Coercion, consent and Australian policing

by Roz Ward • Published 12 July 2013

It is essential to the effective functioning of the nation-state that the basic tenets of its ideology be widely accepted within the population.[i]

Video footage of police punching, kicking, grabbing and dragging protesters out of City Square in Melbourne in October 2011 challenged public perceptions of the legitimate use of force. Many on the left shared the broader public sense of shock at the brutality of officers using what they perceived to be excessive force.

Jacinda Woodhead, a regular contributor to Overland magazine, wrote about her experience on the day:

They were behind me and I had to keep glancing over my shoulder to see what was happening but it was hard because of the violent shoving by the police on both sides. But I saw those tactical police, working as a pack, some of them laughing as they targeted individual protesters, and I was afraid. Part of what was so shocking was that the occupation had been so peaceful, even in the standoff, and the contrast with the police behaviour was so harsh.[ii]

There is no doubt that the police were violent and brutal that day, but this should not be a surprise. The police are provided legitimacy by the state to exert such force whenever their political commanders deem it necessary. In Australia, the state has a long history of clamping down on dissent and attempting to quash public protest and industrial militancy. The state will always define when and where violence and coercion are legitimate. At times this may mean changing the law, redefining police powers or targeting particular groups.

The state is also flexible and adaptable. The current approach of the police may appear contradictory in its combination of community-style policing with brute military-style force and weaponry. In the last few decades, behind the scenes, political leaders and high-ranking police have realised that the media and public perception of their activity is important. The introduction of so-called “community” policing has brought them a number of advantages. It helps to improve public perceptions of policing while also allowing for further targeting of minority communities. In addition, it can give the impression that the police are making genuine efforts to tackle their internal problems with racism and homophobia. Two examples of this, the recruitment of multicultural liaison officers and gay and lesbian liaison officers, are explored in more detail below.

Alongside the development of these community strategies has come an increase in the number of weapons available to the police, the development of specialised military-style units and increased police powers. These powers deliberately extend the capacity of police to prevent protest and intimidate political activists. The doctrine of counter-terrorism, along with the idea that police are needed to keep the public safe, has been used as justification for attacks on civil liberties, protests and workers in industrial disputes. The number of people imprisoned in Australia has significantly increased in the last decade, with both Labor and Liberal governments imposing the same law and order agenda.

Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by increases in police power and changes within sentencing and prison systems. This is a result of both the direct racism of the police and the legal system and the structural inequality entrenched in the Australian state since its foundation. In order to justify state violence, Australian governments continue to push the idea that the Indigenous population and potentially criminal immigrants need to be controlled. Despite all this, the vast majority of the population continues to accept the legitimacy of the state. If you accept this legitimacy, it follows that the state should be allowed to control the physical forces capable of continuing to commit these state crimes.

State crime

Crime is a social construct: laws are created, policed and enforced by the state. Any decisions about who should be considered a “criminal” and who are to be considered “victims” are political ones. The only understanding that lawmakers share around the world is that they represent the interests of those who have political and economic power. Key to the ideology that justifies the state monopoly of “legitimate force” is the perception that the current structures of police, criminal justice system, prisons, military, etc, are better than any alternative way of organising society. Whether the alternative is presented as a Hobbesian anarchic violent chaos or a Stalinist dystopia, the point is to make capitalism and liberal democracy seem like a comparative paradise. This is part of the reason that states aim to appear as democratic and accountable as possible to the public.

The academic field of criminology largely perpetuates the view that the state is a neutral force, rather than an actor capable of committing crimes through its own bodies. The emerging field of “state crime” makes the case that states in themselves are actors, who can and do regularly commit and instigate crimes.[iii] State institutions hold both the power and the capacity to kill, injure, exploit, repress, incarcerate and create untold amounts of human misery.

The framework of “state crime” also allows for discussion about how and why these state crimes can be resisted. In fact, resistance to state crime and opposition to violent or oppressive state acts have shaped human history under capitalism. There is an inherent and constant contradiction in the state maintaining the appearance of democracy while imposing the will of the minority ruling class. As this article will illustrate, this contradiction can be seen in changes within the police, the policing of protest, state-based racism and the policing of industrial disputes.

Police militarisation and community policing

Policing is not an easy occupation. Victoria Police provides assistance, protection, support, leadership and above all, maintains peace in society. Every minute of every hour of every day, year-in and year-out, Victoria Police is ready to respond to the community’s needs.

– Victoria Police website[iv]

We have a message to any bikie gang members who want to be involved in nightclub security. We have a gang too – it is called the Victoria Police. And I’ll give you a tip. Our gang is bigger than your gang.

– Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay[v]

John Avery, an inspector in New South Wales, published a monograph in 1981 entitled Police: Force or Service? in which he discussed the role of the police in modern Australia.[vi] This question refers to one of the central contradictions of modern policing. On one side there is a desire to increase the force of the police and extend legal powers to use that force, while on the other side there is an ongoing desire to meet the public perception that the police provide a necessary community service. As a result of Avery’s report, the police in his state were renamed the New South Wales Police Service, but changed back to become the New South Wales Police Force in 2006.[vii]

In the past decade, it is a common perception that the police have shifted towards more “community” type policing. In particular, the introduction of gay and lesbian liaison officers, multicultural liaison officers and other “community focused” roles has been the subject of positive media attention.[viii] At the same time, new, more powerful weapons have been introduced and special paramilitary squads formed. More forceful policing can undermine the aim of engaging more cooperatively with the public in order to disarm opposition and improve public perceptions in order to allow police violence to continue and even escalate.

Even those members of the police who are directly involved in community-based activity don’t believe that it achieves anything more than improving the perception of the force. A study carried out in Victoria in 1993 found that just 11 percent of operational police thought that the purpose of community policing was actually to increase the level of public engagement with the police.[ix]

Debate on the role of police often occurs only when members of the public are shot or beaten to death by the police, or brutalised in riots or protests. These events are usually described as examples of the use of “excessive force”. The implication is that some degree of force would not be deemed excessive; indeed, use of force is viewed as nearly always legitimate. Almost all academic studies of police activity contain the underlying assumption that coercive power and force are central to defining law enforcement agencies.

The police are also keen to promote this definition. Their National Minimum Guidelines for Incident Management, Conflict Resolution and Use of Force state that management should “promote the policy that the police will use the minimum amount of force appropriate for the safe and effective performance of their duties. In addition, any force used should be proportional to the level of risk involved.”[x] This is the official public line on the use of force: minimum and proportionate.

Modern weapons and technology

Prior to the 1970s, the New South Wales police were the only force in Australia that routinely carried guns. By the mid-1980s, the Victorian police uniform included an equipment belt with a gun holster, and most officers carried a weapon by choice. In 1993, official policy required police in all states to carry a gun while on operational duty, unless otherwise directed. The calibre of the police guns continues to increase, together with the adoption of more powerful ammunition by specialised police units. This ammunition includes “hollow point” bullets that are designed to kill rather than injure. These bullets have been outlawed by the Hague Conventions during war, but these conventions don’t cover use by law enforcement agencies.[xi]

Increased gun use and ammunition intensity does not correspond to an increase in the number of weapons owned or carried by members of the public, or to any research suggesting that it makes either the police or the public safer.[xii] Rather, governments pursuing a law and order agenda, along with those in charge of the police, have made these decisions on a political basis.

