justiceINjustice: A collaboration between artists and lawyers

Friday, 23 March 2018


justiceINjustice is a unique collaborative exhibition featuring seven contemporary Australian artists and three lawyers, including two law academics who are integral to the University of Newcastle Legal Centre.

Through the project lawyers and artists join forces to explore several high profile criminal cases that underline issues of injustice and marginalisation including miscarriages of justice, official corruption, wrongful detention, investigative failures and mistreatment of those on the margins.

justiceINjustice will include the commissioning of six new works developed through a unique process of research and collaborative conversation between the artists and lawyers who have been directly involved with the particular case each artist is addressing. Case material, information about the inner workings of each case, the lawyers’ perspectives, and conversations with family members, have enabled the artists to produce deeply informed works that give audiences new ways of considering cases well known through the media.

Blak Douglas A Dog’s Breakfast 2018.

Cases include the high profile public interest cases of Cornelia Rau, Roni Levi, Azaria Chamberlain, Eddie Russell, Kathleen Folbigg, Leanne Goodall, Robyn Hickie and Amanda Robinson. Cases have been included with the knowledge or permission of clients and/ or their family members wherever possible.

This significant project has been developed with lawyers Karen Wells, Ray Watterson and Robert Cavanagh. Cavanagh and Watterson are part of the co-founding team of the internationally-acclaimed University of Newcastle Legal Centre, and are highly regarded for their public interest advocacy work. Wells developed her approach to the practice of law through working on public interest cases whilst a student at the University’s Legal Centre.

On seeing Blak Douglas’ work A Dog’s Breakfast Ray Watterson wrote; “From a ‘collaborators’ point of view it was a moment I will never forget when Adam (Blak) revealed his stunning piece and I realised for the first time that what he brought to life on canvas started from a seed we sowed…This exhibition will let audiences see more about injustice. I hope the exhibition will also provoke more lawyers to do more about injustice.”

“This remarkable project aligns with The Lock-Up’s commitment to produce and present projects that connect deeply with the community and to use contemporary art practices and associated programming to explore issues of social justice, history and current politics, in ways that may challenge and distrupt audiences,” The Lock­Up’s Director Jessi England said of the project.

Curated by artist and criminologist Carolyn McKay (University of Sydney Law School) in collaboration with The Lock­Up, the exhibition features artists Corinne Brittain, Rob Cleworth, Blak Douglas, John A Douglas, Leah Emery, Lezlie Tilley and Richard Lewer. Project Creative Producer, Jessi England.

In conjunction with the exhibition a number of associated events and public programs have been developed as part of the project including; Art & Law Putting Justice in Practice Symposium in partnership with the University of Newcastle Law School panel in partnership with Newcastle, Songs for Justice and evening of music featuring musician Tonch McIntosh and Grace Turner, and a justiceINjustice panel presented in partnership with the Newcastle Writers Festival.

Details of artists and cases

Corinne Brittain installation STRANDED (I have done nothing wrong) critiques systemic failures in the treatment of Cornelia Rau 2004­05. Ms Rau was a permanent Australia resident who, while unwell, was wrongfully detained in prison and then at the Baxter Detention Centre. It is reported that her recurring mantra was I have done nothing wrong. Corinne Brittain’s work, developed in consultation with the Rau family, reflects on the frustrating ‘red tape’ and ‘buck passing’ that characterised this disastrous incident.

Rob Cleworth is responding to the death of photographer, Roni Levi on Bondi Beach in 1997. Mr Levi was suffering from mental illness at the time he was shot and killed by two police officers, who were later investigated by a Police Integrity Commission regarding whether they were affected by drugs. Rob Cleworth has had considerable consultation with Mr Levy’s widow Melinda Dundas, and is creating a body of work Tahara, that includes paintings and photographs.

