As stated in Part 5 of this serialization (#part5), my two children and I had been granted occupancy of a house by CANFaCS (CANberra Fathers and Children Services) on 05/05/2009 following the circumstances previously explained. For the records, I haven’t at any given time signed any occupancy agreement with ConnectionsACT for the same premises provided by CANFaCS.
On 3 December 2012, one Linda Vincent acting for ConnectionsACT wrote to notify once more of intention by ConnectionsACT to apply to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal for a termination and possession order if I hadn’t vacated the premises on or before the 19 December 2012. While I was still contemplating on my next course of action following this notification, a series of events happened in quick succession. On 4 December 2012, one Nigel Gregory – a Process Server – served me with the Termination Notice from ConnectionsACT dated 3 December 2012. The Australian Federal Police was next to notify me of proposed eviction from the subject premises, as reflected on attached copy below:
Around 6.30 a.m. of 20 February 2013 while my daughter was preparing for school, a fleet of speeding vehicles pulled up at my residential address. A group of officers, some in plain clothes, alighted from their vehicles, both police as well as unmarked. Mr Daniel Leskovec was the only person I could positively identify because he supervised the special team that attended to me at DIAC-ACTRO. There was also a dozen other Australian Federal Police officers in full police uniform. Before I could clearly tell what was happening, I realized the house had been surrounded on all sides by Police officers.
There was also a lady officer in the group dressed in plain clothes as well. The knocking on the doors was so scary, my daughter and I became so terrified as we didn’t know what the drama outside was all about. I, therefore, hesitated from opening any door as the people outside kept knocking while claiming they were officers from the department of immigration. I asked daughter to sit next to me in the lounge. From inside the house I could see one of the plain clothed officers who stood outside the sliding glass door. He kept directing a high-powered beam of light through the curtained glass door. He also kept making hand signals to the other members. My son wasn’t home at the time. He and school mates had gone on a three-day school excursion. I was meant to pick him up from school on the same day at 3.00 p.m., upon returning from excursion.
When I hesitated to open the door, the officers used equipment to open and gain entry into the house. Mr Daniel Leskovec flipped out a piece of paper claiming it was an ‘enter and search warrants’ obtained from the Courts. I wasn’t handed a copy of those ‘warrants’. Mr Daniel Leskovec appeared to supervise this operation. He went on to ask me a raft of questions, which I declined to answer. Surprisingly, he demanded to know my current immigration status. I couldn’t answer that question either because I considered a genuine immigration official would have known my immigration status in Australia. Recall at this point in time that my medication to manage depression had been stopped several months back without a doctor’s advice as reflected in Part 5 of this serialization. This invasion proved so challenging and daunting to me as my head felt like bursting from what appeared to be strong waves sweeping across my brain. The very unstructured nature and content of the questions asked was so provocative, more so considering immigration visa stickers affixed in our three diplomatic passports by the department of immigration.
Mr Daniel Leskovec then attempted to snatch my backpack off me to which I refused to let go. It was at this point one of the plain clothed officers I later learnt his first name was Joel, pushed me so hard back into the seat. I felt I had been assaulted. My backpack was removed from me by force. Officer Joel then stood right in front, making sure I had no room to move around. This was the same officer who had earlier been directing from outside the house through the curtains the high-powered beam of light. I found the encounter unwarranted, unprovoked, and quite intimidating given my daughter was right there. I complied and stayed calm.
The officers took my backpack to the dining area behind the separating wall. Officer Joel and other uniformed police officers surrounded me in the lounge area. The backpack was, therefore, searched away from my sight.
The officers then asked me to stand and lift up my hands. I did. They conducted a body search and removed the chain around my neck. They also removed a memory stick from my pockets. It was at that point Mr Daniel Leskovec informed me it appeared to him I didn’t have a valid visa to stay in Australia. How he had arrived at that conclusion was also daunting.
