High Court decision entrenches discrimination against WA First Nations people

Last Updated on 20/09/2022 by National Justice Project

First Nations people in the WA criminal justice system will continue to face onerous restriction orders following their release, after the High Court ruled against a challenge to the constitutionality of the High-Risk Serious Offenders Act. 

The decision comes after a 28-year-old Noongar man, known as Mr Garlett, challenged the restriction orders imposed on him after serving his sentence in prison for robbery. The case means that ex-prisoners will remain subject to the imposition of onerous conditions which include curfews, 24-hour monitoring, travel bans, and geographical limits to their movement. 

Human rights lawyers say that the impact of the decision will be felt throughout the WA criminal justice system, where many Indigenous people disproportionately face the prospect of harsh restriction orders upon their release.  

George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project – which intervened in the case on behalf of another Noongar man, Derek “Digger” Charles Ryan, subject to similar restriction orders – said “the High-Risk Serious Offenders Act is being used to trap Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system even after they’ve done their time.” 

“The way the WA Government is using this legislation unfairly discriminates against Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system, and treats them as if they were convicted terrorists or sex-offenders.” 

“Instead of weighing them down with a ball and chain, the WA Government should provide people leaving the criminal justice system with the support they need to integrate back into the community. Why continue to punish them if they have already done their time?” 

Derek “Digger” Charles Ryan, an intervenor in the case, said that “I am devastated by the decision. I was relying on justice and common sense – this decision is unjust.” 

  • To watch a video explainer about the case, see here.