The Guardian 2024-04-29 10:01:32


National cabinet eyes improved information sharing on gender violence offenders

‘There is no one single solution but what it clear is the status quo isn’t working’, says NSW minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault

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The upcoming national cabinet will aim to prevent gendered violence incited online and improve information sharing about high-risk perpetrators and serial offenders.

The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, revealed on Monday that he had discussed “sharing of intelligence about perpetrators across jurisdiction” with the prime minister as a potential outcome of Wednesday’s meeting.

In the wake of No More rallies around Australia over the weekend, Anthony Albanese has described violence against women as a “national crisis”, saying “a woman dies every four days, on average, at the hand of a partner”.

Organisers of the rallies have made demands including justice system reform at the state level such as alternative reporting options for violence victims and specialist courts, a declaration of a national emergency, and requests of all levels of government to give better, more sustainable funding for organisations that combat gendered violence.

The family and sexual violence commissioner will present at Wednesday’s national cabinet. One of the priority areas for the agenda will be strengthening prevention efforts including through a focus on online harms, such as countering violent and misogynistic content, and access to age-inappropriate material on social media.

Albanese said he was keen to “work with all the premiers and chief ministers on how we eradicate this scourge of violence against women”.

“It is not enough to support victims, or mourn them – we need to focus on the perpetrators and on prevention.

“The heartbreaking reality is that there are no overnight solutions to violence against women. This is hard work and demands a real cultural change. We are committed to making progress.”

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Earlier, Malinauskas told reporters he had spoken to Albanese on Sunday about “potential initiatives” that could benefit from “national coordination”.

“Particularly, we were talking about sharing of intelligence about perpetrators across jurisdiction, sharing intelligence about different initiatives of states or non government organisations … that are having an effect.”

Malinauskas said that data-sharing between police largely occurs already, but argued that the national firearms registry was a “significant step forward” and could act as a precedent to be adopted for “domestic violence perpetrators moving from one state to the other”.

The comments echo a proposal from the former Queensland attorney general Shannon Fentiman to create a national domestic violence register to track violent partners in the same way as child-sex offenders. The proposal was for a law enforcement tool, not a public register.

But on Monday the Queensland attorney general, Yvette D’Ath, said there are “pros and cons” to a register.

“We haven’t got one here in Queensland, because the evidence and all the reports that have been done, show that it actually can be detrimental, and drive people underground,” she said.

“And I will say this about a domestic and family violence public register, that alone would have grave concerns that people think that that gives them confidence to safely stay with a partner, because they’re not on that list.

“Just the reality is that if you’ve already got red flags going off, that you think you should check a register to see if they’re on there, you already know that you’re probably in an unhealthy relationship.”

D’Ath said Queensland had heard from stakeholders that there “are other priorities to be delivered first” including coercive control legislation, which some states are pushing for a nationally coordinated approach on.

Malinauskas said South Australia has committed to legislate a coercive control offence. Other justice system responses, such as bail law reform, would be informed by that state’s royal commission into domestic violence, which he said would operate alongside the national cabinet response.

The federal government will also be pressed for more funding. Earlier on Monday the Queensland premier, Steven Miles, announced a $36m funding boost to respond to domestic, family and sexual violence in 2024-25.

“We’re looking forward to discussing this issue with national cabinet on Wednesday,” he said.

“And clearly, one of the things the Australian government could do is match these kinds of commitments.”

Guardian Australia understands the Northern Territory will also push for needs-based funding to combat domestic and family violence at the meeting.

The New South Wales minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Jodie Harrison, said: “We all need to do more. And we’ve made clear nothing is off the table.

“The NSW Labor Government is committed to working with experts, victim survivors, all sides of politics and all levels of government.

“There is no one single solution but what it clear is the status quo isn’t working.”

The NSW government is conducting a review of the Bail Act, to include the NSW women’s safety commissioner. “If we need to make changes to our laws and policies, we will do so,” Harrison said.

Ahead of the meeting, the deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, took aim at the Albanese government for failing to deliver its promise of 500 new domestic violence support workers.

“We want the government to succeed in dealing with this crisis, but Albanese’s failure to come anywhere near delivering these promised supports requires scrutiny.”

The Tasmanian premier, Jeremy Rockliff, said “women must have the right to not only feel safe but to be safe at all times”.