Mr Daniel Leskovec concluded my children and I had to be removed from the house and taken to DIAC-ACTRO enroute to Villawood Immigration Detention Camp. We were to be forcefully removed from Australia and deported to country of origin. My daughter and I were then escorted out of the house to a waiting van outside, with my hands lifted up in the air. The van we went in had a thick glass dividing the driver’s compartment from the back passenger compartment. It suddenly occurred to me, my daughter and I were actually being taken away in a prisoner van. This scenario was so humiliating and embarrassing.
What happened later at the immigration department following incessant questioning prior to my son being collected from school under police escort was a harrowing experience I would certainly not be able to get off my mind. My daughter and I were put in a small room fitted only with an overhead CCTV camera and one small bed. We were later removed and taken to what appeared to be a medium sized meeting room. Here, I was grilled over and over on the same set of questions to those asked at the residence, each time by a different officer. I did not respond. The grilling got to a point where the officers obtained an interpreter to translate the questions from English to Swahili on speaker phone. What a boisterous, humiliating, and contemptuous posturing.
I don’t remember what happened next while at the immigration department, if there was anything that happened which I may not remember, but I recall being attended to by ambulance staff at the same premises. I also recall hearing someone call for ‘de-brief’, where he said ‘what happened here, stays here’. The same voice congratulated the officers for an ‘assignment well executed’. I also recall my daughter crying. She certainly was so distressed by the event that had caused the attendance of ambulance staff on me. I could hear her pleading with the officers to save her dad.
After my son joined us at the department, the same official who appeared to be the manager and Mr Daniel Leskovec’s senior, convened a round-table conference. In attendance were ‘compliance officers’ and my family, other officers who had attended the early morning operation at the house, a representative from the Catholic Education Office (CEO), and the Principal from my son’s school. Later while being escorted to the washroom by one of the officers, I noticed the names “Linda Vincent” on a diary in front of the lady who had sat at the corner of the table. It occurred to me this was the same lady who kept telling us from outside the house to open the door; who kept saying they were officers from the immigration department. It also dawned on me at that point that “Linda Vicent” was actually a ‘compliance officer’ stationed at DIAC-ACTRO. This is also the same official who had signed documents on the eviction notification from ConnectionsACT.
Close to the end of the conference, Mr Daniel Leskovec issued two property receipts listing some of the items removed from my backpack at the house. I realized a black bin bag that had contained a piece of white rag had not been listed as one of the items removed at the house from my backpack. This piece of rag relates to an incident that occurred mid December 2012/early January 2013. What’s unique about this matter is fact that in Australia, these months coincide with the infamous bush fires season. On this material day, I recall the temperature had soared above 40 degrees centigrade.
Just so that facts regarding the incident of the rag are clear. On the material day, a speeding black car with NSW yellow number plates bearing a combination of six alphanumeric characters paired up thrice, pulled up outside our residential address. This car had the inscription “RAPID RESPONSE” on its sides. I got out of the house to watch what was happening. A man in a shiny yellow jacket – the type worn by Australian workers – had rushed to the fence prompting me to quickly get out of the house and rush outside the gate to witness what his intentions were. It was at that point that this person rushed back to the car and sped off. I ran to where he had stooped and found the piece of rag. On close examination, I noticed it emitted fumes similar to those of petrol. I rushed back to the house to collect a bin bag. I then went back to the scene, put the rag in the bin bag, tied a knot, and went back to the house. I preserved that rag in my backpack as evidence of this scary incident. All the while, my daughter and son watched from inside the house.
Given the overgrown vegetation around the house at the time, I had concluded the intention of the person who sped off was certainly to start a grass fire and possibly set the house ablaze. Thus, when I couldn’t find that black bin bag listed among the items that Mr Daniel Leskovec had listed on the property receipts, I declined to sign the two documents he had wanted me to sign. This incident has continued to haunt me each day that passes, most intensely whenever I hear about cases of arson.