Blak Douglas’ painting entitled A Dog’s Breakfast examines the expert evidence of the Aboriginal trackers who were involved in the original searches for baby Azaria following her disappearance at Uluru in 1980. At that time, the trackers found fresh dingo prints at the Chamberlain’s campsite. However, too little attention was paid to their evidence until the 2012 Fourth Inquest into the death of baby Azaria, which found that she had been taken by a dingo. Blak Douglas addresses the non-­recognition and marginalisation of Aboriginal knowledge in his work.

John A Douglas’ work No System to Fail uses video projection, audio and installation elements to reflect on the death of Edward (Eddie) Russell in custody. Eddie, a young Aboriginal man who suffered from intellectual and physical impairments, was convicted of several offences and ultimately incarcerated in Long Bay Gaol. His suicide in 1999, while alone in a single cell, casts doubt on how correctional authorities had implemented the advice of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. No System to Fail examines the failures of the criminal justice ‘system’ to care for vulnerable people in custody and has been informed by conversations with the Russell family.

Leah Emery is creating an installation entitled Vigil. This work responds to the cases of Leanne Goodall, Robyn Hickie and Amanda Robinson, three young women who disappeared from the Newcastle area during 1978-79, and the frustrations felt by their family members regarding police inquiries at the time. Twenty years after the young women went missing, Strike Force Fenwick was formed to investigate the original flawed investigations in the cases of Hickie and Robinson, and the absence of any investigation at all in the case of Goodall. It found that leads and evidence were not followed up, and a 2001 inquest at Toronto Local Court found that the three had been abducted and killed by people unknown. The disappearances remain unsolved with the parents left holding vigil.

Richard Lewer’s Never Shall be Forgotten – A Mother’s Story is a hand-­drawn animation that reflects on the 1983 death of 16-year-old, John Pat in Roebourne, WA. Pat was gravely injured during a fight with off­duty police officers, arrested and taken to a police lock-­up where he died of his injuries. The police officers were later acquitted of his manslaughter. While this death of a juvenile in custody was the catalyst for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1987­91, Richard Lewer’s animation tells the story of John Pat from the perspective of his mother, Mavis. Created in 2017 this powerful pre-­existing work has work been included due to its strong links with the premise of the exhibition.

Lezlie Tilley’s two works, The Kathleen Folbigg Diaries and Memories begun 8th January 1993, respond to the case of Kathleen Folbigg who, in 2003, was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in relation to the deaths of her four babies. The convictions were secured on the basis of forensic evidence and circumstantial evidence that included extracts from Folbigg’s personal diaries. In Lezlie Tilley’s audio and video works, she draws text from Folbigg’s diaries and writings to present another context: a human perspective of a woman who has been thoroughly condemned and vilified by society. Folbigg is currently serving a 30-year sentence and has given permission for the work to be produced.

Associated Events

Panel in partnership with Newcastle Writers Festival: 3pm–4pm Saturday 7 April

justiceINjustice: A panel discussing creative responses to marginalisation and injustice within the criminal justice system and a unique collaboration between artists and lawyers at The Lock­Up. Presented in partnership with Newcastle Writers Festival during the Festival. Facilitate by Carolyn McKay (curator and criminologist) and featuring panellists Rob Cleworth (artist), Karen Wells (lawyer) and Melinda Dundas (writer and widow of Roni Levi).

Songs for Justice: 7pm Sunday 6 May

Featuring songwriters and musicians Tonchi McIntosh and Grace Turner and including ballads written by Ray Watterson, this intimate evening will tell stories of injustice through song and pay tribute to those who have endured.

Art & Law: Putting Justice into Practice Symposium: 10am – 6pm Friday 18 May

Bringing together artists, writers, lawyers, academics, students and those working and interested in areas of social justice, this one day symposium will be presented in conjunction with justiceINjustice and is being developed in partnership with the University of Newcastle Law School & Legal Centre.

justiceINjustice: A collaboration between artists and lawyers will run from 24 March – 20 May.  The official opening will be 6pm – 8pm Friday 23 March.

Save for a powerful few, save for a few in authority, those seeking justice all too often find injustice. Justice for those on the margins, those who are poor, with a disability or in a minority, is all too often elusive.