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Truth-telling and the limits of legal systems

Presenter Charles Darwin University Art Gallery
Contact person
Eileen Lim
T: 0889466621 E:
Location CDU Art Gallery, Building Orange 12, ground floor, Casuarina campus

The 2016-17 Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Young People in the Northern Territory promised to be a watershed moment for truth-telling in relation to the youth detention system and affiliated carceral regimes. There was hope that the systems and individuals responsible for torture inflicted on young people in detention – including the use of spit hoods, tear gas, physical attacks, mechanical restraint chairs and indefinite segregation – would be held to account. This presentation examines how the Royal Commission processes and adversarial stance of the Northern Territory Government limited the scope of truth-telling and precluded justice. The evidence of Aboriginal witnesses that pointed to the need for self-determination of Aboriginal families and communities, and decarceration of Aboriginal children, was overshadowed with a set of narrow recommendations and even more constrained government responses. This presentation argues that truth-telling requires spaces in which Aboriginal people design the process and oversee the implementation of recommendations. 

Thalia Anthony is a Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney; who lives and works on the stolen land of the Gadigal people. Her research focuses on the colonial legacy and systemic racism in legal and penal institutions, with a focus
on the Northern Territory. Her books 'Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment' and 'Decolonising Criminology' highlight the harms that flow from state punishment on Aboriginal people. She works with Deadly Connections and Aboriginal Legal Services to further self-determination. Thalia recently campaigned against the draconian bail laws that disproportionately incarcerate Aboriginal kids in the Northern Territory.

Followed by an Artists’ talk: I See Red by Lee Harrop 

'I See Red' was commissioned by the City of Perth, Western Australia as a public artwork in 2015. However, it was decommissioned after permission to install the work was denied by the sitting judges of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. In the process of examining what ultimately led to the decommission, much was revealed about the power of art and how it can be used in the process of truth-telling.

Lee Harrop is a PhD candidate at Charles Darwin University undertaking practice-led research. Harrop’s artwork is word-focused and context-specific. Her recent artworks offer a representation of mining that can be considered alongside the wider global discourse surrounding mining and its environmental impact. 

Dr Nicolas Bullot will facilitate a Q&A. Dr Bullot is a research-active lecturer and postgraduate supervisor in philosophy at the College of Indigenous Futures, Education, and Arts, CDU. His research engages with the fields of social philosophy, cognitive science, and the theory of art and culture. He has edited three volumes and published more than 30 peer-reviewed publications.

Thalia Antony
Professor Thalia Antony
Here Lies The Truth
Lee Harrop’s impression of 'I see red', red neon (acrylic and electrics), Old Court House Law Museum, Perth, Western Australia. Image copyright and courtesy of Lee Harrop.