Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hi supporters of Dawn Rowan

Thanks again for your help with signatures on petitions, (please return them by post to the address on the form, before the end of the month) and especially for those who turned up to the Vigil outside Lindsay Tanner's office - about 150 of you.

We're continuing with 'rolling vigils' and a group of us is meeting within the next ten days to plan them. Major Melbourne intersections? Shopping Centres? Banners? Feel free to send your ideas to me.

A supporter has pointed out this significant item: The Commonwealth Ombudsman's site states under the heading dealing with debt: "If a person applies for waiver or write off, they should be kept informed of progress on their application, of any decision that is made, and the agency or officer making that decision. Applications for special treatment should be prioritised by agencies to ensure they are dealt with in a timely manner that takes account of people's special circumstances."

On the face of it twelve months for Lindsay Tanner to make a decision favourable to Dawn seems a long time, especially when all the relevant material was worked over by Jenny Macklin's advisors beforehand.

===>>> How about writing to the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner - - and asking him if the Department of Finance has similar guidelines?

Thanks everyone!

Rowland Croucher

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is the first time - in 71 years of living, and about 40 years of stirring on social justice issues - that I've participated in a public protest.

I'm not 'that kind of person', but this gross injustice has got me wound up.

Being a clergyman, I'm generally treated with respect, sometimes with deference. So it's an interesting experience to be ignored by passers-by as if I were a lamp-pole. Our 'special advisor' Simon Moyle told us to expect anything - including being spat on, or even roughed up.

The West Melbourne police were terrific. They were there just after 6 am to greet us, and drove by - even waved - a couple of times during the Vigil. As someone said to radio station 3AW, these 'grey-haired protesters are unlikely to cause trouble'. The Federal Police also came by at least once (that we know of) and made sure we were not causing trouble to the 3rd or 4th highest-ranking politician in the country!

The media coverage, given that this was our first attempt at a public demonstration, was excellent. Special mention must be made of Barney Zwartz of The Age. How he did the research for his article on Dawn, plus write three or four other articles on Easter-themes over two days, beats me.

About 150 people turned up to help. We got about 1000 signatures on petitions, handed out about 5000 leaflets. Rev. Alan Marr (General Superintendent of the Baptist Union) and I made separate contacts with Lindsay Tanner's staff-members. ('He doesn't talk to those for whom he is considering a waiver of debts to the Commonwealth': I presume that also included the Governor-General who had a tax-debt waived).

The responses from people on the street were interesting. One young party-goer did a rap-dance for us. Another said 'That sucks!' when told what it was all about. Another 'sloshed' night-clubber offered to break a few windows for us! A couple of legal people said 'Issuing costs against the innocent party, and letting the guilty party off scot-free, is not supposed to happen in our legal system!'

When it was all over, a few of us adjourned to hot-cross buns and coffee at the West Melbourne ('Eighth Day') Baptist Church up the road. (The nearer evangelical Anglican Church wasn't interested in us). Gary Heard put together a very thoughtful service, inviting us to ask 'Where am I in the story of Good Friday?' Until now, I said to myself in the silent reflection-time, I'd be an anonymous person in the crowd, or at best I'd find out a few things for myself at night in secret as Nicodemas did. But in this situation I've moved towards engaging the Powers, as did Joseph of Arimathea.

I don't know a more worthy cause than this one. Why it would take nearly a year for Lindsay Tanner to issue a directive waiving Dawn's costs (as recommended by his colleague Jenny Macklin) is beyond my comprehension. It makes good political sense; it melds with the Labor Party's avowed 'social justice' stance; and it would save Lindsay Tanner from the negative news coverage he'll continue to receive on this story. We're now planning weekly 'rolling vigils' until this matter is settled. Feel free to join us!

Rowland Croucher

Easter 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009


This woman took on two governments and won, so why is she in debt and fearful of losing her house?

* Barney Zwartz

* April 10, 2009

[Dawn Rowan and the St Andrews home she may lose any day after 20 years of litigation. Photo: Jason South]

THIS woman may lose this house and be thrust penniless onto the street at any moment because she took on the South Australian and federal governments — and won.

Dawn Rowan's 22-year saga is an instructive case of how the law can seem to defy justice. Her last hope now is that the Commonwealth Government, which had her declared bankrupt, will forgive her debt. Her supporters held a 26-hour vigil outside Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner's office from 6.30am yesterday.

"For me, every day is torture since it began," Ms Rowan said yesterday. "I did not believe this could happen in Australia."

It began in 1987 with a farrago of lies in the South Australian Parliament, which eventually brought Ms Rowan a $500,000 payout — and may end with her eviction without notice. Along the route came a plethora of court cases and independent investigations that always vindicated her but gradually left her worse off. There was also the strange coincidence of five different government departments all losing the same papers relating to her case.

