Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Citipointe church and 'stolen' children

For those who read this blog and have, perhaps, looked at my Citipointe blog...


...my latest letter to Leigh Ramsay may be of interest:

Leigh Ramsay
Citipointe church
322 Wecker Rd
Carindale, QLD 4152

31st Oct. 2012

Dear Leigh

As is your custom, you ignore my letters. On yet another trip to Cambodia I have again made no progress at all in assisting Chanti in her quest to get Citipointe to return Rosa and Chita (Srey Mal) to her care. Each day I see the tears of distress this causes Chanti and Chhork and, as the person whom Chanti calls 'Papa' I feel for her and roundly condemn Citipointe church for the contemptuous and unfeeling way it has treated Chanti and Chhork for four years now.

As a filmmaker I keep a record of all that transpires (or fails to transpire) in Chanti's never-ending attempts to get Citipointe to release Rosa and Srey Mal back into her care.You clearly have no intention of doing so and it seems that the Ministry of Social Affairs has as little interest as yourself in the right of a mother, no matter how poor, to take care of her own children and not see them brought up by foreigners in an institution. In Australia, as you know, you would not be allowed to get away with the way in which you treat Chanti. Apart from any moral considerations, your illegal removal of Rosa and Chita from the family home would see you in court on charges of kidnapping and Citipointe church on the front pages of newspapers exposed for fraud, having raised money from gullible members of Citipointe church who have been led to believe that girls like Rosa and Chita have been rescued from the sex trade. There is a word for this, Leigh. It is 'scam'.

As you know well from my previous correspondence, my finished film about 17 years in the life of Chanti, one part of which will deal with Citipointe church's removal of Chanti's daughters from her care, will be vetted by lawyers - both my own and those of domestic and international broadcasters that wish to broadcast the film. It will not be possible for legal reasons (and nor is it my intention) to include anything that is defamatory. I will merely present the facts as they are and let members of the audience make up their own minds as to the appropriateness or inappropriateness of Citipointe's activities in Cambodia in relation to the circumstances under which Rosa and Srey Mal were removed front the care of Chanti; of Citipointe church's retaining custody of the girls for more than four years contrary to the wishes of their mother.

I had hoped that Citipointe might, if only for reasons of public relations, see the advantages of putting a lot of time, energy and money (much less than it costs to keep Rosa and Chita in an institution) into formulating a family re-integration program for Rosa and Chita and assisting the entire family over the next few years to become self-sufficient. It is not to be. Citipointe church has no interest at all in re-integration; no interest in the welfare of the entire family, as has been borne out this past four years by Citipointe's refusal to offer support of any kind to Chanti - not even wen her children's hair turned red from malnutrition or when Chanti required surgery to remove a tumour from her wrist. Citipointe church's interest (borne out by your actions) lie in maintaining control of Rosa and Chita; in turning them into Christians in the Citipointe church hold. You practice a form of Christianity, Leigh, that is a mystery to me - one that places the need or desire on the part of your church to save souls for Jesus Christ above meeting the needs not just of Rosa and Chita but of the entire family. Why on earth the government of Cambodia allows NGOs such as Citipointe's 'She' refuge to replicate the institutionalisation of children along lines practiced by the Khmer Rouge is a mystery to me!

I will now seek legal advice as to how best to proceed with this matter - both in Cambodia and Australia. One thing is clear from the evidence available to me: when Citipointe church took control of Rosa and Chita against the wishes of their mother four years ago and refused to return the girls when asked, repeatedly, by Chanti that it do so, the church was in breach of Cambodia's 2008 Law of Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. You and Citipointe's lawyers might like to acquaint yourselves with Article 8:

Definition of Unlawful Removal

The act of unlawful removal in this law shall mean to:

1) remove a person from his/her current place of residence to a place under the actor's or a third person's control by means of force, threat, deception, abuse of power, or enticement, or
2) without legal authority or any other legal justification to do so, take a minor or a person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody away from the legal custody of the parents, care taker or guardian.

You should be ashamed of yourself, Leigh. Everyone associated with Citipointe (especially those making donations to the 'She' refuge) should be ashamed that the church would be involved in activities that are not only against the law in Cambodia and a breach of the human rights of Chanti and her daughters but which are also contrary to all that Citipointe professes on its website and contrary to the basic principles of Christianity.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Sunday, October 28, 2012

