26 May 2016
Tasmanian Women's Prison Expansion … A massive waste of taxpayer's money.

The Tasmanian Government is set to follow a strategy that has been a demonstrable failure in other Australian states and territories, with plans announced in the 2016 Tasmanian Budget to expand women's prison capacity by 20 beds .

"This proposal is a massive waste of taxpayer's money" said Debbie Kilroy, CEO of Sisters Inside. "The evidence from other Australian jurisdictions clearly shows that increasing the number of women prisoners has done nothing to reduce crime rates and, in fact, does more harm than good".

"Let's reduce the number of women unnecessarily in prison, rather than increasing the number of prisoners. The vast majority of women prisoners are serving short sentences for minor, non-violent offences. About 1/3 are on remand - often due to poverty or untreated health problems. Yet even a short period of imprisonment can throw the lives of women and their children into disarray. Their risk of homelessness, unemployment, self-harm, loss of custody of their children and health problems is significantly increased."

"In addition to social harm, unnecessarily imprisoning women is also an increasing burden on the State, at a time of fiscal constraint", Debbie said. In 2014-15, it cost $419.89 per day to keep someone in prison in Tasmania (compared with $13.46 per day in community corrections) . Further, a recent study suggests that the cost of imprisoning people for short periods may be more than double the daily cost of longer term prisoners . And, this does not include the additional costs to other state systems including police, courts, child protection, education and health. Tasmania is already spending almost $72 million annually on prisons . There are significant savings to be made in reducing the number of women prisoners.

According to Debbie Kilroy, "For over 2 decades, Sisters Inside has been highlighting the lack of appropriate services to meet the complex social, cultural and health needs of women who are criminalised or at risk of criminalisation."

"If the Tasmanian Government is genuine about reducing crime, they should be investing the money they plan to waste on new prison beds into services which address the causes of women's criminalisation - particularly housing, mental health, substance abuse and family support services."

Further information contact: Debbie Kilroy - 0419 762 474, [email protected]

Jones, Kieran (2016) Tasmanian budget 2016: Women's prison to be expanded after spike in family violence by women, 25 May at http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-25/tasmania-womens-prison-expansion-after-spike-in-family-violence/7442592
Table 8A:7, Productivity Commission (2016) Report on Government Services 2016 (Volume C, Chapter 8 - Corrective Services), Australian Government at http://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2016/justice/corrective-services
Report by the WA Inspector of Prisons cited in Turner, Rebecca (2016) Scrapping jail for fine defaulters will not tackle WA prison overcrowding, report finds, 20 May at http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-20/jailing-fine-defaulters-wa-prison-overcrowding-report/7433028
Table 8A:6, Productivity Commission (ibid)


31st October 2013
ABC NEws Online
Premier Campbell Newman's stoush with judiciary could put court system in crisis, prisoner advocate Debbie Kilroy says.

23rd September 2013
ABC 612 Brisbane
Morning's with Terri Begley

28th August 2013
National Indigenous TV
News Report

25th June 2013
ABC Local
Conversations with Richard Fidler

25th April 2013
Stringer Independant News
Sisters Inside – Debbie Kilroy on women in prison

6th August 2012
Manners, mining and the can-do atttitude

30 May 2012
Lateline ABC
Child protection is failing children: research

24 May 2012
National Indigenous Times
Debbie Kilroy appeals for Queensland Government to show a heart for Sisters Inside by maintaining $120,000 funding

18 May 2012
ABC 7.30 Report

Qld Government withdraws funding for women prisoners' group

10 May 2012
Steve Auston ABC 612AM
Radio Interview -
Regarding the cut to Townville funding and services.

April 19 2012

Vital Funding Meeting

Prison advocacy group Sisters Inside has asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the State Government’s continued funding for the group to provide services to disadvantaged women inside Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre (TWCC).

Funding for the organisation’s family support services, counselling support services, mother and children reunification programs and other referral services is due to run out at the end of June.

