin. I've corresponded and lunched with the sitting Liberal Member (Phil Barresi), and also met personally with Kevin Andrews (Immigration): they did all they could, but unfortunately nothing changed.

Kevin Rudd, in his first speech as leader, vowed to reassert values of equity, sustainability, and compassion.

Let's give him and his colleagues a chance to prove it!

Over to you all to do what you can: as Julian Burnside QC has written (see his quote on this Blog): let's tell the world about this government's shabby behaviour towards an innocent person.

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Rowland Croucher

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I've just posted on to the Dawn Rowan Documents Blog the only response I've heard of by Mal Brough to Dawn's dire situation. If you read it carefully, you'll note how cold and legalistic it is. Again, our point is that something can be technically 'legal' but at the same time be unjust and immoral. And Dawn disputes the idea that the Commonwealth made any meaningful attempt to settle out of court.

Here's an informed response from Bob Moles, a legal expert in the area of miscarriages of justice, and author of A State of Injustice who has followed this case closely. It is reproduced here with his permission:

I find the response by the Minister to be particularly disappointing.

It fails to have regard to the equity, justice and substantial merits of the case which were all in favour of Dawn Rowan.

It is particularly disappointing that the Minister refers to the duty to act as a "model litigant".

If regard had been had to that issue from the outset, this matter would never have occurred, and Ms Rowan's reputation would never have been put in question.

Let me know if you require something more,

Best wishes to all,


Dr Robert N Moles
Networked Knowledge


Thursday, September 27, 2007


I've just been talking by mobile (from Queensland on holidays) to Dawn and here's a statement I've just released:

'Friday September 28th 3 pm. Dawn has just had a teleconference with the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Adelaide and the outcome is not good. The Court has ignored her various submissions, and ordered bankruptcy to proceed.

'The Commonwealth now has the power to pursue Dawn and make her destitute. Let us continue the pressure on Federal members of parliament which may still avert this course of action. See sidebar of this Blog - for contact details. And let us continue to pray for Dawn.'


Thanks everyone for your continuing support.

Rowland Croucher

Friday, August 31, 2007


Channel 7 Today Tonight Adelaide
EPISODE ONE: 23 August 2007
The Story of Dawn Rowan


Rosanna Mangiarelli presenter

First tonight, one of this State’s most appalling miscarriages of justice. Dawn Rowan is a pioneer in exposing and combating domestic violence - the kind of crusader all communities need. However, for the past 20 years she's been fighting a bitter legal battle against both the State and Federal governments over baseless allegations that shut down the shelters she established. Despite the court’s finding Dawn to be the innocent victim, she's now about to be made homeless. Graham Archer has the shocking details.

Graham Archer; Dawn Rowan .... and it's also 18 years of living with the real terror of bankruptcy and losing everything I owned. But I thought that was a possibility only if I lost. I didn't think that was a possibility if I won.

Graham Archer: Because in the end you won but you lost?

Dawn Rowan: That's right.

Mark Parnell MLC: My big fear is that cases like this have a chilling effect in the community. They send a message to people that you might be a victim of bad government behaviour, but just shut and go away, because if you do challenge them they will throw everything at you and they have no morality when they are doing it.

Graham Archer: Tomorrow is "D" for Dawn Rowan. The day the Commonwealth and State governments move in to take her home. Does that effectively mean that you're homeless?

Dawn Rowan: Yes that effectively means that I'm homeless, and because I work from home, when I'm able to work - that I won't have a place to work as well.

Dawn Rowan: As we reported some months ago, during the 80's Dawn and her colleagues were pioneers in the area of family violence, setting up the first shelters for women and children fleeing violence at home. It was controversial and at times dangerous work.

Man who assaulted his wife: ....I just picked her up and dragged her across to my place and I told her I was going to give her the biggest kicking of her life, but I pre-planned that. I told a few blokes at work that I was going home to give it the biggest kicking of it’s life, cause I'd had a guts full

Graham Archer: Though independent, the shelters relied on funds from State and Federal welfare departments which resented the lack of control and sought to convert the shelters into emergency housing for all comers. The women led by Dawn fought a brave battle but became the targets themselves of personal vilification. You were characterized as a trouble maker?

Dawn Rowan: Oh absolutely. An empire builder. The mouth from the south.

Graham Archer: This culminated in the report commissioned by the then State Minister Dr John Cornwall which under parliamentary protection unleashed an appalling barrage of unfounded accusations about how the shelters operated. Dawn - and her Christies Beach shelter was singled out for special attention. The list included allegations of financial mismanagement and much worse.

Dawn Rowan: Sexual harassment of women in a women’s shelter. Physical and verbal violence of women in a women’s shelter; and they're there because of those issues. Inappropriate exploitative counselling, which is a shocking, shocking allegation to make.

Graham Archer: Was any of it true?

Dawn Rowan: Absolutely not. Not one bit of it.

Graham Archer: Four separate enquiries found the allegations to be baseless. But the damage to the women's reputations and their future job prospects had been done. No apology was offered and Dawn's only redress was to be through the courts. She embarked on a legal battle which lasted almost 20 years. The 2002 the trial judgement cleared her entirely and was scathing of those who'd defamed her.

Justice Debelle from court transcript: 'The allegations were a shocking defamation.'

Graham Archer: It (the judgment) singled out Cornwall and the Review chair, Judith Roberts as being motivated by malice.

Justice Debelle from court transcript: 'I find there is sufficient evidence that members of the Review Committee did not honestly believe what they were stating about the Christies Beach shelter was correct.'

Graham Archer: There were many alarming aspect to the case including that all five government departments involved lost substantial portions of their files.

Justice Debelle from court transcript: 'Some files were destroyed or lost after this action had commenced.'

Graham Archer: However, despite the strength of the judgement, both the State and Federal governments - using tax payers' funds – appealed. And after a 16 month wait for the results, the findings of malice against Roberts and other committee members were overturned. The consequences were devastating. Dawn became responsible for the legal costs of the Commonwealth Government throughout the 15 year case and the appeal. Dawn was innocent but now faced ruin.

Graham Archer: So having been falsely accused of criminal conduct by a Government Minister and his staff?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: After being appallingly defamed?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: Having to resign?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: Move States?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: Having seen documents and notes go missing?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: The court has now found that you have to pay the governments costs?

Dawn Rowan: That's right.

Graham Archer: The Commonwealth Government's costs because they've been let off by the Full Court? And we'll never know what this has actually cost the taxpayer?