“The Tasmanian government looks forward to working with the federal government on the immediate actions that can be delivered,” he said in a statement.

The premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allan, said the state “leads the nation when it comes to addressing family violence – with Australia’s first royal commission and investing more than any other state, ever”.

“But we need to do more … This is a national crisis, and needs a national response.”

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AFP officers launch defamation case against ACT after complaint over Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal trial

Exclusive: Proceedings lodged after Shane Drumgold alleged officers engaged in a ‘very clear campaign to pressure him’ in a letter to the ACT police chief

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A group of Australian federal police officers have launched a defamation case against the ACT government in relation to Shane Drumgold’s complaint about their handling of the Bruce Lehrmann prosecution.

In December 2022 Guardian Australia revealed that Drumgold, then the director of public prosecutions, had complained that officers engaged in “a very clear campaign to pressure” him not to prosecute the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, saying there was “inappropriate interference” and he felt investigators “clearly aligned with the successful defence of this matter” during the trial.

Drumgold sent the letter to the ACT police chief on 1 November 2022, just after the collapse of the Lehrmann trial, at which the former Liberal staffer pleaded innocent to the alleged rape.

Lehrmann was not convicted at the trial, abandoned due to juror misconduct, but was found by a federal court judge in April on the balance of probabilities to have raped Higgins on minister Linda Reynold’s couch in Parliament House in 2019.

In the letter, Drumgold, who resigned in August 2023, warned that he believed there had been “some quite clear investigator interference in the criminal justice process”.

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A group of AFP officers sent concerns notices related to the letter several months ago. On Friday the AFP officers, including Det Insp Marcus Boorman, lodged defamation proceedings in the ACT registry of the federal court.

Guardian Australia understands that Drumgold’s position in relation to the litigation is that he has immunity to the suit under the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.

An ACT government spokesperson said it “understands that proceedings have been commenced in the federal court by members of the AFP in respect of what they allege to be defamatory statements by the former [DPP]” but it had not yet been served legal papers.

“Having regard to the fact that those proceedings are now apparently on foot, it would not be appropriate for the Territory to comment on those proceedings or how it intends to respond.”

Reynolds has already received a $90,000 settlement and an apology from the ACT government in relation to the Drumgold letter.

The letter helped spark an inquiry by former judge Walter Sofronoff KC to investigate Drumgold’s allegations and the relationship between the DPP and AFP.

Drumgold told the inquiry a police and political conspiracy over the Lehrmann prosecution was “possible, if not probable”. Drumgold later clarified he no longer held those views.

Lehrmann’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, told the inquiry that Boorman had threatened to resign if Lehrmann were found guilty.

Whybrow claimed Boorman expressed to him while the jury was deliberating that he was “was quite distressed about this prosecution and considered that Mr Lehrmann was innocent”.

In his report, Sofronoff found that Drumgold “advanced nothing resembling evidence to support the serious allegations of impropriety that he levelled [in the letter] against the police, defence and senator Reynolds”.

“He was relying upon ‘perceptions, suspicions, or concerns’.”

“Allegations of corruption are extremely serious and, without a proper basis, are defamatory.”

Drumgold launched a challenge to the Sofronoff inquiry report in the ACT supreme court, arguing that the inquiry breached the law through the alleged unauthorised disclosure of material, and that he was denied natural justice due to “a reasonable apprehension of bias”.

In March justice Stephen Kaye agreed that Sofronoff’s extensive communications with a columnist at The Australian newspaper gave rise to an impression of bias against Drumgold.

Drumgold had attempted to overturn eight of Sofronoff’s “serious findings of misconduct” against him, but was only successful in striking off one: that he had acted with “grossly unethical conduct” in his cross-examination of Reynolds.

Before publication of the report, Sofronoff put to Drumgold that the letter had defamed Reynolds. Drumgold responded that this was beyond the scope of the inquiry and “without any proper basis or foundation”.

Defamatory imputations had not been particularised nor had he been asked to advance “positive defence in response to any allegation of defamation”.

“Drumgold denies that the concerns expressed by him about senator Reynold’s conduct were defamatory,” Drumgold’s lawyer’s said.

“At the very least, the concerns identified by him with respect to senator Reynolds were substantially true and the concerns that he expressed in the 1 November letter were solidly based on factual information from reliable sources.”

