Thursday, August 30, 2012

Last ditch letter to the office of the Ombudsman

Stephen Nowicki
Senior Investigation Officer
Melbourne Office
Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office
GPO Box 442
ACT 2601 31st August 2012

Dear Stephen

You can bring the dispute between myself and Screen Australia to an end today if you wish. Here’s how.

1. Call Ruth Harley and request that she provide you with the evidence Screen Australia intends to produce in the Supreme Court next Wednesday in support of its proposition that I have, in my correspondence, intimidated, harassed and placed at risk, members of Screen Australia’s staff. Given that the court case is only five days away Ruth (and/or Screen Australia’s legal department) will have copies of the evidence on hand so any declaration from her that she needs time etc would be disingenuous.

2. You look at the correspondence and form an opinion as to whether or not what you have read is justification for Screen Australia’s ban on me. If you believe that I have intimidated, harassed and place at risk members of Screen Australia staff with my letters, come out and say so in language appropriate to your role in the office of the Ombudsman. I can then chose, before 4 pm today, to either drop my case in the Supreme Court or proceed with it. Conversely, if you do not believe that there is evidence in my correspondence to warrant my being banned, come out and say this also. In this scenario it would be Screen Australia that then had to decide whether it wanted to proceed to the Supreme Court next Wed. and hope that the Court forms a different opinion vis a vis the correspondence than the one you have arrived at.

Whilst of no concern to your office, in order for Screen Australia to avoid appearing in court next Wednesday it would be necessary for Ruth Harley to acknowledge that there is no intimidating correspondence from me, no correspondence that any ‘reasonable person’ would interpret as Ruth has chosen to in her banning of me. An apology from Ruth and the Screen Australia Board will be graciously accepted by myself.

In pursuing some version of what I am suggesting here you would be saving a lot of time, energy and money on the part of several interested parties. And, you would be saving the Supreme Court from having to deal with a matter that should have been dealt with long before now by your office anyway. You will protest at this, of course, so let me quote the bulk of my letter to Elisa Harris from your office dated 5th Jan 2011. Some familiar themes emerge in it:

5th Jan 2010

You wrote, on 13th Dec: “It is not the role of the Ombudsman to...adjudicate disputed versions of events between agency officers and complainants.” Fair enough, but surely an important part of the Ombudsman’s role is to at least find out if there is a dispute about a version of an event! From the tone of your letter (“Clearly Ms Cameron has reviewed...”) it seems that you may not have even asked her whether my version of events is true or if she has another version to offer.

What has led you to believe that Ms Cameron has ‘clearly’ reviewed what occurred at the 25th. August meeting? Is this because she told you she had reviewed it? It seems, from your letter, that you spoke with her. If so, what was the result of her review? Did you ask her? Did she dispute my version of what was said in the meeting? Or, if Ms Cameron did not tell you that she had reviewed what was said in the meeting, how can you be clear that she did, in fact, review it?

Please, Elisa, ask Fiona Cameron what her understanding is of what was said in the meeting? Ask if my version is the same as her own. Ask what her version is. If you are not going to ask this central, critical, question, and insist upon an answer, I have clearly wasted my time making a complaint to the Ombudsman’s office in the first place. Fiona Cameron and the others who have refused to answer this one question must be delighted that they have been able to snow you with spin. Did you ask Ross Mathews and Julia Overton if my version of what was said is true or not? If not, please do.

Why is it important that this question be asked and answered? In a nutshell, if it goes unanswered a version of what has taken place goes on file that is untrue. I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about being lied to and about having lies placed on file – even if they are, in the grand scheme of things, trivial. Let me amplify. When I started to make a complaint last year and withdrew it, a significant part of my complaint would have been that Fiona Cameron had, in another matter, played fast and loose with the truth. She wrote to me statements, copied to others, that were not only untrue but that were demonstrably untrue – as would have been apparent to anyone who bothered to look at the facts. When I suggested to Fiona that she rely on the facts and not on spin she wrote to me to tell me that she would not communicate with my any further.

In her letter of 12th. November Fiona again plays fast and loose with the truth. Her letter is an exercize in spin. Life being too short to point out to her, in detail, just how factually incorrect her letter was I wrote to her to address only one of her many inaccuracies. And what do I get back from Fiona in response? An email to let me know that she would not communicate with me any further.

Fiona’s modus operandi (and she is not alone in government bureaucracies) is (1) Ignore emails/letters for as long as possible, (2) Write a response that (a) does not answer questions, (b) is not based on the facts (c) is demonstrably untrue and (3) When (a), (b) and (c) are pointed out to her she writes that she will communicate no more on the matter. The end result for the complainant is that a version of events goes on file that is totally untrue and the bureaucrat, having been neither transparent or accountable (indeed, having lied) has reinforced the notion that it is possible to act with impunity in whatever way they wish without being called to account.

In any dispute there are bound to be both facts and assertions. All assertions by the complainant or the person about whom a complaint is being made should be taken by the Ombudsman with a grain of salt. You have not done so in this instance. You have presumed that there is another version of what was said in the meeting of 25th.August without even asking what it is or enquiring as to whether or not it is true. If Ross Mathews, Julia Overton and Liz Crosby all say that my version of what was said is untrue, if all three provide you with a different version, you are confronted with two different sets of assertions and cannot, of course, pick between them. Someone is lying but how can you know who? However, if Ross, Julia and Liz all agree that I was told in the 25th.August meeting that my CHANTI’S WORLD application was ‘appropriate’ then this becomes a fact; a fact that leads to the not unreasonable question: “How could Julia Overton refer to it as ‘inappropriate’?

On the question of ‘facts’ I have attached my 25th.Nov. 2010 letter to Fiona (a copy of which was sent to your office) in which I ask Fiona to present me with evidence for assertions she has made in her 12th.Nov. letter. She doesn’t deal with the facts, however, but in an email to me presents more spin and then, in a subsequent email, declares that she will communicate with me not further.

Please, Elisa, ask Fiona, Ross and Julia the question. Deal with the facts. Beware of spin. Work on the presumption that just as I may be lying about what was said in the meeting, so too might Ross, Julia and Fiona. I think that you will find, however, if you ask them right upfront, that they will agree with my version – though they may try to couch their agreement in a cloud of obfuscating detail such as Fiona presented in her 12th. Nov. letter.

If Elisa Harris had asked the right questions in late 2010 and early 2010 this dispute would have been nipped in the bud by the end of Jan 2011. The office of the Ombudsman would have been in possession of the correspondence from me that either confirmed or did not that I came away from the meeting of 25th Oct believing ‘Chanti’s World’ had been greenlit. (I was only provided with cpies of this correspondence yesterday.) If the evidence suggested that Fiona Cameron was right, end of story. If the evidence suggested that Fiona Cameron was wrong, Elisa could then have asked Fiona why she had not dealt with the substance of my complaint:

Did you ask Ross Mathews, Julia Overton, Claire Jager and Liz Crosby if Mr Ricketson was correct in claiming that both Claire and Ross admitted to not having viewed his ‘promo’?”