The police are now also routinely armed with pepper spray (otherwise known as “OC” or Oleoresin Capsicum), a chemical that causes tears and intense pain to the eyes as well as temporary blindness, coughing and difficulty breathing. For asthma sufferers, OC spray carries a risk of death. OC spray and Tasers are part of the range of new, so-called non-lethal weapons put into the hands of the Australian police since the early 1990s.[xiii]

Since the introduction of Tasers in 2002, the police in Australia have killed six people with this weapon. In two cases Aboriginal men died after being directly Tasered by police; in another case a car hit a 16-year-old boy after he was threatened with a Taser and told by police to lie on the road.[xiv] According to Amnesty, there have been around 500 Taser-related deaths inflicted by police in the US since the introduction of the weapon there in 2001.[xv]

The corruption and crime commission in Western Australia found that an unarmed Aboriginal man had been Tasered 13 times in a Perth police station in 2008, which led to an inquiry into the use of this weapon. Investigators found that Tasers had been used in 49 percent of incidents where force was deemed “necessary” in 2007, increasing to 74 percent in 2008 and 65 percent in 2009. In the same period, the use of guns rose from 6 percent to 12 percent. Not only are the police given more choice of more powerful weapons, but they also appear to be using them more frequently.[xvi]

In Victoria, the murder of 33 people by the police between 1984 and 1995 caused public outrage and debate, attracting a large amount of media coverage.[xvii] In 1994, it was found that six of the nine people shot by police that year had a history of mental illness.[xviii] As a response to criticism of excessive force and calls for external enquiries, then Chief Commissioner Neil Comrie launched Project Beacon to “limit the dependence on firearms”.[xix] This involved a massive training program for police in skills like communication and conflict resolution. Victoria also established a “Use of Force Register” and introduced OC spray as a weapon compulsory for all police to carry.

Special police units

In addition to increasing numbers and use of weapons, the number of specialised police squads has also grown across Australia. This was initially justified as a response to the threat of terrorism, but has evolved to include other “public safety” issues. Then Chief Commissioner Simon Overland proudly showed off his new 42-person Public Order Response Team in Melbourne in 2011. He explained that the role of this new team would be to deal with things like “an under-age birthday party that is just right out of control [where] police have initially attended and [have] become the target, so missiles have been thrown at us, really it’s a situation that’s very dangerous, very volatile and out of control”.[xx] Teenage tearaways are more real than terrorists in Australia, but do we really need a special riot squad to pacify them?

From March 2004 to April 2005, six people were shot and killed by police in Victoria, mostly by members of the Special Order Group (SOG) who, research shows, are more likely to use weapons. In 2006, an Office of Police Integrity report was critical of the numbers of mentally ill people who had been shot by the police.[xxi] Jude McCulloch argued: “That the SOG is used as a testing ground for these new weapons is clear. That SOG tactics have been introduced into everyday policing is equally clear. Shooting to kill is not consistent with minimum force and the police mission to protect life.”[xxii] The police have always killed members of the public in Australia, but evidence suggests that this could increase with the growing deployment of these types of police units.

In 2011, in addition to regular armed police, the Victorian government employed more than 900 Protective Service Officers (PSOs), supposedly to ensure that the public felt safer at every train station in Melbourne. After 12 weeks’ training, these PSOs are armed with a gun, pepper spray and a baton. Multiple concerns have already been raised in relation to the role of these officers, and a number of incidents have demonstrated infringements of privacy, confusion about their role and misuse of weapons. Examples include a new officer accidentally firing his gun inside a police station, officers referring to their pepper spray as a “party pack”[xxiii] and insistence on gathering unnecessary information from members of the public.[xxiv] These new positions were presented as if they had a more community focus, but again involve the use of weapons when deemed necessary, as well as providing more opportunities to gather information.

Case study one: African young people in Victoria

I think most of my officers are good people, they are not racist, they do the right thing, but like the general population, we will have some people in our organisation who hold racist attitudes and behave in racist ways.

– Former Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Simon Overland[xxv]

African communities have disproportionately been a target of police violence in Victoria. Reports suggest that the Victorian police racially profile African migrant communities, overuse stop and search and move-on powers and have physically attacked young Africans in Melbourne suburbs. Racial targeting sends a clear message to these specific young people and to other migrants about their place in the community, and serves to reinforce racist ideas in the broader society.

In February 2013 six young African-Australian men who accused the Victoria Police of racial discrimination settled out of court after a five-year campaign.[xxvi] The men from Flemington and North Melbourne had experienced assault and verbal racist abuse and had frequently been stopped and questioned by the police. The police denied the charges, but their own documents, published following the conclusion of the case, tell a different story. They show that the police had considered the men “criminals” although they had never committed an offence.

Police diary notes show that a police officer’s opinion that these young people were “nervous in police presence” and “wearing home boy/gangster clothing” was enough to justify stopping them in the street. Independent research conducted by Professor Ian Gordon of the University of Melbourne found that between 2005 and 2008, young Africans were about two and a half times more likely to be subject to “stop and search” even though they had committed proportionally far fewer offences than white Australians.[xxvii]

As a result of this case, Victoria Police agreed to conduct an enquiry into how they deal with “field contacts” (i.e. people they stop on the street), and to review their multicultural training. Chief Commissioner Ken Lay explained in The Age: “While I don’t accept racial profiling exists in Victoria Police, there has been public criticism of police racial profiling or overly targeting members of the African-descent Australian community. Some believe they are being aggressively and unfairly targeted by police. I want to change this perception.”[xxviii]

In essence, the police continue to deny that they are racist, and claim they are motivated to change only in order to improve public perception. One strategy employed in Victoria to improve the image of the police has been the introduction of ten multicultural liaison officers (MLOs). The official aim of this program is to provide uniformed officers who could better serve culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Despite this, non-white people continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Victoria Police.[xxix]

More importantly, the implementation of community policing strategies in Victoria, particularly the use of MLOs, has raised some serious issues. In Dandenong, MLOs and youth resources officers organise soccer games, run pool competitions, attend sporting events and get together “problem solving” groups of Sudanese young people. A report by the Southern Ethnic Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) outlined major concerns about these activities.[xxx]

Reinforcing earlier research, the experience from Dandenong was that the majority of police who are not MLOs think that these programs are “too soft” and serve no useful purpose. SEAAC also identified that these programs are actually used to intensify the police focus on particular ethnic communities, often against their wishes. African young people do not get a say about whether they want to engage with community policing, and have few options to resist. Police always follow their own agenda, blurring the boundaries between “problem solving” and “intelligence gathering”. There is nothing democratic or progressive about coopting or further criminalising minority groups.

The SEACC report concluded that “these practices have often contributed to the discrimination being faced by young people, while simultaneously closing down the space for young people to resist the discrimination they are experiencing”. The fact remains that even if African young people can build better relationships with one or two MLOs, the rest of the police continue to routinely harass, move on and disproportionately target them. Specific community policing programs do not change the central role of the police.

Case study two: LGBTI young people in Queensland and Mardi Gras police brutality

They’re there to protect and shit and it gets to a point where you kinda get pulled up for no reason a few too many times. This isn’t really protecting – this is more like targeting.