As part of the settlement with Reynolds, the director general of the ACT government’s justice and community safety director accepted “that the allegations contained in the letter have been found by the Board of Inquiry to be defamatory of Senator Reynolds” and “unreservedly” retracted those allegations.

The director general “sincerely [apologised] for the damage, distress and embarrassment it has caused to senator Reynolds”.

Guardian Australia contacted the ACT government, and lawyers for Boorman and Drumgold for comment.

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Mehreen Faruqi v Pauline Hanson: Greens senator tells court attacks on white people not racist

Greens senator says One Nation senator made the ‘ultimate racist slur’ while Hanson’s lawyer suggests Faruqi is a ‘hypocrite’

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Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has told the federal court that verbal attacks on white people in Australia are not racist because racism is “tied to power” and in this country, “the power.. is held by white people”.

Faruqi is suing One Nation senator Pauline Hanson in the federal court over what Faruqi has called “the ultimate racist slur” – a social media post that told her to “pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan”.

Through her lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC, Hanson has accused Faruqi of hypocrisy and political grandstanding in pursuing the legal action while excusing what she acknowledges were racist remarks inside her own party. Hanson accused Faruqi of making or endorsing comments condemning white people.

Faruqi was the first witness on Monday in a case that could test the constitutional validity of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which Chrysanthou argued potentially undermined the constitutionally implied right to political communication. The case is also examining what constitutes racism and whether power imbalances play a role in defining it.

Faruqi has accused Hanson of breaching section 18C, which prohibits an act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person or group because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.

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Her complaint is based on a post Hanson made on the social media platform Twitter, now called X, in September 2022.

“I understood her words, to be the ultimate racist slur,” Faruqi said under cross-examination from Hanson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC. “Implying and clearly saying that I don’t belong here. So it really challenged my sense of belonging to this country.”

Chrysanthou accused the Pakistani-born senator, who migrated to Australia in 1992 and later became an Australian citizen, of targeting Hanson because she was a political opponent.

“You’ve come here to use the witness box as a soapbox to give speeches to further your political ends,” Chrysanthou put to Faruqi. The Greens senator said she had not.

“I understood this to be particularly pointed at me, that I don’t have the same rights to have the same benefits that Australia offered every other citizen of this country,” Faruqi said.

Chrysanthou suggested that Faruqi was a “hypocrite” who had made and endorsed racist remarks about white people.

Justice Angus Stewart challenged whether such comments about white people were automatically racist. He pointed to differing views on the allegedly abusive comments about whiteness made by Samantha Kerr, captain of Australia’s Matildas football team, to a London taxi driver, as evidence there was public debate.

The Greens senator insisted remarks that her journalist son Osman Faruqi had made on social media criticising white people were not racist because racism was also about power.

“It is tied to who holds the power and who has the authority to perpetrate racism and oppress people,” Faruqi said. “And in this country, the power of that is held by white people.”

The federal court case centres on a Twitter exchange between the two senators on 9 September 2022, shortly after Queen Elizabeth II died. After news of the monarch’s death had emerged overnight, Faruqi posted a message on Twitter at about 11.15am.

“Condolences to those who mourn the Queen,” the post said. “I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples. We are reminded of the urgency of Treaty with First Nations, justice & reparations for British colonies & becoming a republic.”

Just under five hours later, Hanson quoted Faruqi’s tweet and posted a response.

“Your attitude appalls and disgusts me,” Hanson’s post said. “When you immigrated to Australia you took every advantage of this country. You took citizenship, bought multiple homes, and a job in a parliament. It’s clear you’re not happy, so pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan.”

Chrysanthou told the court Faruqi had posted her original tweet on a day and at a time designed to provoke a response. Long before Hanson posted her response, she said Faruqi had already received a barrage of similarly critical responses.

Faruqi’s lawyer, Saul Holt KC, suggested the words in Hanson’s tweet were more likely to offend and humiliate because of who said them.

“They were spoken by Pauline Hanson, a senator of the Australian Parliament, the leader of a political party and so to use the modern term ‘an influencer’ – a well known long standing and prolific sire of racist things, particularly anti migrant and anti Muslim things,” Holt said.

Chrysanthou suggested Hanson’s tweet was only accusing Faruqi of hypocrisy.

