A special update from the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre
Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc.

An end to racial profiling in sight!

"It’s not about one police officer, it’s about changing a whole system’’
-          Daniel Haile-Michael, 18 February 2013

The first and most hopeful challenge to the practice of racial profiling by police we have seen in Australia was settled on Monday 18th February  with a landmark agreement for Victoria police to publicly review its training and ‘field contact’ practises. 

The six young African-Australian men who brought this case all the way to the Federal Court alleged that that were stopped, harassed and racially abused by several individual police officers between 2005 and 2009. The legal argument was that these incidents were part of a pattern of racial profiling  that contravened the Racial Discrimination Act. 

On the eve of an eight-week trial during which Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay was expected to be amoungst the first to give evidence, the case was settled.
Tamar Hopkins and this community legal centre, had been working up to this case for over seven years with the backing of Peter Seidel from Arnold Bloch Leibler, Emrys Nekvapil, Phoebe Knowles and eminent QC Jeremy Rapke who all fought brilliantly for every letter of the agreement.
It represents one of many such civil litigation cases brought by this legal centre as part of its Police Accountability Project, which has been using public interest litigation strategically in the absence of otherwise effective, independent police accountability mechanisms in Victoria.
The Agreement

The outcome has been  described as an 'historic accord' and received widespread media coverage across Australia and internationally.

This agreement has several important aspects; it has allowed the young men to tell their stories in public; it provided internal documents discovered during the long lead up to the case and crucial research commissioned specifically for the applicants to be publicly released; and it outlined how Victoria Police will conduct an public inquiry into how it conducts stops and searches and its ‘cross-cultural training’ program. (More info here)

What we say needs to happen
Racial profiling must be specifically trained against – otherwise implicit racial stereotyping will occur. Policy must reflect the fact that racial profiling of any type is unlawful and contravenes basic human rights.  Practise must ensure that any racial profiling be identified through statistical collection and a stop and search receipting system such as was implemented in the UK.  Victoria Police would be required to collect demographic data, develop procedures to respond when racial bias appears, and develop policies to discipline officers who engage in the practice.

Finally, to clearly end the practise, the stage is set for Victoria to take the lead and introduce specific anti racial profiling legislation. Legislation would also create an enforcement mechanism to ensure that police anti-profiling policies are being followed and victims of profiling are able to seek redress.   Unless racial profiling by law enforcement agencies is specifically made unlawful, as it is in other countries, incidents such as those that prompted the Haile-Michael case will occur again and again.

We owe it to the courage and tenacity of the six young men involved in this case that put an end to racial profiling once and for all.   No-one should be stopped simply because they are black.


Thanks for all of your messages of support and congratulations over the past weeks! 

There are simply too many people who have helped and supported this action over so many years to acknowledge here. Suffice to say this would not have been possible without the strong pro-bono partnership between Peter Seidel of Arnold Bloch Liebler and this centre.  To all the incredible staff here at Flem-Ken, including our amazing Youth Engagement Officer, Chantelle Higgs, to all of the volunteers who worked on this case over the years, Imara Advocacy and all the funders who foresaw how important this case would be and to the hundreds of people who donated generously to our Appeal, we say thank you!

Anthony Kelly
Executive Officer

Tamar Hopkins
Principal Solicitor

Race Discrimination Appeal
The applicants in this case, Magnus Kaba, (pictured left), Daniel Haile-Michael (right), Jibril God, Shuab Ali, Maki Issa, and Hakim Hassan deserved to be acknowledged as true champions of justice. They have stood up to what they and their community maintain has been years of ongoing and systemic racial discrimination meted out by Victoria Police.
Media highlights

Police agree to new procedures to combat racism ABC News Feb 18,  2013

Police to review racial profiling in wake of African assault case The Australian Feb 18, 2013

Victoria Police settles racial profiling case ABC Radio PM Feb 18, 2013

No one should be stopped simply because they are black The Age Peter Seidel & Tamar Hopkins Feb 19, 2013

Police likelier to stop Africans The Age Feb 19, 2013

One the thin line between law and prejudice Editorial The Age Feb 20, 2013

Changing a Whole System': Racialised Policing in Melbourne Michael Green Wheeler Centre Feb 20, 2013

Flemington residents say enough is enough. Moonee Valley Weekly Feb 26, 2013

Vic Police vow to weed out racism SBS TV news Feb 28 2013

The Victoria Police Reviews

In the second half of 2013, the Victorian public will be able to take part in a Victoria Police enquiry that will examine policy on ‘field contact’ person checks and its cross-cultural training system. Police will publish a report of that examination and announce what actions it will undertake by the end of the year.
These reviews provides an opportunity for police to finally admit that racial bias can and does occur in policing and implement clear unequivocal training, policy and practice reforms to prevent it occurring in the future.   The Chief Commissioner Ken Lay can use these enquiries to institute ‘root and branch’ change, based upon best international experience and practice and vastly improve the way police work with new and culturally diverse communities.

In order that these reviews be as effective as possible we request that the terms of reference for each be as transparent, broad and accessible as possible. 

In particular we would expect these inquiries:

  • are conducted with as much independence and external input as possible;
  • will have terms of reference which are wide enough in scope to encompass the breadth of the issues concerning racial bias within police field contacts and the ability to look at all possible solutions;
  • specifically include examination of the indigenous experiences with field contacts, stop and search procedures and training relating to policing of indigenous people; 
  • seek out and examine international research, experience and best practices from overseas police forces responding to similar issues;
  • have  time periods for public submissions that is adequate to allow community input, giving adequate time to inform communities and for public submissions to be made;
  • accept submissions in multiple formats to allow diverse community input.
We will keep you up to date with these reviews as we find out more.
Community Forum
After the Race Discrimination Settlement and what it means for all of us and an update on the Michael Atakelt Coronial Inquest.
1.00pm Saturday 16 March
North Melbourne Community Centre

49 Buncle Street, North Melbourne
More info.

Meliss Chung and Chantelle Higgs at eth Federal Court
Support our work to end racial profiling
Our Race Discrimination Appeal is continuing to raise vital campaign funds in the lead-up to these Victoria Police reviews. 
We aim to ensure community voices are heard and that international best practice is listened to.
Donate here.

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FKCLC acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which we work and is committed to fostering a culture of recognition, respect and justice for indigenous people.