– Ticket, LGBT female aged 19, Brisbane[xxxi]

Gay and lesbian liaison officers (GLLOs) have been widely welcomed by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. They have been given space to write in the LGBTI press[xxxii] and their own radio shows on LGBTI radio stations.[xxxiii] The police have also become a regular feature of both Pride in Victoria and Mardi Gras in Sydney, greeted for the past few years with cheers from the crowd.[xxxiv] In 2013, the Australian Defence Force also marched for the first time in uniform as part of the Mardi Gras parade.

Police brutality in the wake of the 2013 Mardi Gras parade in Sydney made international news.[xxxv] Video footage of handcuffed 18-year-old Jamie Jackson being thrown to the ground by police, his face pushed against the pavement with a boot in his back and head bleeding, had been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube within days. Onlooker Keely Snow explained: “Before the video was shot the same officer threw Jamie to the ground backwards by his throat and punched him…he could have easily died. It was pretty distressing. I know that what I saw certainly appeared to be excessive force.”[xxxvi]

The response of the LGBTI community was largely outrage, but also dismay that the police could be so violent. The event also opened up opportunities to share more stories of police homophobia and aggression. Even the most conservative leaders felt they should speak out against the police actions. Mardi Gras co-chairman Peter Urmson told the ABC:

The gay and lesbian community is really quite up in arms about this issue. Looking at the footage, the guy that’s being apprehended doesn’t seem to be too aggressive and we just wonder how this could come to be. It just seems as though the guy is being basically picked on… We know of a second incident that allegedly is similar and we’ve received medical records from the person that felt that they had been aggrieved. [Mardi Gras] was born out of police brutality 35 years ago [and] I think now we kind of wonder how far have we really come.[xxxvii]

In another incident at the Mardi Gras, Bryn Hutchinson, a former co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia, described how, after the parade, five police officers slammed him to the ground, kicked him, shackled him and beat him when he tried to cross Oxford Street. Hutchinson was then taken to Surry Hills police station and charged with “assaulting a police officer”.[xxxviii]

However, the different responses to this homophobic violence by the police showed that “community policing” creates divisions among those under attack. On 8 March 2013, the left mobilised more than 2,000 people to protest in response to the Mardi Gras police violence in Sydney. On the other hand, more right wing elements of the LGBTI community, who clearly have an interest in working more closely with the police, organised a “community forum”. Gay Sydney MP Alex Greenwich described the forum as providing an opportunity for “full and open discussion” with senior police.[xxxix]

Meanwhile, NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Superintendent Mark Murdoch demonstrated that such “discussion” is very one-sided. Responding to suggestions that parts of the force were out of control, he argued: “We are not a third-world organisation. We are in the business of policing by consent and with the support of the community. We do not react entirely to what we see on the 6pm news. In the scheme of things, we don’t have a super big problem.” He tried to argue that the police have “first class” relations with the gay and lesbian community, a point made more credible than it should be by the fact of the “community forum”.[xl]

Reporting on the experiences of 35 LGBT young people in Brisbane in 2010, Queensland University of Technology researcher Angela Dwyer found that they had experienced frequent contact and harassment by the police. [xli] These young people did not report having “first class” relationships with the police. A general survey of more than 1,100 LGBT Queenslanders in 2011 found that 72 percent of those living in Brisbane had experienced homophobia, with 53 percent reporting they had been harassed in the previous two years.[xlii] Having more than 100 LGBTI police liaison officers in Queensland during 2011 did nothing to reduce levels of homophobia experienced by members of the public.

Interviews with the young people from Brisbane really speak for themselves about their contact with police:

I’ve got court on the 21st ’cause I asked someone if they had a spare cigarette so they got me for begging and gave me a court order. (Sarah, Transgender)

I reckon ’cause I wear gangster clothes the police pick on me more than what they would on a dyke that wears skirts because they kind of link us to criminal activity…just because of the pants and the baggy shirt…the shit we wear. (Meow, 18, female)

I was all dressed up looking great, rainbow on my face and the police came straight up to me and asked do you have any drugs… There are more police officers at queer events asking about drugs. I have been to straight events and honestly I didn’t see as many police officers. (Damien, 18, male)

In further research with LGBT service providers, Dwyer found more evidence of police homophobia in relation to young people’s experiences of “looking queer”. This is how two young people described a case in which police arrested a young gay male for evading a taxi fare while “dressed up in his make-up”:

Fallen Angel: They manhandled him and bashed him…

Astro: Called him a fag and…

Fallen Angel: Yeah. Denigrated him for being queer. Locked him up. The guy was going out to Fluffy’s and because he had on make-up and stuff. They called him Britney Spears and cry-baby and they were insulting him for being gay whereas if he hadn’t have been dressed up and going out and had make-up on and stuff, I don’t think they would have even picked up on him being gay necessarily.[xliii]

Research conducted at La Trobe University in 2008 found that seven out of ten LGBT respondents did not report their most recent experience of heterosexist violence or harassment to police, while 60 percent did not report their experience to anyone. Only 40 percent of LGBT respondents who reported their most recent experience of heterosexist violence or harassment to mainstream police found the police to be supportive and the service they provided valuable.[xliv]

Further research is needed into the level of police homophobia in Australia, but it is clear from the incidents at Mardi Gras this year, and the evidence that is available, that the introduction of the GLLOs has had similar outcomes to the introduction of MLOs. There may be a few more police who know how to talk politely to LGBT or African people, but this does not mean the rest of the force will not continue to behave in brutally homophobic or racist ways.

Police treatment of Indigenous people and structural racism

Justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia must be understood within a historical context that has seen the law used as a tool of dispossession, oppression, family dislocation and racial discrimination.

– National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, 2012[xlv]

Racism experienced by Indigenous people is structured into the Australian state. Historically, this has included legitimised mass murder, slavery, forced removals, forced relocations, fraud and denial of basic rights. The denial of basic civil and political rights continues to include legal controls, restrictions on movement, reduced or no access to education, health care, employment, voting, workers’ rights and social security entitlements.

It is important to include the exploitation of Indigenous workers as part of structural racism. As well as being exploited in the same way as other workers, Indigenous people have experienced (and in some cases still experience) the additional burden of non-payment or underpayment of wages, defrauding of compulsory trusts or savings, state control of benefits and systematic non-payment or underpayment of social security benefits. Evidence shows that the state was directly involved in schemes to defraud Indigenous people who were supposedly under their protection. This included the theft of wages, trust money and funding for missions.[xlvi]

There have also been legal differences between the treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers. For example, Indigenous workers could still be whipped as punishment decades after it had been outlawed for others. Breach of employment contracts carried a five-year jail sentence for Indigenous workers compared to three months for white workers. Some Aboriginal people were still working for rations up until the 1960s, and today’s welfare system mirrors this relationship with the state. Racist discrimination and treatment has always involved widespread public knowledge, systematic and deliberate government failure or mismanagement and suspension of basic legal equality. These are state crimes.