“Senator Hanson was targeting me with racism,” Faruqi replied. Earlier, Holt told the court that Hanson’s wording was “just a version of the well-known anti-migrant, racist, nativist phrase ‘go back to where you came from’”.

Faruqi defended her original tweet, saying every MP or senator had the right to criticise Australia’s institutions.

“That’s how change happens for the better. And that was my reason for doing this. That’s not hypocrisy.”

Faruqi is asking the court to make Hanson delete the post, undertake anti-racism training at her own expense and donate $150,000 to a charity of Faruqi’s choosing.

Hanson’s lawyers argue her tweet falls within the Racial Discrimination Act’s exemptions because she acted reasonably and her comments were made in good faith and reflected a genuine belief.

Hanson is due to give evidence on Tuesday.

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Teenager arrested after 10-year-old girl allegedly stabbed to death in New South Wales home

Emergency services called to incident at home in Boolaroo, about 20km west of Newcastle

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A 10-year-old girl has been stabbed to death in New South Wales’ Hunter region, with police arresting a 17-year-old girl over the incident.

In a statement, NSW police said that at about 3.45pm on Monday, emergency services responded to reports of a stabbing at a home in Boolaroo, approximately 20km west of Newcastle.

“NSW Ambulance paramedics treated a 10-year-old girl at the scene for multiple stab wounds; however she died at the scene,” police said.

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Officers from Lake Macquarie police district arrested a 17-year-old girl at the home. “She was taken to Belmont police station and is currently assisting with inquiries,” police said.

Both girls are believed to be known to one another, according to police.

The girls were sisters, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“A crime scene has been established as investigations continue,” police said.

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Teenager arrested after 10-year-old girl allegedly stabbed to death in New South Wales home

Emergency services called to incident at home in Boolaroo, about 20km west of Newcastle

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A 10-year-old girl has been stabbed to death in New South Wales’ Hunter region, with police arresting a 17-year-old girl over the incident.

In a statement, NSW police said that at about 3.45pm on Monday, emergency services responded to reports of a stabbing at a home in Boolaroo, approximately 20km west of Newcastle.

“NSW Ambulance paramedics treated a 10-year-old girl at the scene for multiple stab wounds; however she died at the scene,” police said.

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Officers from Lake Macquarie police district arrested a 17-year-old girl at the home. “She was taken to Belmont police station and is currently assisting with inquiries,” police said.

Both girls are believed to be known to one another, according to police.

The girls were sisters, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“A crime scene has been established as investigations continue,” police said.

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Man accused of restraining three Indigenous children with cable ties pleads not guilty to assault

Matej Radelic was charged with with three counts of common assault in circumstances of aggravation or racial aggravation after video of incident went viral

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A man accused of racially aggravated assault after he allegedly restrained three young Indigenous children with cable ties has pleaded not guilty.

Matej Radelic, 45, appeared in Broome magistrates court on Monday charged with three counts of common assault in circumstances of aggravation or racial aggravation.

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He allegedly forcibly restrained a six-year-old girl and two boys aged seven and eight at a home in the northern Western Australian town in March.

A video of the incident went viral on social media, showing the children allegedly forced to sit in the sun as they cried and pleaded for their release.

Police were called to a Cable Beach home when a neighbour reported seeing children swimming in a pool.

Ten minutes later police allegedly received a call from Radelic telling them he had “restrained” three children for allegedly causing damage.

When they arrived, officers found two of the children – the six-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy – had been cable-tied.

Officers later found the third child, the eight-year-old boy, who had escaped.

Radelic’s bail was extended and his case was listed for trial on September 12.

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Sydney bishop speaks of losing sight in one eye after alleged church stabbing

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel tells congregation eye injury a ‘sacrifice’, forgives alleged offender

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The Assyrian bishop who was stabbed in a terrorist act at his Sydney church earlier this month has spoken of how he has lost the use of his right eye after the attack.

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel referred to the attack while he was speaking at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley during an evening mass on Sunday, almost two weeks after he was allegedly stabbed by a 16-year-old. That incident sparked a wave of tension in western Sydney and led to counter-terrorism raids last week.

Wearing an eyepatch, the 53-year-old bishop, who was hospitalised after the attack, delivered sermons in English, Arabic and Assyrian marking the Assyrian Orthodox Palm Sunday.