Ms Rowan, now 63, was a noted anti-domestic violence campaigner in the 1970s and '80s. She ran women's shelters and developed the concept of "the battered wife syndrome". A powerful and forceful personality, she offended important bureaucrats and politicians in South Australia, a Supreme Court judge said.

In 1987, when Ms Rowan was running the Christies Beach women's shelter, a report was released in State Parliament that claimed she sexually and physically harassed women in need, intimidated them, misappropriated funds, used unprofessional, inappropriate and exploitative client-counselling practices, was professionally negligent, used operating costs to augment salaries, failed to co-operate with community services department staff, and persistently overspent.

"They threw everything they could at me, except running a brothel and a stolen car racket. None of it was true, and they knew it," Ms Rowan says.

The case took a decade to come to court, with many procedural challenges on the way. But in 2001, Ms Rowan represented herself in a five-month trial against the SA and federal Governments (plus the ABC and Channel 10 for defamation).

Justice Bruce Debelle found that every accusation was false — and known to be so by then health minister Dr John Cornwall and the main compilers of the report when they published it in Parliament (except the charge of overspending, which was not due to mismanagement). Separate investigations into Ms Rowan by the South Australian police, the Corporate Affairs Department, a Senate select committee and the ombudsman all cleared her, she says.

Justice Debelle found that the accusations were a "shocking libel" motivated, in the case of some defendants, by malice (which removed the defence of parliamentary privilege) and found Dr Cornwall guilty of misfeasance (releasing the report under parliamentary privilege knowing it was false).

All the defendants appealed, and in 2004 three judges upheld the findings except for one key difference: they rejected malice. Then they awarded costs against her for the Commonwealth, ABC and Channel 10. Ms Rowan went back to the Supreme Court to allege bias against the judges but failed.

An application to appeal to the High Court also failed, and the Commonwealth had her declared bankrupt in 2007.

"The Commonwealth has been brutal. They froze my assets in Adelaide, which has been very humiliating, and allow me $500 a week to live on, which means my debt has grown," Ms Rowan says.

Ms Rowan's last hope was an appeal for clemency, which she says sticks in her throat because she is innocent. Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin supported her in a letter to Lindsay Tanner last May, but there has been no reply. Nor did Mr Tanner's office return calls to The Age.

Ms Rowan is now emotionally and physically exhausted. "I'm bloody good when I'm in performance mode, but apart from that I'm in bed with the pillow over my head," she says. But the fear remains that her bed and pillow can be taken at any moment, along with everything else.

And here's the YouTube summary of the vigil: the download is a bit patchy, but you'll get the feel of the event. Thanks Simon Moyle for putting this together.

Monday, April 6, 2009



Monday, April 6th, 2009, 5 pm.


Several hundred protesters will hold a 26-hour 'Rolling Vigil' outside Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner's Melbourne office this Thursday and Friday.

They are protesting Mr Tanner's tardiness in making a decision to free Dawn Rowan from a debt to the Commonwealth, which leaves her at risk of losing her home.

Dawn Rowan has been fighting for justice for over two decades, since the Commonwealth and South Australian governments closed down her Women's Refuge in the 1980s. This action was taken following 'unsubstantiated allegations' disclosed under parliamentary privilege - all of which were subsequently found to be untrue, malicious, and grossly defamatory.

Despite being judged innocent in several trials, Dawn Rowan is being pursued by the Commonwealth for costs - amounting to the value of her home in the Melbourne suburb of St. Andrews.

Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher, who is coordinating the Vigil, said this week: 'This saga has cost tax-payers a seven-figure sum. Not to mention the "conspiracy in high places" which apparently coordinated the loss of relevant documents from five government departments! At any moment the Sherriffs could come and take Dawn's home from her. And I emphasize again, the courts have declared her innocent! It is the most despicable and protracted miscarriage of justice by the Commonwealth against an individual I have come across!'

Well-known human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC says of the Dawn Rowan case: '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.'

Mr Tanner's ministerial colleague Ms Jenny Macklin recommended in May 2008 that in these unusual circumstances Dawn Rowan's debt to the Commonwealth be waived. She noted that Dawn's suffering and hardship had lasted long enough. Rowland Croucher added: 'Mr Tanner was extraordinarily swift in revoking the requirement for the recently-retired Governor-General to pay taxes he owed to the Commonwealth. Why is the Dawn Rowan case taking so much longer?'

Asked this week how she has survived all this injustice, Dawn said, 'Day to day survival over the past 24 years has been an experience of unrelenting physical, emotional and psychological torture. The awful loss of friends and reputation has been life-threatening. My quality of life has been destroyed. It's very frightening that any innocent person who speaks out - in our land of freedom, Australia - can be the victim of vicious Government retribution. I have been declared innocent, and yet only I have to pay costs - and of course, my fellow-tax-payers!'

The Vigil will commence at 6.30 am Thursday April 9th, and conclude 8.30 am Good Friday morning. Venue: corner of King and Little Lonsdale Streets, Melbourne CBD.