letter for Glen Boreham, Chair, Screen Austalia Board

Glen Boreham
Screen Australia Board
level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011
Dear Glen                                                                                                             29th Oct 2012
When I appear in court next week, having been charged with trespassing in the Screen Australia foyer at 4pm, I will request that the magistrate throw the case out on the grounds that no offense has been committed. If the magistrate decides that I have a case to answer, so be it. More time, energy and financial resources will be wasted as I call Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron as witnesses, in the hope that it will emerge which of them asked Screen Australia’s Security Manager to call the police and why they felt it necessary to do so. That either or both Ruth and Fiona made such a decision speaks volumes of the way in which Screen Australia is managed. Sitting quietly reading marked up correspondence, provided to me by Ruth Harley, constitutes a crime against no-one. Or does Screen Australia believe that my presence in the foyer was placing SA staff at risk!
As I have made clear on many occasions, the failure of Claire Jager and Ross Mathews to view my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo was, in the grand scheme of things, a minor cockup. It is the way in which this cockup has been handled (along with the non-existence of a functioning complaints process within Screen Australia) that, as with calling the police to have me arrested, is symptomatic of problems in the way in which Screen Australia is managed. These should, I believe, be addressed by the board. The board can only do so if it is well informed; if it can rely on senior management to provide it with accurate and truthful information regarding matters on the agenda and to be voted on. In the case of my being banned it should be clear to the board by now that it was ill informed; that I have never intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia staff. Which other matters has the board voted on in which it has it been misinformed? Does the board have any way of knowing if it has been misinformed? Does the board care? My being banned on the basis of misinformation symptomatic of  systemic problems more worthy of the board’s attention than the fate of one filmmaker. 
I have survived the bulk of my film career without benefit of Screen Australia (AFC or other funding body) monies and I will survive the current Ruth Harley fatwa, endorsed by yourself and the board. Having spend 17 years self-funding ‘Chanti’s World’, another year or two self-funding will not kill me - though having to say ‘no’ to a pre-sale does rankle somewhat! Like as good wine, ‘Chanti’s World’ (described by one viewer of the 35 min. ‘promo’ that Screen Australia refuses to view, as an ‘Asian Seven Up’) can only get better with age. The time will come (sooner rather than later, I hope) when Screen Australia has, as CEO, someone whose primary concern is with the quality of projects and not with punishing those who have the temerity to criticize them in public by refusing to assess their projects on their merits.  
It is the flip side of punishing critics that should be of concern to the board - namely rewarding of those who do not criticize SA but reflect back on the CEO the image  she wishes to convey to the world - the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome. The CEO of Screen Australia and members of senior management are well remunerated - much better so than the bulk of filmmakers. Part of their job is to be accountable and transparent in their dealings with the industry. Another is to be able to listen and respond to criticism and not use being ‘distressed’ as a reason to cease communicating with critics.  A truly transparent and accountable Screen Australia would be holding public meetings on a fairly regular basis to discuss with the industry its concerns and to respond appropriately to feedback. This does not happen. On the rare occasions that Screen Australia calls such a meeting it is to make announcements, an exercize in self-aggrandizement, not to engage in dialogue.
Whilst I accept, with weary resignation, that the board of which you are Chair has effectively ended my film career for the time being, I cannot accept that you and your fellow board members have gone on record as confirming, as you did when you changed Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade on 9th May and endorsed Ruth’s ban, that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. 
There are many observations that could be made about my correspondence, many epithets that could be applied to it, but ‘intimidating’ and ‘placing at risk’ are not two of them - as any independent observer would know if he or she were to look at the correspondence in question. Conflating ‘feeling distressed’ with ‘ feeling intimidated’ and ‘feeling intimidated’ with ‘feeling at risk’ is the kind of word-mangling spin that senior management at Screen Australia should not be engaged in. And nor should the board countenance it. At risk of what? This is not a rhetorical question. 
I would appreciate it if, for a change, you were to acknowledge receipt of this letter and let me know if, on Nov 9th, the Screen Australia board has any intention of doing one of two things: (1) Ratifying its original 10th May ban and supplying evidence-based reasons for doing so or (2) Lifting the 10th May ban and providing evidence-based reasons for doing so. Either outcome should, of course, be based on verifiable facts. If you have evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff, make it public; go on record with the evidence. If you have evidence that I have, in any of my correspondence, in anything I have written on my blog, played fast and loose with, been parsimonious with, the truth, place it on record also. If I am guilty, my ban is deserved. If I am not, both the lifting of the ban and an apology are in order.
In this asymmetric battle with Screen Australia (I certainly cant afford to have 4 legal representative in court) I have little weaponry available to me other than my words and the use of guerrilla tactics such as turning up at Screen Australia and refusing to leave until Ruth Harley has provided me with marked up copies of correspondence. This tactic worked, Ruth handed me the correspondence personally, but such tactics should not be necessary and I trust that it will not be necessary for me to employ  them again.
As I have already indicated, I would appreciate an opportunity to address the board directly on 9th Nov. in relation to my being banned. Yes, an unusual request but not nearly as unusual as the banning of a filmmaker on the basis of either no evidence at all or evidence that Screen Australia chooses to keep secret.
best wishes
James Ricketson