You could ask this question today, Stephen. Call Ross Mathews, Claire Jager and Liz Crosby At Screen Australia (Julia Overton no loner works there). Put the question to them, as I have done countless times. I think you will find that all three will say, “James is right.” I would also be curious know, at this late date, if you can find anything in the letters sent to me yesterday by Nick Coyle that suggests or implies that I came away from the meeting on Oct 2010 believing that ‘Chanti’s World’ had been ‘greenlit’?

If it is not possible for your office to make a decision vis a vis my banning today, I trust that you will be able to do so before next Wednesday. You would be saving the time and energy of a lot of people if you were to pursue the two step plan mentioned above – most particularly the Supreme Court which will, otherwise, have to deal with a dispute that will, I suspect, make the presiding judge shake his or her head in wonder and ask (and not rhetorically!) why s/he is having to hear this case!

best wishes

James Ricketson

After 20 months of asking for correspondence...

It has taken since around 20 months of asking for Screen Australia to finally provide me with copies of correspondence from myself in which, Fiona Cameron wrote in Nov 2010: 

"Unfortunately it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that
meeting with an understanding that your applications for further funding for Chanti’s
World had been effectively green lit."

It would be boring beyond belief to read through these letters (see below) and I include them here only in the interests of transparency. I have claimed for close to 2 years that I wrote no letters in which I made it clear that I believed 'Chanti's World' had been 'greenlit'. There's a $100 reward (I'm serious) for any 'reasonable person' who can mount a halfway decent case that my letters and emails back up Fiona's assertion. I'll return to this in a moment but first, the latest news on my attempt, through FOI, to be provided with evidence of intimidating correspondence from me. Yesterday, Nick Coyle, Screen Australia's FOI officer, wrote to me:

"I would first like to address your letter of 20 August 2012, in which you request three examples
from correspondence already provided to you in response to an earlier request for documents
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) with relevant sentences, phrases or
words highlighted (to indicate where you have intimidated or placed Screen Australia staff at
risk). It is our view that this request goes beyond the scope of the FOI Act, and is not a valid
FOI request."

'Our view'! Mmmm...I wonder who 'our' refers to?

So, Ruth Harley is able to secure permission from the Screen Australia Board to ban me on the basis of correspondence in which I have intimidated and placed at risk members of her staff without revealing to either the Board or myself which correspondence she is referring to. When I ask Harley to provide me with copies of the correspondence (the evidence) she refuses to answer my question because, true to her word, she is not going to communicate with me about the decision she has made and had ratified by the Board. I ask for copies of the correspondence through FOI and am sent copies of pretty well every letter and email I have sent to Screen Australia this past three years. I read through the lot and can find not one sentence that even comes close to a dictionary definition of 'intimidation'. (INTIMIDATE: To discourage from acting by threats of violence...Overawe with fear to influence conduct.)

I make another FOI application, seeking specific examples of my having intimidated and placed at risk Screen Australia staff, only to be told that this "is not a valid FOI request." I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. I feel like a character in a Kafka novel - accused, tried and convicted of a crime on the basis of evidence that I am not allowed to be privy to. And I am unable to appeal the decision of the prosecutor and judge (Ruth Harley) because (a) I don't know what crime I've committed and (b) Harley refuses to provide me with evidence of my crime, which she can do with impunity, because she has announced that she will not communicate with me further on this matter. This is the woman who runs our peak film funding body! And we have a Board that allows Harley to behave in this manner!

The Kafkaesque nature of this drama looks set to become more....Kafkaesque, Alice in Wonderland, Monty Pythion...when Screen Australia's lawyers (or so it seems at this juncture) seek to use the Supreme Court next Wednesday to prevent me from publishing my 'intimidating correspondence' online when I acquire it through discovery. It is hard to imagine that the Court would go along with such a ploy but stranger things have happened in the Supreme Court!

Getting back to the correspondence I am supposed to have written in which I made it clear that I believed my 'Chanti's World' development application had been 'greenlit'.  In Nick Coyle's own words:

"Scope of Request


From your letter of 9 August 2012, you have requested correspondence referred to by
Fiona Cameron in her letter to you of 10 November 2010. Specifically, you are seeking
the correspondence referred to in the following paragraph:

'Unfortunately it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that
meeting with an understanding that your applications for further funding for Chanti’s
World had been effectively green lit. This is not the case. Nor could it be.'



My decision in this matter is to release the documents that relate to your request referred
to in 2 above."

I have never received one cent in funding from Screen Australia (or the AFC) for 'Chanti's World' so the word 'further' is misleading but this is a small point.

I would love to hear from anyone, any 'reasonable person' who can find in y correspondence evidence that I came away from a meeting with Ross Mathews and Julia Overton believing that 'Chanti's World' had been 'greenlit'. Only a masochist or someone without a life would bother - unless the idea of the $100 reward appeals.

These letters are, however, important in one respects. Fiona Cameron's refusal, over 20 months, to provide me with copies of them or to identify them, marks the beginning of my dispute proper with Screen Australia. My refusal to accept that Fiona could dismiss a legitimate complaint from me with her factually incorrect 'greenlit' comment has led to a lot of letters. These letters (the tone of which is on display below) have driven Screen Australia crazy ("Who does James think he is demanding of us that we be accountable and transparent!") and led ultimately to Ruth Harley's decision to ban me. The only way she could do so (and even this required that the Screen Australia Board changed its terms of trade) was to accuse me of placing her staff at risk through writing intimidating correspondence. And now the only way she can avoid identifying the supposedly intimidating correspondence is to use the Supreme Court to suppress it and hope that my defamation case is not heard whilst she is Chief Executive. If she is not successful in this and it becomes apparent that she has mislead the Screen Australia Board in asserting that I have written intimidating correspondence I could well be $1 richer, Ruth Harley's  judgement in question and her credibility in tatters.

Ross Mathews
Screen Australia
Level 4,150 Wiliam St.
NSW 2011

Dear Ross

15th. Oct.2010


As you will recall, it was agreed at the end of our meeting on 25th. August (yourself, Julia Overton
and myself) that the best way forward with my two Cambodian documentaries was for me to apply
to Screen Australia for development money for CHANTI’S WORLD and to the Special
Documentary Program with TRANSPARENCY. There was no suggestion at all in this meeting that
my having been filming CHANTI’S WORLD for 15 years rendered my request for development
funds inappropriate. Nor was it ever put to me by anyone from Screen Australia over the following 7
weeks that 15 years of self-funding rendered my development request inappropriate. Only two days
ago, close to two months after our meeting, did Julia see fit to let me know that my request was
inappropriate. I have asked Julia in what way my request for development funds was inappropriate
but have, this past 48 hours, received no response. I would have thought that my commitment to this
project (in terms of both time and money) would be applauded and not render my application
invalid! Could you please explain to me what Screen Australia’s logic is here?