Dawn Rowan: No

Graham Archer: No government is innocent in this. But the Rann Government in 2002 chose to fight her to the bitter end, even though they had no legal or moral grounds. And the Federal Government have done the same. And due to a legal technicality she must pay their entire costs - which means now losing her remaining possession - her home.

Mark Parnell MLC: She's been overwhelmingly vindicated by any number of enquiries and legal process and yet she's the one who continues to be the victim and it really is not just.

Graham Archer: According to Mark Parnell, Greens MLC, this case is a classic reminder that we have a legal system and not a justice system.

Mark Parnell MLC: The answer to this is very simple: the State government and the Federal government need to back off they don't need to exercise every bit of legal power they have to extract money from Dawn.

Graham Archer: It's easy to blame the system but individuals make these decisions surely they should be made on moral grounds as much as legal grounds?

Mark Parnell MLC: I think that's right. And I think the real tragedy of this case is the people who really were the guilty parties - way back two decades ago - they're the ones who aren't suffering at all.

Rosanna Mangiarelli: Our attempts, and those of scores of others, to have justice prevail have fallen on deaf ears. And the Minister who has the ultimate say - who could call off the dogs - Mal Brough is saying nothing.

Mark Parnell MLC: Mal Brough has not responded to any of the thousands of approaches that have been made to him. He is the Minister responsible for funding the women's shelters.

Graham Archer: So tomorrow, Dawn will walk into court for the last time into and face the inevitable outcome of having her one remaining - a most precious asset - her home would be taken from her ... So you're running out of options aren't you?

Dawn Rowan: Yes.

Graham Archer: In fact it would be fair to say that you've run out of options?

Dawn Rowan: Yes. If they proceed to bankruptcy and leave me homeless and penniless at the age of 61 with no superannuation I certainly don't have any options in being able to survive.




The citizen versus the State

Reporter: Graham Archer

Broadcast Date: 24 Aug 2007

This is the story of a 20 year battle that has left an Adelaide woman facing homelessness at the hands of the State and Federal governments despite being completely innocent of any wrong doing.

In the 1980’s Dawn Rowan and her colleagues were pioneers in the controversial and quite risky area of domestic violence. Independently they ran specialised women’s shelters aimed at providing safe houses, counselling and support for women and children fleeing violence at home. It was a silent crime which affected many.

It was highly controversial work and the state and federal governments which funded the shelters resented their independence and wanted to turn the facilities into general refuges for all-comers.

Dawn was an outspoken advocate for the cause and fell foul of the Minister of Community Welfare the irascible Dr John Cornwall. Having already threatened to withdraw funding Cornwall initiated a review of the shelters particularly targeting Dawn and her Christies Beach shelter. In August 1987 he used the protection of parliament to table the review “Shelters in the Storm” and make public a series of extremely damaging though baseless allegations about Dawn and her shelter. These included allegations of misappropriation of funds, professional negligence, sexual and physical harassment of clients and inappropriate counselling.

Despite a police investigation and enquiries by the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Ombudsman, and a Senate committee all finding no evidence of wrong doing, the government refused to apologise or make good the wrongs.

Dawn Rowan’s only option to reinstate her reputation was through court action. It was to be a 15 year battle during which all five government departments involved lost large portions of their files. In 2002 Justice Debelle found in Dawn’s favour awarding her around $500,000 plus costs.

However the State and Federal governments appealed to the full bench and a legal technicality meant Dawn had to pay the federal government costs for the entire case. It would run into millions of dollars. Dawn, despite having been the wronged party, would be made homeless and bankrupt.

On the 28th May 2007 the Commonwealth government will sue for bankruptcy and take possession of Dawn’s remaining asset, her home.

UPDATE: 24th August 2007

After an adjournment the matter came before the Federal Magistrates Court for a sequestration order for bankruptcy to be made on Friday the 24th August. This was 'D' day for Dawn Rowan.

After rejecting any argument for further adjournment the Registrar proclaimed that the Order would be made.

However something bizarre happened. Dawn rose to her feet and apologised to the court, said she had approached the matter in the entirely the wrong way and she wished to settle the matter privately and make any party who'd be damaged 'whole again'.

Every time Dawn was addressed she recited two carefully worded phrases. The Registrar was obviously confused and adjourned the matter offering Dawn a chance to make written submissions before she made her Order for bankruptcy. It was a victory of sorts.

Outside the court Dawn's 'advisers' said they had told her to revert to 'scriptual law' which means to settled a debt she must apologise and deal with it privately. Apparently by disengaging in the legal process Dawn had disenfranchised her creditors and was relieved of her debt. Game over!

We'll see what happens!

( )



Channel 7 Today Tonight Adelaide

24 August 2007 The Story of Dawn Rowan (continued from last night)

Rosanna Mangiarelli - presenter

We begin tonight with another puzzling chapter in the Dawn Rowan saga. Last night, we told you how the womens' shelter pioneer was facing the prospect of bankruptcy in court today. Though Dawn had been shockingly defamed by a series of baseless attacks stemming from a Government review of her shelter movement, she ended up being ordered to pay all the Federal Government costs. However, what happened in court this morning has left most observers baffled. Graham Archer attempts to make sense of it all.

Graham Archer

Something very bizarre happened in the Federal Magistrates court today. Former Adelaide women's shelter pioneer Dawn Rowan was due to be bankrupted by the Federal Government over her 20 year defamation case which she won on all the facts but lost on costs. Today she face losing her home.

Dawn Rowan – previous program

And it's also 18 years of living with the real terror of bankruptcy and losing everything I owned. But I thought that was a possibility only if I lost. I didn't think that was a possibility if I won.

Graham Archer – previous program

Because in the end you won but you lost?

Dawn Rowan – previous program

That's right.

Graham Archer

But when the court sat, instead of disputing the claim, as would be normal legal procedure, Dawn stood up - apologised to the court - and said she would settle the matter privately and make her creditors whole again. Each time the magistrate addressed her, Dawn repeated the same two phrases, responding to the hand signals of a friend seated in the court. Whatever she was doing confused the court and succeeded in gaining an adjournment, denied her at the beginning of the hearing. It was a dramatic change of strategy from her position a few days ago.

Graham Archer – previous program

So you're running out of options aren't you?

Dawn: Yes.

Graham Archer: In fact it would be fair to say that you've run out of options?

Dawn: Yes. If they proceed to bankruptcy and leave me homeless and penniless at the age of 61, with no superannuation, I certainly don't have any options in being able to survive.

