Jason was born and initially grew up in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Later, during his childhood, he would move to the river country of the Mallee and Sunraysia regions, and then to the Bendigo Goldfields region of Central Victoria. Jason would later study law at university and move to the far north of the country.

As a child, Jason was very industrious. At the age of 9, his uncle had found a workable bike someone had thrown away and gave it to him. Jason fixed the bike and tied a milk crate to the handlebars. He soon got a morning newspaper round delivering newspapers at  5am  in the morning, then after school, he would sell newspapers and magazines inside Eastland (the local shopping centre). On top of this, for one day a week, he would also clean a camera shop and collect beer bottles and cans to later sell to recycling plants at a cent each. Within a few months, he eventually saved up and bought a brand new BMX bike he had custom designed.

In his early teens, Jason moved to the Goldfields’ city of Bendigo in Central Victoria where he excelled in sports; from running, discus, shot put to Australian Rules Football often winning Best on Ground: ‘It was a small community club but I was still very proud of the country town I played for: Northern United of Raywood.’

At 17, Jason wrote his first book and had it published in the local library. A year later, his English essay was widely distributed amongst the teachers at Bendigo Senior High School, where he was told he had a talent for creative fiction.

Park Ranger

Soon after completing Year 12, he successfully applied for a traineeship position as a Park Ranger working to protect Bendigo’s local and state parks. He was also successful in gaining entry to the University of Melbourne’s Law School to study a combined BA/LLB degrees which he deferred.  His time with Parks was very satisfying, he worked closely with interest groups, school children and occasionally risked his life as a firefighter.

Law Student

Two years later, he studied law and during it he organised and received funding for a 3,500 klm journey for law students to visit and observe the impact of native title on Mer (Murray Island in the Torres Strait) that, at the time, was causing a considerable national controversy.

Jason adhered to the heavy work schedule but still took time to tutor and help other students.

Bench Clerk: Melbourne Magistrate’s Court

During the summer breaks, Jason was employed as a Bench Clerk in the Melbourne city court system. He considers the experience gained there was invaluable: as he watched countless hours of court cases; studied closely the strategies of top lawyers and saw up close how judges made decisions.

Jason studied hard and ended up being awarded a prestigious national law award from the Law Council of Australia for his top academic results and community achievements ($10k: two years in a row); he graduated soon after.

Graduate School: Leo Cussen Institute

Jason later attended a finishing school for law graduates, known as the Leo Cussens Institute in Melbourne.

Jason's Legal Career:


Today, Jason is a qualified practising lawyer with his own legal practice in the city of Melbourne, Australia. He is admitted to practice in the states of Victoria, Queensland as well as the Federal Courts and High Court of Australia.

Jason has been involved in some controversial cases. In 2010, when he worked in the city of Cairns situated in Far North of Queensland, Jason was approached by a family to be the leading lawyer in a case that was known nationally as the Malu Sara Tragedy of 2005 (for more Info regarding this event; Please Read Below the Australian Parliament Hansard Transcript).

In the Torres Strait, a series of islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea, in the late afternoon of mid October 2005: five people travelling on a federal government boat between islands (2 men, 2 women and a small child) started taking in large amounts of water. And over a 16 hour period, in the dead of night, they needlessly sank and drowned.

The police, throughout the day and most of the night, had received their repeated and desperate Mayday calls. They knew where they were on radar, but due to their entrenched paternalist racist attitudes toward islanders at the time, the police willfully refused to help or even send a rescue chopper (that would have taken just 30 mins to get there and save their lives). Recorded transcripts, and later coronial testimony, saw many of the people responsible for the Islander’s fate; joking amongst themselves at the time of their greatest distress period.

To this day no one has been prosecuted for their deaths.

Jason was approached by the family of the deceased woman, to take over their case, on behalf of their five grandchildren (who now lived with them); to spread awareness of the injustice of this event – ensuring it never happens again and get compensation for the children due to the wrongful death of their mother. They were unhappy with their lawyers of the multinational law firm Maurice & Blackburn and wanted their matter transferred to a new legal team.

Jason, initially refused, thinking he lacked experience in that highly specialised area of law. However, he said he would personally take the family to all the other city law firms, who did practice in personal injury and wrongful death, and explain the situation on their behalf and come to an arrangement.

All the top law firms refused their case, stating: they had little hope of success of getting a just settlement from the Federal Government, as well as the State of Queensland and their powerful Police Force. They also believed: that their top government lawyers would fiercely oppose the family’s claims. In addition to all this, Maurice & Blackburn lawyers would use all their considerable resources to seek a court order forcing the matter to a resolution, by having the grandparents removed as Court Guardians and accepting the government’s token low offer as compensation for their daughter’s death (just so they could get paid).