The reason why you and Julia and I met in the first place was that I had complained to you about
Julia’s refusal to respond in any way to 10 letters I had sent to her between May and August this
year. Amongst other things these letters touched on reasons why Screen Australia might see fit not
to invest in either CHANTI’S WORLD or TRANSPARENCY. I need not reiterate here the content
of these 10 letters.

Preferring to move forward rather than to be mired in a pointless conflict with Julia about her refusal
to respond to my letters I accepted in good faith the suggestion you made vis a vis applying to Screen
Australia with a request for funds to further develop CHANTI’S WORLD. I would much prefer not
to have but financial circumstances made it necessary – 15 years of self-funding having taken a
disastrous toll on my bank account.

I need not add much to what I wrote yesterday (the contents of my email to Julia appended to this
letter) but there are a few points I would like to draw your attention to:

Despite the high ratings achieved by SLEEPING WITH CAMBODIA the ABC has declared (many
times now) that CHANTI’S WORLD would not be of interest to an ABC audience. I believe that
Stuart Menzies is mistaken in this. Stuart also sees the non-involvement of Citipointe church as an
impediment to my being able to tell a balanced story. Having spent two years trying in every way
imaginable to involve Citipointe, Stuart’s assertion here has disastrous implications for the art and
craft of documentary filmmaking. If, however, Screen Australia has formed the view, with my
development application, that it agrees with Stuart, I would (with great reluctance) accept this as a
reason not to provide me with development funds. However, this has not been presented to me as a
reason. If Screen Australia is in agreement with Stuart, now is the time to declare it.

Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Stuart (who has not even seen any footage shot this past few
years) is right - that an ABC audience would not be interested in CHANTI’S WORLD. Yes, in
accordance with Screen Australia guidelines, this is a good reason to knock CHANTI’S WORLD
back – though to do so would make it seem that Screen Australia’s sole function (with the exception
of the Special Documentary Program) is to act as a funding arm for the ABC (and SBS). If the lack
of a pre-sale for CHANTI’S WORLD is the reason why Screen Australia has knocked back my
development request, please say so and not hide behind the vague concept of ‘appropriateness’. It is
the meaning of this word, in the context of CHANTI’S WORLD, that I am having huge difficulty
with. It can mean anything or nothing!

Thinking of CHANTI’S WORLD purely and simply from an investment point of view, what are the
chances that the documentary could fail and that Screen Australia would lose any money it invested
in its development? To date 100% of the financial risk producing CHANTI’S WORLD has been
borne by myself. Screen Australia has not risked one cent. SLEEPING WITH CAMBODIA sold all
around the world and recouped it’s modest budget. I have no doubt that all the territories that bought
SLEEPING will buy CHANTI’S WORLD – and others that didn’t. I believe there to be absolutely
no doubt but that Screen Australia would get 100% of its development investment in CHANTI’S
WORLD back; that there is no financial risk involved for Screen Australia in investing in the film.

There is one last point that I wish to make. In mid-2009 you, Claire Jaeger and I discussed my earlier
application for development funds with CHANTI’S WORLD. Liz Crosby sat in on the meeting.
Claire was not sure if she had seen my ‘promo’ for CHANTI’S WORLD. It became abundantly clear
from comments that she made that she had not. Claire had, however, seen a DVD of stills from
someone other applicant’s project that confused her – with good reason, since I had submitted no
DVD with stills on it. On 25th. August, Ross, you admitted that you too had not seen my original 7
minute ‘promo’ for CHANTI’S WORLD.

You can have no idea how distressing it is to have a project assessed by Screen Australia personnel
who don’t even look at a promo covering 15 years in the life of the documentary’s central character.
It should not be allowed to happen. It should not have happened but given that it did I believe it
would have been appropriate for Screen Australia to apologize for such a mistake.

In my email to Julia yesterday (copied to you) I sought answers to some questions –most
particularly in relation to the word ‘appropriate’. I have received no response at all. Julia has now
had ample opportunity this past two days to, at the very least, get on the phone and explain to me that
there has been a misunderstanding, that she chose her words badly, that the decision regarding my
ineligibility had not been made by her etc. She has not availed herself of this opportunity.

Julia’s silence and her refusal to respond to my 10 letters leaves me with no choice but to make a
formal complaint to you about the way in which my development funding application for
CHANTI’S WORLD has been dealt with by Julia. Please accept this letter as my formal complaint.


James Ricketson

Email to Julia Overton dated 14th. Oct. 2010

Dear Julia

You sent me an email yesterday in which you wrote, by way of explanation as to why my
CHANTI’S WORLD development funding application had been knocked back: “As you have been
filming since 1995 a request for development funds was not considered appropriate.” I wrote back to
ask in what way it was not appropriate. You did not answer my question but said that you would see
if I could, as I had requested, be given a copy of the Reader’s Reports for CHANTI’S WORLD.
This will not be necessary as I have applied, using FOI legislation, to obtain copies of Readers
Reports for this project.

How soon after my 7th. Sept. development application to Screen Australia with CHANTI’S
WORLD did it become apparent to you that my request was not ‘appropriate’? Why did you not alert
me to this immediately? Why did you not let me know, at the time, in what way you considered my
request inappropriate and give me a chance to respond to this assertion?

Was the inappriateness of my funding request apparent to you on 30th. Sept when we had a brief
email exchange regarding the Special Documentary Program? If so, why did you not inform me at
the time? Why did you wait until yesterday?

A bit of backstory is in order here. Over a period of ten weeks, between 21st. May and 12th.August
you ignored 10 letters from me. You did not have the professional courtesy to even acknowledge
receipt of them. You did not respond to my several requests that I be able to meet and talk with you
about my two Cambodian documentary projects – CHANTI’S WORLD and TRANSPARENCY.
My questions and my desire to talk with you related to my (then tentative) plans to apply to Screen
Australia for funds to further develop one or both of these documentary projects. I did not wish to
waste my time (or money I did not have) preparing an application without answers to my questions.
These you resolutely refused to provide.

