Hostile reception awaits newest inmate

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2003, 12:00am

Pauline Hanson may come to regret deeply her past criticism of Aborigines as she begins her new life behind bars.

The divorced mother of four was transferred early yesterday from holding cells in Brisbane's Supreme Court complex to a women's jail in Wacol, one of the city's outer suburbs. Ironically, it is in her former electorate when she was a federal MP for One Nation.

She was handcuffed and strip-searched before having her smart suit confiscated and being given a drab brown uniform.

She was also given a standard pack of toiletries, nightwear and flip-flops. As a small reminder of her former life, she will be allowed to wear her ruby-red lipstick.

Aborigines are hugely over-represented in Australian prisons and there were warnings that the former right-wing firebrand could be subjected to attacks and would have to be isolated from other prisoners.

Australia's only Aboriginal senator, Democrat Aden Ridgeway, said some inmates were likely to be hostile towards Hanson, who often claimed that Aborigines unfairly received more welfare benefits than white Australians.

Senator Ridgeway said authorities should ensure Hanson was given adequate protection, 'particularly given that a lot of indigenous people are in Wacol prison'.

Debbie Kilroy, of the prisoners' support group Sisters Inside, said Hanson's calls for longer, tougher sentences for prisoners could also backfire.

'Miss Hanson has never been sympathetic in regards to ... women in prison and their issues,' Ms Kilroy said. 'Being a protection prisoner, no one will have access to her, she won't see anyone other than the women in protection, if that is where she lands,' she said.

Hanson's mental health will be regularly assessed to ensure she is not suicidal. She will be entitled to a few visits by family and friends each week.