Under these pressing circumstances, Jason accepted their case and vigorously went to work in pursuit of a just outcome for the family and the wider Islander community. Sure enough, Maurice & Blackburn did eventually try, and failed dismally, in their desperate attempt to remove the grandparents from their case and end the matter. “I remember all too well when their senior lawyers in Brisbane used to ring me up and threaten me to drop the case; it was at that moment I knew we were winning.”

Two years later, working pro bono, Jason’s law firm fought the federal and state governments, as well as the Queensland police and Maurice & Blackburn lawyers and received a record settlement for the family. Later, he brokered a major business loan for the family and purchased a fishing trawler ship: ‘The Seafari,’ which was used in their new family seafood business.

Jason is still good friends with the family today. Boating safety in the Torres Strait has improved dramatically with all distress signals taken seriously. Postscript: Maurice & Blackburn also took their share from the family’s compensation settlement.

Jason was later involved in overturning Queensland’s racist electoral legislation; that applied a strict residential burden, exclusive to indigenous candidates, in state-wide local elections.

His firm received many payments-in-kind ranging from boxes of mangoes, fruit, fish and other similar items.
They also had a 100% success rate with Traffic Offences- whereupon the state’s average was 20%.

Recently, Jason decided to move back to Melbourne, ‘to write novels, find perspective and practice law again in my home town.’


Hansard for The Australian Parliament, Canberra.

The House of Representatives; Monday, 28th February 2011; p1719.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Loss of the Malu Sara Debate resumed, on motion by Mr Warren Entsch:

That this House:

  1. (1)  notes:
    1. (a)  the judgment of the Federal Court of Australia in Comcare v The Commonwealth (FCA 1331), and the report of the Queensland Coroner, Inquest into the loss of the Malu Sara, and in particular that:
      1. (i)  the Court found that the respondent admitted liability;
      2. (ii)  the Coroner found significant aspects of the investigation into the incident were severely flawed; and
      3. (iii)  a number of agencies of both the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government were strongly criticised for their involvement in events leading up to and during the incident; and
    2. (b)  that the Court fined the respondent $242 000, the maximum penalty;
  2. (2)  in light of both the judgment and the Coroner’s report, calls on the Government to:
    1. (a)  legislate to establish a Trust for the benefit of the families of the victims to commemorate the tragic loss;
    2. (b)  transfer the fine imposed by the Court to the Trust, as well as allocate additional funds to pro- vide continuing financial support to the victims’ families and provide a lasting legacy to the community;
    3. (c)  fully examine the Court’s judgment, including the contractors and others named in the report of the Queensland Coroner into the same incident; and
    4. (d)  construct appropriate memorials on Badu Island and Thursday Island to properly commemorate this tragic event and provide respectful places for the families of the victims to pay their respects and remember their loved ones;
  3. (3)  strongly encourages the Government to ensure that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s contract and tendering procedures are fully reviewed to ensure that lapses such as this do not occur again; and
  4. (4)  expresses its deep sympathy to the victims of this tragedy.Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (12.23 pm)—At noon on 14 October 2005, the Malu Sara left

Sabai Island in the Torres Strait for a four-hour journey to Badu Island. I think it is fair to say that the people on board had no idea of the fate that lay before them. However, I know that there were serious concerns—particularly expressed by the skipper—prior to leaving. In fact, he requested that he be able to stay back until the following day because of weather condi- tions. Unfortunately, his superior officer on Thursday Island insisted that he leave immediately on that journey; 16 hours later that boat had disappeared completely and the five people on board had drowned. Sadly, only one body has ever been found. It was rightly reported that there was a lot of pressure on him to go at that stage and his knowledge of the area was ignored. In forcing him to do so, there were some serious concerns about the seaworthiness of the vessel and concerns about the certification for its use in open seas.

The Queensland State Coroner, Michael Barnes, stated that the circumstances of the Malu Sara were some of the most wretched he had ever been exposed to. The ship had been commissioned without a GPS, a two-way radio or appropriate maps. A marine supplier who was involved asked why the boat that would be used by an Indigenous crew was not fitted with up-to-date equipment, and he was told by a departmental officer, ‘They won’t be needing that. These guys are two generations behind and they won’t be able to use it.’ Comments like this quite frankly make you sick in the stomach.