Sisters CEO Debbie Kilroy said she would seek assurances from the new Minister for Communities, Tracy Davis, that funding for these critical services would continue.

‘We offer services to more than 40 women every fortnight in Townsville,’ Ms Kilroy said. ‘These are predominantly Indigenous women. As most people are aware, Indigenous women are over-represented in TWCC, and these women have experienced high levels of violence perpetrated against them, as well as isolation.

‘A great majority of them cannot read or write. Therefore, their support needs are high and complex.’

Sisters Inside, which provides services to women in correctional facilities all over Queensland, is the sole provider of these services in TWCC.

Ms Kilroy said that in the first three months of 2012, 188 support sessions had been provided by Sisters Inside to women in TWCC – 61 percent of which were Indigenous.

‘These figures clearly show the high need for such services, which involve face-to-face family support sessions, counselling, mother and child reunification sessions and referral and advice,’ she said.

Ms Kilroy said she had written to Ms Davis to bring her attention to the funding deadline as a matter of urgency.

More details: Debbie Kilroy 0419 762474


4th September 2009

Australia's Shameful Human Rights Record

(Brisbane) - Sisters Inside hosted an international conference of several hundred in Brisbane this week. "Those gathered requested the release of this statement. Speakers from across Australia and around the world were unanimous in their denunciation of the continued attacks on the autonomy of Indigenous people," announced Debbie Kilroy, the Director of Sisters Inside.

"The enactment of the intervention has severely impacted the lives of Aboriginal families. There is no justification for the continued suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in relation to government policy about Aboriginal people," explained Jacqui Katona, a member of the Sisters Inside Management Committee, who recently returned to Brisbane after working in the Northern Territory.
This conference recognizes that the Australian government's actions have systemically disempowered Aboriginal people and deprived them of their rights as citizens. Government policy continues to fail to address the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal communities without taking responsibility for this failure. Governments need to resource local people. Only then will they act in a meaningful way to effect change and create healthy futures for individuals and Indigenous communities.

"We are shocked to witness the negative response of the Commonwealth and state governments to the recent observations of Special Rapporteur James Anaya. We urge the Special Rapporteur, and the United Nations as a whole, to continue to gather information specifically from women who deal with the consequences of the negative impacts of government interventions such as the income management measures," continued Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. "We endorse the call of Indigenous women here to the Australian and Territorial Governments to respond to their calls for resources for local people and communities. This is paramount."

"Conference participants today demanded that engagement between governments and Aboriginal people be based on standards which will allow negotiation regarding solutions to the short term special measure of the intervention. The conference also demanded that the Australian governments cease their attack on the rights of Aboriginal people under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) 1976," affirmed Ms Kilroy. "We further call on the Federal Government to provide necessary support to Aboriginal community based organizations and legal services which support women and their families through the development of community driven sustainable, solutions."

"All of us here are appalled at the continued lack of recognition of the rights of Aboriginal people in Australia, especially given what is continuing in the Northern Territory," continued Angela Davis, world renowned anti-oppression scholar and activist. "All assembled demand that the genocide end."

Contact person: Debbie Kilroy, Director, Sisters Inside - 04 19 762 474

9th March 2006

Report - Lock, Stock and Barrel

Community Advocates will meet to discuss the impact of the Anti Discrimination Commission (ADC) 'Women in Prison' Report and the response by Minister Judy Spence.


  • Debbie Kilroy, Director, Sisters Inside
  • Anne Warner, President, Sisters Inside
  • Bill Carter, Retired, Supreme Court Judge
  • Terry O'Gorman, Qld Council of Civil Liberties
  • Shane Duffy, CEO, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation (QEA) for Legal Services
  • Susan Bothmann, Coordinator, Prisoners' Legal Service Inc.
  • Karyn Walsh, Chairperson, Qld Council of Social Services
  • Siyavash Doostkhah, Director, Youth Affairs Network of Queensland
  • Helen Connor, Chairperson, Australian Mental Health Consumer Network
  • Kevin Cocks, Director, Queensland Advocacy Inc.
  • Jeff Cheverton, Executive Director, Queensland Alliance
  • Jennifer Campbell, Amnesty International

What: Advocates from a diverse range of organisations are calling on Premier Peter Beattie to implement the 68 recommendations in the 155 page ADCQ 'Women in Prison' Report lock, stock and barrel.