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In his Arabic sermon, Emmanuel spoke of how he viewed his eye injury – sustained in the attack – as a sacrifice, and said it should be taken as a gesture of love to Muslims.

In his English sermon, Emmanuel echoed comments he made earlier forgiving the alleged offender.

“I will always pray for you, I will always wish you nothing but the best,” he said.

He also addressed the topic of freedom of speech, following the legal battle between the Australian government and the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, about a demand to remove video of the livestream of his sermon, which showed the attack taking place.

“I say to our beloved, the Australian government, and our beloved prime minister the honourable Mr Albanese … Every human being has the right to their freedom of speech and freedom of religion, every human being.”

“The Buddhist has the right to express their belief, the Hindus have the right to express their beliefs, the Muslims have the right to express their beliefs, the atheists have the right to express their beliefs, also the Christians have the right to express their beliefs.

“For us to say that free speech is dangerous, that free speech cannot be possible in a democratic country, I’m yet to fathom this.”

“We should be able as civilised human beings, as intellectuals, we should be able to criticise, to speak and maybe at some certain times we may sound or we may come across offensive to somewhat degree but we should be able to say I should not worry for my life to be exposed to threat or to be taken away.”

“A non-Christian can criticise my faith, can attack my faith. I will say one thing. May god forgive you and may god bless you. This is a civilised way, an intellectual way, of approaching such events if or when they take place,” Emmanuel said.

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First Nations woman one of seven global winners of prestigious Goldman prize for environmental activism

Murrawah Johnson recognised for role in landmark legal case to block coalmine backed by Clive Palmer

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For Murrawah Johnson, the impacts of the climate crisis and the destruction of land to mine the fossil fuels that drive it are more than simple questions of atmospheric physics or environmental harm.

“What colonisation hasn’t already done, climate change will do in terms of finalising the assimilation process for First Nations people,” the 29-year-old Wirdi woman from Queensland says.

“[It is] totally destroying our ability to maintain a cultural identity, cultural existence and to be able to pass that on.”

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Johnson is one of seven global winners of the prestigious Goldman prize for environmental activism – described as the Nobel for the environment movement – announced at a ceremony in San Francisco.

She’s honoured, she says, to be in the company of campaigners who waged many of Australia’s most influential environmental battles, from blocking sandmining on K’gari to fighting uranium mining in Kakadu and saving Tasmania’s Franklin River from damming – a campaign that led to the formation of the Australian Greens.

Johnson is recognised for her role as a co-director of Youth Verdict – a group that won a landmark legal case in Queensland to block a major coalmine backed by the mining magnate and politician Clive Palmer.

Palmer’s Waratah Coal planned to dig up a nature refuge to mine and sell about 40m tonnes of coal a year from the Galilee basin.

Youth Verdict secured the first “on country” hearing in Queensland’s land court to hear evidence from Indigenous people.

But the case was also the first to test the state’s new Human Rights Act, successfully arguing that the emissions from burning the coal would limit the rights of First Nations people.

Waratah Coal withdrew its appeal last February and, two months later, the Queensland government blocked the mine.

But Johnson, a mother of one with a second child on the way, had already been campaigning for the rights of her people against the climate crisis and fossil fuels for almost a decade.

Johnson was a youth spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou family council that had fought unsuccessfully against the development of one of Australia’s most controversial resource projects, Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.

She remembers a community meeting in front of Adani’s lawyers and hundreds of Indigenous people in 2014 when she was asked to speak to represent young people after those gathered were handed an “information package” about the project.

“I was 19 at the time and I said, ‘Where’s the environmental impact statement?’ – is there anything about the environmental impacts,” she says.

“You want us to make a decision to essentially give our consent to this project but you’re withholding the facts of the impacts to our country.”

Johnson has always been surrounded by strong Indigenous advocates in her family.

The fight to avert the climate crisis, she says, is a clear continuation of Indigenous Australians’ battle for recognition and the ownership of their land and retention of their culture, stories and totems.

“This is really about course-correcting the injustice that’s been done to us starting from the declaration of terra nullius and understanding that there’s still a way to be a productive and economically viable society that doesn’t depend on destroying country, dispossessing people of their land and their culture – homogenising people and putting the rest of the world at threat.”

As well as the direct physical impacts of resources projects – such as mines damaging sacred sites or sea level rise inundating burial grounds – Johnson says the effects of climate change on the fabric of Indigenous beliefs can be profound.