In frustration I wrote twice to Ross Mathews in hopes that he might intervene and induce you to
answer my questions. Ross suggested that he and I meet to discuss my letters to him. I suggested that
you be present for the meeting also because I wished for a speedy and amicable resolution to the

In this meeting Ross acknowledged that it was not inappropriate for me to expect you to
acknowledge receipt of my letters. You even said something in the meeting at this moment about
writing me a letter of apology for not having done so. You didn’t write such a letter but this was
unimportant at the time, really. What was important, and pertinent, was that Ross suggested (given
that I had never received Screen Australia funding for the project) that I apply for development
funding for CHANTI’S WORLD and to the Special Documentary Program with
TRANSPARENCY. If this is not your recollection of our conversation please say so now because
much hinges on it.

I came away from the meeting feeling that more had been achieved in 15 minutes of conversation
with Ross than in months trying to communicate with you. I acted on Ross’s suggestion in good faith
- renting an edit suite (I have neither a camera or editing facilities at this time) to prepare the audio-
visual part of my application – submitted to Screen Australia on 7th. Sept. As will be apparent from
the DVDs Isubmitted n support of CHANTI'S WORLD this involved an enormous amount of work.
And it also cost me around $2000. Or, should I say, it resulted in my going $2,000 deeper into debt.
It was to avoid this possibility that I wished to get answers to my many questions before committing
myself to the rental of an edit suite. If I had been told in the meeting with Ross on 25th.August that a
funding request from me for CHANTI’S WORLD was not appropriate I would not have gone ahead
and rented an edit suite!

More than a month later you tell me that my request for development funds was not appropriate but
you will not tell me why it is inappropriate! I am, needless to say, curious to know how and why my
request was appropriate on 25th. August but became inappropriate by 13th. Oct? When, during the
intervening seven weeks, did my request’s inappropriateness become apparent?

Julia, in our email exchange at the end of Sept. you made it quite clear that you were the Investment
Manager responsible for CHANTI’S WORLD and I presume (please correct me if I am wrong) that
the buck stops with the Manager or, to put it another way, that it is YOU who have decided,
regardless of Ross’ suggestion and the agreement implicit in our meeting, that my CHANTI’S
WORLD funding request was not appropriate. If my logic is correct here please explain to me, in
writing, why it is not appropriate given that I have self-funded this project for 15 years and received
not on cent of development money during this time from any funding body?

If the decision to render CHANTI’S WORLD inappropriate was not yours but made by a committee
please explain to me what the committee’s reasoning was here? Why is it at odds with what Ross had
suggested to me – in you presence?

After my first eight or so letters to you about CHANTI’S WORLD and TRANSPARENCY I made
the beginnings of a complaint to the Ombudsman about your refusal to even acknowledge receipt of
them. I was assured by the Ombudsman’s Office that you were obliged to respond to my letters; that
the Ombudsman took such matters seriously and that I had grounds to make a formal complaint. I
was given a date of 3rd.Sept. to make such a complaint if I so wished. This was the last thing I
wanted to do and it seemed, as a result of yours, mine and Ross’s meeting on 25th. August that it
would not be necessary. I did not pursue it.

It is clear to me, from your repeated refusal to respond to correspondence, your refusal to meet with
me to discuss CHANTI’S WORLD and TRANSPARENCY and now what appears to be your
betrayal of the letter and spirit of our conversation with Ross on 25th. August, just what your attitude
towards me as a filmmaker is. There is nothing that I can do about this, though I suggest that you
either declare your Conflict of Interest in dealing with me or provide answers to my questions.

In the interests of transparency, accountability just plain old common professional courtesy, could
you please respond to my 10 letters; answer the questions I asked in them.

I am copying this email to the Ombudsman’s office so that it can go on file as evidence of yet
another attempt on my part to resolve this matter without making a formal complaint about what I
consider to be a lack of appropriate professionalism in your dealings with me in relation to
CHANTI’S WORLD. If I do not receive appropriate answers to my questions I will make a formal
complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office. I am most reluctant to do so but I can endure your shoddy
treatment of me no longer!



James Ricketson

316 Whale Beach Road
Palm Beach 2108

Ross Mathews
Screen Australia
Level 4,150 Wiliam St.
NSW 2011

Dear Ross

It is now two weeks since I first alerted you to the problem I was experiencing with my Sept.
CHANTI’S WORLD application. I have written you four letters regarding it. I have no doubt that
you are a busy man, with many pressing matters to attend to, but surely you could find a few minutes
to send me a brief email to at lest acknowledge that you were looking into the matter!

Six days ago Liz Crosby wrote to me, presumably on your instructions, “Governance Manager Nick
Coyle has advised that your application under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, to access
documents relating to the decision not to support the development application for Chanti's World, is
proceeding, and that you should receive the documents shortly.” ‘Shortly’ is, of course, one of those
words that can mean ‘in the next few days’ or ‘the next few months’. It could also, in this instance,
mean “Let’s hold James at bay for as long as possible; give ourselves time to figure out how we can
deny him access to Claire Jaeger’s Report whilst making it seem that this is a perfectly reasonably
thing to do.” Conjecture on my part, of course, but in the absence of access to Claire’s Report and
with the days turning into weeks and the list of unanswered questions lengthening, conjecture is

Claire’s Report is, it seems, the key document as far as the appropriateness and disingenuousness of
my application is concerned. I qualify this statement with ‘it seems’ because I do not have access to
much of the information upon which an informed judgement could be made. You do have access to
this material, Ross. No doubt, by now, you will have read Claire’s Report. It will, broadly speaking,
either answer the questions relating to the appropriateness and/or disingenuousness of my application
or it will not. If Claire’s Report does provide a halfway cogent argument for inappropriateness and/or
disingenuousness, it seems to me that you would have forwarded it to me by now to make it quite
clear that my complaint of two weeks ago is without merit. That you have not forwarded it (or
allowed Nick Coyle to forward it) suggests that Claire’s Report does not support the
appropriateness/disingenuous argument well. Or perhaps at all. It is possible, of course, that there is
no Claire Jaeger Report!

The answers to all the questions in this and my previous 4 letters (both explicit and implicit) are
relevant to my complaint and it seems that Screen Australia has decided to make it as hard as
possible, notwithstanding FOI, for me to get information regarding my CHANTI’S WORLD

My email to Nick Coyle yesterday speaks for itself. That Nick has not responded to it could, of
course, mean any one of a number of different things.

28th. Oct. 2010

Dear Nick

It is now 2 weeks since I made my original request to obtain Readers Reports written
in relation to my Sept. CHANTI’S WORLD development application. Whilst I have
not received copies of any Reports it does seem, from the Signed_RecPaper sent to me
by Liz Crosby last Friday, that Screen Australia has no intention of blocking my FOI
request. Why then can I not have a copy of the Reports (or Report, if there is only one)
to which this Signed_RecPaper presumably refers? The Report(s) are important for the
following reason:

Julia Overton’s email of two weeks ago informed me that my development application
was ‘not appropriate’. Since neither she nor anyone else at Screen Australia will tell me
in what way my application was not appropriate I am hoping that some clue may be
found in one or more of these Reports. The same applies with my purported
‘disingenuousness’. Perhaps these Reports explain in what way my application was
disingenuous – a motive that should not be lightly imputed to any filmmaker. Indeed, I
think it to be a form of professional defamation unless it is backed up with reasons that
warrant its use.

