In December 2017, the Australian Government ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), a United Nations Treaty that aims to prevent torture and ill-treatment in all places where people are, or may be, deprived of their liberty. While many oversight and accountability mechanisms for places of detention are reactive, what makes OPCAT unique is the objective to prevent the harm before it occurs. This is achieved by establishing a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and domestic bodies to places of detention. At the international level, Australia is required to permit and facilitate visits by an independent body – the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) – to all places of detention. At the domestic level, these preventive visits are to be carried out by a number of bodies collectively known as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). Mitigating the risks of harm to detained people is essential from a human rights perspective, and the prohibition against torture is absolute. But preventing ill-treatment is also closely connected to the objective of reducing recidivism rates. Incarcerated people generally have poorer physical and mental health than others in the community, and many have histories of trauma. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment can have long-lasting, and even lifelong impacts. Minimising the harm to incarcerated people is crucial to avoiding exacerbating those physical and mental health issues, and avoiding undermining simultaneous efforts to strengthen and develop protective factors.
Andreea completed her Churchill Fellowship on culturally appropriate implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and is currently undertaking a PhD in the same area. She is the ACT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Coordination Director, and has previously volunteered as a humanitarian observer with the Australian Red Cross Immigration Detention Monitoring Program (visiting facilities in Australia, PNG and Nauru). She has previously worked as Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, as a criminal defence lawyer at Victoria Legal Aid, and as a lawyer and coordinator of the community legal education team at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.