4th August 2007.
Here's a question asked in the South Australian Parliament last week:
Legislative Council [of South Australia]
QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: Justice for Dawn Rowan
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 (email@example.com): apparently the (Federal Government) ball is in his court now.
Rowland Croucher (for Dawn Rowan)