Graham Archer

Outside, according to Dawn's advisers, 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. Game over. Whatever the magistrate decides to do now - it appears she needed to buy time to figure out exactly went on in her court this morning - we're trying to do the same.


And here's the ABC Adelaide's website's version of the story:

Former shelter boss fights bankruptcy case

Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:03pm AEST

* Map: Christies Beach 5165

The former administrator of a Christies Beach women's shelter has responded to efforts to have her declared bankrupt by reading a prepared script over and over at a Federal Magistrates Court hearing in Adelaide.

In 1987, a State Government review of the shelter made false claims, including misappropriation of funds, sexual harrassment and breaches of client confidentiality.

Shelter administrator Dawn Rowan successfully sued the state and federal governments and was awarded damages of $500,000.

But a legal technicality has forced her to pay the Commonwealth's multi-million-dollar legal bill.

The Commonwealth's lawyer told the court that Ms Rowan should be declared insolvent.

Ms Rowan would not respond to any of the magistrate's questions today, other than to read from handwritten notes, repeating saying that she wanted to settle the matter privately.

That was refused.

The magistrate reserved her decision on whether to declare Ms Rowan bankrupt.




Rowland Croucher

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Friday 24th August 2007, early afternoon: Just received a brief phone call from Dawn after the hearing in Adelaide:

"The case has been adjourned for another three weeks - legal technicalities. Can't talk about it over the phone. Will be in touch early next week."

Keep up the pressure on the Fed pollies!

Thanks everyone for all your help and encouragement for Dawn: including the Channel 7 Today Tonight team, which aired another segment on the case Thursday night, and is due to do another one tonight (6.30pm Adelaide time). (I'm hoping to get a video copy of both programs to post here).

Rowland Croucher

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


UPDATE: The next (adjourned) bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for 24th August at the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Adelaide. Unfortunately, whatever Dawn's emotional health at that time, she feels she has to be there, as the court can appoint someone else to act for her!

She'll be driving to Adelaide next week.

Please pray for strength for Dawn at this difficult time.

Thanks for all the letters, cards, emails sent to various parliamentarians: let's hope a miracle occurs and the relevant ministers act with compassion.

Rowland Croucher

15th August, 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007


wrote a brilliant article in the Saturday Age (August 11, 2007), which expresses as well as anything Dawn has read how she feels.

The last two paragraphs:

Later in life I saw it again and again - even in intellectual and cultural life - the most innocent thing, the most natural unadorned and beautiful idea or the most weak, wretched and vulnerable situation was sometimes, perversely, the thing that was most viciously targeted and abused. Nothing awakens fiendish and destructive anger like the presence of the naked and the powerless - and the vast contemporary culture of popular perversity is energised by an eternal envious loathing of innocence and integrity.

Thank you, thugs, for your precious and profound lesson in life. Your vulgar indiscretion gave the game away - the same deeply human and deeply canine game we see played out at the highest levels of polite society in more cunning and sophisticated ways by the guilty, who alas, all too rarely stand accused or face trial.

Read the whole article here...

Friday, August 3, 2007

4th August 2007.

Here's a question asked in the South Australian Parliament last week:

Legislative Council [of South Australia]


August 1st, 2007

On the 1st of August, Mark Parnell asked the Minister for Police a question about justice for Dawn Rowan.

The Hon. M. PARNELL: Twenty years ago, the Christies Beach Women's Shelter was shut down by the state government. This followed the publication by a review committee appointed by the then minister for community welfare, Dr Cornwall, of a report entitled `Shelters in the Storm' and the subsequent tabling of that report in the Legislative Council of the South Australian Parliament on 11 August 1987. The report contained a list of unsubstantiat­ed allegations primarily aimed at Dawn Rowan, who was the shelter's manager.

Despite being grossly defamed in this discredited report, Dawn Rowan and the Christies Beach Shelter were cleared by subsequent investigations by SA Police, the Ombudsman and a parliamentary select committee. Attempting to restore her reputation, Dawn Rowan fought for justice through the courts, with the South Australian Supreme Court finding overwhelmingly in her favour. Yet, despite being overwhelm­ing vindicated and winning her main action (while represent­ing herself in court against a line-up of seven top barristers), she is about to be bankrupted.

The commonwealth and state governments are now pursuing her for legal costs for a small part of the action that was overturned on appeal, whilst the perpetrators of the original injustice will not suffer personally in any way. While the commonwealth government is the primary party to the bankruptcy action, the state government has chosen to join it. The bankruptcy hearing is next due to be held on 24 August 2007, and Dawn Rowan is facing the shattering prospect of losing her family home. My questions to the minister are:

1. Why is the South Australian government perpetuating the injustice to Dawn Rowan which began in 1987?

2. What message does it send to the community when a citizen can be grossly defamed by the state yet still be treated so unjustly?

Answer: The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Police): I will refer those questions to the Attorney-General and bring back a reply, as this matter obviously comes within his jurisdiction. I am not aware of the current situation in relation to any court case against Ms Rowan, although I am aware that at some stage we incorporated a statement or declined to do so—I cannot remember which—in relation to her particular action.

An honourable member: We did.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: We did, yes. That is right, we did incorporate it, but it was some years ago now. I will refer the question to the Attorney.


Thanks Mark. We'll look forward to the reply!

Meanwhile, the urgent need now is for everyone to contact Senator Nick Minchin ( apparently the (Federal Government) ball is in his court now.

Rowland Croucher (for Dawn Rowan)

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The human mind works in predictable ways. If our government is trying its best to destroy Dawn Rowan, and we have a 'fair go' theory about how Australians are supposed to relate to one another, then somewhere in the back of our minds we might be tempted to ask 'What's Dawn done to bring this on to herself?' So the easy way to avoid 'cognitive dissonance' is to assume she could have accepted a payout and walked away. There's a theory going around Adelaide to this effect.

Here's a summary of Dawn's response to all this:




UPDATE: The next (adjourned) bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for 24th August at the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Adelaide. Unfortunately, whatever Dawn's emotional health at that time, she feels she has to be there, as the court can appoint someone else to act for her! Please pray for strength for Dawn at this difficult time.


ROWLAND CROUCHER, July 20/23/28, 2007.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


July 19, 2007: Probably several of you got the same letter I did (today) from the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock. It said, in part: 'I understand the bankruptcy proceedings were issued on instructions from the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA)... The question of whether to pursue Ms Rowan for costs is a matter for FACSIA to consider. There is no general principle preventing the Commonwealth from enforcing costs orders in its favour. In fact, Commonwealth financial management legislation (section 47 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997) requires agencies to pursue recovery of debts in most cases'.