Hawken Auditorium
Engineers Australia Building
Level 1, 447 Upper Edward Street
Spring Hill

When: 9th March 2006 - 10am to 10:45am

Why: The ADCQ 'Women in Prison' Report exposes a cluster of direct, indirect and systemic discrimination.. Advocates have long voiced concerns that discrimination and human rights abuses regularly occur in institutional settings. Vulnerable women who need care and support are often left to languish in Queensland prisons. The ADCQ report highlights the urgent action to remedy the discriminatory practices within Queensland prisons

Call on Queensland to
Remedy Human Rights Violations

March 8, 2006 - Ottawa - Equality rights groups in Canada are urging the Government of Queensland to immediately implement the recommendations released today by the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland (ADCQ). The special report on systemic human rights violations experienced by women prisoners in Australia released today, International Women's Day (IWD), also marks the 5th anniversary of the launching of a similar complaint in Canada.

"The number of times that the Commission calls for reviews, audits and external accountability shows they understand the urgent need to address the human rights violations experienced by women prisoners," stated Dr. Ailsa M. Watkinson, President of Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), the group that called for the review in Canada on March 8, 2001. "We commend the Commission and we are especially pleased that they recognize the fundamental flaws in a system that fails to accommodate women's needs, rather than continuing to treat women like men or develops approaches based on stereotypes and misperceptions. We commend the ADCQ for calling for a criminal justice response to mothers that presumes, in the best interests of children, they should not be jailed," continued Dr. Watkinson.
"We strongly support the Commission's proposal for independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms," says Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Societies. "The call for the Chief Inspector to report directly to Parliament is clearly a repudiation of the claims of the Minister responsible for Corrective Services that all is well for women in prisons in Queensland. In our experience, these sorts of recommendations for more rigorous oversight are increasingly being made by human rights bodies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, as a result of the failure of correctional services to protect the human rights of women prisoners. There is an urgent and vital need to protect women in prison from degrading and discriminatory treatment, by ensuring adherence to principles of justice, fairness and the rule of law," concluded Pate.

For additional information:
Contact Dr. Ailsa Watkinson or Kim Pate at 0011-1-613-298-2422
Refer to the CAEFS' web site at www.elizabethfry.ca

8th March 2006

Implement Report - 'Lock, Stock and Barrel'

Prisoner advocacy group Sisters Inside has called on the State government to implement the recommendations in the Anti-Discrimination Commission's 'Women in Prison' Report 'lock, stock and barrel'.

Sisters Inside's President Anne Warner said the report, which calls for an independent inspector to oversee practices within the prison as well as major changes to policies affecting women with mental illnesses, Aboriginal women, and a number of other disadvantaged groups of women vindicated the action her organisation had taken in lodging the initial submission about discrimination nearly two years ago.

She said the report found many instances of direct and indirect discrimination against women prisoners that Sisters Inside had been trying to bring to the attention of government and the public for years.

Ironically, since lodging the submission in June 2004, the organisation's work within the prison has been severely curtailed, limiting its access to women and to information about potential abuse.

'These reprehensible practices have been brought to light through the vigilance of this organisation and our constant presence inside prisons. Now our scrutiny has been minimised, and obviously the situation has deteriorated since our Management Committee meetings have been banned and our services curtailed' she said.

This report has highlighted even more shocking abuses than we mentioned in our submission.

