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

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