More information: Contact Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher [phone]
Information and photos of Dawn Rowan: contact her at [home phone]. Photos of protesters: anytime at the site.
Background: Channel 7 Today Tonight Video -
Dawn Rowan's Blog:
Summary Article:


Note to readers of this Blog: email for a copy of the Petition we're asking thousands of Australians to sign. The petitions may be copied, and not altered, and names and signatures on one side only. Thank you everyone!

A media release from 'Friends of Dawn Rowan'
Contact: Rev. Dr. Rowland Croucher
[home address]
Phone: [removed for privacy reasons]

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Just sent [Sunday April 5th] to people on Dawn Rowan's support-list. Email me at rccroucher[at] if you'd like your name added to that list.

Dear friends,

Thanks to the many here who have written to Federal ministers,
especially Lindsay Tanner, on behalf of Dawn Rowan, and included details
about Dawn's plight in your Blogs, Church Bulletins etc.

The time has come to accelerate the action, and I'm asking for your help. This morning almost all the East Doncaster Baptist people (where Dawn worships), signed a petition to the House of Representatives we're making available to churches and other groups. If you're able to encourage people - Australian citizens - to participate in this, please email me, and I'll send the petition as a Word attachment for you to print off copies. We have a couple of weeks to get names and signatures. A good and noble act of compassion for Easter! (See below for more).

You would all be most welcome at the Vigil... Details below...

Here's an 'email-out' just sent to Dawn's supporters:


Well, the week of our Vigil to urge the Commonwealth - especially Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner - to act, has come: from 6.30 am Thursday morning April 9th until about 8.30 Good Friday morning several hundred of us will participate in a respectful Vigil outside Mr. Tanner's office.

Address: Corner King and Little Lonsdale Streets, in downtown Melbourne.

===>>> In today's Sunday Age there's a little story which made me jealous. Nine women, four men, four children and a small white dog visited Peter Costello's office to protest about Climate Change. They had given 24-hours' notice they'd be doing that (we've given Mr Tanner several weeks' warning). These people wanted to go in and hand Mr. Costello some black balloons and a letter. And guess what! Three federal police and two Victorian police officers showed up and barred their way.
After 'protracted negotiations' the group was allowed to pass on the balloons and letter to Mr. Costello's staff!

Why was I jealous? Well, that story got into The Age: nothing about Dawn Rowan has scored a story in The Age in two decades! (But one Age reporter has promised to cover the Vigil).

So would someone like to invite various police-persons to our Vigil if we can get a major newspaper to take some notice of Dawn's 24-year fight for justice? We're not even planning to meet Mr. Tanner (well, not this time).


===>>> Simply turn up, with your friends, and ask someone with a
'Justice for Dawn Rowan' badge who the team captain is. You'll be
invited to register by taking a badge and putting your Christian name on
it (and your email address on the back, if we need to contact anyone/
everyone afterwards).

The Captains: Rob Perkins (6.30 am Thursday to 12 noon), Chris Page
(12 noon to 6 pm), Gary Heard (6 pm to midnight), Jim Reiher and for
part of the time, Craig Campbell (midnight to 8.30 am Good Friday). Dawn
Rowan will be coming and going the whole time - as will my wife Jan and
myself. The Vigil ends with hot cross buns and coffee/tea and a short
Good Friday service at the Eighth Day (Baptist) Community - a couple of
minutes up the road (thanks Gary Heard and friends).

How will you be invited to help? Giving out leaflets (10,000 are being
printed), asking people to sign a petition (to the House of Reps, and
possibly also the Senate), talking with people (please brush up on the
story at, and the Channel 7 videos on ).

(And, by the way, if anyone wants to make a tax deductible donation,
email me: the Vigil-specific expenses will be about $1000).

Are we breaking the law doing this? No: the Melbourne City Council
spokeswoman told me we're OK so long as we're civil and don't impede
pedestrian traffic. (Promising to be civil, we're encouraging crazy
radicals or evangelists to help us by staying away :-) !

What to bring? Maybe fold-up chair, warm clothes (forecasts: Thursday 10-23, Friday 12-26, both days fine), big umbrella, sense of
humour and/or adventure (!), candles in something to prevent them
blowing out in the wind, a biro that works, and a desire to help someone
who's been battling 'The Powers' for too long. Don't bring banners:
we're having some printed.


Email me for a copy (Word attachment) of the petition for Australians. You may copy it (but with no alterations, otherwise it's
void). Every page has to be the same (but of course with different names
and signatures). Addresses? Optional these days, apparently. Please
invite your friends/neighbours/enemies/church members etc. to add their
name and signature. Then post them to me (the postal address is on the
form) by *April 22nd*.

Thanks everyone! I'll be in touch after Easter...

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

*Justice for Dawn Rowan* -