'There has been a developing climate of fear and retribution and women inside have been discouraged from associating themselves with Sisters Inside. Since our lockout 20 months ago the situation has only deteriorated and unless the government acts quickly to implement this report and take seriously criticisms and suggestions made in the report further injustices and degradations will occur and maybe a full scale Royal Commission may become necessary' Ms Warner said.

'We call on the government once again to reinstate our previous level of access to women's prisons in Queensland.'

Sisters Inside's Director, Debbie Kilroy, said she was particularly pleased with recommendations regarding the Crisis Support Unit, where women are held by physical and chemical restraints, stripped naked and incarcerated without light and under the gaze of male prison officers.

'The humiliation and loss of dignity suffered by these women is unacceptable in a civilised society,' she said.

Ms Kilroy also welcomed recommendations that the Penalties and Sentences Act be amended to ensure that courts have to take into account the best interests of the child when sentencing women.

'Clearly the report has highlighted that strip searching in the crisis support unit has nothing to do with drugs or contraband it has more to do with control, punishment and their lack of understanding of women with mental illness' she said.

'This is a fair and thorough report and anyone with daughters or sisters or mothers or friends in prison would be happy that an organisation like Sisters Inside is there to provide comfort, communication and support for their love ones. Even MPs have asked Sister Inside to fulfil this role'.

We therefore call upon the Premier to make sure that his Government implement this report.


Prison Advocate Calls on Governments to listen to Mentally Ill Women in Prison

Debbie Kilroy, Director of Sisters' Inside, said that a Queensland Department of Corrective Services internal inquiry last year heard evidence from Cornelia Rau about her treatment in Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre. Cornelia Rau spoke to an internal Queensland Corrections investigation of complaints about the treatment of women with mental illness last year. The investigation followed Sisters Inside raising concerns about the management of mentally ill women and the inadequate level of psychiatric services in Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

Ms Kilroy said that all of the evidence given to the investigation was tape recorded in her presence and the tapes of Cornelia Rau's descriptions of her situation may be of use to the Inquiry being undertaken by Mr Mick Palmer for the Federal Government.

It is likely that these tapes are the only record of Cornelia Rau's experience in prison told in her own words, Ms Kilroy said.

Ms Kilroy said that Mr Palmer should ask an experienced mental health professional to listen to these recordings of Ms Rau.

"Cornelia Rau spoke softly and clearly and frequently told me that she did not belong in prison because she had done nothing wrong," Debbie Kilroy said.

"I am not a mental health professional," Ms Kilroy said, "however we told officials of DIMIA that Sisters Inside workers thought there was something wrong about this case."

"Cornelia Rau couldn't describe her illness however she did complain about her situation and wrote to Sisters' Inside about abusive behaviour. Her communications, verbal and written, were not always coherent but she had constantly raised concerns. She talked and wrote to Sisters Inside and became very distressed when our staff were no longer able to visit her at Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre. She was consistently expressing her anger at the violation of her rights that she was experiencing. She could not explain why she should not be in prison but she consistently said her rights were being violated and that she did not belong in prison, " Debbie Kilroy said.

"People with mental illness are frequently unable to provide the consistent and detailed reports which Government agencies deem necessary before they will respond to accounts of mistreatment and neglect. The very nature of their illnesses can mean that they are inconsistent and delusional.

Ms Kilroy said that prisons had become the most available means of containing women with mental illnesses whose behaviours brought them to the attention of police and the courts. Community resources to treat and support mentally ill people are poorly funded and staff are overworked. Without accessible assessment and treatment centres, the courts often sent women to prison in the hope that they would be diagnosed and treated there. Ms Kilroy said that services for mentally ill people in prison were even worse than for those in the community. Mentally ill prisoners often deteriorate rapidly in prison and prison staff lack training and resources to respond adequately.

"Women with mental illnesses do not belong in prison," Debbie Kilroy said.

28th October 2005

Prisons are NOT an answer to Crime

Alarm bells should be ringing loudly in everyone's ears as the Queensland government embarks on a massive billion dollar prison folly.