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

'Stolen Children' - CHANTI'S WORLD

My dispute with Screen Australia may seem at this point (to those who have followed it) to be about an abstration: 
Has James or has he not, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff? 
If I am guilty as charged, my being banned is appropriate, but if I am not, my ‘Chanti’s World’ documentary - the catalyst for the dispute - should be assessed on its merits.
I am in Phnom Penh at present, in the 17th year of filming - the story growing more complex and interesting with each passing year:
In brief
Chanti, a very poor twenty seven year old mother of five, lives on the streets and in the slums of Phnom Penh.  Under the pretext of helping her feed, clothe and educate her kids, a Brisbane-based church, Citipointe, steals Chanti’s two oldest daughters and  refuses, over a period of four years, to return them to their mother’s care - despite Chanti’s repeated and express wishes that it do so. 
James Ricketson began documenting Chanti’s life since 1995, when she was a street kid supporting herself and her mother begging from tourists. Chanti’s starring role in “Sleeping with Cambodia” when she was ten years old led to a friendship between James, Chanti and her mother Vanna.  Over the following seventeen years the dividing line between being an observer and a participant in Chanti’s life becomes increasingly blurred as James is drawn deeper and deeper into Chanti’s life and world - a world populated by families as poor as her own struggling to survive on incomes of between $1 and $2 a day.  James is now ‘Papa’ to Chanti, her mother, her husband Chhork and her five kids - Rosa, Srey Mal, Srey Ka, James and Kevin. (Yes, James was named after the filmmaker but God-knows what possessed Chanti to call Kevin, Kevin!) Despite Chanti’s repeated declaration of “No more babies” Chanti is now pregnant with her sixth child!
For four years James has been  helping Chanti and Chhork in their to-date fruitless attempts to regain custody of Rosa and Srey Mal. In the process Citipoiinte church has twice threatened to sue James for defamation; for having accused the church of stealing Chanti’s two eldest daughter - in the sense that Aboriginal children were ‘stolen’ from their poor parents in Australia because it was believed that they would be better off growing up in institutions than with their materially poor families. As he tries to help Chanti James discovers that the ‘stealing’ of children is rife in Cambodia - the Christian and other NGOs who remove children from the care of their families and communities likewise believing that it is in the best interests of the children.
CHANTI’S WORLD begins in the present, with Chanti’s and James’ attempts to get Citipointe church to return Rosa and Srey Mal to the care of their family. Questions abound: Perhaps, despite being forced to become Christians, Rosa and Srey Mal really are better off growing up in an institution in which they receive three meals a day, an education and access to medical and dental care? Perhaps becoming a Christian and being alienated from family, community and culture is a small price to pay if, in the process, Rosa and Srey Mal are provided with opportunities in life that were denied their illiterate mother and grandmother on the streets on Phnom Penh. In exploring such questions CHANTI’S WORLD delves back 17 years to the time, in 1995, when Chanti and James first met when, through the simple act of pointing his camera at Chanti and give her $1, James took the first step into becoming an integral part of Chanti’s world.
1995. Chanti lives on the streets of Phnom Penh with her mother, Vanna. She begs money from tourists to support herself and Vanna. Begging is a job best done alone, leaving Chanti in constant danger of being kidnapped, trafficked and sexually abused. To minimize the chances of this occurring James rents a room for Chanti and her mother, arranges for Chanti to go to school and provides them with a small allowance.  He returns to Australia feeling rather pleased with himself . Before long Chanti and Vanna are back on the street – a pattern that will be repeated many times over the years as James tries to balance his documenting of their lives with his attempts to help them. He discovers that helping people in third world countries is much more complicated than it seems. It is fraught with difficulties. The pathway to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.  
When Chanti reaches her early teens she can no longer rely on her smile to charm money from tourists to support herself and Vanna. She decides to follow her best friend Sekun, also from an impoverished street family, into another form of begging – hanging out in bars frequented by men from the developed world with a predilection for having sex with teenage girls. These men do not like to use condoms and, before long, Chanti has a Eurasian daughter named Rosa. Before she is nineteen Chanti gives birth to her second daughter,  Srey Mal. 
For a few years Chanti and her family live in a slum when they can afford it and on the street when they cant. Chanti gets occasional menial jobs, runs a stand by the river selling drinks and snacks to tourists and, when necessary, picks up men in bars to support her family. Vanna is a caring and attentive grandmother – bathing, clothing and feeding the girls whilst Chanti is out earning a living or indulging in her passion for partying. Mother of two she may be but Chanti is still a teenager and she wants to have fun! Vanna’s caring for the girls is marred, on occasion, by brief bouts of mental illness that cause anguish for Chanti and confusion in the minds of her granddaughters. Whilst continuing to document their lives James tries to help in every way he can - renting them apartments to live in, buying clothes, food utensils, bags of rice and, when he can afford it, effectively supporting the family. His effoerts have a lasting impact, however, and it becomes apparent to him that Rosa and Srey Mal’s lives will, in all likelihood, unfold much as their mother’s has if they continue to grow up on the street and in slums. Chanti does not want her daughters to follow in her footsteps but seems incapable of changing her life in such a way as to prevent this from occurring – even with the James’ help. This dynamic changes when Chanti meets her husband – Chhork. He is a stabilizing influence on Chanti, refusing to allow her to indulge in her passion for partying and gambling - a pastime that most Cmabodians indulge in. Making ends meet is still hard but, by age 20, Chanti seems to have settled into being a responsible young adult. She has a job sweeping the street in the local markets, as does Vanna. The pay is not great but it is enough for them to be able to rent a small shack in a slum and to have a TV. The family is now self sufficient. Life is may be hard but it is good. Chanti is happy and Rosa has started to go to school.
A year later, however, Chanti loses her job, the family is back on the street and she has a new baby, Srey Ka. Feeding three young daughters, her mother and Chhork is hard. Like Chanti, Chhork is illiterate, has no skills and it is difficult for him to find work. James rents the family (yet another) room, buys them new pots and pans and supports them through this difficult time – aware as he is that this can be a short-term solution only. What is required is a long-term solution; a way in which the family can become self-sustaining and not be reliant on either the filmmaker’s or anyone else’s handouts. 
A medium-term solution presents itself when Citipointe church, based in Brisbane,  Australia, opens its ‘She’ refuge in Phnom Penh. It offers to help Chanti’s family by providing accommodation, food, education and medical care for Rosa and Srey Mal. The girls will be able to board in the ‘She’ refuge (just a few streets away) and stay with their family in the one room apartment one day a week. Chanti will be able to visit her daughters regularly and Citipointe will, it assures Chanti, help her get some training to enable her to get a job. Citipointe is, it assures both Chanti and James. committed to offering short term help for families in  need –  the church’s stated aim being to see the young girls in its care re-untied with their families as soon as possible. Chanti asks the James what he thinks of Citipointe’s offer. Should she accept it? James puts aside his own concerns about the evangelical agenda of the church and advises Chanti to take Citipointe up on its offer. She does so but it soon transpires that the church has other plans for Rosa and Srey Mal than those they articulated to Chanti and James. Regardless of its promises and Chanti’s wishes, Citipointe declares that the church will retain custody of Rosa and Srey Mal until they are 18 and that Chanti will be entitled to only 2 hours of supervised visits each month. Chanti’s financial fortunes changed, however. She is living on a boat parked on the banks of the Bassac river and has a stall selling drinks, fruit and snacks to tourists that is doing well enough for Chanti to buy a mobile phone. Chhork earns extra money taking tourists on river cruises. Now that she is in a position to take care of Rosa and Srey Mal, Chanti asks Citipointe, yet again, to return her daughters. The church refuses to do so, citing a ‘contract’ that Chanti has ‘signed’ with her thumb print; a ‘contract’ that, Citipointe tells Chanti, has given the church total control over the lives of Rosa and Srey Mal. When the ‘contract’ is translated it is found to contain none of the conditions the church had told Chanti it contained and was not a legal document anyway since it was not signed by any member of Citipointe church. Chanti had been hookwinked and she was not happy. In frustration she kidnapped Rosa from the ‘She’ refuge, the police were called and Chanti’s access to her daughters was limited to 2 hours per month. At the time Citipiointe had no legal right to be retaining custody of Rosa and Srey Mal against the wishes of their mother.
Chanti asks James to help get her daughters back but he is not sure whether the girls are better off growing up poor and at risk with their family or as Christians in an institution – cut off from their mother, grandmother, friends, community, culture and religion. There is a compromise solution, the filmmaker thinks – one that could guarantee the safety and well-being of Rosa and Srey Mal as they grow up whilst also acknowledging the rights of the girls to retain strong links with their mother, grandmother, step-father, sister Srey Ka and brother, James. Citipointe seems determined, however, to retain permanent custody of Rosa and Srey Mal until they are 18 regardless of Chanti’s wishes or of her ability, financially, to care for her children.  Twice, in an apparent attempt to scare off James, the church threatens legal action; to sue him for defaming the church. Neither threat is followed up. Chanti and Chhork have a fifth baby, a boy, and hope that James will buy them a tuk tuk (a three-wheeled taxi) that will enable Chanti and Chhork to house, feed and clothe all members of the family of eight (and soon to be nine) under one roof.
In Oct 2012 Chanti and James' battle to have Rosa and Srey Mal returned to their family continues

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Knowing All The Facts"+ 'Stolen' children in Phnom Penh

At the airport this morning, waiting for a flight to Phnom Penh, where I will try yet again to secure the release of 8 and 10 year old girls 'stolen' from their poor mother by a Christian church based in Brisbane (http://citipointechurch.blogspot.com), Evan Whitton's piece in this morning's The Punch caught my attention:

What is justice?