My response: 'What does "in most cases" mean?' Could this government - even this government - find an exception on compassionate grounds in this case?'

FACSIA is under the jurisdiction of Mal Brough. It is important that Mr. Brough hears from many of us - from varying locations around Australia - in the next week, to draw this matter to his urgent attention. It's easy: do it here.

Meanwhile Dawn is still very low, and her doctor is unwilling to give his approval for her to face court at this time. Please pray for her.

Rowland Croucher


Today: 4th July 2007: Dawn has collapsed emotionally, and has a Stress Disorder prohibition from her doctor preventing her going to Adelaide for the Bankruptcy Hearing which was to have been held tomorrow (5th). All the parties have agreed today to adjourn the case for a few weeks.

Which is good news (for now) - AND GIVES US ALL MORE TIME TO CONTACT FEDERAL PARLIAMENTARIANS ON DAWN'S BEHALF. (See below for addresses/contact details)


DID YOU REALIZE ??? (see videos and updates below)






*** JULIAN BURNSIDE QC: 'I have carefully considered your situation... You have exhausted all possibilities of legal recourse... It is now important that your story be known by the public rather than buried... Be more assertive in pushing this issue in the media. Exposure of the Commonwealth's shabby behaviour might cause a change of heart.'

Friday, May 25, 2007



More... see below, especially 'The Amazing Dawn Rowan Saga' and watch the recent Channel 7 Today Tonight program here and on YouTube: part one and part two. Also here. If you're doing a postcard campaign and want pictures of Dawn, use this one. More here...

** From Dawn: 'The three judges on the FULL COURT of the SA Supreme Court ordered me to pay the costs of the Commonwealth, ABC & Channel 10, PLUS my own costs of the Appeal, WHICH I WON. The legal precedent is that a Bullock or Sanderson Order is awarded to a successful litigant. Which means that the costs of parties joined in an action who are subsequently found not liable, but have been legitimately included in the action, are paid by the party found guilty, ie THE STATE OF SA., who also would pay my costs as the innocent party.

The three judges on the Full Court did the opposite - a misuse in my opinion, of judicial power. These three judges only declared their specific knowledge of, and association with, Judith Roberts, when handing down their judgment in the Undisclosed Bias action I took against them, April 2006.

This is the highest court of appeal in SA. My application to be heard by the High Court was refused on very suspicious grounds. So much for JUSTICE to the brutalized innocent in our 'robust democracy and justice system'.

Regards Dawn

===>>> UPDATE 21 JUNE 2007 From Dawn: The Bankruptcy Hearing of the 28th May was adjourned until 5 July, in Adelaide, in the Federal Magistrate's Court. The execution (literally!) will be ordered on this date. However the actual seizure of my home will take some 6-8 weeks after that.



Dawn and I are in Adelaide airport before flying back to Melbourne. The Registrar agreed to adjourn until 5th July... predominantly because the Commonwealth solicitor presented Dawn with about 60 pages of documents ten minutes before the hearing - and expected her to digest and argue the contents!!!! Remember Dawn represented herself: she didn't have a lawyer who could scan/understand 60 pages in ten minutes. Aussie friends: your taxes at work!!!!

Dawn now has to supply within 14 days a list of her assets and liabilities. The Commonwealth then reply with legal argument to this list within another 14 days.

Dawn applied to transfer this legal action to Melbourne, on hardship grounds, which the Commonwealth opposed. This will also be argued during the hearing on July 5.

Another massive stress, distress, expense and unpaid time and effort for Dawn.

But the good news is that this adjournment gives us all further opportunity to pressure the Commonwealth to do the humanitarian/decent/just thing and withdraw their demand for any money from Dawn.... who, remember, is the innocent victim in all this.



Today, Fri 25th May 3pm. Commonwealth solicitor has notified me that the hearing in Adelaide WILL GO AHEAD after having said late yesterday that they would probably be adjourning it and not to bother coming over.

This despicable backflip is typical of the treatment they have put me through for 21 years!!!!!!! The intent is to keep me as psychologically stressed as possible. This is continuing TORTURE deliberately inflicted to exhaust and immobilize me with depression, is an extreme, coercive tactic routinely used by torturers and mind controllers.

The hearing is at 2.15pm, Monday 28th May in the Federal Court in Adelaide..... They will continue to sabotage justice with whatever dirty tactics they can invent.

Dawn Rowan

===>>> Go here to vote on whether Dawn was treated fairly/unfairly...

And/or vote here:

Was Dawn Rowan (Today Tonight story) treated unfairly?

88% have so far voted Yes (but note that more recently - early July - the voting has been stacked against Dawn by some group: now who would do that? The good news is that Dawn's enemies-in-high-places are taking our campaign seriously).

Vote at!

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Dear friends,

It's now Friday morning, May 25th, 2007 (whatever the date and time you read on this Blog) and we've just heard that the bankruptcy hearing set for Monday 28th may be postponed. Dawn and I - Rowland - have already purchased tickets to fly to Adelaide. This is the way Dawn has been, to use an expression well-known to Australians 'mucked around' for 20 years.

We'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, we've set up this new blog with a new template, layout and title here. You might still have the former blog in your favorites. It will help to update that with this one to stay abreast of developments.

URGENT: Right now, why not send an email to your Federal Member of Parliament about Dawn? Refer them to this site if you wish. Click here to find their email addresses.

And if you think Dawn Rowan's situation is unique, visit Dr. Bob Moles' excellent site with a wealth of information about Australian and other miscarriages of justice. If you hunt around you'll see he's au fait with Dawn's situation (See, eg., this one, and scroll down to 25th May, 2007).

Rowland Croucher

Technorati Profile

UPDATE: MAY 20, 2007


The Commonwealth Government is enforcing bankruptcy - proceedings to be held in Adelaide Monday may 28th. the S.A. Government is joining the fray to destroy Dawn, and will at the same time petition to claim costs against her.

An offer has been made via Dawn's lawyer to forestall this drastic procedure, but so far no response...

Urgent: please contact the Prime Minister - the Hon John Howard MP

Tel: (02) 6277 7700 Fax: (02) 6273 4100

and/or the attorney-general, Hon. Philip Ruddock at




20th May 2007

Re: Dawn Rowan

I wish to draw to your attention a gross injustice perpetrated by the Governments of South Australia and the Commonwealth against a citizen declared at all times in the court process to be innocent.