A quick glance across the Pacific to United States should warn us that high levels of incarceration do not decrease crime.

Even rudimentary research into the American experience which has been the world leader in levels of incarceration reveals that high incarceration levels were never the answer to crime.

In the United States the boom of prison construction over the 80s and 90s is finally over. It was a failed social experiment and is being stopped because finally the penny has dropped and US authorities, State and Federal, understand that prison is not a deterrent to crime, nor is it an economic saviour and is economically unsustainable.

The assertion that locating a new prison in rural Queensland would provide an economic boost to the area is clearly wrong. The US experience has proven that limited economic benefits occur in those country towns which have seen huge prisons constructed.

Ms Kilroy said that "Queensland tax payers should be very wary of being fobbed off with out dated US policy directions". The Minister and the Department should provide some leadership, some real policy debate and understanding of the social realities of criminalisation of our society.

Most people in prison should not be there. They are there for trivial offences which would not have occurred if there had been decent social provision of housing, education and health.

Ms Kilroy reminds us that "We are being asked to accept that the prison population will increase by 90% over the next 10 years and so it will unless the government takes steps to stop it".

Our prisons are full of the poor, the sick, the disabled, Indigenous, the young, the vulnerable and ever increasingly women.

Why would we want to double this population over the next 10 years?

Surely the question is "how do we get these people out of prison, not where do we build a new prison to incarcerate more of the same".

We call upon the Government to come good on its promise and address the causes of crime and provide high quality health care, high quality education and high quality affordable housing. This is where the money should be spent - not building a mausoleum for a sick society.

We demand community safety and a moratorium on building any more prisons in Queensland now.

August 17, 2004


A prisoners advocacy group has urged members of the public to consider making submissions to an inquiry into allegations of systemic discrimination against women in Queensland prisons.

Brisbane-based Sisters Inside, an internationally recognised organization which supports women prisoners and advocates for their human rights, wants anyone affected by the prison system along with professionals in the field to record their experiences for the inquiry, conducted by the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission, before the September 10 closing date.

Sisters Inside director, Debbie Kilroy, said it was vital that the commissioner, Ms Susan Booth, heard from all parties with an interest in the welfare of women incarcerated throughout Queensland.

She said Ms Booth would examine evidence of systemic discrimination against women on the basis of gender, race, religion and mental or intellectual disability throughout the prison system in Queensland. An inquiry which is the first in Australia's history.

'Discrimination against women prisoners may be felt directly or indirectly. But broadly, it is experienced through the classifications system, which converts "disadvantage" into "risk"; the numbers of low security beds which sees most women imprisoned in maximum-security facilities; fewer opportunities for women for release into low security prisons, parole, work release or home detention; inadequate educational, skill-based and recreational programs; limited work opportunities, and mandatory strip-searching, which traumatises the majority of women prisoners who have previously been sexually abused or assaulted,' Ms Kilroy said.

'In most of these areas, indigenous women prisoners and those from culturally diverse backgrounds, along with those with mental or intellectual impairment, are doubly punished. While women prisoners in general have different needs to males, these groups have even more specialised needs which must be addressed if they are to have any chance of re-making their lives.'

The numbers of women prisoners throughout Australia has leapt by 110 percent in the past 10 years, compared to a 45 percent increase in male prisoners. In Queensland, there are currently just over 320 women in prison, the majority serving sentences of less than two years.

Ms Kilroy said that, while individuals and families affected by imprisonment were often reluctant to speak out about their experiences, it was vital that this independent inquiry heard from those who best understood their implications. People could approach Sisters Inside for help or reassurance about making submissions by using the toll-free number, 1800003242.

14th July 2005


Over 300 delegates will converge on Melbourne next week for an international conference focussing on the experience of women prisoners, and whether prisons for women and men are actually necessary.

