I had a horrible day yesterday. There is no letting up. Haven’t had a break, a holiday, a decent night’s sleep for more than three years. My only relief is in dreaming – only to wake each morning into the nightmare.
As a person required to register in Australia I need police permission to return to my home and family in Indonesia. I think I related to you how my wife was bedridden and dying from breast cancer in 2018. I had to move to a different jurisdiction (Darwin, Northern Territory, NT) where I did get permission, but for only 4 weeks; strangely the same people had reassessed my “risk” from low to high – a dreadful error and of course I knew nothing of these risk assessments. I went to my wife, and as the four weeks passed realized that I could not leave her. I wrote many letters pleading for relief, and on 15 November 2018 I did not board my flight but remained to care for my wife. They cancelled my passport and on 1 February 2019 they informed the Indonesians, including the high risk assessment which could hardly have gone unnoticed. When they came to arrest me 10 days later they took in the situation, of which the Australians had been abundantly informed, and departed leaving me with my wife, who passed away two days later.
I wrote again and again to Australia and was ignored. I was deported in September 2019 and on arrival reapplied to go home to Indonesia. I spent nearly a year in Brisbane in fruitless litigation, one of the core grounds being that police are inherently biased. Surprise!? Regarded as at high risk I could never expect to get permission.
Again I fled to Darwin to tackle the high risk assessment at its source. As you know, people who breach sexual laws are expected to admit their error and address it. But police error? This was not some sleazy misconduct allegation but a matter of blind stupidity with catastrophic consequences for me. My return to Darwin was inevitable, but it was triggered by the response to my parting words of a brief dismissive conversation with a Queensland police officer, that after 25 offence-free years I should be regarded at very low risk indeed. The man, his face distorted with hatred, said “you just haven’t been caught”.
The police in Darwin refused to engage their faulty risk assessment. Instead, they were incensed by my failure to disobey the command to abandon my wife. As another lonely Christmas approached, fobbed off by the Police Minister I decided to engage the 25-member NT Legislative Assembly. Sleeping in my car, homeless in Darwin, I had only a tenuous status of constituency – the local Member concerned ostracizes me.
I wrote a “Christmas” letter addressed to each member. I felt dehumanized, my life and that of my family of no importance to government. I note that the two sole responses came from a prison manager and a former “police negotiator”. Apparently they were the only elected persons who were to any degree alive to the issues in my matter. I have not heard from them since.
I wrote again on 29 January, my 23 year-old deaf son’s birthday, both of us aware that sad anniversaries would follow. 10 February, the day that the Indonesians had displayed compassion of which Australians were devoid, shortly followed by the day on which our beloved wife and mother died. My birthday in early March, and most recently our wedding anniversary on 5 May. I sought to awaken the realization that people with a former offense – in particular people required to register – are humans who need other humans with whom to live in mutual love and respect and support.
I have failed, and in my 5 May letter to the Assembly I pointed out some of the things that have happened in Darwin following my arrival, aside from registry police attention apparently designed to encourage me to leave the NT.
I went to the Anglican Cathedral in Darwin to have a coffee and sandwich offered to homeless people every Sunday morning. I met a retired priest and disclosed my status as a registrant in order to ask for understanding and support. He referred me to the bishop, with whom I had a conversation. His opening words were that he was not a “counselor”, and he seemed to lack empathy. Some time later he asked me to meet him at the Cathedral. On 23 October 2020 I was handed a letter effectively barring me from all Anglican premises and functions for “the foreseeable future”.
The reason was that the church does “not have the capacity to effectively ensure the safety of children when you are present”.
I was offered fortnightly individual contact with a priest provided that I was baptized and a confirmed believer.
It may be inferred that this occurred not because of a conviction in the distant past but because of my status as a registrant. On learning of that label, people consider no further – for the period of registration the registrant remains a high risk to children. It may also be inferred that the church will interrogate prospective worshipers about any criminal convictions they might have.
I leave readers who are genuinely Christian to form their own conclusions.