The Commonwealth and SA governments are now pursuing her for costs, whilst the perpetrators of the injustice against Ms Rowan will not suffer personally in any way.

Please visit
Channel 7's TT program of May 14, 2007 (link on front page
for a summary of her case.

A bankruptcy hearing against Ms Rowan is set down for next Monday, May 28th May, 2007. If it succeeds she will be homeless and destitute.

I respectfully request that your government exercise compassion and clemency in this case of a gross miscarriage of justice against an innocent person.

Yours faithfully

(Rev. Dr.) Rowland Croucher


UPDATE MAY 1, 2007

Dear friends

Thanks for all the wonderful support you have provided over these 'lean years' of litigation.

The Federal Government (Philip Ruddock) are now proceeding to bankrupt me... a completely innocent citizen, grossly abused under parliamentary privilege, grossly defamed, who fought for 21 years to get justice -- and has been at all times declared innocent by the judgments, (which are on the public record).

This political action will leave me homeless, penniless, at 61 years of age, having worked for 40 years and supported myself throughout my life.

My total 'legal' costs, as permitted by the legal system (an actual joke!) have amounted to approximately $800,000, paid upfront/already. My actual costs of running the legal action for the past 17 years is 1 1/2 million dollars (not including lost earnings).

In relation to the Commonwealth's pursing me to bankruptcy, a recent communication from Philip Ruddock stated 'The Commonwealth is entitled to act firmly and properly to protect ***ITS*** (my emphasis) interests.'
Question: Whose interests is the Australian Government elected to represent????

The emotional cost of the last 21 years of torture includes severe post-traumatic stress symptoms, as documented in medical records which I'll post here in the near future.

Dawn Rowan

PO Box 60,
St. Andrews,
Australia 3761

May 1. 2007



On the 17th October 2006, the Commonwealth issued a bankruptcy notice demanding $380,000. I responded as follows, to ministers Brough and Ruddock, requesting a waiver of this punitive action on compassionate grounds.

Dawn Rowan
PO Box 60
St Andrews
VIC 3761

18 October 2006


The Honourable Mal Brough MP
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Box 7788
Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610

Dear Minister,

Re: Bankruptcy Proceedings Issued By The Australian Government Solicitor

I am writing to you in the hope that you will be able to assist me with
respect to bankruptcy proceedings that have been instituted against me
following sixteen years of litigation. Although I was successful in that
litigation the outcome has had a catastrophic effect on me, my health and my career. It has now culminated with the Commonwealth serving me with a Bankruptcy Notice no doubt with the ultimate intention of forcing me into bankruptcy.

I am approaching you in the hope that you will intervene and bring an end to what has been a disastrous last fifteen years of my life.

In the briefest terms can I explain.


I was born in 1946 and educated in Adelaide.

I chose to follow a career as a secondary school music teacher and did so for ten years.

Thereafter I was interested in directing my activities to counselling women and children who had been subject to domestic violence and cruelty. I undertook and completed a degree of Bachelor of Social Administration and applied for and was ultimately appointed the administrator of two women’s shelters in Adelaide.

The shelters were jointly funded by the Commonwealth and State Governments and from 1978 myself and a number of other workers devoted ourselves to counselling and assisting a large number of people who attended the shelters for assistance.

Joint Report – Defamation

On 11 August 1987 a report was published by a joint committee which had been set up by the State and Federal Governments. The report was from an
independent review committee which had been commissioned to examine the
management and operation of the women’s shelters.

The report was ultimately published and received extensive media coverage from television stations and the press. The report contained unwarranted and untruthful allegations of sexual and financial impropriety on the part of myself and others associated with the management of the shelters.

The impact of the report was devastating. I had devoted my career and life to counselling women and children and given up everything to pursue this career. I had considered it was a most worthwhile cause and I had intended to devote my life to that career.

As a consequence of the report, funding was withdrawn and the Christies
Beach shelter closed.

The impact on my health was immediate and I remained on sickness benefits for two years.

I fled the State and relocated in Victoria, but my professional reputation, my ambitions and my health had been effectively destroyed.

I was left without means of income.

Although I obtained some employment in Victoria for approximately twelve
months I ultimately had to resign from that position because of my health and political pressure.


Because the allegations in the report were completely false and misleading, because my career had been ruined and I was without income I took legal advice and commenced defamation proceedings out of the Supreme Court in South Australia.

Whilst I had little in the way of funds, I obtained legal representation and proceedings were instituted on 26 June 1990.

The Defendants to the proceedings were the authors of the report (these
being the State and Commonwealth employees, as well as the State and Federal Governments). I also sued the two television stations who had published the findings of the report.

The legal proceedings were extensive and protracted and the Defendants for the next ten years took numerous steps to have the proceedings defeated.

The trial eventually commenced in June 2001 and proceeded for sixty-seven days. For sixty of those days I was without legal representation and fought the case on my own.

The State, the Commonwealth and the television stations were all represented by Counsel, an army of solicitors and in some cases Queens Counsel.

In a judgment delivered on 21 June 2002 Justice Debelle, a senior and highly regarded member of the bench published his reasons. He described the allegations as a “shocking defamation”.

I was ultimately awarded the sum of approximately $585,000 in damages,
together with the costs of the action.

In subsequent contribution proceedings the amount to which the Commonwealth was found liable to pay was $39,117.42.

Although the award of compensation was less than I had expected I felt that my action in bringing the litigation had been vindicated. Needless to say the years in preparing the case for trial, the trauma of fighting the case in court without legal representation and the associated affect on my health meant that I had been without income for virtually all of that period.


Because of apparent unlimited resources the State, the Commonwealth and the two television stations all lodged appeals.

In order to defend the judgment I was forced to retain solicitors and

My health deteriorated, I was unable to work and spent a vast amount of time instructing lawyers to defend the appeals.

I was required to sell a property which had been left to me by my mother in order to pay legal costs associated with the appeal and the subsequent appeal to the High Court.

Eventually the Full Court allowed the appeal.

For reasons for which I am unable to understand the two television stations and the Commonwealth were exonerated. The damages awarded to me were reduced, but I retained the judgment against the State of South Australia.

Whilst I was awarded 75% of my costs against the State, I was ordered to pay the costs of the Commonwealth and the two television stations.