In December 2006, the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs reported on its inquiry into Indigenous stolen wages. It found compelling evidence that “governments systematically withheld and mismanaged Indigenous wages and entitlements over decades” and that Indigenous people had been “seriously disadvantaged by these practices across generations” creating “a cycle of poverty”.[xlvii] Historian Anna Haebich argued that “Aboriginal poverty in Western Australia today is a direct consequence of this discriminatory treatment”.[xlviii]

The committee found that state and federal governments had been consistently notified of the fraud and cheating of Aboriginal people, but largely ignored it. Many records were never properly kept, or have since been destroyed, making the true size of this state crime hard to measure. This has entrenched a structural disadvantage across all areas of life for Indigenous people in Australia, and has serious consequences for their treatment both at the hands of police and within the legal system.

In Victoria, Aboriginal people are almost six times more likely to come into contact with the police than the general population. The Koori Complaints Project that took place in Victoria between 2006 and 2008 found data that suggested significant underreporting of negative experiences with police.[xlix]

The largest number of allegations – almost 40 percent – related to assaults by police at arrest, followed by racist language or abuse, failure to provide medical assistance and harassment. One new complaint identified was the overuse of OC spray. Data available from Victoria police confirms that Indigenous people receive 12 times the rate of OC spray used against non-Indigenous people. Reported injuries from police violence included permanent brain damage, broken cheekbones, severe facial injuries, cuts, dislocations, abrasions and soft tissue injuries including eye injuries.[l]

The study also found that very few complaints resulted in good outcomes. Only 1.2 percent of the most serious and common complaint of “assault by police” were “substantiated” as a result of a police investigation. This means that almost every single Aboriginal person who complains about this type of behaviour receives an “unsubstantiated” or “unfounded” result. This is basically the same as calling all of them liars and reinforces the perceptions of their moral deficiency, helplessness and need for paternalism. The study found that the heaviest penalty given to a member of the police as a result of a complaint was a $500 fine given to the senior sergeant of an officer who assaulted a man and broke his cheekbone. Aboriginal people rightly have no confidence in the racist system, and a clear disincentive to believe that state-sanctioned complaints procedures will ever support them.

Prisons, sentencing and black deaths in custody

Between 2002 and 2012, the total number of prisoners in Australia increased by 31 percent to 29,381. Over the same period, the number of male prisoners increased by 29 percent and the number of female prisoners increased by 48 percent.[li] Only 77 percent of those in prison have actually been sentenced, while 23 percent await sentencing behind bars.

Racism is a clear feature of the system: the highest rate of imprisonment is of Indigenous people, with a rate of 1,913 per 100,000. Those born in Nigeria have the second highest imprisonment rate (1,014 prisoners per 100,000), followed by prisoners born in Indonesia (513 prisoners per 100,000). The average rate in Australia overall is 168 prisoners per 100,000 adults. This means that the rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was 15 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners on 30 June 2012, an increase in the ratio compared to 2011 (14 times higher). The highest ratio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to non-Indigenous imprisonment rates in Australia was in Western Australia (20 times higher).[lii]

A report released by the Sentencing Advisory Council Victoria in April 2013 found that the number of Indigenous people in prison in Victoria had increased by 105 percent between 2002 and 2012, compared to an increase of 20 percent for the non-Indigenous community. In juvenile detention in Victoria, the overrepresentation of young Indigenous people is even more pronounced. In 2010-11 there were 2.48 Indigenous young people per 1,000 in detention, compared to just 0.12 for non-Indigenous. This means Indigenous young people are currently 20 times more likely to be locked up than non-Indigenous young people. In the Northern Territory, 97 percent of the juveniles currently in detention are Aboriginal.[liii] Research also shows that Indigenous young people are less likely to be “diverted” from the justice system even when committing the same types of offences.[liv]

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 found that one of the key reasons for the disproportionate number of black deaths in custody was the gross overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody in the first place.[lv] After the Royal Commission, the number of deaths in custody increased by 150 percent up until 2001. The subsequent 20 years have continued this pattern, with a total of 325 black deaths in custody. Aboriginal people are being killed at the hands of the state more frequently in proportion to other deaths in custody than they were at the time of the commission.[lvi] A report published by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2013 found that black deaths in custody rose from 48 in 2008-09 to 58 in the years 2009-10 and 2010-11.[lvii]

The Northern Territory Intervention, launched in 2007, has made the situation worse for Aboriginal people dealing with the police and the legal system. Despite the premise of needing to “save Indigenous children” from child abuse, there is yet to be one successful prosecution for this crime. The real impact has been an increased police presence and a massive increase in imprisonment for other offences. Between March 2007 and December 2012, there was an increase of 82 percent in the number of Aboriginal prisoners and a doubling of the numbers of Aboriginal youth in detention in the NT. As Professor Larissa Behrendt of the University of Technology Sydney said, the high indigenous imprisonment rates, and particularly the increasing numbers of juveniles and women being detained, was being made worse by tough state “law and order” campaigns and the continuing impact of the federal government’s 2007 emergency intervention in the Northern Territory. Research indicates that if the Northern Territory were a country, it would rate second only to the United States for rates of imprisonment, with 0.67 percent of the NT population in detention compared with 0.73 percent of the US population.[lviii]

Criminologists suggest that increases in prison populations are a result of changes in the criminal justice system that disproportionately impact Indigenous offenders. This includes changes to sentencing practices, judicial discretion, bail eligibility, parole surveillance and limitations on non-custodial or rehabilitation options.[lix] These changes may have had an impact, but undoubtedly structural racism is key. Research shows that risk of imprisonment is increased by the following factors:

  • being unemployed;
  • having left school before completion of year 12;
  • living in a household defined as crowded;
  • being a member of the Stolen Generation, or having a relative who was a member of the Stolen Generation; and
  • participating in high-risk consumption of illicit drugs or alcohol.[lx]

Indigenous offenders are much more likely to have had a previous conviction: 74.7 percent compared with 41.5 percent for non-Indigenous. In Victoria in 2008, 11.5 percent of Aboriginal people were living in houses with children who had been removed from their natural family, and 47.1 percent had a relative who had been removed.[lxi] The disproportionate imprisonment of Indigenous people is based on a history of discrimination, on top of which racist policing and decision-making serve to reinforce and exacerbate the problem. The sentencing council’s report concluded:

The indigenous disadvantage is a result of a history of differential treatment – from colonialism and through successive governments – that was, in large part, based on discriminatory policies. Indigenous disadvantage is therefore an intergenerational legacy of racial discrimination, the effects of which persist over time and reach into the present day and include the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Australian prisons.[lxii]

Policing protest

Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.