I know, because Julia Overton informed me, that there is at least one Report for
CHANTI’SWORLD – written by Claire Jaeger. Perhaps, if there are no other Reports,
Claire is the author of one or both of the epithets that have been applied to my
application – ‘not appropriate’ and ‘disingenuous’? If so I trust, in the interests of
accountability, that Claire has provided some explanation for her use of these words.
The same applies for the other Reports – if there are any.

If Claire’s Report (or any others that might exist) provides no explanation for the
appropriateness or disingenuousness of my development application, why have these
words been presented to me (and placed on file) as reasons to render my application
null and void?

It may be (though I won’t know until I read it) that Claire’s Report is fair and well-
argued and that the words ‘appropriate’ and ‘disingenuous’, in context, do not carry the
pejorative weight they do when removed from that context. Given that Claire’s Report
in June 2009 was factually incorrect in so many ways and written when she had not
seen a key DVD, the factual accuracy of Claire’s current Report is something that I
would like to be assured of. My professional integrity is very important to me and to
suggest that my application was ‘insincere’, ‘having secret motives’ or ‘not candid’ is a
serious charge if not backed up with facts. If it is indeed Claire who has put in writing
that my application was ‘disingenuous’ and she has not backed this word up with
evidence to support it, her Report should be discounted – just as her June 2009 Report
should have been discounted.

I am sure, Nick, that you are doing all you can to expedite my FOI request. However,
given that the one document provided to me to date was sent via Ross Mathews’ office,
it may be that there are others involved in my FOI request who are not similarly
committed to a hasty resolution of this matter. I am, as a consequence, copying this to
the Ombudsman in hopes that this may help speed things up a little.

If my recent CHANTI’S WORLD development application has been dealt with appropriately by
Documentaries, Ross, I fail to understand why it is not possible for me, through FOI legislation, to
obtain a copy of Claire Jaeger’s Reader’s Report? Given that it is not (it seems) possible could you
please, in the interests of transparency and accountability, just send it to me anyway? Or, if you do
not wish to do so, explain why?

With the appropriate qualification (given my lack of access to certain information) it seems as
though Julia Overton has taken it upon herself to decide that my application was ‘disingenuous’.
Julia understood that her choice of this word to describe a filmmaker’s application, suggestive as it
is of dishonesty, was like a red rag to a bull so she decided to substitute the words ‘not
appropriate’. It was a poor choice of words given what transpired in our meeting of 25th. August -
in which, by recommending that I apply for development money for CHANTI’S WORLD, you
gave my subsequent application the imprimatur of ‘appropriateness’. Or did you? By remaining
silent for the past two weeks on this point you have avoided acknowledging that this conversation
took place. Your reason for doing so, perhaps (I have no choice but to conjecture) is that an
admission that it did take place would necessitate that Julia Overton was wrong in her saying that
my application was ‘not appropriate’ and hence her reason for knocking my application back based
on a false premise. In reality, it seems that Julia believes my application to be disingenuous and
‘appropriateness’ was never an issue. ‘If only James hadn’t starting asking questions and applying
for documents through FOI!’, Julia may well be asking now. If I had not asked questions and been
quite insistent in June last year I would never have received a copy of Claire’s Report and learnt
how factually incorrect her original assessment of CHANTI’S WORLD was; would never have
discovered that she hadn’t seen my promo.

I am copying this to Glen Boreham, Chair of the Screen Australia Board (as well as the
Ombudsman’s office), because I believe that the Board should be aware of what actually takes
place within the organization when a filmmaker has the temerity to question the appropriateness of
the conduct of Screen Australia staff members. My experience (and that of all the filmmakers I
know who have bothered to make complaints about their treatment at the hands of Screen
Australia) is that there is no functioning complaints mechanism within the organization. And it
seems (please note my qualification) that the one avenue whereby a filmmaker might obtain
documents relevant to his or her complaint is itself compromised by internal interference with the
FOI officer’s job. This is the only explanation I can come up with for why my request for Reports
to Nick Coyle two weeks ago has, to date, resulted in only one slim document that cannot, by any
stretch of the imagination, be considered a ‘report’.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Glen Boreham and members of the Screen Australia Board.
Professor John McMillan, Commonwealth Ombudsman.

letter to Ruth Harley 30th August

Ruth Harley
Chief Executive
Screen Australia
Level 4
150 William St.
Woolloomooloo 2011                                                                              30th  August 2012

Dear Ruth

After 20 months of asking, countless letters, more than a few blog entries, two FOI requests  and a complaint to the Information Commissioner, Nick Coyle has, today, sent me copies of the two letters that Fiona Cameron referred to back in Nov 2010 as evidence of my having believed that my CHANTI’S WORLD development application had been ‘greenlit’. These two letters (which I will publish online tonight) contain nothing that a ‘reasonable person’ could read and arrive at the conclusion that I believed my project had been ‘greenlit’, but even if they did, why has so much time and effort been expended by myself to get hold of the correspondence and by Screen Australia to prevent me from getting it?
I would love to know if you have read these letters and arrived at the conclusion that Fiona claimed she did but, of course, you have declared that you will not correspond with me so it is pointless to ask! It is not hard to see why Fiona was so reluctant to release the letters and fought so hard to prevent me from acquiring copies. However, now that I have them, there is no need to acquire them through the Supreme Court. I will amend my Statement of Claim accordingly.
I wonder if, before 5th Sept, it might also be possible to acquire copies of the other lot of correspondence from me in which, you allege, I have intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of your staff; correspondence that has led to my being banned by the Screen Australia Board entirely from having any communication at all with (or apply for funding to) Screen Australia?  If you can release or identify the correspondence, there will almost certainly be no need for any of us to waste the Supreme Court’s time next Wednesday.
It seems, alas, that the answer is ‘no’ – unless, that is, you give permission to Nick Coyle to act in accordance with the spirit (and not merely the letter) of FOI legislation and release or identify the relevant intimidating correspondence. Providing me with copies of pretty well all of my correspondence with Screen Australia, as Nick has, is really nothing more than a cheap conjuring trick designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate the matter in hand. Having once been on the receiving end of a tongue lashing from a Supreme Court judge I fear that we (Screen Australia and I) will be on the receiving end of another on 5th Sept.
If I am not given the relevant correspondence before 5th Sept I will, of course, acquire copies of my ‘intimidating correspondence’ through discovery in the Supreme Court. The day beforehand, actually. Moray & Agnew will then, it appears, request of the Court an order that I not be allowed to publish these ‘intimidating documents’ online! Why? Does Screen Australia fear that I may defame myself? If I have intimidated your staff, placed them at risk, why should it matter to you that I broadcast the fact as widely as possible? In so doing you will be vindicated in having banned me and I will look a fool (a lying fool!) in public – which I would have thought would be an ideal end result for you.