The total claims for costs of the Commonwealth and the two television
stations exceeded $1 million and the liability to pay these sums would have meant that even though I had succeeded in the litigation overall, the result would have been my bankruptcy.

Faced with this I had no further alternative than to instruct my lawyers to appeal to the High Court.

Because the High Court considered that the matter was not of public interest and only involved legal costs my application for special leave to appeal was refused.

Subsequent Action by the Commonwealth

The end of the court processes left me in poor health and financially ruined as I faced costs orders of the television stations and the Commonwealth of over $1 million.

The two television stations have not pursued me for their legal costs. The Commonwealth, however, has been relentless.

Since the dismissal of the High Court proceedings the Australian Government Solicitor, on behalf of the Commonwealth, has:

· Made a demand for costs in excess of $600,000.

· Obtained an injunction against me, freezing my assets.

· Relentlessly pursued the claim for costs against me and
eventually obtained an order for lump sum payment of costs of $380,000.

· Issued a Bankruptcy Notice against me with a view to
obtaining a Bankruptcy Order.

As a consequence of this I have had funds from the sale of a house that I owned frozen and have had access to my bank accounts limited.

In September 2005, in the course of the injunction proceedings, I requested my solicitors to write to the AGS outlining my position. I requested that my situation be referred to the Minister with a view that the Australian Government Solicitor be instructed to refrain from pursuing its claim against me.

I enclose herewith a copy of the letter that my solicitors sent to the AGS, together with the medical report that was referred to in that letter.

I do not know what transpired as a result of that letter.

The Current Position

The Bankruptcy Notice issued by the Australian Government Solicitor demands payment of $380,000 by 17 October 2006. I presume that if that sum is not paid the Australian Government Solicitor will issue a petition against me with a view to having me declared bankrupt.

I do not know if the two television stations will join in those proceedings, but to date neither of them have made demands against me for costs. I believe that if the Commonwealth were to withdraw its demand the two television stations would not pursue me.

My current position is as follows:

· I have a house at St Andrews in Victoria. It is my home
and a place where I am trying to re-establish my practice as a counsellor. The house is valued at about $500,000, but is subject to a mortgage of nearly $130,000.

· I previously had a holiday home at Coronet Bay in Victoria. This was sold in August 2005 for $190,000. Those funds were frozen by the Commonwealth as part of its court proceedings and are currently in a solicitor’s trust account in Melbourne.

· There is a balance of about $30,000 held by the State Crown being the balance of court costs due to me. The State, however, is claiming $17,000 of that sum.

· Overall I have spent over $380,000 in legal fees and have no money in the bank. All of my personal financial resources have gone into the litigation over the last fifteen years. I have less than $40,000 in a
superannuation fund.

The Future

As a result of the last fifteen years I remain shattered and confused. I
have ten years of my working life left, but with no realistic prospect of obtaining fulltime work or employment.

If the bankruptcy proceedings continue I will certainly lose my house and everything that I have worked for over the years.

With the limited finances that I have I would prefer to attempt to rebuild my career as a counsellor and attempt to retain my health and my dignity. I do not want to lose my home and become reliant on Centrelink payments.

Although the Commonwealth was excused from liability by the Full Court,
there is no doubt that its officers were involved in the preparation of the report that ultimately was found to be grossly defamatory and which ruined my career. Although the television stations were involved in the defamatory conduct they have exercised clemency and have not to date pursued their claims for costs against me. It is only the Commonwealth that has adopted a relentless approach to have me ruined.

In the circumstances, therefore, I am again asking for clemency with the
request that you intervene and instruct your department to refrain from
pursuing its claim for legal costs.

I have forwarded a copy of this letter to the Australian Government
Solicitor with the request that it take no further bankruptcy proceedings pending your consideration of my position.

I would be most appreciative of any assistance that you are able to afford.

I remain

Yours sincerely,


Copy to: The Hon Philip Ruddock MP


This Blog has been set up as part of a group of Blogs produced by me, Rowland Croucher.

That's why you'll see my biodata here, not Dawn Rowan's.

Hopefully, when Dawn has been freed from this tyrannous situation, she'll have the mental space to manage this Blog herself. But Jan and I are committed to supporting her through this whole ordeal.

See the initial story we published, for info about how we met Dawn.

She's a very courageous person, and I would encourage all Australians who read this to communicate with their federal parliamentary representatives to advocate for Dawn.



Monday 14 May 2007 - Channel 7 Today Tonight (Adelaide) - Dawn Rowan

This version of the transcript has been edited by Dr Robert N Moles

In order of appearance

Leigh McCluskey, Presenter

Graham Archer, Producer and interviewer

Program Leigh McCluskey

Tonight, a special investigation into a battle that has spanned 2 decades and which is about to leave an innocent Adelaide woman homeless. Dawn Rowan by any definition is a hero - a pioneer and champion in the struggle against violence in the home. It was dangerous and often unpopular work. However, her real adversaries were the State and Federal governments who appeared to resent her independence and success.

Dawn and her colleague became the targets of the most appalling smear campaign - and though the courts have found in her favour, the Federal government is moving in to take all she has in the world. Graham Archer has the story.

Graham Archer

The citizen versus the State. Would you recommend it?

Dawn Rowan

Well put it this way - suicide seems a very sensible option to me. It's diabolical. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the damage it’s done me.

Graham Archer

What you are about to see is the chilling reality of what happens when an ordinary citizen takes on the State.

Dawn Rowan

Torture. It's psychological, social, financial and physical torture.

Graham Archer

To those who know what she's been through Adelaide's Dawn Rowan is a hero. A genuine pioneer in the struggle against child abuse and domestic violence. It was a task few had the stomach to tackle.

Documentary interview

....I just picked her up and dragged her across to my place and I told her I was going to give her the biggest kicking of her life - but I pre-planned that. I told a few blokes at work that I was going home to give it the biggest kicking of it’s life – ‘cause I'd had a guts full.....

Dawn Rowan

Battered wives at that point were considered whingeing bitches who deserved what they got - and were sleeping on the beaches and in chook houses and things like that.

Graham Archer

The work was dangerous and, of course, many labelled Dawn and her colleagues as ratbags and radicals.

Dawn Rowan

We were considered just the screaming lunatic fringe, nationally - nationally this was, not just South Australia, but the women’s shelters were considered to be troublemakers - because we were outspoken and we were very well organized.

Graham Archer

However their independently run shelters offering protection to battered women - such as Dawn's at Christies Beach - were ground breaking in what they attempted.

