Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in Australia: The Role of Social Work in Addressing Torture

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses – 2014 Archive

This page is no longer updated. Page archived on Thu, 14 Jul 2016

Aloysia Brooks

DSW thesis, conferred 2014

This thesis examines the main issues of concern raised by human rights and other relevant international and national bodies in relation to incidences of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the Australian context and the role of social work in responding to torture. The research primarily explores concerns relating to conditions of detention, and in some cases, the treatment of involuntarily detained persons, including prisoners, asylum seekers, trafficking victims and those held in specific medical facilities such as forensic psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes. Some of the key human rights issues raised include suspicious deaths in custody, conditions of confinement, the means of restraint (both chemical and physical), strip-searching, isolation, the use of Tasers, increased powers of detention for intelligence organisations and physical assault. In addition, incidences of Non-State Actor Torture (NSAT) that occur in the Australian context are examined, and the responsibility States have in addressing and preventing torture that occurs in the domestic sphere is explored. Given the prevalence of these issues in the Australian context, the research consequently examines the extent of social work engagement and the role of social work in responding to torture in light of the ethical and human rights commitments of the social work profession. Finally, the thesis presents a suggested model to address torture and the underlying causes, which includes political activism, advocacy and consciousness raising activities. This includes a recommendation that a national organisation be established that documents instances of torture, independently investigates allegations of torture and can advocate for broader policy and institutional change.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ruth Phillips