After researching the law for 11 years, Justice Russell Fox concluded that justice means fairness, and fairness and morality require a search for the truth, otherwise the wrong side may win.
Justice Fox also said the public knows that “justice marches with the truth”. That means common lawyers are the only people on the planet who believe you can dispense justice without knowing all the facts.

The Screen Australia board has dispensed justice without knowing 'knowing all the facts'. Indeed, the board shows no interest at all in being acquainted with the facts. And, as evidenced a few times now, Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron go to great lengths to keep from public view facts that do not support their contention that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australias staff.

In the French system:
• Trained judges are in charge of evidence. On a fixed wage, they do not have an incentive to spin the process out. Most hearings take no more than a day or so.
• Evidence is not concealed, and lawyers are not allowed to question witnesses directly lest they pollute the truth with sophistry: trick questions, false arguments, etc.
• The innocent are rarely charged; 95 per cent of guilty defendants are convicted.
In the adversary system:
• Lawyers are in charge of evidence. On $300 plus an hour, they do have an incentive to spin the process out; the record is 117 years. Lawyers for white collar criminals – tax evaders, price fixers, inside traders, and so on – can run regulators round the courts for years. Trials can take months.

In anything approximating the French system, with the mediator or conciliator I have been suggesting for months this dispute could have been (and should have been) settled in a couple of hours in Nov 2020. Both Screen Australia and myself would have presented pertinent facts to this independent arbitrator. S/he would have looked at the facts (made up almost entirely of correspondence), handed down a ruling and the time, energy and money of a lot of people would have been saved. If the ruling had gone against me, based on the evidence, the facts, fair enough. Matter closed. I would have accepted the result.

That Screen Australia had four legal representatives in the Supreme Court speaks volumes of how much money the organization was prepared to spend, had the case proceeded, to prevent me getting my hands on copies of my 'intimidating correspondence'. Screen Australia knew that the only reason I was suing for defamation was to get hold of the correspondence, having had no joy getting it in any other way. Ruth Harley handed the marked up correspondence to me in the Screen Australia foyer a couple of weeks later anyway, so it's difficult to understand why she didn't simply give it to me on 11th May when I asked for it!

Herein lies one of the big problems with Screen Australia, from my experience - playing its cards so close to its chest. Information is to be hoarded, dialogue to be avoided at all costs. When challenged in any way, bring on the spin doctors - one of the best being Fiona Cameron herself. She is adept at making silk purses out of sows ears and if the going gets tough, if the questions asked of her require answers that might not sit comfortably with the narrative she has created, there is always, "I am not going to communicate with you any longer," to fall back on.

Is this what we want, need, expect of Screen Australia management? I think Screen Australia needs a new Chief Executive. And I think that the new CEO, in conjuction with the Screen Australia Board, needs to re-think the question of how long SA bureaucrats in positions of significant creative and fiscal control can stay in their positions. I would suggest four years maximum. There is no shortage of highly qualified filmmakers who could fill, for four years, the positions now held by some who have virtual tenure. The organization would benefit enormously from a constant turnover of personnel; from regular injectsions of new blood.

Making a script development application when banned

Rachel Perkins
Blackfella Films
10 Cecil Street
NSW 2021                                                                                          23rd   Oct. 2012

Dear Rachel

Regardless of Ruth Harley’s ban on me, I have made yet another application to Screen Australia for development funds. I believe that it would be appropriate for my application to remain ‘in the system’ (along with my recent application for script development funds for HONOUR) until 9th Nov when the board decides to either ratify or lift the ban on me.

My 19th Oct cover letter for SHIPS IN THE NGHT speaks for itself.

Dear Script Development

                                         re SHIPS IN THE NIGHT

My 2nd Oct application for script development funds for HONOUR was knocked back by Ruth Harley on the grounds that I have intimidated and placed Screen Australia staff at risk. Ruth has provided no evidence in support of her allegations and I do not accept the knockback of HONOUR as valid, despite its having been ratified by the Screen Australia board.

I am making another application with another project that was developed to first draft stage by Screen NSW. No doubt SHIPS IN THE NIGHT will also be knocked back unread, again as a result of the board’s decision to ban me - the quality of film projects being of less importance than that filmmakers should not cause any distress to members of Screen Australia staff by asking questions or criticizing them for their lack of transparency and accountability, for their inability to abide of Screen Australia guidelines or the Public Service Code of Conduct.

When this project is knocked back I will make an application with another of projects which will also be knocked back unread, unassessed.

The ban on myself, initiated by Ruth Harley and requiring the alteration of Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade to make it legal, is motivated by a toxic combination of spite and vengeance for my having the temerity to be a critic of senior management at SA in the public domain. It is to be hoped, at some point in the not too distant future, that members of the Screen Australia Board will request of Ms Harley that she provide evidence in support of her allegations and, when it is not forthcoming, lift the ban.

best wishes

Do you really believe, Rachel, that in reading and assessing SHIPS IN THE NIGHT and HONOUR (two feature film projects) that members of Screen Australia staff can be placed in any kind of risk? If so, could you and your fellow board members please indicate to me just how this ‘risk’ manifest itself? And, if you can come up with a plausible explanation, can you please indicate to me just how it is that I am supposed to convince the board that my correspondence, in the future, will NOT pose a risk to any Screen Australia employee whose job it may be to read it?

best wishes

James Ricketson

Monday, October 22, 2012

The risk involved in viewing a DVD!

Members of the Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia
Level 4, 150 William St
Wooloomooloo 2011         22nd . Oct. 2012

Dear Board Members

17 years in the life of a Cambodian street kid and her family growing from childhood, 1995, to mother of five, in 2012.

This is a one sentence description of the feature length documentary project that Screen Australia refuses to assess on the grounds that in the process of doing so members of Screen Australia staff will be placed at risk! Despite my best efforts, I have yet to come up with any even half-sensible explanation of how the assessment process might place the viewer of a DVD or the reader of a written submission at risk! And despite my asking, countless times now, my plea to Screen Australia for an explanation of how assessing CHANTI’S WORLD could possibly place anyone at risk has fallen on deaf ears. In the parallel universe of Screen Australia answers to such questions are not forthcoming. Silence reigns. Ruth Harley has her own private definition of ‘risk’ and is not going to share it with anyone!