Dawn Rowan

And the nature of the work we did there was quite pioneering as well. And that was about genuinely empowering women to go back either to home or separately with connections within the community to be completely rehabilitated.

Graham Archer

But their vision wasn't shared by the State and Federal governments who funded the shelters - and who resented their independence.

Dawn Rowan

Government wanted to deny, minimise and trivialise the problem. I got the distinct impression that they were put out by the effectiveness of the shelters and that - and basically, they were embarrassed by the degree of success.

Graham Archer

Dawn was one of the most dedicated and articulate advocates for the cause - and her critics were many.

Dawn Rowan

You were characterized as a trouble maker? Oh absolutely - an empire builder - the mouth from the south.

Graham Archer

For years she fought to support shattered families - and hold off those determined to undermine her - who were planning to take over and turn the shelters back into emergency housing for all comers.

Dawn Rowan

We felt that complete rehabilitation services were necessary for families that had experienced domestic violence (including the children) - there was a whole complexity of issues that were different to say - running a safe bed for the night for homeless men.

Graham Archer

When the shelters wouldn't submit to the Government's demands - Dawn and her colleague became the target of extraordinary and largely baseless attacks. These smears would lead to a legal battle that after almost 20 years - is about to leave Dawn herself homeless.

Dawn Rowan

And it's also 18 years of living with the real terror of bankruptcy and losing everything I owned. But I thought that was a possibility - only if I lost. I didn't think that was a possibility if I won.

Graham Archer

Dawn's most powerful antagonist was the Minister of Health and Community Welfare - the cocksure and quarrelsome Dr John Cornwall.

File Tape

I'm never happy to meet you the way you carry on - you are the most irresponsible person in public life in South Australia. You are the original ‘middle-aged larrikin’.

Graham Archer

Cornwell’s tactics were hardly subtle - and included the threat to withdraw Shelter funding - which prompted Dawn and her supporters to demand he hand back his “Father of the Year” award. For Cornwall - this meant war. He instantly set up a hand-picked “Independent Shelter Review Committee”. Dawn and her Christies Beach Shelter were singled out for special attention.

Were you ever consulted in that review?

Dawn Rowan

No, no, not at all. In fact the day that the Review was announced, I completely collapsed at work.

Graham Archer

To head the committee he picked this woman - Judith Roberts. Though qualified as a nurse - Roberts was a ‘networker’ who had spent years on numerous Government Boards.

Dawn Rowan

She is basically on almost every health, education and welfare committee known to mankind in Australia, both State and Federally.

Graham Archer

And I take it - at the time - no fan of yours?

Dawn Rowan

Asoluteley not. There had been difficulties between her and I for some years.

Graham Archer

In August 1987 - without warning - Cornwall dropped his bombshell - releasing the Review's Findings in Parliament.

Cornwall in Parliament

There are a plethora of allegations and some are very serious indeed.

Graham Archer

The Report "Shelters In The Storm" was pure poison - chronicling the most appalling allegations about Rowan and Shelter staff - including their failure to keep proper financial records, professional negligence, mis-using - even stealing public funds - and much, much worse.

Dawn Rowan

Sexual harassment of women in a womens’ shelter, physical and verbal violence of women in a womens’ shelter - and they're there because of those issues, inappropriate exploitative counselling, which is a shocking, shocking allegation to make.

Graham Archer

Was any of it true?

Dawn Rowan

Absolutely not. Not one bit of it.

File tape

I've worked in the shelter for 6 years and I have never seen anything remotely like those suggestions.

Graham Archer

Some of the allegations of sexual harassment were put forward by Roberts herself - from unnamed sources.

Dawn Rowan

They only left out running a brothel and - you know – operating a stolen car racket - you know everything else was just about lumped in.

Graham Archer

Roberts even went on Channel 10 and the ABC to repeat the allegations. Dawn and the others were devastated.

Dawn Rowan

I – I - I was completely - I should have been hospitalised at that stage. I could not believe this was possible in a democracy.

Graham Archer

What made the attack even more extraordinary was that a police investigation into the Shelter finances had been completed days before - and found no wrong-doing whatsoever.

Dawn Rowan

And if you were going to table a report making allegations about criminality about someone - you'd want to check with police to ensure you were on safe ground wouldn't you? That's right yes? Investigations were instigated - but they didn't wait for the results before they released the Report - in fact judged us - sentenced us - without a trial.

They were ordered to go back an keep digging - and that's what the detectives told me.

Graham Archer

Their Report - which was not made public - contradicted the Review’s Finding on almost every point - and concludes with a recommendation that the government "Prevent a recurrence of rumours, innuendo and ill founded allegations being made."

It was buried. The Shelter was also cleared by a corporate affairs investigation, the Ombudsman and a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry. Dawn had no option but to resign. The funding was cut and the shelter movement collapsed.

Dawn Rowan

It has pretty much destroyed my personal credibility, my professional credibility, my capacity to contribute - to the field of - particularly to the field of family violence.

Graham Archer

But even after the allegations were shown to be almost entirely false - there was no attempt to undo the damage - or even utter an apology. Dawn Rowan's only way to set the record straight and regain her dignity was through the courts.

Dawn Rowan

The only possibility was to then go to the law.

Graham Archer

It was to be a David and Goliath battle - spanning 2 decades. The list of court appearances alone runs to 58 pages - and we may never know how many millions of taxpayers dollars the State and Federal government poured into defending their inexcusable actions.

Dawn Rowan

This is the brutal and unrelenting pursuit by the State Government of South Australia and the Commonwealth government - of an innocent person - which has been, for me, 20 years of torture - leading to State sponsored execution.

Graham Archer

Mediation collapsed when Dawn's adversaries failed to agree on a settlement proposal. And in court - Cornwall, Roberts and the others denied any wrong doing. However, in June 2002, at the end of a torturous trial in which Rowan represented herself - Justice Debelle's 300 page judgment sent the missiles flying - back - smack into the governments bunkers.

Dawn Rowan - News story

Surrounded by supporters and a hug from her proud niece Felicity - Dawn Rowan emerged victorious from the Supreme Court this morning. “This has been 15 years of hell and there's been many, many people injured by this …"

Dawn Rowan

It was a strong judgment in my favour and was very critical of the main defendants.

Graham Archer

Hs findings were clear - the treatment of Dawn was appalling.
Justice Debelle from the judgment

The allegations were a shocking defamation.

Graham Archer

The judge flayed a number of the government people involved - starting with the "evasive" Dr Cornwall.