– US socialist Howard Zinn[lxiii]

The development of so-called “counter terrorism” powers in Australia in the 1980s followed an international effort to consolidate a broader understanding of terrorism that would suit the interests of the state. [lxiv] In Australia, the police sought to extend their interpretation of terrorism to include all kinds of political activism, including peaceful protests and pickets. Basically, any opposition to state power and the rule of the minority was to be considered subversive and potentially dangerous or terrorist by law enforcement agencies. This should be part of previous paragraph.The former head of Australia’s Protective Services Co-ordination Centre, Malcolm MacKenzie-Orr, argued in the late 1980s that political demonstrations could easily lead to terrorist activities:

What we are finding is more often the lunatic fringes are infiltrating movements where ordinary people are honestly pursuing their ideals and exercising, quite properly, their democratic rights… They lie low and pursue their terrorist tactics, which have no connection with the objectives of these organisations.[lxv]

At the same time, a detective inspector in the Victorian police argued:

Terrorism in one form or another has reared its ugly head; political activism has come out into the open; and organised crime has filtered through the community leaving no section of public life unscathed.[lxvi]

The idea that terrorism and dissent are synonymous gives additional legitimacy for police and security agencies to spy on political activists and crack down on protest. In the 1990s The Age revealed that the police had been spying on activist groups including 3CR Community Radio, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Friends of the Earth and the Koori Information Centre.[lxvii] After the student protests against changes to AUSTUDY in 1992, the Herald Sun reported:

Victoria police will establish a special investigation unit aimed at cracking the violent socialist organisations at the centre of several recent wild protests. The squad of Melbourne detectives will be set up to investigate the International Socialist Organisation, a group called Resistance, and other radical Left-wing groups.[lxviii]

One tactic employed by police to crack the “violent socialist organisations” was to increase the regular use of force through the employment of full riot gear including long batons, shields and special uniforms. In December 1993 they employed this force when 177 police violently batoned a picket line of around 100 people at Richmond Secondary College. The protesters, active for a year, were trying to prevent the school being shut down by the Kennett government. Five people were arrested and eight were treated by paramedics for their injuries. A subsequent report from the police complaints ombudsman concluded that the tactics used at the picket were a “radical departure” from previous approaches.[lxix]

The S11 protest against the World Economic Forum in Melbourne in 2000 brought out the largest police presence – 2,400 – at a single event in the history of the Victorian police, and for the first time full riot gear was worn. Despite all the evidence of police violence and aggression, the ombudsman concluded that the Victoria Police command was justified in the use of batons against protesters as “reasonable force”.[lxx]

In the wake of the racist Cronulla riot in Sydney, the 2005 Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Public Safety) Act was created to give the police additional “emergency” riot control powers. These powers have subsequently been used against left wing protesters. For example, at the 2008 Camp for Climate Action in Newcastle, this law allowed police to create a “lock down zone” within which they were able to stop and search without “reasonable suspicion”, seize and detain property and give dispersal directions. Police attacked the protest and confiscated banners, placards, drums and oranges they suspected of being carried as missiles.

Additional powers were given to 5,000 police in preparation for the APEC summit in Sydney in 2007. On top of this, the state authorised the deployment of 1,500 military personnel and provided 500 temporary cells ready for what they perceived would be inevitable arrests. Two weeks before the event, the New South Wales police exhibited their new water cannon vehicle to the media. All this was designed to intimidate protesters and to create the impression that just by being at a protest you were doing something unlawful.

In part as a response to climate change protesters, the Victorian government introduced the Electricity Industry Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Act in 2009 to allow a range of new penalties for “damaging, interfering, tampering, or attaching something to electricity infrastructure”. The legislation allows for sentences of up to two years in prison and fines of up to $28,000 that could be imposed on environmental activists “locking on” to sites in the wake of the “Switch Off Hazelwood – Switch on Renewables” protests. This legal amendment was clearly designed to deter activists from continuing their protests, and forms part of a wider strategy of criminalising peaceful protest.[lxxi] It has the added benefit to the state of giving the impression that those who are attacked by the police must have been doing something wrong.

Along with the criminalisation of particular methods, specific powers have been given in relation to public disorder and the policing of significant “events”. In October 2009 the Major Events Act was passed in New South Wales. The definition of a “major event” is at the discretion of the minister, who can also designate a “major event venue” as big as multiple suburbs of Sydney. Once designated, the area is classified a “control area” which means signs and advertising (including leafleting and posters/placards) can be restricted. On top of this the following are banned:

  • banners, placards or displays larger than one square metre
  • using audio, camera or broadcast equipment for commercial purposes
  • operating a sound-generating device
  • participating in any activity that “unduly interferes with the amenity of the area” (protesting)

Anyone can be directed by the police to leave the area and may be removed with “reasonable force”.

The Victorian government passed a similar law the same year giving police additional powers to search anyone in any “designated area”, without grounds for suspicion. In February 2011, the Western Australian government introduced legislation giving police special powers to monitor, search and exclude protesters during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth in October 2011. This included the power to stop and search children.

For the G20 meeting in Brisbane in November 2014, the Queensland government is currently preparing to make any form of protest virtually impossible. At an estimated cost of $370 million, more than 5,000 officers will patrol as part of substantially increased “Special Emergency Response Teams”, as well as interstate and federal officers and army personnel. Residents living in the “security zone” will have to carry accreditation and ID. The assistant commissioner of the Queensland Police, Katarina Carroll, said in January that intelligence was already being gathered about protesters and warned residents to expect a level of security equivalent to the London Olympics.[lxxii]

Similar “anti-terror” laws and provisions in the UK, designed to make stop and search easier, were found to contradict human rights in a High Court challenge. Corinna Ferguson, a legal officer for Liberty who successfully challenged section 44 of the UK Terrorism Act (2000) in the European Court of Human Rights, said that the law was “a very blunt instrument that never caught a single terrorist but instead alienated ethnic minorities and peaceful demonstrators by its use”.[lxxiii] These are issues that do not concern the Australian federal and state governments, who continue to increase police powers whenever it is deemed necessary to restrict dissent and criminalise peaceful protest.


The arrival of Occupy in Australia posed a challenge for police and authorities who had become used to street marches and pickets being used as the primary protest methods. Nevertheless, the peaceful occupation of a public space for an indefinite period of time was quickly deemed too much of a threat to be allowed to continue. The message from Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and Police Commissioner Ken Lay was that protest has a time limit – particularly if it prevents business from generating profits.

After fewer than seven days of the ongoing occupation of City Square in Melbourne, police violently attacked and destroyed the camp, arresting more than 50 people in the process. The Force Response Unit (FRU) employed military-style tactics including “snatch squads” and “flying wedges” to pick off and remove protesters who were defending the camp. The Occupy Melbourne Legal Support Team collected 43 statements from protesters in the subsequent two days that testified to the high level of police violence during the eviction.[lxxiv]

These statements included experiences of eye gouging, using pressure points and strangleholds, and a disabled woman being struck with an FRU shield. Others reported a young man being held down by police while another officer kicked him in the groin, a protester’s head being slammed into the road and punches to various parts of the head. As the protest made its way onto Swanston Street, OC spray was used against children and others, and horses trampled over the protesters.

On the following day, Robert Doyle was given a whole page in the Herald Sun newspaper, which he dedicated to thanking the police for their actions:

What a magnificent job by Victoria Police. From the outset the police planning and attention to detail was [sic] outstanding. The careful strategy to move police through the City Square incrementally, reclaiming the square with City of Melbourne officers clearing and cleaning as progress was made, brought normality very quickly to what was an eyesore and public health hazard.

Moving an increasingly agitated, volatile crowd out of City Square, out of the Collins/Swanston intersection, down Swanston St and away, was carried out efficiently and with absolute minimum use of force. The police were always in control.[lxxv]

Protests in other Australian cities were treated in a similar way, but the police response in Melbourne was the most violent. Overwhelmingly, instances of police violence and excessive force observed by witnesses to the eviction in Melbourne were executed by the FRU, working alongside the SOG in the Specialist Support Department. A decision had been made by authorities to end the protest, and they were prepared to use whatever means they deemed necessary to achieve their goals.