The combination of post-production pre-sale and Screen Australia investment, had my 19th Oct application been successful (had I been able to make it), would have provided  CHANTI’S WORLD with sufficient funds for me to complete the film at a high professional standard – a documentary that has been funded entirely by myself since 1996, with not one cent of Screen Australia funding or one cent from any other funding body. CHANTI’S WORLD is a film that an international broadcaster believes there is an audience for but one that Screen Australia will not even consider assessing on the Alice in Wonderland grounds that the assessment process would place SA staff at risk. Here is a one paragraph description of CHANTI’S WORLD:

Growing up poor on the streets of Phnom Penh, the threat and reality of sexual exploitation is ever-present for Chanti – both as a young and teenage girl. As a young mother herself the same threat looms for her two oldest daughters – Rosa and Srey Mal. An Australian church’s offer to help Chanti care for her young daughters (Citipointe, based in Brisbane) turns into a nightmare for her when Citipointe severely limits her access to Rosa and Srey Mal, tells her that it will retain custody the girls till they are 18 and refuses to return them to her care when Chanti requests that they do so – an abrogation of Cambodian, Australian and international law. Chanti's plea to the filmmaker to help get her children back raises complicated and confronting questions for him. It results in him becoming much more embroiled in her life than he had ever intended. The line between being an observor and a participant in the life of Chanti and her family is well and truly crossed as he tries, over a period of a few years, to get Citipointe to return Chanti’s daughters to her.

Despite my having spent 17 years working on (as well as living) this film it could, of course, be crap. However, in order to know whether CHANTI’S WORLD is crap or, perhaps, a terrific story with great potential, a funding body would have to look at the ‘promo’, you would think, wouldn’t you? In 2009 the ‘promo’ was 7 minutes long. The two people who essentially decided on its fate – Claire Jager and Ross Mathews – by their own admission, did not view the promo before deciding to knock the project back and in so doing lay the groundwork for this dispute. 

Fast forward three and a bit years and the ‘promo’ is now around 35 minutes long – more than long enough for Screen Australia to assess on the basis of the quality of the story, its cinematography and its potential to reach a large audience in Australia and overseas. Will Screen Australia look at the 35 min ‘promo’? No, the act of looking at it would, presumably, be an intimidating experience, place the viewer at risk or, perhaps, cause some poor Screen Australia employee distress!

I wonder if any member of the board has the courage to actually view my 35 min. CHANTI’S WORLD ‘promo’ – of which Screen Australia has a copy. Perhaps a few of you, viewing it together, could offer each other support in the event that any viewer should feel at risk, intimidated, during the screening. Perhaps Graham, Screen Australia’s Security Manager could sit in also to provide protection and emotional support (Kleenex tissues) in the even that one of you becomes overly distressed!

best wishes

James Ricketson

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Another letter for the Screen Australia Board

Members of the Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia
Level 4, 150 William St
Wooloomooloo 2011  22nd. Oct. 2012

Dear Board Members

You will be aware of the letters I have sent to fellow board member Rachel Perkins this past few months in which I have attempted to secure a just resolution to my dispute with Screen Australia based on verifiable facts. Rachel has responded to none of my letters. Perhaps it is inappropriate that she do so given that she is only one member of a board. However, it is more than four months since Rachel informed me that she understood my concerns and would look into them and I am working on the presumption that she must have raised her concerns at a Screen Australia board meeting held between 10th May and 22nd Oct. 

The 19th Oct deadline has passed for me to apply for post-production funding for CHANTI’S WORLD based on a pre-sale from an international broadcaster. I have been unable to make the application I have been planning (and working towards) for months because, five months after the ban imposed by Ruth Harley and ratified by yourselves, it seems that you are still of the opinion that I have intimidated and placed members of Screen Australia staff at risk. My plea for evidence continues to fall on members of the board’s deaf ears.

The questions the board needs to ask are, it seems to me, clear. Here’s one:

- Why was Ruth prepared to spend five months and God-knows how much money in the Supreme Court (four legal representatives!) trying to prevent me from acquiring marked up copies of my correspondence?  

If Screen Australia were committed to transparency and accountability I would have been provided with evidence of my crimes BEFORE being tried and found guilty by yourselves. I would have been given an opportunity to defend myself – as I have been doing in my letters to Rachel Perkins in the five months since Ruth’s fatwa was handed down.  

- Was the money spent by Screen Australia in the Supreme Court money well spent? How much was it? Barristers don’t come cheap! Is the film community entitled to know or is this classified information?

My refusal to leave the Screen Australia offices last week without marked up copies of my ‘intimidating correspondence’ (the reason given for your banning of me) did have the desired effect. Ruth Harley descended into the foyer to hand a sheath of papers to me. My response to the marked up ‘intimidating’ passages has been dealt with elsewhere and is to be found (along with a complete history of this dispute) on my blog.

- Given that I have been asking for this correspondence for five months do you, members of the board, think it appropriate that I should have to use 1960s protest tactics to acquire them? 

As for Ruth getting the Security Manager to call the police to have me arrested in the foyer of Screen Australia at 4pm, as I was reading through the marked up correspondence:

- What do you make of my being arrested? A considered and necessary management decision or overkill?
I contend that there is no evidence in the marked up correspondence Ruth provided me with last week that backs up her assertion that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of her staff. Have you received your own copies or do you simply take Ruth's word for it that the marked up passages bear witness to Ruth's allegations?

Or has Ruth decided, in Humpty Dumpty fashion, to re-define the word ‘intimidation’ and the phrase ‘at risk’ in such a way as to make even a letter such as this one qualify as intimidating and placing you, dear Board Members, at risk!  Fiona Cameron or Liz Crosby might respond with, “But I feel intimidated, I feel at risk. James’ correspondence distresses me” Yes, but are the subjective feelings of senior personnel at Screen Australia the benchmark by which this word (‘intimidate’) and this phrase (‘at risk) are judged? 
- Do you, dear Board Members, share Fiona and Ruth’s definition of the word ‘intimidate’ and the phrase ‘at risk’? Do you agree that causing distress to a Screen Australia employee with a letter or an email is an offence worthy of ban being placed on the correspondent?

This is not a rhetorical question.

I am clearly a biased observer but it seems to me that what I am guilty of is (a) Distressing Liz Crosby by continuing to ask her the same question over a period of 18 months and, in the process, making some observations about her character as a result of her refusal to answer it and (b) calling Fiona Cameron a liar.

Accusing anyone of being a liar is not a nice thing to say about anyone but if anyone within the Screen Australia hierarchy (including the board) were to look at the facts they would discover that what I write is not defamatory but simply a statement of demonstrable fact. I did not write the ‘greenlit’ correspondence Fiona claimed I had. Trivial lies, agreed, but lies nonetheless that have led us to the point where we are now – daggers drawn and with myself unable to take advantage of a pre-sale offered to me by a major international broadcaster. And all because I have insisted upon my right to have my original complaint adjudicated on the basis of facts and not spin – preferably by an independent conciliator/mediator. The purpose of mediators and conciliators is to prevent disputes such as this blowing out of all proportion.

