Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The following news item appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on March, 26, 2006

A murderer in a maxlntum-security prison has lodged a sexual discrimination complaint because only male inmates are held in the high-security units. Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission forced the Department of Corrective Services to have a conciliation conference with life prisoner Russell James Williams.

Williams, who gunned down his former lover in a central Queensland hotel in 1996 and tried to escape from prison last year, says it is discrimination that only males are held in a maximum security unit.

A compulsory conciliation conference on March 16 failed to resolve his complaint and Williams now could take his case to the Queensland AntiDiscrimination Tribunal, forcing the department to defend its prison management policy.

Queensland has no maximum-security orders or units for female prisoners. Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence said yesterday no females had needed one. "Prisoners are put into maximum-security units because they are the worst in the prison system and that's why these units are so tough," Ms Spence said. They were designed for prisoners such as Williams, serial rapist Ray Garland, and murderer and prison escapee Jason Nixon, she said.

The maximum-security unit at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol in Brisbane holds up to 18 men considered violent, dangerous or at risk of escape. The units, where prisoners are locked up for 22 hours a day, were introduced after the violent 1997 escape from Sir David Longland prison at Wacol, led by Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott. The prison is closed for redevelopment.

Williams, 39, was moved into Arthur Gorrie's maximum security in June last year after he used a smuggled mobile phone to plot a foiled helicopter escape from Lotus Glen prison, near Cairns. In 2003, he married a Cairns woman he had known when she was teenager. At the time, Tara Williams said her husband had spent too long as a medium-security prisoner and deserved to be moved to Lotus Glen.

Williams, who wants to be moved to an open prison, complained that Corrective Services had discriminated against him and all males held in maximum security. He has complained males spend more time in high-security prisons and take longer to progress to open-security than females.

But Ms Spence said Williams would stay in maximum security until authorities assessed his risk level had declined. She said she was surprised by the commission calling the department to conciliation over the issue, when it had a firm basis in legislation.

In 1997 Williams was jailed for life after he was found guilty of the execution-style shooting murder of his de facto Jo-Ann Leigh Brown, 27, the mother of his son, then two. On Easter Thursday night in 1996 Williams walked into the crowded public bar of the Railway Hotel at Calliope, West of Gladstone, and fired two shots at Ms Brown. He then waved his pump-action shotgun around the room and said: "Anyone else want it?" After a five-day police hunt, Williams surrendered in Brisbane.

Men-only fishing cabin challenged

Bunking in with your fishing mates for two bucks a night and no women allowed. But what may be a dream come true for some men could be under threat at a New Zealand lake after a woman attempted to reserve an anglers' club cabin for some weekend fly fishing. "We tried to book for a group of us, men and women, but were told, sorry, it's in the rule books, men only," the unnamed woman told the Dominion Post newspaper. "We all just thought that's absolutely ridiculous." A gender discrimination complaint was made to New Zealand's Human Rights Commission, which is investigating.

But the Wairoa Anglers Club, which owns the cabin by Lake Waikaremoana in the North Island's east, is not backing down. Club secretary Esther Foster says rather than being discriminatory, the rule aims to protect women. The cabin has five bunks in one room and can be shared by anglers. "It's so that you're not having young girls in with old men. It's a politically correct type of thing," Foster told the paper. "It wasn't to be sexist, it was just that the men wanted their privacy."

The club has a neighbouring cabin for families where single men are not allowed. It's booked out every weekend of the year. The charge for club members and their guests is $NZ2 ($1.72) a night. Club president Keith Pegram said the men-only cabin should be kept as a traditional fisherman's hut. If women were let in, it would become "cheap family accommodation", he said. The club may vote on the issue. "We'll try not to let anybody railroad us on this. I think it's a decision for the members to make," Mr Pegram said.


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