Witch to sue mayor

Taxpayers will foot a $50,000 bill so that a transgender “witch” may sue a suburban mayor for outing her.

Olivia Watts, a male police officer and practising witch, will test Victoria’s unique religious tolerance legislation.

Free legal work, tribunal fees and a solicitor and barrister were believed to have been given to Ms Watts by Victoria Legal Aid.

Several top barristers were angered by the use of scarce Legal Aid funds, but Attorney-General Rob Hulls gave his OK to a similar case.

“We govern for all Victorians — and that includes witches, magicians and sorcerers,” Mr Hulls wrote to the Pagan Awareness Network, which is also suing the mayor of Casey, Rob Wilson.

Ms Watts said she became “an emotional wreck” after Mr Wilson outed her as a witch in a press release and on community radio. She was taking Mr Wilson to the anti-discrimination list of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in August.

In her witness statement, Ms Watts stated she had practised her craft since she was six years old.

“I have followed my faith since childhood, and this is the first time that I have been attacked because of my faith,” she wrote.

She said her sleep and home life were “disturbed badly” as a result of the comments, and that she had to close her naturopathy clinic because she was too distraught to see clients.

In June last year, Cr Wilson blamed a series of council embarrassments on diabolical intervention.

He said there was a “satanic cult out to take over Casey”, and that the council’s toils and troubles had “all the hallmarks of being linked to the occult”.

He hit the community airwaves and outed Ms Watts, who had unsuccessfully run for council, as a witch.

Several barristers who spoke to the Herald Sun were outraged that scarce Legal Aid dollars were being directed to Ms Watts’ case.

But none wished to criticise Legal Aid on the record for fear of receiving less or no work from the body.

The case will cost about $50,000 in legal fees.

But Victoria Legal Aid managing director Tony Parsons said the case would not cost taxpayers more than $15,000.

“Victoria Legal Aid does not fund three-ring circuses. We have a long and worthwhile history of identifying and backing cases where there are areas of the law that need to be tested or explored,” he said.

Witch support group Pagan Awareness Network was also suing Cr Wilson at VCAT in an action based on the same facts.

PAN president David Garland was confident Legal Aid would fund his group’s action because it was a non-profit organisation.

“It’s not going to be a problem for us to get it,” Mr Garland said.

The witches appeared to have found an unlikely ally in Mr Hulls.

The Attorney-General encouraged PAN to file its complaint under Victoria’s religious vilification laws.

“I don’t know if it was (Hulls’) aim to have us as a test case but we’re very pleased with his reaction, and the support of the state-level Government,” Mr Garland said.

A spokesman for Mr Hulls declined to comment on the VCAT matter, but said: “The Government also governs for other sections of the community, such as Christians and Muslims.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Herald Sun, Australia
May 1, 2004
Liam Houlihan
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday May 10, 2004.
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