- Why, dear Board Members, is Ruth so loathe to call in an independent conciliator/mediator if she believes (as surely she must) that she has right on her side? Right, facts, evidence?

One problem with Screen Australia is that facts are of no importance in the adjudication of disputes such as this one – reflecting a worrying lack of transparency and accountability within the organization. A filmmaker can be accused of placing SA staff at risk (the sort of behaviour that results in AVOs being taken out against offenders) and no one within the organization, including the board, is interested, it seems, in being provide with evidence of the offence.

I believe that the reason why Ruth Harley has gone to such extraordinary lengths to prevent me from acquiring marked copies of my ‘intimidating correspondence’, just as she spent 20 months trying to prevent me from acquiring copies of the ‘greenlit’ correspondence and just as, to this day, the relevant Screen Australia staff refuse to go on record re conversations had about the CHANTI’S WORLD promo, is that she fears (with some justification) that the moment my questions are addressed, answered and the truth revealed, the cover up for the cockup that has occurred here will be abundantly apparent and raise serious questions about her competence as Chief Executive. 

Another question: 

At what point in the application process can any filmmaker, with his or her correspondence, pose a risk to Screen Australia staff? 

These are the stages s/he must go through:

- S/he posts it to Screen Australia or drops it off in person. What risk is involved here? Has there every been an instance of a filmmaker (including myself), whilst dropping off an application, either intimidating or placing at risk a Screen Australia receptionist? 

- Once ‘in the system’ the filmmaker’s application is processed by various people. This includes the reading of accompanying correspondence. Has there ever been an instance in which an applicant in his or her application has included correspondence that has been intimidating or placed the reader of it at risk? I suspect not but, in the event that such an eventuality were to occur, isn’t this the point at which the relevant person from Screen Australia would write to the filmmaker, “Dear So and So, the correspondence you have included in your application is unacceptable to us for (state reasons) and we have decided to proceed no further with it.” 

Please bear with me here. I am trying to figure out at what point in the application process it is possible for a filmmaker (myself in this instance) to place a member of SA staff at risk.

- Once the assessment process has been completed (intimidating applicants already weeded out of the system) decisions are made within Screen Australia as to which projects will receive funding and which will not. The relevant letters of acceptance or rejection are sent out to filmmakers. It is at this point that intimidation could occur – the aggrieved rejected filmmaker, unhappy with the result, using intimidating tactics to try and get the decision reversed. This seems to be the category that I have been placed in my Screen Australia; the one that has been presented to you board members. But have you ever been presented with any evidence? Does the marked up ‘intimidating correspondence’ contain evidence that I have intimidated or placed anyone at risk? This is not a rhetorical question. It is one that the board needs to be clear about in its deliberations on 9th Nov.

If there is any evidence in support of the proposition that I have intimidated or placed anyone at risk in the process of trying to reverse a decision made by Screen Australia I would be the first to agree that I should be banned. But where is the evidence? There is none. I have never, in my entire film career, complained about not getting funding. If any evidence can be produced that suggests I have, Ruth Harley is in a position to present it to the board and, in the interests of transparency and accountability, provide me with copies also. What I have done, and this is the case here, is complain about the lack of due process. To be more precise I have complained that the decision to knock back ‘Chanti’s World’ in mid 2009 was made by two people who, by their own admission, did not view the ‘promo’ for the project. Just as Gavilro Princep’s killing of Archduke Ferdinand was the trigger for World War 1, so too was Claire Jager and Ross Mathews’ failure to view my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo the trigger for this dispute. It is no more possible to discuss the original cause of this dispute without reference to the  viewing or non-viewing of my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo than it is to discuss the causes of WW1 with no reference to Princep's killing of the Archduke. And yet this is precisely what has happened during the past two years of my asking of Claire, Julia, Ross and Liz to go on record with their recollections.

I contend that whilst Screen Australia knows all too well that my ‘promo’ was not viewed (and has done for three years now) it will not make any kind of public admission of this fact. To do so would reveal that I was right to make my complaint in the first place. Screen Australia will also not come out and say, “Ricketson is wrong, Of course Ross and Claire viewed his ‘CHANTI’S WORLD ‘promo’,” because this would be a lie that would, once exposed, reflect very badly on many people now. So, the best tactic is for Claire, Ross, Julia and Liz to remain silent. Simply refuse to answer the question and, when the filmmaker keeps asking it, use his persistent asking of the same question as evidence of harassment, intimidation and placing staff at risk!

If the Screen Australia board has any respect at all for facts and for making fair and just decisions based on facts, it must ask the relevant people if conversations were had, in Ricketson’s presence, in which it was admitted that Ross and Claire had not viewed the promo. If all four in a position to confirm or deny my version of events insist that I am wrong, then it is pretty clear that it is me who began this dispute and not Screen Australia. I have been asking Ross, Julia, Claire and Liz for close to two years now to go on record with this. They have all declined. If they continue to decline to go on record, even when asked by the board, you can each draw your own conclusions. If Ross, Julia, Claire and Liz do all go on record stating that the conversations I have referred to never occurred, you might at least admonish all four (along with Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron) for never, this past two years, having answered my oft-asked question and saving us all a lot of wasted time, effort and money.

If you can find no evidence that I have intimidated and placed members of Screen Australia’s staff at risk, please do consider an alternative explanation for the ban imposed by Ruth Harley and ratified by yourselves – namely, that by holding out the possibility that the ban on me might be lifted, Ruth Harley hoped, in her 10th May letter, to silence a vocal critic of her and the way in which Screen Australia is managed under her stewardship. If neither the ‘intimidation’ nor the ‘censorship’ explanations for what has occurred here appeal to the board I would love to know why it is that the board has seen fit to continue with its ban on me this past five months – during which time you have, I presume, met ore than once. 

Let’s be very clear here. In less than 24 hours the board ratified Ruth Harley’s ban on the grounds of intimidation and placing staff at risk. It is the board’s responsibility to be convinced, on the basis of evidence and not mere assertions by Ruth, that I am guilty as charged. And, if the Board feels that I am, I trust that it will present me with the reasons why it has concluded that I am guilty. Transparency and accountability necessitate the Board take responsibility for my being banned and not, as Ruth and Fiona did when they fobbed off the decision to have me arrested on Graham the Security manager, lob the decision back into Ruth’s court.

