Skip navigation

PAST CASE: Defending the voting rights of people in prisons in SA

Every election, Justice Action publishes an impartial guide to voting for people in Australia’s prisons. But when the South Australian government tried to block it they got more than they bargained for.

Status: faced with a legal challenge, the South Australian Department of Correctional Services backed down!

Just Us includes the only independent election information distributed in prisons. It is produced by prisoners’ advocacy organisation, Justice Action, and contains contributions from most major political parties as well as information on prisoners’ right to vote. Thousands of prisoners rely on it. 

In the run up to the 2022 federal election, Justice Action wrote and printed 40,000 copies of Just Us for distribution in prisons. 

Justice Action relies on correctional services to provide the publication to prisoners. Every state and territory in Australia agreed to do so - except the South Australian Department of Correctional Services.

With just over a week to go before the election, Justice Action took the South Australian government to court. The Grata community stepped in, agreeing to protect Justice Action from having to pay the government’s costs if they lost.

Swift action

Thankfully that didn’t happen - because once it realised that Justice Action was serious about legal action, the SA Department of Correctional Services backed down. 3,200 copies of Just Us were printed and handed out in SA prisons. Even better, the South Australian government has agreed to work with Justice Action ahead of future elections.

This fight was really important because there have been repeated attempts to prevent people in Australia’s prisons from voting. In 2007, Aunty Vickie Roach, a Yuin woman serving time in Victoria, took the Commonwealth government to court to demand the right to vote. Thanks to her fight, anyone serving less than three years in jail can vote in federal and state elections.