The lecture, sponsored by the Fay Gale Centre, Women’s Studies at Flinders University, the Research Centre for Gender Studies at UniSA and Gender Studies and Social Analysis at the University of Adelaide was held at the Flinders University City Campus on Friday May 15th.
The lecture, chaired by Dr Heather Brooks (Flinders University), was very well attended. The lecturer, Debbie Kilroy OAM a former prisoner and a lawyer, spoke on ‘Prisons: Australia’s Default Response to Poverty, Domestic & Family Violence, Homelessness and Mental Illness – Especially for Women & Girls’.
In 1992, she established Sisters Inside, which advocates for the human rights of women in the criminal injustice system. Sisters Inside has won international acclaim for its work and for a unique structure, which ensures it is driven by women inside prison. It holds consultative status at the UN, where it participated in the drafting of standard minimum rules for the treatment of women prisoners.
She noted that imprisonment rates for women and girls and especially for Indigenous women and girls were rising rapidly with the cutbacks to educational opportunities, health and welfare support, with the tightening of Centrelink policies and employment opportunities and with the weakening of community networks and resilience and spoke of the mass criminalization of women and girls. She pointed out that prisons were the only public institutions without a waiting list.
She spoke of the indignities, suffered on a daily basis by women prisoners, including repeated strip searches, separation from children and the limited opportunities to study and thus improve their post-prison chances.
For further information, here is an interview on Radio National with Richard Fidler.
By Professor Emerita Margaret Allen