The real shame here is that the original cockup (Claire Jager and Ross Mathews failure to view a DVD) is one that could have been cleared up in fifteen minutes if there had been a will on the part of Ross, Fiona and Ruth to do so. The problem could have been rectified amicably and there would be no need for us to be where we are now with you members of the board having to make a decision on 9th Nov. to (a) ratify your original ban and bring my film career to an end, or (b) lift the ban, apologize for having imposed it in the first place and ask Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron to put in place a time-efficient complaints process that is fact-based and does not result in decisions made on the whim of a less-than-disinterested party.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Thursday, October 18, 2012

As I prepare for a (possible) weekend in Long Bay!

This is my 100th blog entry since 10th May when Ruth Harley handed down her fatwa. Yes, obsessive, but then I’m not prepared to have my career essentially ended by Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board without fighting to the last.

As of this morning  I have received 11, 596 page hits so there are clearly a few fellow filmmakers out there interested in the outcome or, perhaps, in the inherent drama in this dispute. I hope, Dear Reader, if you belong to an an industry association or guild, that you think about the implications of what is going on here and how its outcome has ramifications for how all filmmakers relate to Screen Australia and hence for both the industry and culture of Australian film.

I would not suggest that even the most avid follower read this lengthy letter to the Ombudsman. It contains nothing new. I am publishing it more to place on record my latest attempt to find a just resolution to my dispute than I am in the expectation that it will be of interest to anyone other than those immediately involved in it. 

Ms Alison Larkins
Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442, Canberra                                                                                                   19th Oct 2012

Dear Ms Larkins
I have written several letters to your Senior Investigator, Stephen Nowicki, this past few months regarding my being banned by Screen Australia. Other than being ‘concerned’ that Screen Australia refuses to accept any development or funding applications from me will Stephen’s ‘concerns’ translate into action of any kind on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman?

I have a few more questions for you and they are rather urgent given my arrest by the police earlier this week in the foyer of Screen Australia and my possible arrest later in today when I arrive there again to drop off another development application.  

I would prefer that my questions be considered in context so am here, quoting the bulk of a letter I sent to the then Ombudsman, Alan Asher, on 2nd March 2011. It concerns Elisa Harris’ decision not to ask one question of Claire Jager, Ross Mathews, Julia Overton or Liz Crosby before completing her investigation into my complaint. Elisa spoke only with Fiona Cameron, about whom I was making the most significant part of my complaint:

Elisa made it clear that she had no intention of asking even the most important question in this matter. “…to ask the question you pose was not considered relevant to the investigation,” Elisa wrote on 12th.Jan….

Imagine, in the case of any crime, if, in court, the person accused of the crime was never asked if he had committed it and was found ‘not guilty’ on the grounds that to ask the question was not considered relevant!   True, no crime has been committed here but there are sins of commission and sins of omission and it is arguable that Screen Australia’s collective decision not to answer any questions falls into the latter category.

How does Elisa justify not asking this question? If it had been asked, months ago, and if the answer had been (from Julia Overton, Ross Mathews and Liz Crosby) “We do not recollect it as James does. Our recollection, all three of us, is…” that would have been the end of the matter. Elisa, confronted by two different versions, would, quite understandably, have found it impossible to choose which was true and which was false. But to not even ask the question!

If the questions had been asked and if Ross, Julia and Liz all agreed that, yes, James’ version was true (as I feel sure they would, if asked) and if Elisa had felt inclined to ask a second question, it might be something like this: 

“Is it true that Claire Jaeger and Ross Mathews, in assessing James’ CHANTI’S WORLD proposal in mid 2009 (first submission), failed to view the 7 minute promo that was the centre point of his application?” 

If Elisa had bothered to ask these questions and if the answers had been as I have indicated here, might she have felt inclined to continue with her investigation, ask more questions (and there are plenty) and perhaps even speak with me and not just with Fiona?

My complaint has never been about money. It has never, despite Fiona’s protestations (not backed up by any facts) been about whether or not I received funding from Screen Australia for CHANTI’S WORLD or thought the project had been ‘greenlit’. (Evidence, please, Fiona!) It has been about principles – these being, broadly speaking, that Screen Australia personnel should abide by the organization’s own guidelines, that Fiona Cameron ought not to be allowed to place on file statements that are demonstrably untrue and that Screen Australia should have a complaints process that begins with facts and not with a foregone conclusion for which ‘facts’ are manufactured in order to justify it – Fiona’s letter to me of 12th Nov being a case in point.

In many letters and emails now I have consistently asked that this matter be adjudicated on the basis of facts and not spin. Many times I have invited all involved to refute the facts as I have presented them – an invitation refused by all. If the facts reveal that I have been playing fast and loose with the truth, why has no-one bothered to point this out to me? If the facts as I have presented them are nothing but a concoction of lies, why is it that Ross Mathews, Julia Overton and Liz Crosby have not come out and said so? In the face of Ross, Julia’s and Liz’s refutation any reasonable person would look at my complaint and say, “Well, here are three Screen Australia personnel present for the relevant conversations who insist that Mr Ricketson is wrong in his account of what has transpired and, unless all three are lying, Mr Ricketson seems to be the one who has got it all wrong.” In this instance the hypothetical reasonable person was Elisa Harris – who did not think it important to even ask Ross, Julia or Liz if my account was true or not!...

In not asking these questions, the Ombudsman’s office (is) basically…giving the green light to Screen Australia personnel, (in any future complaints that may be made about the organization) to behave as they like, sure in the knowledge that the Ombudsman will not ask the pertinent questions and the problem will simply disappear whilst the appearance of due process (complaint to Commonwealth Ombudsman) is maintained.

“If the Ombudsman is not going to even ask us pertinent questions,” Screen Australia staff could be forgiven for asking themselves “why on earth should we take any notice of any filmmaker who asks them?” Under the circumstances, silence is the best available option when questions are asked of Screen Australia staff and silence is what I have got, for close to five months now – silence sanctioned, to date at least, by the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

If the person who reviews Elisa Harris’ decision (should such a review prove necessary), does feel that the questions I have posed are worthy of answers and if the answers all point to it being me who has played fast and loose with the truth, I deserve whatever public pillorying comes my way. If the person conducting the review decides not to ask any of the questions above…I fail to see how your office can arrive at a decision based on facts as opposed to the kinds of suppositions Elisa based her decision on.