Policing industrial disputes

Historically in Australia, the shearing sheds, wharves and mines have witnessed the majority of violent encounters between police and picketers. As early as the 1890s, the police were seen by union militants as class traitors and enemies of the working class.[lxxvi] Two of the most violent decades were the 1890s and 1920s; one worker was shot dead by police during the 1928 waterside strike in Melbourne.[lxxvii] This high level of state brutality is directly linked to the high level of industrial struggle during these periods. Although the police haven’t killed strikers for many decades, this is due more to the lower level of industrial disputes than to any change in the approach from the police or the state.

The evidence is clear that police will continue to use “necessary” force, aimed at either physically removing the picket or intimidating picketers or supporters from taking further action. During the last few years, police have attacked numerous pickets across Australia. In December 2010, police attacked a picket line of Visy workers and their supporters, dragging off and arresting 29 people on charges of “besetting a business” and “obstructing a footpath”. One man injured during the arrests said he felt that workers were being treated like criminals.[lxxviii]

In Victoria, the police attacked a community and worker picket at the Baiada chicken factory in November 2011. The picket line held, but one of the workers, Phong Nguyen, was taken to hospital after his legs were crushed during the confrontation.[lxxix] Even white collar industries are not immune: at a Sydney University picket earlier this year, the police attacked twice, resulting in one student, Wynand van der Woude, breaking his leg; the police denied using “excessive force”. Superintendent Simon Hardman claimed that police were trying to clear a roadway into the university and were met with resistance. He said, “Police had made the decision to open up a roadway in order to ensure the safety of the protesters who were present and allow the free flow of traffic.”[lxxx]

The biggest industrial struggle in recent years, the so-called War on the Waterfront in April 1998, was probably the biggest stand-off between police and picketers. There are some valuable lessons from this dispute. Incredibly, some academics have used it as an example of police restraint and the good use of negotiating skills. In his work on policing industrial disputes, David Baker argues: “On a national scale, the protracted 1998 waterfront dispute revealed the effectiveness of negotiation, cooperation and formal protocol between the union movement and State police in order to maintain peaceful protest.”[lxxxi]

The reality was that the police felt constrained to exercise restraint in the face of such a large picket of organised workers with high levels of wider working class support. They feared the possibility of other workers taking solidarity strike action across the city, which would have brought business to a standstill. The power of organised workers to stop production and construction, and to shut down transportation, utilities and services, is a much bigger threat to the state than any level of physical force the dock workers could have offered in response to the police. Solidarity from workers in other industries was key to the outcome of this dispute.

The turning point took place in Melbourne at dawn on 17 April. More than 1,000 police assembled at the East Swanson Dock, faced by 4,000 MUA unionists and community supporters. As the police advanced on the picket, at least 2,000 striking construction workers from sites across the city marched in behind the police and surrounded them. The police retreated through the crowd, escorted by union officials. They evidently judged that attacking large contingents of organised workers ran the risk of widespread strikes and disruption of business as usual, a risk they weren’t prepared to take. It was not a situation that showed good negotiation skills, but a perfect demonstration of how organised workers can turn back police when they have the determination, support, solidarity and leadership.

The bosses and Liberal Party politicians were extremely frustrated by the response of the police to the MUA dispute. Patrick Chairman Chris Corrigan complained: “[T]he unpleasant reality is that the police in Melbourne did not do their job”.[lxxxii] In their eyes, the police should have cleared the picket using whatever means necessary, and if they had failed the military should have been used. Subsequently, and influenced by these events, Prime Minister John Howard introduced tougher sentencing for picketers and insisted that state police enforce federal court injunctions against industrial protests much more thoroughly.

The police attack on a CFMEU (construction unions) picket in Melbourne’s CBD on 28 August 2012 brought a return to these sorts of battle lines. Hundreds of police were mobilised from across the state to break up the lines of workers outside construction company Grocon’s Lonsdale Street site early in the morning. The workers and their supporters physically fought back lines of horses until the police retreated. Whether or not this was a tactical decision by the police, it was clear that the workers in this situation were not going to be easily moved on.

Again, in the aftermath of these events, the bosses and government went on the attack. Premier Ted Baillieu called for deregistration of the CFMEU, which would stop the union from negotiating legally binding enterprise agreements. He threatened to rewrite the Riot Act in order more effectively to arrest picketers and clear pickets. The Victorian attorney general also sought to join Grocon’s contempt of court action against the CFMEU, adding to the massive legal and financial pressure being brought to bear on the union.

The Labor federal workplace relations minister, Bill Shorten joined in to attack the union, declaring that “the blockade is a terrible idea, and the mob should get off the street”; he also denounced the tactic as “industrial stupidity” and welcomed the fact that a few scabs were able to cross the picket line.[lxxxiii] Police data revealed after the event found that 3,067 police shifts were worked in just two weeks at Grocon’s Myer Emporium site in central Melbourne in August and September.[lxxxiv] No expense was spared in the attempt to bring the picket to an end.

In addition to the brute power of the police, the state also has at its disposal the legal system and various institutions designed to limit workers’ and union rights. The most infamous of these in recent years has been the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). Set up in 2005 by the Howard government, the ABCC was supposed to “clean up” the building industry. Under its watch, the construction industry has become the industry with the highest number of worker deaths. There were 36 fatalities in the construction industry in 2007-08, twice as many as in 2004-05, immediately before the ABCC began operations in late 2005. All occupational safety research shows that an increase in union presence leads to higher degrees of safety.[lxxxv]

The ABCC’s real aim is to crush unions, in particular the CFMEU, Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), some of the most powerful unions in Australia. Its weapons include imposing fines, targeting individual union militants and supporting legal restrictions on industrial action. One example of intimidating individuals has been the case brought against veteran unionist Bob Carnegie in relation to his role in the dispute at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. Carnegie faces 54 contempt charges as well as a civil case for thousands of dollars of damages for his role in support of a community picket that is reported to have cost Abigroup $300,000 per day in lost profits. Carnegie responded to the charges: “This is an oppressive legal action – Abigroup is trying to send a message to anyone in the community that they had better think seriously before they support trade unionists, conservationists, whoever.”[lxxxvi]

In the wake of the West Gate Bridge dispute in 2009, the CFMEU and the AMWU were ordered to pay a record $1.48 million in penalties and costs after a Federal Court decision supported by the ABCC. At this time Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace policy director, David Gregory, urged that the ABCC’s powers be retained: “Real concerns remain about what is likely to re-emerge if its powers are…constrained.”[lxxxvii]

In May 2010, after a nine-day CFMEU picket in Epping, Melbourne, the ABCC ordered the union to pay penalties of $100,000 for contravening the Act, $150,000 for contempt of the court injunction and costs, a total hit of over half a million dollars. In Western Australia the CFMEU was ordered in August 2011 to pay Woodside compensation of $1.5 million plus $500,000 in costs for industrial action.[lxxxviii]

In New South Wales, the Liberal government has been quick to increase the size of fines imposed for defying orders by the Industrial Relations Commission. In line with the size of fines in Queensland, the fines grew by 10 times to stand at $100,000 for the first day of an offence.[lxxxix] In 2011, the Transport Workers Union was issued with $750,000 in fines by the Federal Court for “unauthorised industrial action” against Qantas, which consisted of stopping work for four hours.