Johnson is Wirdi woman from the Birri Gubba nation and her totem animal is the goanna.

“Other groups have other totems that are more vulnerable to climate change,” she says.

“We’ve already taken a huge loss to biodiversity due to colonialism, through the pastoral industry especially. Hopefully the goanna can be adaptive, but that does not necessarily apply to [other totems like] crocodiles or turtles.

“What happens when a whole species is disappeared from climate change? How do our people then identify? Because it is how they relate to everyone around them. How do you find your place or navigate the world.

“When I say our cultural survival is on the line, that’s what I’m talking about.”

Fighting against the might and influence of the fossil fuel industry is hard enough. Johnson has taken this on while also carrying the fight of First Nations people already dispossessed of their land, and the legacy of trauma that comes with it.

She wants Youth Verdict to become a vehicle for First Nations people to assert their rights and push for acknowledgment whether that is in legal courts, or in the courts of public opinion.

“It can be a lonely place and you find yourself asking what’s it all for. But I have to remind myself that sometimes the work needs to be done … because it’s just the right thing to do.”

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First Nations woman one of seven global winners of prestigious Goldman prize for environmental activism

Murrawah Johnson recognised for role in landmark legal case to block coalmine backed by Clive Palmer

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

For Murrawah Johnson, the impacts of the climate crisis and the destruction of land to mine the fossil fuels that drive it are more than simple questions of atmospheric physics or environmental harm.

“What colonisation hasn’t already done, climate change will do in terms of finalising the assimilation process for First Nations people,” the 29-year-old Wirdi woman from Queensland says.

“[It is] totally destroying our ability to maintain a cultural identity, cultural existence and to be able to pass that on.”

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Johnson is one of seven global winners of the prestigious Goldman prize for environmental activism – described as the Nobel for the environment movement – announced at a ceremony in San Francisco.

She’s honoured, she says, to be in the company of campaigners who waged many of Australia’s most influential environmental battles, from blocking sandmining on K’gari to fighting uranium mining in Kakadu and saving Tasmania’s Franklin River from damming – a campaign that led to the formation of the Australian Greens.

Johnson is recognised for her role as a co-director of Youth Verdict – a group that won a landmark legal case in Queensland to block a major coalmine backed by the mining magnate and politician Clive Palmer.

Palmer’s Waratah Coal planned to dig up a nature refuge to mine and sell about 40m tonnes of coal a year from the Galilee basin.

Youth Verdict secured the first “on country” hearing in Queensland’s land court to hear evidence from Indigenous people.

But the case was also the first to test the state’s new Human Rights Act, successfully arguing that the emissions from burning the coal would limit the rights of First Nations people.

Waratah Coal withdrew its appeal last February and, two months later, the Queensland government blocked the mine.

But Johnson, a mother of one with a second child on the way, had already been campaigning for the rights of her people against the climate crisis and fossil fuels for almost a decade.

Johnson was a youth spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou family council that had fought unsuccessfully against the development of one of Australia’s most controversial resource projects, Adani’s Carmichael coalmine.

She remembers a community meeting in front of Adani’s lawyers and hundreds of Indigenous people in 2014 when she was asked to speak to represent young people after those gathered were handed an “information package” about the project.

“I was 19 at the time and I said, ‘Where’s the environmental impact statement?’ – is there anything about the environmental impacts,” she says.

“You want us to make a decision to essentially give our consent to this project but you’re withholding the facts of the impacts to our country.”

Johnson has always been surrounded by strong Indigenous advocates in her family.

The fight to avert the climate crisis, she says, is a clear continuation of Indigenous Australians’ battle for recognition and the ownership of their land and retention of their culture, stories and totems.

“This is really about course-correcting the injustice that’s been done to us starting from the declaration of terra nullius and understanding that there’s still a way to be a productive and economically viable society that doesn’t depend on destroying country, dispossessing people of their land and their culture – homogenising people and putting the rest of the world at threat.”

As well as the direct physical impacts of resources projects – such as mines damaging sacred sites or sea level rise inundating burial grounds – Johnson says the effects of climate change on the fabric of Indigenous beliefs can be profound.

Johnson is Wirdi woman from the Birri Gubba nation and her totem animal is the goanna.

