To enhance best practice inspection methodologies for oversight bodies with an Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture focus

New Zealand
United Kingdom
Community Service
To enhance best practice inspection methodologies for oversight bodies with an Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture focus featured image

Many people would associate ‘Don Dale Youth Detention Centre’ with the image of a young inmate, Dylan Voller, hooded and strapped into a mechanical restraint chair. This powerful image shocked all of Australia and in response the Prime Minister launched a Royal Commission to expose the cultural and administrative problems that allowed this mistreatment to occur. The Royal Commission found evidence of widespread mistreatment, verbal abuse, humiliation and isolation and recommended that Don Dale be shut down in what could be said was an affirmation that this should not have happened and should never happen again.

The 2017 ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is yet another powerful affirmation that mistreatment within detention should never occur. It is a practical mechanism providing Australia with a national system of regular, independent, preventive visits to all places of detention. Its aim is to foster a collaborative approach to safeguarding human rights with detaining agencies that combines the safety and dignity of detainees and staff alike. OPCAT’s effective implementation depends in great part on decisive political will and action. Oversight agencies necessarily require the assurance of functional independence, unabridged access to all detention settings, the right to all information it deems relevant, an ability to conduct private interviews with detainees and staff free from the threat of reprisal and an empowerment to comment on legislation, policy, and other issues pertinent to their mandate.

This Churchill Report presents the findings of my travel abroad to gather knowledge from others’ implementation experience, visiting methodologies and meeting with relevant experts. The report provides an exploration of the ‘preventive visiting’ concept and highlights several examples of well-developed practice. The report also examines the essential framework for an effective inspectorate drawing on experiences and advice from abroad and supporting these findings with academic literature and authoritative guidance. The recommendations made within the report are relevant at the Federal, State and Territory Government levels and for the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The seventeen recommendations relate to the creation of appropriate legislation, the assurance of adequate resources, the inclusion of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the development of comprehensive strategies for education, collaboration and the promotion of best practice.

Steven was a 2021 Policy Impact Program participant and featured in the Policy Futures publication with his article Shining a Light in a Dark Place. Watch his presentation below. You can also watch all PIP presentation here.


Steven Caruana

Steven Caruana


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