An experienced boatbuilder who tendered to build the Malu Sara and its five sister ships said that the project was certainly not properly funded. He reported that the project was so underfunded from the word go that they could not possibly have vessels that would do the job safely for the price that was allowed by the department of immigration at the time. Ultimately, the watertight compartments built into the craft by another firm were not properly sealed, and there is evidence that it was so unseaworthy that it was completely unsuitable for the purpose, and it was always going to sink. It was only a matter of when.

The tragedy is that these people could have been saved. Right from the beginning, when they first got into trouble at about four o’clock in the afternoon and calls were made to the manager on Thursday Island, they were initially told by the manager to continue on the journey. He then went off to a social engagement and remained there for the greater part of the rest of the evening. Calls were then made to the police station and, instead of going to look for this fellow, the police sergeant at the time decided to defer to the manager. After many calls on the mobile phone, eventually he found the manager late in the evening and the manager basically said, ‘Oh, it’s all right. We always get these sorts of calls.’ He did not even bother to initiate calls until he went into the office at nine o’clock the next morning. By that stage these people were well and truly dead.

You can understand that recently when there was a court hearing on this it was determined that the department was grossly negligent and was subsequently fined the maximum penalty of $240,000. For five years the families have had to fight to try to get some sort of closure and some sort of compensation. Unfortunately, they have had to go through the legal system, and the value of the lives of these people has been judged on their income from social welfare, from CDEP. Subsequently the payments have been less than adequate. The department, in an effort to, if you like, show their remorse, has named two offices down here in Canberra after the two immigration officers who lost their lives in this tragedy. I have got to tell you that there are no family members in the Torres Strait who are ever going to come to Canberra to have a look at those offices. It is most inappropriate that such a thing has occurred.

We need to start to show that there is genuine remorse. I am proposing that we set up a Malu Sara trust fund. We can start by putting in that $240,000 fine so that it does not just go from one government agency to another. This will be a good start, and it will start to recognise that these lives have not been lost in vain. I have been working with the families of some of those members who, sadly, lost their lives. The community itself has been incredibly generous. Unfortunately, I have to say that government agencies have not followed at the same level. Wilfred Baira; Ted Harry; Flora Enosa and her younger sister, Ethena; and Valorie Saub, the daughter of John and Henrietta Saub from Badu Island, are the victims of this dreadful tragedy. Valorie left behind four children who were aged between three and 11 years old at the time. D-Dow is now 16, Henrietta is 13, Boston is 11 and Do-Fa, who has learning disabilities, is eight. They desperately need support. If you go to their house and have a look, you will see they have been living in a very difficult situation. Henrietta, the grandmother, has one leg and suffers from diabetes, so it is a great struggle trying to keep these kids on a pension.


The community has been absolutely outstanding. At this stage I would like to make refer- ence to Mark Bousen and his family, who have been providing funding to assist this family to buy food for the kids. Every month he has been putting money into an account in the IGA so that these kids can get a decent feed. It is just overwhelming. We have had others out there. Local businesses have been supplying furniture and bedding and what have you, which again is incredibly generous. A young lawyer there, Jason Briggs, has been giving an amazing amount of his time in helping to try and bring some sort of closure and support for these families. But I think we have an obligation in this place to make this happen. I would like to see this trust fund established and I would like to build on the $240,000—if we can have that as the start—so that we can have a perpetual fund we can draw on to have something that can possibly support kids, particularly kids in Badu with disabilities, on an ongoing basis so that these lives have not been lost in vain.

On top of that we need to build a memorial on Badu and another one on Thursday Island where these families can go to grieve. It is absolutely critical that we do that. I would like to also make sure that the individuals that were directly responsible for the deaths of these five innocent victims are held accountable. At this stage they have not faced a court of law. So I am also calling on the government to re-evaluate these situations and give these families the opportunity to have at least a day in court with those responsible so that they can have that level of closure. When you think about it, it is a very small ask for these families, but it does give them a chance to have some level of closure. Today we have an opportunity to put politics aside to give the families of these victims the respect and the closure that they deserve.

I am asking the government to seriously consider this motion, which has the full support of the Torres Strait Islander community, and to respond with compassion and with decent heart. These families have suffered now for over five years. It is very much part of their culture that they need somewhere they can go to grieve. They will never be able to go to tombstones be- cause those families are lost forever. They need a place where they can grieve and we owe it to the families first of all to give the orphans of those victims an opportunity to get their best chance in education and afterwards to provide some way of showing remorse. We can be offering support to victims, for the young children of the Badu community. (Time expired)