“Other groups have other totems that are more vulnerable to climate change,” she says.

“We’ve already taken a huge loss to biodiversity due to colonialism, through the pastoral industry especially. Hopefully the goanna can be adaptive, but that does not necessarily apply to [other totems like] crocodiles or turtles.

“What happens when a whole species is disappeared from climate change? How do our people then identify? Because it is how they relate to everyone around them. How do you find your place or navigate the world.

“When I say our cultural survival is on the line, that’s what I’m talking about.”

Fighting against the might and influence of the fossil fuel industry is hard enough. Johnson has taken this on while also carrying the fight of First Nations people already dispossessed of their land, and the legacy of trauma that comes with it.

She wants Youth Verdict to become a vehicle for First Nations people to assert their rights and push for acknowledgment whether that is in legal courts, or in the courts of public opinion.

“It can be a lonely place and you find yourself asking what’s it all for. But I have to remind myself that sometimes the work needs to be done … because it’s just the right thing to do.”

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‘My country would disappear’: climate crisis could force Torres Strait Islanders from homes within 30 years

Large parts of islands could be uninhabitable by 2050, federal court told in first climate class action taken by Australian First Nations people

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Torres Strait Islanders could be forced to leave their homes within the next 30 years if urgent action is not taken on the climate crisis.

This would mean a loss of country, sacred sites and culture, the federal court has been told.

Uncle Paul Kabai, from the low-lying Saibai Island, said in an affidavit read to the court in Cairns on Monday that he was scared of having to leave his country.

“My country would disappear,” he said.

“I would lose everything; my country, my culture, my stories and my identity. Without Saibai I do not know who I am.”

Kabai and Uncle Pabai Pabai are leading the first climate class action brought by Australian First Nations people.

The Torres Strait Island elders launched the court action in 2021, faced with rising sea levels and fearing their communities could become Australia’s first climate refugees.

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They are arguing the commonwealth owes a duty of care to Torres Strait Islanders to take reasonable steps to protect them from the harms caused by global heating.

Large parts of the islands could be uninhabitable by 2050, forcing Torres Strait Islanders to leave their ancestral homelands, lead counsel for Kabai and Pabai, Fiona McLeod, said in closing submissions.

“This case concerns an incontrovertible truth … our First People in the Torres Strait will be brutally impacted by climate change and they will have and will continue to suffer devastating losses,” McLeod said.

“Potentially in the lifetimes of these two elders Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai … they will face the losses of their precious lands and waters, their ancient and proud traditions, the mass extinction of species including totemic creatures, their ability to practise ceremony on country and the resting places and the remains of their ancestors.”

The court held on-country hearings on Badu, Boigu and Saibai islands in 2023, while scientists and other expert witnesses gave evidence in Melbourne in November.

Aunty McRose Elu, who is also part of the class action, said she has seen her ancestral homelands on Saibai Island inundated with water over decades.

“As you go through the area when you fly over it’s very frightening,” Elu said outside court.

“Now you can see more water than land but people live there.”

Elu said at the case is about the continued existence of Torres Strait Islander people and their homelands.

“What we’re fighting for is survival,” she said.

“We want to save our islands, we don’t want our islands to go under the water.

“That’s why it’s important to me, we think about the young people who are yet to come … I don’t want them to see that they have no land and no island.”

The federal court will sit in Cairns until Friday, with the commonwealth’s closing submissions expected to follow McLeod’s.

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Grandmother of child who died in hot car warned authorities toddler was ‘in danger’, inquest told

Five-day inquest begins into deaths of sisters who died in car that reached estimated temperature of 61.5C

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The grandmother of a young girl who died when her mother left her in a hot car told protective services the child was “in danger”, an inquest has heard.

Darcey-Helen Conley, aged two-and-a-half, and Chloe-Ann, 18 months, died on 23 November 2019 at Waterford West, south of Brisbane, after the car they were in reached an estimated temperature of 61.5C.

Their mother, Kerri-Ann Conley, had left them in the car outside her home since 4am after returning from a drive to a friend’s place and using the drug methamphetamine.

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Conley pleaded guilty in February 2023 to two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to nine years’ jail. She will be eligible for parole in November 2024.

The Queensland coroner’s court opened a five-day inquest at Brisbane on Monday and heard from Deanne Power, the mother of Darcey’s father, Peter Jackson.

Power said she had warned Queensland’s Department of Child Safety more than a year before the girls’ deaths that Conley was possibly using cannabis and methamphetamine while keeping Darcey in unsanitary living conditions.

“I said that [Darcey] was in danger living with her mother … I said Peter [Jackson] had a phone call from the daycare lady saying Darcey had no lunch,” Power said.

She said before the girls’ deaths, child safety workers were played a phone message in which Conley admitted falling asleep on the couch and leaving Chloe in the car all night.

Some of the issues the inquest will examine include the appropriateness of the response by the Department of Child Safety, and adequacy of its policies and procedures before the girls’ deaths.

Peter Jackson’s cousin, Tamara, told the inquest she became angry when the department decided to return Darcey to Conley’s care.

“Previously Kerri-Ann had admitted she was buying urine online and doing false drug tests. She said this in front of [a child safety support worker] but nothing was done,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she had shown police a text message from the same child safety support officer that told Conley to “stay off that shit if you can”.

“They clearly knew she was using,” Jackson said.

Darcey’s great-aunt, Deborah Jackson, told the inquest Conley had been leaving the hospital after Darcey was born to use drugs in her car and had to be let back in by security guards.

“One time she went to her drug dealer and did not get back to the hospital until 3am,” Jackson said.

Peter Jackson, who last year filed personal injury and negligence lawsuits against the Queensland government, was also due to give evidence at the inquest on Monday.

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Police release CCTV of Sydney house allegedly being set on fire ‘in a case of mistaken identity’

Video footage shows two hooded figures entering the front yard of a house in Fairfield West before a fire erupts

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CCTV of an allegedly deliberately lit house fire in Sydney’s west that injured two people has been released by arson detectives as they appeal for public help to identify the culprits.

The video footage made public on Monday shows two hooded figures leaping out of a car in Fairfield West before entering the front yard of a house carrying two red containers.

Shortly after, the yard erupts in flames and the two figures run from the house. They flee the scene in a white Honda HR-V with damage to the bumper bar on the back left-hand side, New South Wales police said in a statement.

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Firefighters were called to King Street shortly after 2am on Saturday 23 March. They extinguished the blaze but it had destroyed the property.

A 28-year-old man and 33-year-old woman were awoken by the fire and fled the burning house, authorities said.

They sustained second- and third-degree burns to their hands and lower bodies and were taken to hospital in a serious condition. The pair have since been released from hospital.

The fire was deliberately lit, police suspect.

“However, as the occupants of the home had only moved into the house less than a year ago, it is believed they were targeted in a case of mistaken identity,” the force said in a statement on Monday.

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Most menopause hormone therapy patches unavailable in Australia for several weeks

TGA advises manufacturing issues are causing shortages of multiple brands, with supplies to return to normal by July

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Australia’s drugs regulator has warned that most menopause hormone therapy patches, used to treat menopause symptoms, will not be available until the middle of the year.

The patches contain the hormone estradiol, levels of which drop in the body during menopause causing symptoms in some women such as hot flushes, joint pain and itchy skin. Estimates report that about 13% of menopausal Australian women in their fifties and sixties use menopausal hormone therapy.

On Monday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said a shortage of the patches is due to manufacturing issues and is affecting multiple brands.

“We understand the importance of a reliable supply of these medicines for the patients who use them, and we appreciate the concern and frustration these shortages have caused,” the statement said.

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Prof Ada Cheung, an endocrinologist and researcher with the University of Sydney said stopping menopausal hormone therapy suddenly can lead to hot flushes, fatigue and menopausal symptoms. Bone density loss may also occur, she said.

“The shortage is affecting almost all women on menopausal hormone therapy because the majority use patches,” she said.

Cheung said the shortage is also affecting younger women experiencing early menopause resulting from chemotherapy or certain diseases, and transgender women and non-binary people who use the patches for gender-affirming therapy.

Only one of the nine patches is now in supply, with supply expected to return to normal for most other strengths and brands in June and July.

While the TGA has authorised access to overseas-registered versions of some of the patches, which pharmacists can order for patients with existing prescriptions, these are not subsidised by the government under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and may be more expensive.

Cheung said women affected should talk to their doctor about alternatives, which include gels and tablets. However these may not be well absorbed by some and may carry risks for women with certain underlying health conditions.

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