Preventing abuses in prisons? Current and future prison monitoring and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT)

Prof Bronwyn Naylor1, Dr Anita Mackay2

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, 2LaTrobe University, Bundoora, Australia

Robust independent monitoring can provide vital protection for people held in detention.  The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) introduces a new regime for monitoring places where people are deprived of their liberty (such as prisons, immigration detention, juvenile detention and police custody).  Australia ratified the OPCAT in December 2017 and by December 2019 will only have one more year to establish the national-level monitoring required by the OPCAT (known as a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)).

This roundtable will focus on prisons as one of the major places to which OPCAT applies.  Drawing on the combined expertise of prison inspectors, Ombudsman Offices, and academics from around Australia, it will explore (1) monitoring as it has been conducted for many years by Prison Inspectorates (eg the first Inspectorate in WA, and the more recent Inspectorates in NSW, Tasmania and the ACT) and Ombudsman Offices (eg the South Australian Ombudsman, and the Victorian Ombudsman, who has already conducted two OPCAT-compliant inspections) (2) how prison monitoring may change once the OPCAT is fully operational in Australia and (3) the challenges associated with ensuring Australian prison monitoring complies with the OPCAT requirements.


Professor Bronwyn Naylor, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University (Chair)

Bronwyn Naylor is Professor of Law in the Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, joining RMIT at the end of 2016 after many years at Monash University.  She has been teaching, researching and publishing in criminal law,  human rights, and corrections for over 25 years.  Bronwyn has been lead researcher on several ARC-funded projects, including the ARC Linkage project ‘Applying Human Rights in Closed Environments: A Strategic Framework for Compliance’ (2011-2014), and has published extensively on prison monitoring and on the ratification of OPCAT.  She is currently a member of the Advisory Group to the Victorian Ombudsman’s OPCAT-focussed inspection of the use of solitary confinement in places where children and young people are detained.

Mr Wayne Lines, South Australian Ombudsman

Mr Lines was appointed as the South Australian Ombudsman in December 2014.  He has carried out frequent investigations of South Australian prisons since his appointment.   Prior to this appointment Mr Lines was the South Australian WorkCover Ombudsman (from 2008 – 2014) and he also worked for the Crown Solicitor’s Office for sixteen years where he undertook a diverse range of work within the Civil Litigation Section and represented government in courts and tribunals.  Mr Lines is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA), which is the peak body for Ombudsmen in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Steven Caruana, 2017 Churchill Fellow

In 2018 Mr Caruana completed a Churchill Fellowship titled Enhancing best practice inspection methodologies for oversight bodies with an Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture focus.  Report to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia showcasing learning from Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, UK, Malta and New Zealand.  Mr Caruana is currently a Senior Policy Officer at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and has previously worked for the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services in Western Australia, and as an Immigration Detention Inspector for the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Emeritus Professor Richard Harding, Law School University of Western Australia

Professor Harding was the inaugural Inspector of Custodial Services in Western Australia (2000-2008).  Since leaving that position he has advised extensively on correction policy and practice, and has been an expert witness in prisoner/detainee litigation.  This policy advice has included a 2008 report, co-authored with Neil Morgan, for the Australian Human Rights Commission on Implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture: Options for Australia.   At various times he has been Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Foundation Director of the Crime Research Centre at the University of Western Australia, and a member of the Australia Law Reform Commission.  In 2013 he received the ANZSOC Distinguished Criminologist award.

Dr Anita Mackay, Lecturer, La Trobe Law School

Dr Mackay has been researching the compliance of Australian prisons with Australia’s international human rights law obligations since commencing her doctorate in 2011.  She has been a lecturer at La Trobe Law School since August 2016.  Dr Mackay was a Research Assistant on the Applying Human Rights in Closed Environments: A Strategic Framework for Compliance Australian Research Council Linkage project (2011-2014) and co-edited Human Rights in Closed Environments with Bronwyn Naylor and Julie Debeljak (2014).  Prior to commencing her PhD, Dr Mackay worked for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department in a range of policy areas, including family law and access to justice.

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