Not long after I arrived in Darwin I decided to beat the heat and get some exercise by swimming in a local pool. This of course drew me into an environment where most people including children were naked but for their swimming costumes. Any novelty soon wore off, but I set myself some strict rules. I attended some 4 times per week for 3 months, during which my resting pulse dropped from 60 to 50. I exercised poolside, and took advantage of an air-conditioned room to do some writing. I became acquainted with several adults, including a man who I learned to be a lecturer in law.
By early November I seemed to have made no progress with my cause. I made the mistake of approaching the law man on his campus, not at the pool. In order to seek referral to lawyers who might be able to help I disclosed my circumstances and registrant status. The man became highly agitated, so much so that I had to ask him to keep our conversation separate from the pool environment. Some days later I saw him at the pool, and his avoidant behavior was very obvious.
On 26 November I arrived at the pool just before a violent electrical storm broke. Patrons were asked to seek shelter. Amidst lightning and thunder and heavy rain drumming on the roofs, I was approached in public and handed a “trespass notice” by a woman accompanied by two uniformed police officers whose function was only to make sure I left immediately.
Darwin’s pools are managed by the YMCA, an officer of which had served the notice barring me from the pool for a year. No reasons were given, no evidence of any complaint or CCTV footage was produced. I was told several days later that I was “loitering”, a claim that in the circumstances is invalid in law and would appear ridiculous to a reasonable person. The bar was extended to all pools managed by YMCA. I raised the matter with YMCA at national level; no reasons have been given. I believe that the real reason was that the pool management had been informed of my status as a registrant – and the prime suspect is the lawyer.
Having given no cause for concern during the 3 months I had been using the pool, this shocked me profoundly.
A month after the festive season (a very lonely time for me), my position seemed hopeless. I continued to write to members of the Assembly, and on 6 sitting days and on weekends in February 2021 I attended the Parliament building to use the NT Library. On each sitting day between 2pm and 3pm I observed proceedings of the Assembly from the public galleries to try to learn more about individual members from their speech and behavior.
On Saturday 20 March 2021 I attended the security post at Parliament House in order to use the NT Library. I was handed a “Notice of Exclusion by the Speaker”. An hour later I emailed the Speaker requesting a statement of reasons. The Assembly met on 23, 24, and 25 March.
On 1 April the office of the Speaker replied saying that my request (for reasons) had been “provided to the Speaker”. On the same day the Speaker signed a “determination”, article 6 of which bars registrants from the Parliamentary precinct for the period of their registration. Obviously this superseded the earlier Notice of Exclusion and my request for reasons, but I received a copy of this instrument only on 20 April. This means that registrants cannot use the NT Library.
On 18 April the Speaker signed a memorandum headed
Decision Making When Speaker Decides to Exclude a Person from the Parliamentary Precinct
I have attached these two extraordinary documents, the second of which seems to provide a general statement of reasons for excluding any person, but fails to explain, especially why registrants are barred.
I have of course in these three matters not engaged in any concerning conduct.
It is clearly the law in these jurisdictions that other than certain police officers no-one has access to the offense register. Some people clamor for access, but all they need to do is to Google me and they will get much more gratifying information – most of which is false and defamatory. As I have said, the leak to the public of details of criminal history is one matter, disclosure of the fact of registration is far more likely to alarm and to trigger vigilantism.
In my case disclosure of registration has not (YET) given me problems in the general community, and I hope that will not occur, for I am very vulnerable especially at age 74 years. The problems discussed above have occurred because I disclosed to people in order to seek help, especially to persons in authority: a bishop, a lawyer who in turn disclosed to a pool manager, and members of Parliament.
In prison I was subjected to repeated harassment but was assaulted only once. Upon my release I continued to be afraid of what might happen were I to be the victim of some crime such as assault, not so much the crime itself but the response or lack thereof of authorities such as police who are aware of my past. That has now been my experience, during the many years before registration, but now it is so much scarier. Every day, I enter places with great anxiety, my response ready: “reasons, please, in writing”. Buses, libraries, shopping centers – in all I may suffer exactly the fate that befell me in Darwin’s churches, swimming pools, and the parliament itself.
What a relief that would be. My son and his wife, who I have never met, are my only reason for continuing to live, and I may never see my son again.