Alternatively it may be that the last thing you want is for readers of my blog (I will reach 8000 hits since May some time this evening) to be able to judge for themselves whether it is me or yourself who has played fast and loose with the truth. The best way to achieve this end, it seems, is to ask Moray and Agnew to have my ‘intimidating correspondence’ suppressed. This would be a wonderful result for you because by dragging out the defamation case (easy to do) for as long as possible you will be able to guarantee that the truth about my correspondence will not emerge during the remainder of your tenure as Chief Executive and that the ban on me, instigated by yourself, can remain in place for as long as you are in the job. A win-win for Ruth Harley!
Stop this farce, Ruth, and release or identify the correspondence of mine that you consider to be intimidating. In so doing one of us, inevitably, is going to have a lot of egg on their face but surely this is a more desirable outcome that wasting time, energy and financial resources on a Supreme Court case. The money saved could be used to fund a short film or for some other constructive initiative.
best wishes
James Ricketson

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Response to Screen Australia's lawyers

Moray & Agnew Lawyers
Level 24, 233 Castlereagh St
Sydney, NSW 2000                                                                                               30th August 2102

Dear Moray and Agnew

In response to your letter of 29th August

I would be delighted to withdraw my Supreme Court Statement of Claim if Ruth Harley releases or identifies the correspondence she asserts bears witness to my having intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of her staff. I have been asking her to do so since 10th May this year. I have also sought, to no avail, to obtain the allegedly offending correspondence through Screen Australia’s FOI officer. And I have asked the office of the Ombudsman to request of Ms Harley that she provide evidence to back up her intimidation claims that resulted in the Screen Australia Board voting to ban me. To date, my appeal to the Ombudsman’s office has yielded no result – leaving me with little option, if I am not prepared to be banned on trumped up charges, to hope, through discovery, to acquire the correspondence through my action in the Supreme Court. I am sure the Court will wonder why it is that the matter is being heard in it but I believe also that the judge will wonder why it has not been possible for me to acquire the allegedly intimidating correspondence (a) by asking Ruth Harley to provide or identify it, (b) through FOI and (c) through the office of the Ombudsman.

If, by 4 pm Friday 31st August Ms Harley has identified and/or released the relevant correspondence I will withdraw my Statement of Claim. If Ms Harley refuses to release it and instructs Screen Australia’s FOI officer not to release it, I trust that the Commonwealth Information Commissioner (to whom I am copying this letter) will ask her to do so. I will also request of the office of the Ombudsman (to whom I am also copying this letter) to request of Ms Harley that she identify the offending correspondence by Friday 4pm.

There is an alternative course of action based on my assertion that Screen Australia does not have on record correspondence from me that meets any dictionary definition of ‘intimidation’ and that there is not one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase, one word in any of my correspondence that a reasonable person would view as my having placed Screen Australia staff at risk. If Ms Harley will acknowledge by 4 pm Friday 31st that no such correspondence exists, apologize for her error and have the Screen Australia Board lift the ban that has been placed on me, I will withdraw my Statement of Claim.

If Moray & Agnew Lawyers believes that it has in its possession copies of intimidating correspondence from me, why not advise Ms Harley to identify and release the offending paragraphs, phrases sentences or words, with, if need be, the name of the person to whom I wrote the correspondence redacted? This would serve two purposes: (1) Satisfy the requirements of natural justice that a person accused of a crime be appraised of the evidence against him and (2) Make it possible for any independent observer, any ‘reasonable’ independent observer to draw one of two conclusions: (a) Ricketson has indeed been intimidating and placing at risk members of Screen Australia staff and his being banned is entirely appropriate or (b) Ricketson is innocent of the crime he has been accused of, his being banned is entirely inappropriate and should be lifted immediately.

If I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff I do not deserve to be a part of the film community. Indeed, it would not be inappropriate for Screen Australia to take out an AVO order to prevent me from entering any of its offices. If the allegations that Ruth Harley has made against me are false I do not believe that she should remain as part of the film community and hope that she would follow the logical course of action appropriate to her abuse of the power vested in her as Chief Executive and resign.

In response to my plan to publish on the internet, on my blog, correspondence written by myself, you write:

12. We point out at this juncture, that any documents you obtain through discovery or any other coercive process in the proceeding, will be subject to restrictions on their use. You would not be permitted to publish documents obtained in that way on the internet without breaching your legal obligations.

It may be that I have misunderstood this statement. If so please correct me if I am leaping to conclusions I ought not to. It seems to me that Moran and Agnew, on behalf of Screen Australia, intends to request of the Supreme Court that I not be able to publish online correspondence I have written which reveals me to be, in the eyes of Screen Australia, a person who intimidates, harasses and places at risk members of Screen Australia staff? If Ruth Harley’s allegations of intimidation are correct, surely my publishing the relevant correspondence would be in hers and Screen Australia’s best interests – revealing me to be someone who not only intimidates public servants but who lies repeatedly in a public forum about not having done so!

I imagine, given that you are representing Harley and Cameron, that you must at some point have asked to see the correspondence they both refer to. And, having seen it, that you have given them legal advice, right? Broadly speaking the advice would have to fall into two categories: (1) Ricketson has indeed intimidated and placed at risk members of your staff and you will win this case hands down or (2) We can find no evidence that Ricketson has intimidated or placed anyone on Screen Australia’s staff at risk with his correspondence. This second finding is not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle for an accomplished lawyer, however – not if Moray & Agnew can use the Supreme Court to prevent Ricketson from publishing correspondence that reveals either himself or Ruth Harley to be playing fast and loose with the truth or, as Malcolm Turnbull once so delightfully put it, being “economical with the truth.”

Perhaps the Supreme Court will accept Moray & Agnew’s legalistic arguments as to why this case should be thrown out. If so, so be it. On the other hand the Court may wonder why and how it is that a filmmaker can be banned on the basis of correspondence he has allegedly written but not be provided with copies of said correspondence.

I find it highly unlikely that the Court would wish to place an embargo of any kind on correspondence I have written. I hope that the Court would, when presented with such a proposition by Moray & Agnew, ask Screen Australia (along with the Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner) why Mr Ricketson was not presented with the relevant correspondence three months ago (in relation to his banning) and around 20 months ago, in relation to Fiona Cameron’s allegations.