If you compare the size of these fines with those given to employers for killing their workers through “failing to provide a safe workplace” it becomes even easier to see what side is taken by state institutions. In one such case, a 15-year-old boy was killed in a western Sydney metal spinning factory after he was left unsupervised and his arm was caught in a metal lathe. The New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission issued a $30,000 fine to the boss of the factory.[xc] Although the Labor government has changed the name of the ABCC to “Fair Work Building and Construction” its role is essentially the same, and is likely to be bolstered under an Abbott government.


This article has focused on the changing role of the police, and how the state uses both force and coercion to restrict dissent, but it is worth remembering that state power is by no means unchallengeable. Capitalist states are capable of extreme repression and violence, but they also generate resistance. A fightback against the state can happen during periods of intense repression, or in good economic and stable political times; it occurs both under brutal dictatorships and in the most liberal democracies. Through the actions of its own bodies, the state can create and contribute to this resistance. As Marx explained, the ruling classes have created their own gravediggers in the working class – the only force that can truly challenge state power. Resistance to the state and state crime is unpredictable, yet inevitable.

In Australia, Aboriginal resistance to state-imposed racism has existed since invasion in various forms, including direct action, protests, strikes and broad campaigns. In spite of the national apology and multiple pledges to close a multitude of gaps, the treatment of Indigenous people by the police, courts and prisons continues to perpetuate racism. The treatment of other migrant communities, particularly, as outlined here, the African population in Melbourne, is also thoroughly racist.

While the police may continue to promote publicly the “minimal force” line, it is clear from all the examples above that more aggressive and violent police tactics and actions are always given the go-ahead if deemed “necessary”. Police actions can also be given legal justification by political leaders or the judiciary either in advance or after the event, as it suits them.

Community policing and the introduction of special liaison officers in minority communities are best understood as public relations exercises designed in part to cover over the increasing militarisation of the force. Community activity also has the added benefit of creating more police informants and collaborators. The reality is that any “softer” tactics simply form the velvet glove that surrounds an iron fist. The police are never our friends.

An increased emphasis on media management by the police in recent years has been used to send clearer ideological messages to the public. The aim is to convince people that there are legitimate reasons to target particular groups, whether they are unruly Aborigines, violent protesters or union thugs. The idea is that if the police attack, it is because you’ve done something wrong, and the force they are using is necessary. This has the added impact of creating divisions among protesters, with more moderate elements often blaming protesters who are attacked by police for “going too far”. These divisions reinforce the state’s ability to divide and rule.

Radicals must understand the role of the state, and how the state adapts to particular circumstances, if we want to challenge state power effectively. The police, in both their hard paramilitary and softer community forms, together with the legal system, operate only to maintain the rule of a minority, the Australian ruling class. The state will always provide an expression of existing class interests; the capitalist state can never represent the interests of the working class.

It is clear that the response of the state is most dramatic when the balance of class forces is threatened by the mass action of organised workers. The inherent ability of workers to withdraw their labour and go on strike not only disrupts the flow of profits but also raises the question of who holds the real power in society, increases political consciousness and threatens the grip of ruling class ideology.

The reality is that police, legal system and the state as a whole will use whatever methods they see fit to prevent a challenge to the status quo. That is why we must continue to build a left that is clear on the role of the police and the state, to speak out against state crime in all its forms and do all that we can to build a serious fightback by the working class. Class struggle is the only resistance that offers an immediate and serious challenge to the system, and also has the potential to put an end to these crimes altogether.

[i] H.C. Kelman, “Patterns of personal involvement in the national system: a sociopsychological analysis of political legitimacy”, in J. Rosenau (ed) International Politics and Foreign Policy, Free Press, New York, 1969, pp.276-288.

[ii] Jacinda Woodhead, “Occupy Melbourne Eviction”, Overland online, 22 October 2011,

[iii] Elizabeth Stanley and Jude McCulloch (eds), State Crime and Resistance, Routledge, London, 2012, p.15.

[iv] Statement on the Victoria Police website,

[v] John Silvester, “Top cop warns outlaw bikies, ‘We have a gang too’”, The Age, 1 April 2013.

[vi] John Avery, Police, force or service? Butterworths, Sydney, 1981.

[vii] David Baker, “Police confirmation of use of force in Australia: ‘To be or not to be?’”, Crime, Law and Social Change, 52, 2009, pp.139-158.

[viii] For example this flyer describes how the Victoria Police introduced the gay and lesbian liaison officers:

[ix] Jude McCulloch, Blue Army: Paramilitary Policing in Australia, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2001, p.4.

[x] R. Hamdorf, N. Boni, I. Webber, A. Pikl, J. Packer, National Minimum Guidelines for Incident Management, Conflict Resolution and Use of Force, National Police Research Unit, Australia, 1998.

[xi] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.94.

[xii] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.96.

[xiii] Anna Patty, “Hundreds more hit as police rely on stun guns”, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 2011.

[xiv] Jude McCulloch, “Why the taser-related death toll is rising”, The Conversation, 22 March 2012,

[xv] Amnesty International News, “USA: Stricter limits urged as deaths following police Taser use reach 500”, 15 February 2012, usa-stricter-limits-urged-deaths-following-police-taser-use-reach-500-2012-02-15.

[xvi] Katherine French, “Man Tasered 13 times shows stun-guns fast becoming police weapon of choice: CCC”, WA Today, 4 October 2010.

[xvii] Jude McCulloch, “Blue murder: Press coverage of fatal police shootings in Victoria”, Australia & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 29, 1996, pp.102-120.

[xviii] Baker, “Police confirmation”, p.143.

[xix] Peter Norden, “Shoot first, spin later is the wrong approach for Victoria Police”, The Conversation, 5 May 2011,

[xx] Nino Bucci, “Strong arm of the law: Overland’s armour-clad swat squads to tackle urban troublemakers”, The Age, 9 June 2011.

[xxi] Baker, “Police confirmation”, p.143.

[xxii] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.172.

[xxiii] Peter Mickelburough, “Concern on PSO use of pepper spray”, Herald Sun, 1 March 2013.

[xxiv] See Facebook, “Your rights on track”, YourRightsOnTrack.

[xxv] Kellie Lazzaro, “Police discriminating against Africans: report”, ABC News, 16 March 2010.

[xxvi] Peter Seidel and Tamar Hopkins, “No one should be stopped by police just because they’re black”, The Age, 19 February 2013.

[xxvii] Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, “Race discrimination case documents”, published online 18 February 2013, flemingtonkensington/cb_pages/race_discrimination_case_documents.php.

[xxviii] Ken Lay, “Police committed to focusing on crime, not race”, The Age, 26 February 2013.

[xxix] Helen McKernan, “A multicultural police force? Representations of ethnic minorities in Victoria Police”, Proceedings from annual conference of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA 2008): Re-imagining Sociology, Melbourne, 2-5 December 2008.

[xxx] Southern Ethnic Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC), Submission to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission African Young People Research Project, March 2008, flemingtonkensington/cb_pages/images/VEOHRC%20African%20Young%20People%20Research%20Project%20Submission.pdf.

