University keeps police bomber’s PhD thesis under wraps

La Trobe prolongs blackout on Russell Street bomber Craig Minogue’s dissertation, citing concerns over ‘identifying material’

May 11, 2022
1986 bombing of Melbourne’s police headquarters in Russell Street
Source: The Age/Fairfax Media

A university has extended a gag order on a thesis by a convicted murderer who is believed to be the first Australian to obtain a doctorate behind bars.

La Trobe University has missed a self-imposed deadline for the release of “Russell Street bomber” Craig Minogue’s 2011 thesis, which earned him a PhD in applied ethics, human and social sciences.

The institution imposed restrictions on the thesis in 2012, branding it “unavailable until April 2022”. That arrangement has now been prolonged by six months while the university deliberates whether to release the thesis or further extend the embargo. A spokeswoman cited concerns that “identifying material in the thesis could present a safety risk to individuals”.

Minogue was convicted for the 1986 bombing of Melbourne’s police headquarters, an infamous act of domestic terrorism that injured over 20 people and killed a young police constable. He was also convicted of beating a fellow prisoner to death two years later and has been accused of other violent crimes, including historic rape offences that he is continuing to contest in court.

In recent decades Minogue has expressed remorse for his crimes and completed undergraduate and doctoral studies after entering prison almost illiterate. He helps prisoners with legal matters and has authored many academic articles as well as a self-help booklet for people in custody.

He has also become a central figure in an ongoing debate over restorative versus punitive justice, populist politics and the retrospective denial of parole.

Victoria’s left-leaning Labor government has twice changed the law specifically to keep him behind bars after he became eligible for parole in 2016. He overturned the first of these amendments in a High Court appeal, in one of many legal actions he has initiated over his treatment by prison authorities.

However, he claims to have relinquished his fight against his initial conviction – despite 1997 doubts over some of the evidence used to convict him – after discovering that “I really did not like what I saw about myself” while reviewing old court documents.

Instead, he became “deliberately distracted” by university studies that he started in 1998. “I abandoned the thought of an appeal and decided to accept the sentence and…work towards rehabilitating myself and making the second half of my life meaningful,” he explains on his website.

In 2004, he asked to be moved to a medium-security prison before starting doctoral studies the following year. The Victorian premier at the time, Steve Bracks, endorsed the intent but said there was little prospect of a transfer to facilitate his study.

In comments reported by The Age newspaper, Mr Bracks said prisoners were “encouraged” to study to “get them out of the cycle of criminality and to try and make them better informed. There’s some evidence…that the more study that’s done, the more qualifications they’ve reached, the less likelihood there is of offence in the future.”

Minogue’s thesis examines how a sense of “the good Self and the bad Other” emerges through the public discourse around crime and punishment, according to his website, which also explains why his jailhouse communications have a “very theoretical” tone.

“I have lived my life through books and academic learning as that is the only life that my imprisonment has allowed me.”

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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