One final point in relation to:

2. “We consider the proceedings commenced against Dr Harley and Ms Cameron constitute an abuse of process.

My response: Banning a filmmaker on false allegations that he has intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff is a far more significant abuse of process. This is what Ruth Harley has done, with the blessing of the Screen Australia Board and with the acquiescence of the Minister for the Arts, the Hon Simon Crean.

Finally, I cannot accede to your request that I do not copy this letter to anyone. There are numerous people who could (and I believe should) have nipped this dispute in the bud long ago. They did not do so and must share some responsibility for the fact that it has been allowed to fester this long and will wind up in the Supreme Court next week. Amongst those who could (and I believe should) have nipped this in the bud long ago, on the basis of facts and not unsubstantiated allegations, are the entire staff of the Documentary Section of Screen Australia, the Screen Australia Board, the office of the Ombudsman, the office of the Hon Simon Crean and, this past week, the office of the Commonwealth Information Commissioner. Even now, with the Supreme Court hearing just six days away, either the Ombudsman or the Information Commissioner could get on the phone to Ms Harley and say, “Dr Harley, please release the intimidating correspondence you claim Mr Ricketson has written and upon which you have relied for the ban on him by 4 pm Friday 31st. August.”

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Stephen Nowicki, Senior Investigation Officer, Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office
Raewyn Harlock, Deputy Director, Compliance, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
The Hon Simon Cream MP, Minister for the Arts

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A response from Screen Australia's lawyers

T +61 2 9232 2 255
| F +61 2 9 232 1 004
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sydney Melbourne Brisbane Canberra Newcastle Perth
(cyw) 4603412_3.DOC
29 August 2012
Mr James Ricketson
316 Whale Beach Road
ABN 76 486 092 631
Ian Denham
Ian Denham
Our reference
Dear Mr Ricketson
Harley and Cameron ats Ricketson
1. We refer to:
1.1 the statement of claim filed 16 July 2012;
1.2 your letter of 16 August 2012 addressed to Dr Ruth Harley, but sent in an email to our
Mr Denham, and copied to our clients Ms Cameron, Dr Harley (the defendants), as
well as three other officers of Screen Australia and the Hon. Simon Crean MP
(Minister for the Arts); and
1.3 your letter of 20 August 2012 addressed to Nick Coyne of Screen Australia, but copied
via email to our Mr Denham, as well as our clients Dr Harley and Ms Cameron.
2. We consider:
2.1 the proceedings you have commenced against Dr Harley and Ms Cameron, constitute
an abuse of process; and
2.2 the pleaded cause of action is unintelligible, fails to comply with the Court rules, and at
least in part is statute barred, such that it is likely to be struck-out by the court.
3. This letter:
3.1 sets out the basis for the conclusions we express above;
3.2 invites you to abandon the case; and
3.3 invites you, if you do not abandon the case, to re-plead the allegations made in the
statement of claim.
4. Depending upon your response, we will file a notice of motion to have the proceedings
dismissed and/or to have the statement of claim struck-out. We will seek costs of the motion
if we are successful.
(cyw) 4603412_3.DOC
Proceedings are Vexatious
5. The court has power to dismiss a case entirely if it appears to the court that:
5.1 the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious; or
5.2 no reasonable cause of action is disclosed, or
5.3 the proceedings are an abuse of process of the court.
6. This power is set out in Rule 13.4 of the
Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005 (‘UCPR’). We
consider the court would comfortably be satisfied of those matters in this case.
7. We expect the court to be satisfied that you are not genuinely concerned with obtaining the
relief claimed in the statement of claim, but rather, you wish to use the proceedings for a
collateral purpose. That purpose is to:
7.1 have the Supreme Court of NSW determine the existence or non-existence of certain
7.2 if the documents exist, to obtain copies of them in the course of the proceedings
(presumably through discovery); and
7.3 if documents are obtained, to publish copies of them on the internet.
8. The court would be persuaded of your collateral purpose having regard to the fact that you
are claiming only $1.00 in damages, and having regard to the matters set out in your letter of
16 August 2012 to Dr Harley (’
16 August letter’).
9. In the 16 August letter you expressly state:
As I have made clear on numerous occasions, I have little interest in the outcome of
my defamation proceedings … other than in securing from you both copies of
correspondence that you claim I have written and which I claim I have not
10. You further state in your 16 August letter that:
I imagine … Screen Australia might win the case. If so, that’s fine - as long as, in the
process, I acquire copies of [certain correspondence]
11. You then go on to state that having obtained those documents,
I will then publish [the documents] on the internet and my small band of interested
blog followers can make up their own mind
12. We point out at this juncture, that any documents you obtain through discovery or any other
coercive process in the proceeding, will be subject to restrictions on their use. You would not
be permitted to publish documents obtained that that way on the internet without breaching
your legal obligations.
13. In your 16 August letter you conclude:
That it should be necessary to prove the existence or non-existence of the
contentious correspondence in the Supreme Court strikes me as absurd
14. We agree with the sentiments you express in that remark. We suspect that any judicial
officer of the Supreme Court will agree also.
15. These matters were reiterated in your 20 August 2012 letter addressed to Mr Coyne. In that
letter you reiterate that:
(cyw) 4603412_3.DOC
‘My only purpose in making a Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court is to acquire
copies of correspondence that I have not been able to acquire through FOI or through
utilizing the services of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.’
16. It is on the basis of the above that we invite you to withdraw the proceeding before the first
Pleading Deficiency
17. The Court has particular requirements as to matters which need to be pleaded in a
statement of claim, and how those matters are pleaded. These requirements include those
set out at Rule 14.30 of UCPR, and at Rule 14.28 of UCPR.
18. Generally speaking, a pleading in a statement of claim must permit the defendants to have
proper notice of the real substance of the claim against them.
19. In its present form, the statement of claim consists entirely of matters which, in our
submission, are unintelligible, ambiguous and so imprecise in their identification of material
factual allegations as to deprive our clients of the ability to properly understand, meet and
defend the allegations.
20. It is not our role to provide guidance to you as to how a pleading ought to be set out. But as
a first matter, the allegations made in paragraph 1 of the statement of claim are unclear as to
key aspects. These include confusing references to various items of correspondence, some
of which you contend exist and some of which you contend do not exist.
21. Similarly, in the second paragraph of the statement of claim, you make reference to
documents and correspondence, but it is not clear which of them is alleged to have
contained defamatory material.
22. The third paragraph of your statement of claim does not make allegations of relevance to
your cause of action.
23. On a more substantive note, it would appear that any cause of action purported to be made
in paragraph 1 of the statement of claim is statute barred. We invite you to withdraw any
cause of action based on the matters which are alleged to have occurred in 2010.
24. Finally, we presume the reference to ‘10
th May 2010’ in the second paragraph of the
statement of claim is in error and should be a reference to a date in 2012. Any amendment
of the statement of claim should address this.
25. On the basis of the above, we invite you, if you do not withdraw the proceeding entirely, to
re-plead the whole of the allegations made in the statement of claim, to put them in a form
which complies with the court rules and, allow our clients to know the case which is sought to
be brought against them.
Reservation of Rights
26. You are self-represented in the case. We have written this letter with an effort to set out as
clearly as possible, to a non-legally educated person, our concerns in the case.
27. This letter ought not to be seen as waiving any rights which our clients have in relation to the
proceeding. Our clients have and will retain rights to file any notice of motion they consider
fit, seeking whichever relief they consider appropriate, and to rely upon any grounds,
including grounds beyond those explored in this correspondence.
28. Similarly, in relation to their defence of the proceedings generally, our clients have and retain
rights available to them at law. They expressly reserve all their rights.
(cyw) 4603412_3.DOC
Your Response
29. To enable us to advise our clients and to prepare for the first directions hearing on
5 September 2012, we require your response to the above no later than
4:00pm on Friday
31 August 2012
30. We would ask you to provide your response to our Mr Denham, and not to provide copies to
our clients directly, any other officers of Screen Australia, nor the Minister.
Yours faithfully