Justice Debelle from the judgment

I accept his evidence only where it is corroborated by objective facts.

Graham Archer

He was equally critical of Judith Roberts who, incidentally, during the case had been awarded an Order of Australia. However, she was in the judge's view

Justice Debelle from the judgment

A most unimpressive witness. There was a considerable degree of self justification in her evidence and at times she became an advocate for her own cause. Some of her evidence was plainly wrong.

Graham Archer

Things got much harder for Dawn when it was revealed slabs of the files from all 5 governments departments involved in the case went missing.

Justice Debelle from the judgment

Some files were destroyed or lost after this action had commenced.

Graham Archer

Amongst them was the SA police's own investigation file stored in State Archives which disappeared during the case.

Justice Debelle from the judgment

A request was made for its retrieval but somewhere the file was lost in the process of retrieval.

Dawn Rowan

The police lost their complete file into their investigation into Christies Beach.

Graham Archer

Even the notes of the Review Committee itself had been destroyed or lost.

Dawn Rowan

No record of it.

Graham Archer

So there was no record of the review?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer


Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer


Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer


Dawn Rowan

All gone.

Graham Archer

In fact, Roberts admitted destroying much of that paperwork herself. "She says in an affidavit she was given verbal legal advice to destroy her working documents. But she could remember who'd given her that advice? Nope ..."

Graham Archer

The state's Corporate Affairs Commission also lost parts of their file.

Dawn Rowan

Departments like Corporate Affairs just can't get away with ‘oh we lost it’ ‘we can't find it’ - it's extraordinary.

Graham Archer

But that's what happened. Roberts had even claimed at one stage of the case that she didn't know Dawn Rowan at all.

Dawn Rowan

When she was being questioned by the State Crown Solicitor she'd make statements like did you know Dawn Rowan - she'd say no.

Graham Archer

So she denied knowing you?

Dawn Rowan

Yes initially.

Graham Archer

In court?

Dawn Rowan

Yes in court.

Graham Archer

Cornwall was found guilty of abusing his power and Roberts - and some of her committee - found to be motivated by malice.

Justice Debelle from the judgment

I find there is sufficient evidence that members of the Review Committee did not honestly believe what they were stating about the Christies Beach shelter was correct. Those members were guilty of malice.

Graham Archer

It's not what you'd expect from public servants is it?

Dawn Rowan

Absolutely not - absolutely not. They admitted each one of them that - they didn't make any effort to establish if any of these allegations were credible or not .

Graham Archer

The judge awarded Rowan damages of around $500,000 with costs.

Dawn Rowan

But none of my costs to this day have been ordered to be paid for my costs in that first trial.

Graham Archer

But having already spent millions of taxpayer dollars in fighting Dawn, the governments State and Federal simply plunged their hands deeper into the public purse and appealed.

You must have been confident that you'd survive?

Dawn Rowan

Absolutely. He said repeatedly the evidence abundantly supported his findings.

Graham Archer

The appeal proceeded - followed by a 16 month wait for the findings which in the end were almost as big a shock as the original review 18 years previously.

Dawn Rowan

Look, the whole judgment I found shocking – devastating.

Graham Archer

In fact Dawn won again. The Full Bench found the facts of the case were unquestionably in her favour. But having said that - there was a catastrophic legal twist. They overturned the finding of malice against Roberts.

Dawn Rowan

They upheld Cornwall’s misfeasance and they upheld Judith Roberts defamation, on the media programs, but they refused to find malice.

Graham Archer

This was a crushing blow because it meant Dawn became liable for all the Federal Government’s legal costs for the entire case and the appeal.

And what kind of a cost judgment are you facing?

Dawn Rowan

I am now legally liable for millions of dollars of costs of the 2 television stations and the Commonwealth Government and my own costs of that appeal to the tune of $300,000.

Graham Archer

After 18 years of struggle Dawn had won - but faced ruin all the same.

So having been falsely accused of criminal conduct by a Government Minister and his staff?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

After being appallingly defamed?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

Having to resign?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

Move States?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

Having seen documents and notes go missing?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

The court has now found that you have to pay the governments costs?

Dawn Rowan

That's right. The Commonwealth government's costs because they've been let off by the Full Court.

Graham Archer

And we will never know what this has actually cost the taxpayer?

Dawn Rowan


Graham Archer

In recent weeks the Commonwealth have frozen her assets and are now moving in to take what's left of her assets. Only her home - her own shelter from the storm - and where she still manages to conduct what's left of her career as a counselor - now just how much is that again?

Dawn Rowan

That's $380,000 - and I have a mortgage of $120,000 on my house.

Graham Archer

Does that effectively mean that you're homeless?

Dawn Rowan

Yes - that effectively means that I'm homeless. And because I work from home when I'm able to work - that I won't have a place to work as well.

Graham Archer

So what chance has an individual got in standing up against politicians and their servants who have unlimited resources and nothing personal to lose? After trying to set right an obvious wrong Dawn Rowan faces homelessness and bankruptcy. Could the gap between justice and the law be stretched much wider?

Dawn Rowan

If I knew then what I know now - I would have done what Penny Eastern did and commit suicide after 4 days. I don’t believe there is any possibility in Australia and certainly in South Australia of getting any justice when grave, grave injustices and injuries have been done to innocent members of the public by the state.


[Australian readers might like to read this through Australian eyes and 'tick the boxes'.

Federal election 2007: what are you willing to do about it? Dawn Rowan].


Towards a Dictatorship in 10 easy steps

Naomi Wolf " (Guardian)
Tuesday April 24, 2007 [Posted here 1 May 2007]

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration. More...


Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot will be published by Chelsea Green in September.

Guardian Unlimited© Guardian News and Media Limited 2007


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 60, 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

Read the full judgment here.
(For non-legal readers, scroll down on this site to 'CONTENTS', which helps navigate to the facts of the case).

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.'

Dawn's summary:

'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.


'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: in this case four SA and one Commonwealth Department. 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 $1½ 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 $1½ 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.

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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.'


Rowland Croucher is a Melbourne counsellor and author. When asked why, as a clergyman, he's getting involved in this messy business he replies: 'Interfering clerics and prophets have, for 3000 years, been the bane of those who benefit from an unjust political system.' For a letter in The Melbourne Age Newspaper a couple of years ago, visit here


'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'. This article documents the fact that innocent citizens abused under parliamentary privilege now have a legal remedy via MISFEASANCE, which is abuse of public office. More: