Implementing Human Rights in Closed Environments 2012 Conference

Keynote Speakers


Mr Colin Allen
Associate, International Centre for Prison Studies, University of Essex, UK

Colin Allen has been working for the International Centre for Prison Studies on prison improvement projects, mainly in South America and Africa, and recently finished a successful six year project in Libya on the day before the revolution arrived!

Colin Allen was a youth leader in the East End of London before joining the Prison Service of England and Wales as an Assistant Governor in 1965. He worked with young offenders before becoming governor of a high security prison for men and subsequently governor of the country's largest prison for women. He left the Prison Service to work as a team leader in the embryonic independent prison inspectorate before being appointed Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons

Since completing work in Libya, Colin continues to be a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and works with others in London on justice and peace issues, particularly with asylum seekers and refugees. He also continues to be a trustee of a local organisation providing access to the arts.


Mr Paris Aristotle AM
Director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Victoria

Paris Aristotle AM is the Director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc (also known as Foundation House), a position he has held since he founded the organisation in 1987. He has held senior positions on government advisory bodies in the refugee resettlement and human service fields over the past 23 years. Among other positions, Paris is currently Chair of the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship's Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution (CISSR) and a member of both the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council (RRAC) and the Residence Determination Reference Group (RDRG). Paris has extensive experience in the area of refugee resettlement and the provision of services to survivors of torture, and has been a regular presenter and contributor to UNHCR meetings and publications over many years. In 2002 Paris was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 was awarded an Australian Centenary Medal - both honours recognising his longstanding work with refugees, in particular survivors of torture and trauma.


Dr Astrid Birgden
Consultant Forensic Psychologist and Fellow, Deakin University, Victoria

Astrid Birgden is Consultant Forensic Psychologist and Fellow, Deakin University, Victoria. Astrid has been a leader in the development of policy and the delivery of coerced services to offenders within disability services, corrections and the courts for 25 years. She has established and managed statewide services for offenders with an intellectual disability, mainstream sex offenders, and a compulsory drug treatment prison. She developed a statewide reducing reoffending framework in corrections and established two family violence courts. She has previously been a member on panels that oversee clients in closed environments, such as the Victorian Forensic Leave Panel and, since commencing as a consultant in 2011, has been involved in the review of treatment plans for clients in disability and psychiatric institutions. She publishes in the areas of offender rehabilitation, therapeutic jurisprudence and human rights, and has completed a Certificate in Advanced Mental Disability Law through New York Law School.


The Hon. Catherine Branson QC
President and Human Rights Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia

The Hon. Catherine Branson QC was appointed President of the Australian Human Rights Commission on 7 August 2008 and commenced her five year term on 14 October 2008. On 12 July 2009 she additionally became the Human Rights Commissioner.

At the time of her appointment as President of the Commission, she was a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, a position she had held since 1994.

As President and Human Rights Commissioner, Catherine Branson has led the Commission's work regarding the protection of human rights in closed environments. This work has largely concerned issues relating to Australia's system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention. Since mid-2010 the Commission has conducted five monitoring visits to immigration detention facilities following which it has published comprehensive reports regarding the conditions of detention. The Commission regularly engages with the Minister for Immigration and the Department of Immigration regarding asylum seeker and immigration detention policy including, for example, on issues such as the mental health impacts of prolonged and indefinite detention, the detention of families and unaccompanied children, and the situation of people who have received adverse security clearance.

Catherine Branson has also led the Commission's advocacy for the ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The Commission has published a report regarding the implementation of OPCAT in Australia, held a public seminar with the involvement of key staff from the Association for the Prevention of Torture and regularly liaised with the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department regarding progress towards ratification.


Dr Jeffrey Chan
Chief Practitioner Disability and Director of Forensic Disability, Queensland

Jeffrey Chan is Queensland's inaugural Chief Practitioner Disability and statutory role of Director of Forensic Disability. In these roles, he provides high-level clinical advice to the Director-General of the Department of Communities and reports to the Minister of Disability Services on forensic disability matters. Jeff has significant senior executive, teaching, clinical practice, legislative and research experience of more than 25 years in the human services industry, mostly in disability services. Prior to his current appointment, he held the inaugural statutory role in Victoria of protecting the rights of people with a disability subject to restrictive interventions and compulsory treatment order. Jeff was an Australian Human Rights Award Finalist 2010 in the Community (Individual) category for his work in protecting the rights of people with disability subject to restraints and seclusion.


Mr Tom Dalton
Chief Executive Officer, Forensicare, Victoria

Tom Dalton BA, LLB has been the Chief Executive Officer at Forensicare since December 2009. Forensicare is a Victorian State Government agency providing forensic mental health services through the Thomas Embling Hospital, the Melbourne Assessment Prison, Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, and other state run prisons and a community outpatient clinic.

Tom's background is as a lawyer. He commenced with Forensicare as Corporate Counsel in 1999, with responsibility for providing high level legal services to the organisation and staff. Prior to commencing with Forensicare, Tom worked in the Legal Unit of the (then) Department of Human Services advising on mental health and intellectual disability law. He has previously worked in Community Legal Centres and in private practice.


Professor Claudio Grossman
Chair, United Nations Committee Against Torture, USA

Claudio Grossman is Professor of Law and Dean of American University Washington College of Law and the Raymond Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law. He is chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture, where he has served as a committee member since 2003. Previously, Claudio served as a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (1993-2001), its President (1996-97, and 2001), its special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous populations (2000-2001), and its first special rapporteur on women's rights (1996-2000). Claudio has authored books and articles on international law, human rights, and the law of international organizations, and has received numerous awards for his contributions to these fields, including the Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, recognizing his lifetime of work defending and advancing civil liberties.


Ms Ellen Hansen
Senior Protection Officer, UNHCR Regional Representation, Canberra

Ellen Hansen is currently the Senior Protection Officer for UNHCR's Regional Office in Canberra which covers Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.  She has over 25 years' experience in international law and policy.  Ellen originally graduated in Arts (Honours) and Law from the University of Sydney and has studied international law at The Hague Academy of International Law and as a United Nations Disarmament Fellow.   She joined UNHCR in 1998, after ten years in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, five of which were as First Secretary in the Australian Embassy in Paris.  Immediately prior to her current position, she served in UNHCR's Secretariat at its Headquarters in Geneva.  Her current duties cover a broad range of asylum and refugee protection issues, in a very diverse region.  They include reviewing and making recommendations on detention policies and practices as they affect refugees and asylum-seekers.


Emeritus Professor Richard Harding
University of Western Australia, Western Australia

Emeritus Professor Richard Harding was the foundation Inspector of Custodial Services from 2000 until 2008. He has written extensively in the area of the regulation of prison standards both within Australia and globally. His longstanding concern for human rights is reflected in his ongoing study of the impact of OPCAT. In this regard he has lobbied the Australian Government repeatedly.

Richard has at various times been Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, a member of the Australian Law Reform Commission, a director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and a consultant to numerous governments and corporations both within Australia and overseas as to prison regimes and conditions."


Mr Oliver Lewis
Executive Director, Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Hungary

Oliver Lewis is Executive Director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Center, an international human rights organisation based in Budapest, Hungary. A law graduate from London School of Economics (UK), he undertook post-graduate studies in medical law and ethics before qualifying as a barrister and working as a research assistant on mental health law reform at the UK’s Department of Health. As a non-practising barrister, Oliver is an associate member of the human rights barristers set Doughty Street Chambers, London. He is recurrent Visiting Professor in Law at the Central European University in Budapest, and is a faculty member of the International Diploma on Mental Health Law and Human Rights, run by the Indian Law Society in Pune, India. Oliver has published papers on the interface of human rights law, public policy and disability. He serves on the editorial board of the European Yearbook on European Disability Law.


Mr David Manne
Executive Director, Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre, Victoria

David Manne is a lawyer and migration agent, and Executive Director of the Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre (RILC). He has worked in various capacities assisting refugees and asylum seekers for over 16 years. He sat on the Board of the Refugee Council of Australia for seven years, and currently sits on the Victorian Foundation for the Survivors of Torture Ethics Committee, the Human Rights Law Centre Board, as well as a wide range of other committees in the immigration area, including the DIAC-NGO Humanitarian Dialogue and the Onshore Protection Consultative Group.

David was selected as a non-government organisation member of the Australian delegation to the 2008 UNHCR Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, and was invited by UNHCR Headquarters to participate and present at an international roundtable on detention in Geneva. In 2010, he was invited to attend the UN High Commissioner for Refugees ‘Dialogue on Protection Challenges', held in Geneva, and was recently appointed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Advisory Board of Eminent Persons. David also headed RILC's legal teams in the recent successful High Court challenges in the cases of Plaintiff M61 v The Commonwealth & Ors (regarding the Government's ‘offshore processing' regime in Australia) and Plaintiffs M70/M106 v The Commonwealth & Ors (regarding the Government's ‘Malaysian Solution').


Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum AO
Chair, United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Australia

Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum AO, University of Sydney, is the Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The primary function of this Committee is to monitor the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 1993, Ron was the first totally blind person to be appointed to a full professorship at any Australian or New Zealand university. From 2002 to 2007, he served as Dean of the University of Sydney Law School, and from 2001 to 2009 he was the inaugural President of the Australian Labour Law Association. Ron's academic field of expertise is labour relations law, and he is a consultant to HWL Ebsworth Lawyers. Ron is a Deputy-Chair of the Board of Directors of Vision Australia which is Australia's largest blind welfare organisation. In January 2011, Prime Minister Julia Gillard designated Ron as Senior Australian of the Year 2011.


Professor Neil Morgan
Inspector of Custodial Services, Western Australia

Appointed as Inspector of Custodial Services (WA) on 30 March 2009, Neil was previously Winthrop Professor of Law at the University of Western Australia (UWA). He has also been a member of the Parole Board of Western Australia, and a consultant to numerous government departments and other agencies in Australia. He has been Rappporteur for the Asian and Pacific Conference of Correctional Administrators since 1997, and his research has focused mainly on Aboriginal justice issues, criminal law, sentencing, and the administration of sentences in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. Recent publications include Criminal Law in Malaysia and Singapore (with Stanley Yeo and Chan Wing Cheong), LexisNexis, Singapore, 2007. Neil has received national awards for his contributions to student teaching and learning, as well as a number of teaching awards at UWA.


Dame Anne Owers DBE
Former Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, UK

Anne Owers was Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales from 2001-10, carrying out independent inspection of prisons, immigration detention centres, police and military custody, and coordinating the UK's National Preventive Mechanism under the UN Optional Protocol against Torture.

Anne was educated at Girton College, Cambridge, after which she taught and did research in Zambia. She had a long career in the non-governmental sector, focusing on asylum, race, human rights and criminal justice, having been General Secretary of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Director of JUSTICE, the British section of the International Commission of Jurists. She has reported on women's prisons in Canada and Jamaica and from 2010 to 2011 she chaired an independent review of the prison system in Northern Ireland. She also chairs two national NGOs working with offenders in prison and the community.


Ms Colleen Pearce
The Public Advocate, Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria

Colleen Pearce has 30 years experience in the community and health sectors. She has been Victoria's Public Advocate since 2007.

Colleen is a passionate advocate for the rights and interests of people with a disability. She sees the most significant human rights issues facing people with cognitive impairments or mental health issues in Victoria as the inappropriate use of restrictive interventions and violence. On behalf of the Office, Colleen has been outspoken on these issues.

Colleen chairs the Community Visitor Disability, Health Services and Mental Health Boards. She is a member of the Board of Frontier Services, an organisation providing community services across remote northern Australia and a board member of the Connecting Home, an organisation providing services to the Stolen Generations.

Natalie Pierce

Ms Natalie Pierce
Legal Advisor to Chair, Independent Police Conduct Authority, New Zealand

Natalie Pierce is the Legal Advisor to the Chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.  Working closely with the Chair and Manager: Investigations, Natalie's role involves planning and implementing the Authority's OPCAT programme in New Zealand.  In addition, Natalie provides legal advice for the Authority's serious and public interest investigations under the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act 1988.  Natalie is a graduate of the University of Otago, New Zealand (Law and European Studies).  Her LLM thesis considers issues arising under Article 25 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Natalie has worked as an Intern at UNHCR's Regional Office in Canberra (Legal / Resettlement Section); the Senior Tutor and Fellow in Residence of Knox College, Dunedin; Judicial Research Counsel, Dunedin District and High Court; guest lecturer in Criminal Justice and International Criminal Law at the University of Otago Faculty of Law; and as a Legal Advisor, Assembly of States Parties Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Kampala, 2010).  



Ms Jem Stevens
Asia Pacific Programme Officer, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Switzerland

Jem Stevens is a graduate in law with a master's degree in human rights and democratization. She has been working for the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) since 2009, as its first Asia-Pacific Programme Officer and currently as APT Delegate. In these roles, Jem has worked with governments and civil society organizations all over the Asia-Pacific, providing advice and support on measures to prevent torture and other ill-treatment. Previously, Jem was Human Rights Officer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, where she focused on serious human rights violations during the conflict in Nepal, including torture and enforced disappearances. She has also worked for a number of human rights and non-profit organisations in Japan, including as part of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship programme.


Mr John Taylor
Deputy Ombudsman, Victoria

John Taylor was appointed to the position of Deputy Ombudsman for Victoria in 2004. Prior to that he was a Senior Assistant Commonwealth Ombudsman, managing the Commonwealth Ombudsman's State and Territory offices and corporate services.

John has had extensive experience in conducting investigations and reviews across a wide range of State and Federal agencies. A recent investigation was his Investigation into an allegation about Victoria Police crime statistics - a report to Parliament tabled in June 2011.


Dr Ruth Vine
Chief Psychiatrist, Department of Health, Victoria

Ruth Vine is the Chief Psychiatrist of Victoria under the Mental Health Act.

Ruth initially joined the Department of Human Services in 1999 to take up a newly created position of Deputy Chief Psychiatrist. In 2004 she was appointed Director, Mental Health. Ruth has previously worked in forensic and general psychiatry. She holds both medical and law degrees, and has contributed to the development of legislation and policy in the areas of mental health, disability, and the management of mentally ill offenders.


Dr Ivan Zinger
Executive Director and General Counsel, Office of the Correctional Investigator (Federal Prison Ombudsman), Canada

Ivan Zinger received his degree in Common Law from the University of Ottawa in 1992, and completed his articles of clerkship at the Federal Court of Canada. In 1999, he obtained his Ph.D. at Carleton University (Ottawa) in Psychology of Criminal Conduct. He is a Research Adjunct Professor with the Law Department at Carleton University, Ottawa.

Ivan joined the Public Service of Canada in 1996. For the past 15 years, he has held a variety of senior managerial, policy and research positions in public safety-related federal departments and agencies. In 2004, he joined his current employer, the Office of the Correctional Investigator (Federal Prison Ombudsman), and was appointed Executive Director and General Counsel for this Office in January 2009.

Over the years, Ivan has developed expertise in domestic and international human rights in prison settings. His academic publications are significant and include articles on a variety of subjects, including ethics, human rights, dangerous offenders, correctional treatment, the diagnosis of psychopathy, correctional release and penal segregation.