Sunday, August 26, 2012

for Claire Jager, Ross Mathews & Liz Crosby

Claire Jager, Ross Mathews, Liz Crosby
Screen Australia
Level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011                                                                                     27th August 2012
Dear Claire, Ross and Liz

Have I ever, in any email or letter I have sent you this past few years, intimidated or placed you at risk of any kind? As you know, I have been banned by Screen Australia from even speaking with members of SA staff on the phone (let alone making any kind of funding application) for having intimidated one (or perhaps all!) of you and placed you at risk. I have tried, through FOI legislation and through the Office of the Ombudsman, to be provided with one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even one word that any reasonable person could construe to render me guilty of having intimidated you or placed you at risk. I have yet to be provided with any evidence at all and, it seems, I will have to acquire the evidence in the Supreme Court of NSW next week.

As you know, my being banned is the culmination of a sequence of events that leads back, Claire, to your June 2009 assessment of my documentary project ‘Chanti’s World’. In the interests of context it is worth revisiting that assessment – one that begins very promisingly:

If the film was to be the story of how an evangelical Christian missionary agency ‘steals’ children from poverty-stricken Cambodian families in order to turn them into Christians as quid pro quo for ‘rescuing’ them from the street of Phnom Penh - an unholy exchange of succour for souls - and as a bonus, the main character has been continuously filmed for 14 years since she was a child, and now enlists the help of the hopelessly enmeshed filmmaker to get her own children back from the Christian agency which is acting illegally ... then we have a great film.”

Unfortunately, Claire, you did not actually view the ‘promo’ for my ‘Chanti’s World’ application – presenting you with something of a disadvantage in forming a view regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the project – especially since this ‘promo’ encapsulated around 14 years of my record of Chanti’s life. Your problem in assessing ‘Chanti’s World’ appropriately was compounded by your assertion, expressed in your assessment, that:

The accompanying DVD of stills do not excite confidence or optimism.”

I had included no DVD of stills in my submission so it remains a mystery to me to this day what this sentence refers to. Since neither yourself nor Ross has provided an explanation (despite my many requests) I have had to resort to conjecture. Perhaps your use of ‘stills’ was a typo and that you were referring to a DVD of raw rushes I submitted by way of demonstrating the strength of the cinema verite footage I had at my disposal. If so, and in the absence of viewing my ‘promo’, you may have been led to believe that this cinema verite footage comprised my main (indeed only) audio-visual representation of ‘Chanti’s World’. If so, your lack of confidence and optimism would have been understandable.

Another problem with your assessment, Claire, resides in two statements you made in relation to the church that had ‘stolen’ Chanti’s two eldest daughters. You refer to my:

conducting war with the agency, the Brisbane church which runs it…”

and add, a few sentences later,

He appear to have alienated - justifiably, it may be the case - relevant NGOs operating in Cambodia, thus making it highly unlikely he could access direct funding from them.”

Yes, I had alienated the church that had ‘stolen’ the children (Citipointe, based in Brisbane) and, yes, it is highly unlikely that Citipointe (and associated Christian NGOs turning a blind eye to this ‘stealing’ of children) would wish to provide direct funding to ‘Chanti’s World’. The idea that a church being investigated by a filmmaker that has charged it with the illegal removal of children from their parents care (a church that has threatened to sue him!), would wish to provide ‘direct funding’ to him. The proposition implicit in your comment about my alienating Citipointe is just absurd and, by itself, in any fair assessment process, result in the assessment being discounted and a new one commissioned.

Your assessment, Claire, was problematic in numerous ways – the most glaring being that you did not view my ‘promo’ before deciding to knock back my ‘Chanti’s World’ application. Neither did Ross Mathews or Julia Overton. The logical and appropriate Screen Australia response, once I had pointed out the problems with your assessment, would have been to commission another. This Screen Australia decided not to do.

There are, as you know, other stages to this dispute but it starts here – with you and Ross not viewing the ‘promo’ that was the centrepiece of my application. Or so I allege. I have invited all three of you countless times to contradict my assertion that you (Ross and Claire) admitted to not having seen my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo. You have not done so. I invite you again to contradict me and say words to the effect of, “James, we never admitted to not viewing your promo. You are mistaken. We did view it.” A clear, unequivocal answer to this question would go some way to clarifying just how and why this dispute began. If you, Ross and Claire, insist that you did view my ‘promo’ in mid 2009, I have been playing fast and loose with the truth in claiming for three years that you did not. If, on the other hand, you were to now admit that you did not view it, my original complaint had (and still has) merit and all that has happened since, and which will lead myself and Screen Australia to appear in the Supreme Court of NSW next week, has been both unnecessary and a waste of time, energy and financial resources.

I do appreciate that you are caught here between a rock and a hard place. To claim, three years down the track that you did view the promo raises the question: “Why did you not admit to having seen it before this dispute escalated to the point it has.” If you do now admit to not having viewing the ‘promo’ in 2009 the question arises: “Why have Fiona Cameron, Ruth Harley, Glen Boreham and the Screen Australia Board and the offices of the Hon Simon Crean and the Ombudsman allowed this dispute to progress to the point where, in order for me to get copies of correspondence I have supposedly written, I must sue Screen Australia for defamation in the Supreme Court?

It would certainly be very helpful vis a vis next week’s Supreme Court hearing if one or all three of you were to either (1) Confirm that you did not view my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo or (2) That you did view it and I have been lying all along.

best wishes

James Ricketson