In the interests of transparency I am copying this letter to others involved (or with an interest) in this dispute. If any one of them can point out to you where, in this letter (or indeed in any of my correspondence) I have been parsimonious with the truth, you will have good grounds for taking all that I write with a grain of salt. If not one of those copied on this letter contradicts anything I write here (or have written) perhaps it is because I have been truthful in my account of what has occurred. And if what I write is true, how can your office arrive at any other conclusion than that, at the very least, both my CHANTI’S WORLD application and I, myself, have been treated in an off-hand and careless manner -  members of Screen Australia staff having breached Screen Australia guidelines whilst more senior members of that staff have sought to cover this up with a combination of spin and silence?

In copying this to others involved I am also offering them (collectively or individually) the opportunity to answer the questions I have been asking this past five months and which your office has, to date, refused to ask. If, at this late stage, Screen Australia should choose to answer my questions it may well be that there is no need for me to request a review of Elisa Harris’s 8th March decision.

In the event that this letter does not result in Screen Australia answering the questions I have posed so many times, please accept this letter as my formal request for a review of the Elisa Harris’ decision to terminate her investigation – made in the hope that whoever conducts it will ask the questions that Ms Harris did not believe to be relevant.

best wishes

James Ricketson
cc Glen Boreham and members of the Screen Australia Board
Ruth Harley, Fiona Cameron, Ross Mathews, Julia Overton, Claire Jaeger and Liz Crosby

I received no response from Mr Asher to this letter. I did, however, have two conversations on the telephone with Rohan Anderson, who was given the task of reviewing Elisa Harris’ decision to dismiss my complaint. In the first of these Rohan informed me that he would ask questions of Julia Overton, Ross Mathews or Liz Crosby to see if they agreed or not with my version of events. In the second conversation, Rohan confirmed that he had not made one phone call to Screen Australia before deciding to uphold Elisa’s dismissal of my complaint. It is worth pointing out here (please excuse me for belabouring the point) that it took me around 20 months to be provided with copies of the correspondence that Fiona Cameron claimed bore witness to my belief that my ‘Chanti’s World’ application had been greenlit. It contains no such evidence. Why didn’t your office simply ask Fiona to hand over the correspondence in Nov 2010?

On 15th June this year I wrote to you the following:

Following on from my letter of 25th May and my several letters previous to it. As the months drag by with no resolution in sight I can’t help but think of what the alternative might have been, had Alisa Harris asked Fiona Cameron to produce the correspondence she referred to in Nov 2010 and to spend five minutes on the phone asking a few questions of staff within the documentary section of Screen Australia. One way or another the matter would have, or at least could have, been resolved in an hour. Alisa would have discovered that the correspondence did not exist and that Ross Mathews and Claire Jager had not seen the ‘promo’ for my CHANTI’S WORLD  project. An apology could have been given to me  and the matter would have been over and done with.  

Surely, some part of the role of the Ombudsman’s office is to defuse disputes before they get out of hand as opposed to sitting on the sidelines and waiting till hostilities occur of the kind that both parties find it difficult to back away from. I am not going to back away because I have been defamed and my capacity to work in my chosen profession has been adversely affected by my being banned. And Ruth Harley can’t back down without making the implicit admission that she should have and could so easily have resolved the matter 18 months ago.

The same applies with Ruth Harley’s banning of me five weeks ago now. Your office was made aware of this new development almost immediately and could, if it had chosen to do so, asked Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence she was referring to in justification of her banning to whoever it is that is investigating matter # 2010-118398. If Ruth Harley produced the correspondence and it contained clear evidence of the crimes of intimidation, harassment and placing at risk of Screen Australia staff, this would have been immediately apparent and a letter could have been sent to me by your office declaring this to be the case. The matter would have come to an abrupt end and I, with egg all over my own face for having lied about the non-existence of correspondence, would have had to crawl into a hole and lick my (self-inflicted) wounds. Alternatively, Ruth Harley would have had to admit that correspondence of the kind I have been accused of writing does not exist and apologize. Yes, egg all over Ruth Harley’s face but the matter would then have been closed and a great deal of time and energy saved on the parts of many people – including that of whoever it is in your office that is investigating this matter.

Is it possible for your office to give me some indication as to whether or not it intends to ask Ruth Harley to produce the offending correspondence? If the answer is ‘no’, if it is not the role of Ombudsman’s office to do so, I can stop wasting my own and your time by continuing to write to you regarding the matter. If the office of the Ombudsman cannot ask Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence (or relevant extracts from it) I am at a loss to know how the Ombudsman can determine whether my being banned is appropriate or inappropriate. If it is possible to get an answer to this one question from yourself that would be much appreciated.

You did not respond to this letter. Given that you declined to ask Ruth Harley to produce the correspondence I decided to do whatever was necessary to obtain it – in this instance by arriving at Screen Australia and refusing to leave the foyer without it.  This absurd ploy worked. Ruth Harley came down into the foyer and handed me correspondence with those parts highlighted that bear witness to my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. It would not have been necessary for me to take such extreme (but effective) action if your office had simply requested that Ruth Harley provide me with the correspondence me five months ago. That I should have to resort to guerrilla tactics such as this is absurd but in this asymmetrical war with Screen Australia, I have to do what I have to do to get this matter resolved on the basis of facts and not spin. Here are my questions:

- Has your office seen marked up copies of the ‘intimidating correspondence’ provided to me this week by Ruth Harley? 

- Is your office interested in looking at the evidence that has led to my being banned or is this evidence not considered relevant to your investigation? 

- If you do have copies of my ‘intimidating correspondence’, do you believe that the marked up passages constitute intimidation by myself; of placing members of Screen Australia staff at risk?

- If you believe that my being banned is inappropriate, is the office of the Ombudsman in a position to do anything other than express its ‘concerns’?

- Could you call Claire Jager, Ross Mathews and Liz Crosby this morning and ask them to either confirm or deny my assertion that my CHANTI’S WORLD ‘promo’ was not viewed during the first 2009 assessment of this project?

- Insofar as it is within the ambit of your powers to do so, could you please, today, insist that Ruth Harley engage the services of an independent conciliator/mediator to adjudicate this dispute in an impartial manner – with both Screen Australia and myself obliged to adhere to the conciliator/mediator’s findings without further comment. This should be someone who has no vested interest in the outcome, who is only interested in demonstrable fact and who understands what the word ‘intimidate’ means and the phrase ‘at risk’ implies.

best wishes

James Ricketson