[xxxi] Angela Dwyer, “Damaged goods: riskiness and LGBT young people’s interactions with police”, Proceedings of the 2010 Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference, Sydney, 1-2 July 2010.

[xxxii] For example, regular contributions in the Star Observer,

[xxxiii] For example, the Victoria Police community hour on JoyFM in Melbourne

[xxxiv] Tracey Nearmy, “Police march in Mardi Gras parade”, ABC News, 11 April 2013.

[xxxv] Phil Mercer, “Mardi Gras police brutality claims shake Australia”, BBC News, 12 March 2013.

[xxxvi] Mercer, “Mardi Gras police brutality”.

[xxxvii] Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, “Police investigate Mardi Gras brutality claims”, ABC News, 6 March 2013.

[xxxviii] Serkan Ozturk, “Bashed at Mardi Gras: Police assault claims”, Same Same, 5 March 2013.

[xxxix] Matt Akersten, “Sydney rally: Stop the bashings, justice now!”, Same Same, 8 March 2013,

[xl] Mercer, “Mardi Gras police brutality”.

[xli] Dwyer, “Damaged goods”.

[xlii] Alan Berman and Shirleene Robinson, Speaking Out: Stopping Homophobic and Transphobic Abuse in Queensland, Australian Academic Press, Sydney, 2010.

[xliii] Angela Dwyer and Justine Hotten, “There is no relationship: Service provider staff on how LGBT young people experience policing”, in Stewart Lockie (ed), TASA Refereed Conference Proceedings 2009, Australian National University, Canberra, 2009, papers/Dwyer,%20Angela%20&%20Hotten,%20Justine.pdf.

[xliv] William Leonard, Anne Mitchell et al, Coming forward: The underreporting of heterosexist violence and same sex partner abuse in Victoria, Monograph 69, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, 2009.

[xlv] National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, National Justice Policy, Strawberry Hills, NSW, 2012, p.8.

[xlvi] Chris Cunneen, “State Crime and the Immiseration of Indigenous People”, in McCulloch and Stanley (eds), State Crime and Resistance, pp.99-113.

[xlvii] Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, “Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages”, 12 December 2006,

[xlviii] Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, “Unfinished business”.

[xlix] Jan Demarte, “Final Report of the Koori Complaints Project 2006-2008”, Ethical Standards Department, Victoria Police Indigenous Issues Unit, Department of Justice, 2008, cb_pages/images/Koori%20Complaints%20Project%20Final%20Repor.pdf.

[l] Demarte, “Final Report of the Koori Complaints Project”.

[li] Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Prisoner Census, 2 April 2013,

[lii] ABS National Prisoner Census.

[liii] Mathew Lyneham and Andy Chan, “Deaths in custody in Australia to 30 June 2011: Twenty years of monitoring by the National Deaths in Custody Program since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody”, National Institute of Criminology, 2013, mr20.pdf.

[liv] Karen Gelb and Donald Ritchie, “Comparing sentencing outcomes for Koori and Non-Koori adult offenders”, Sentencing Advisory Council, Melbourne, 13 April 2013,

[lv] Gelb and Ritchie, “Comparing sentencing outcomes”, p.2.

[lvi] George Georgatos, “Climate of death – justice denied means more will die”, Indymedia, 29 September 2012,

[lvii] Lyneham and Chan, “Deaths in custody in Australia”.

[lviii] Mark Baker, “Hollow promises: an enduring tragedy”, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 May 2013.

[lix] Chris Cunneen, “Punishment: Two decades of penal expansionism and its effect on indigenous imprisonments”, Australian Indigenous Law Review, 15, 2011, p.11.

[lx] Don Weatherburn, Lucy Snowball and Boyd Hunter, “The economic and social factors underpinning Indigenous contact with the justice system: Results from the 2002 NATSISS survey”, Crime and Justice Bulletin, 104, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, October 2006, p.11.

[lxi] National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008,

[lxii] Gelb and Ritchie, “Comparing sentencing outcomes”, p.vii.

[lxiii] Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, Seven Stories Press, New York, 1997, p.24.

[lxiv] Barry Sheppard, “For the US government, all resistance is ‘terrorism’”, Socialist Alternative, 10 May 2013, &view =item&id=7742:for-the-us-government-all-resistance-is-‘terrorism’&Itemid=388.

[lxv] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.176.

[lxvi] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.185.

[lxvii] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.187.

[lxviii] Herald Sun, 28 March 1992, quoted in McCulloch, Blue Army, p.188.

[lxix] McCulloch, Blue Army, p.196.

[lxx] David Baker, Batons and blockades: Policing industrial disputes in Australasia, Circa, Melbourne, 2005, p.154.

[lxxi] Zoe Hutchinson and Holly Creenaune, “A Stifling Climate: Targeting social movements and policing protests”, Dissent, 32, Summer 2009/2010,

[lxxii] Thomas Chamberlin, “CBD to become Fortress Brisbane for G20 lockdown, but ring of steel to be as ‘low-key’ as possible”, Courier-Mail, 19 January 2013.

[lxxiii] “Police anti-terrorism stop and searches to cease”, BBC News UK, 22 March 2012.

[lxxiv] David Vakalis and Jude McCulloch, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Militarised policing and Occupy Melbourne”, Overland online (Occupy Issue), October 2011,

[lxxv] Robert Doyle, “Selfish rabble got what it deserved”, Herald Sun, 23 October 2011.

[lxxvi] Baker, Batons and Blockades, p.30.

[lxxvii] See Mick Armstrong, Dealing with Scabs in the Shearers Strike. Burning the Rodney,

[lxxviii] Workers Solidarity Network, “Police arrest picketing Visy workers”, 14 December 2010,

[lxxix] NUW Media, “Police ordered to bust through peaceful picket line at Baiada”, 13 November 2011,

[lxxx] “Police deny excessive force at uni protest”, ABC News, 14 May 2013.

[lxxxi] Baker, Batons and Blockades, p.163.

[lxxxii] Baker, Batons and Blockades, p.185.

[lxxxiii] Jerome Small, “Baillieu, Grollo and the establishment intent on smashing the CFMEU”, Socialist Alternative, 4 September 2013, index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=7478:baillieu-grollo-and-the-establishment-intent-on-smashing-the-cfmeu&Itemid=392.

[lxxxiv] Ben Schneiders, “Grocon police ‘overkill’”, The Age, 6 February 2013.

[lxxxv] David Peetz, “Gillard’s other ABCC dilemma: making it work”, Crikey, 15 June 2009,

[lxxxvi] Michael McKenna, “Industrial activist Bob Carnegie facing 50 charges”, The Australian, 11 February 2013.

[lxxxvii] Ben Schneiders, “West Gate row unions hit hard”, The Age, 29 July 2010.

[lxxxviii] John Lloyd, “Union thuggery part of a more damaging malaise”, Australian, 8 September 2011.

[lxxxix] “O’Farrell unveils industrial relations shake-up”, ABC News, 23 February 2012.

[xc] Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, “$30,000 fine for teenager’s workplace death sends no message on safety”, AMWU News, 17 August 2012,$30000-fine-for-teenager%E2%80%99s-workplace-death-sends-no-message-on-safety/.

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