My children and I were shortly thereafter transported from Canberra to Villawood Immigration Detention Camp, in Sydney. We were held at that detention camp from 20 February 2013 and released on 02 August 2013. Upon release, we moved back to Canberra. However, we did not return to our initial residential address. Unlike the period 2009 – 2013, this time round arrangements had been put in place to access minimal financial assistance to secure private accommodation and pay monthly rent as well as subsist with my two children. I still have no work rights.
Around September 2015, I was for the first time made aware by Sherrifs from the ACT Magistrates Court of an application for a Seizure and Sale Order first filed at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) on 25 July 2013. It would be observed that by 25 July 2013, my children and I were still at the Villawood Detention Camp in Sydney. According to documents I obtained later, someone from the residential address from where we had been evicted in 2013, sent out mail in my name. Other mail addressed to me by name was also received at the same residential address and acted upon in my name. This disposition is truly mind-boggling! This is because it is indicative the applicants used documentation obtained through this fraudulent process to lodge the application at the ACAT. This process went on in my absence and finally culminated to the issuance of a default judgment by the ACAT. The applicants also proceeded to seek enforcement orders from the ACT Magistrates Court, which the Court granted on 14/08/2015 for a utility ‘debt’ ostensibly incurred from 2009 – 2013 from one of the electricity companies. I leave you my reader to keep guessing critically on a number of parameters here as I reserve any further comments on the issue of the utility ‘debt’ for now.
After I became aware of the matter late 2015, I had to obtain information from subject file at the ACT Magistrates Court. Subsequently, I had to visit the Court on 06/01/2016 and 07/01/2016. On both occasions, officer Joel was on duty at the service counters to attend to me. He frustrated my initial efforts on 06/01/2016 to obtain the information I needed from subject file. On 06/01/2016, officer Joel asked me to go to the Supreme Court and obtain copies of the enforcement orders from the Sheriffs there. However, I was sent back to the ACT Magistrates Court by the Sheriff’s office. Officer Joel, again asked me to go to ACAT and get what I needed, which I did but was again referred back to the ACT Magistrates Court. This to-and-fro rendezvous forced me to return to the Magistrates Court on 07/01/2016 with a request letter I had written and signed, just to formalize my access to documents from subject file. On this day, 07/01/2016, officer Joel was again on duty to attend to me at the Magistrates Court service counters. Officer Joel had attempted to frustrate my efforts once again by asking irrelevant questions about ‘who’ had written the request letter I had passed to him. At that point, I asked to talk to a senior official.
Only after I had talked to the senior official in camera was I able to obtain all documents from the subject file as asked in my letter dated 07/01/2016. It is instrumental to observe that my household items and other personal effects haven’t been recovered and returned to me to date. I, therefore, had to lodge an application to seek orders to set aside the default judgment, and by extension the seizure and sale enforcement orders so I could defend the matter on these grounds. This is because it became clearer in my mind this process was initiated with intention to obtain relevant orders from the courts as a way of sanitizing the unlawful withholding of my household as well as other personal items left in the house following our eviction in 2013.
Nevertheless, on 13 January 2016, I was forced to file two applications at the ACT Magistrates Courts to seek Restraining Orders against Mr Daniel Leskovec and officer Joel, in addition to other related orders as stipulated under Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008, s18. These two officers had continued to harass, threaten, and taunt me during fortnightly reporting to DIAC-ACTRO; and at the ACT Magistrates Court on 06/01/2016 and 07/01/2016, respectively.
In relation to officer Joel, the Registrar dismissed the application on grounds I could not give the defendant’s second name, as conveyed during the hearing. Relating to Mr Daniel Leskovec, the Registrar informed that the Court had no jurisdiction to prosecute federal officials. Essentially, both applications to obtain Restraining Orders against the two federal officials were dismissed. Officer Joel continues to taunt me to date in public spaces.
That my children and I would be treated in the manner we have been is truly a piece of memory I would always relate to white privilege. This has been such a unique experience that no amount of counselling or therapy would be able to erase from my mind much as I would love to reclaim my dignity. It certainly is much worse for the children. Nonetheless, I need answers.