Dennis’ Story

While Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) has been eliminated from most Australian cities, the rates of RHD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are equivalent to developing nations. Comorbidities of chronic health and mental health conditions are common amongst our First Nation clients.

Dennis has acute RHD, as well as a 20-year history of multiple admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Increased support from a medium secure health facility has helped Dennis remain stable for several years, despite significant Sorry Business happening in that time with the loss of both his parents. Dennis was unable to attend either funeral as he was detained in hospital away from his hometown. He has demonstrated considerable will power to recently overcome drug addictions that started as a teenager.

LawRight has supported Dennis through several hearings. We helped his treating team convince the Tribunal that Dennis no longer needed an inpatient Forensic Order, despite the intensive support he relies on for his physical and mental health. The crux of our argument rested on section 28 of the Human Rights Act 2019. We argued that continuing to be held as an inpatient in a large city away from his country and community was an unreasonable restriction of Dennis’s right as an Aboriginal man to maintain his identity, cultural heritage, and kinship ties. The change to community category means that Dennis can move back to his hometown to spend time with his family on Country, which is increasingly important as his life expectancy is now measured in months.

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