'Are Prisons Obsolete?' at the Hotel Y from July 20-22 will feature interstate and overseas speakers including activists Angela Davis, Kim Pate, Debbie Kilroy and Amanda George. They will be joined by specialists in mental health, indigenous affairs and drug and alcohol issues as well as men and women working with children of incarcerated women, sexual assault workers and prisoner advocates.

In a year that has seen ongoing furore over the detention in state prisons of women accused of illegal residence in Australia, and the subsequent focus on the high number of women prisoners with mental illnesses, the program will feature several addresses and discussions around the provision of health services inside and outside prisons.

Women recently released from prison will also address the conference about their experiences. They include Debbie Kilroy OAM, who spent several years in Brisbane's notorious Boggo Road prison and who now directs Sisters Inside, a unique advocacy organisation in Brisbane which boasts women on the inside as well as outside prison on its management committee.

Sisters Inside, which is hosting the conference along with Melbourne women's support service, Flat Out, and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (Victoria) provides programs for women including sexual assault counselling and transition support as well as programs for children and their incarcerated mothers and assistance with accommodation and employment.

Given the disproportionate numbers of indigenous women in prison, their issues are also high on the agenda. Indigenous speakers include Lillian Holt from the University of Melbourne, Jackie Huggins from the University of Queensland and Antoinette Braybrook.

8th June 2004

Prison Group Makes History

In a historic move against a State government a small Queensland organisation has lodged a formal complaint in the Anti Discrimination Commission over the systemic discrimination of women in Queensland prisons.

Sisters Inside, an independent community organisation which advocates for the human rights of women in the criminal justice system, claims that women are forgotten in a system which exacerbates their previous traumas, such as sexual and physical abuse or drug addiction, ignores their needs and blatantly lies about the reality of rehabilitation.

They claim Aboriginal women - who represent 30% of the prison population - experience discrimination on the grounds of race, spending their sentences in maximum security prisons without access to gradual community release, parole and work experience opportunities.

The group is also concerned that women with mental health, physical and cognitive disabilities are also over represented and face horrendous abuse and isolation behind bars.

But according to Sisters Inside director, Debbie Kilroy, every woman who is incarcerated in Queensland suffers discrimination based on sex, and through an outdated classification system which penalizes them for the disadvantages they have often carried since childhood, and which may often be responsible for their imprisonment in the first place.

Ms Kilroy, who experienced the Queensland system first-hand in the early 90s, says women with histories of serious abuse and consequent mental illness were likely to face extended periods of isolation in solitary detention units where they were forcefully restrained and suffered sensory deprivation.

'Many of the practices used against women generally echo those we expressed such horror about inside the Abu Graib prison in Iraq,' she said.

'I do not wish in any way to diminish the extent of those atrocities, but to draw attention to the fact that, inside Queensland prisons at least, women are regularly forced into mandatory strip searches; restrained with hand cuffs and body belts; left in 'rubber rooms' in isolation for hours; placed naked inside 'suicide' gowns and tied to mattresses.

The submission, forwarded by Sisters Inside to Anti Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth this week, urges the Commission to initiate an independent inquiry immediately so that the issues they have raised can be 'fully examined and rectified'.

'Services and programs for prisoners should be developed through a process that measures whether all members of the group 'prisoners' are having their needs met. If that is not the case, then the programs should reflect the disparity in needs of differing groups of prisoners, including women, Aboriginal women, other culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disabilities, and women with children,' Ms Kilroy said. 'The non-discriminatory provision of programs and services would reflect the different needs and capabilities of the individual groups of prisoners, not measured in relation to each other, but measured in relation to their needs'.

8th February 2005

Cornelia Rau case highlights broad systemic failures: Community Advocates

Community Advocates will meet today to explore the broad reaching repercussions and implications exposed by the Cornelia Rau Case.
" Debbie Kilroy, Director, Sisters Inside
" David Molloy, President, Australian Medical Association Queensland (TBC)
" Kevin Cocks, Director, Queensland Advocacy Inc.
" Jeff Cheverton, Executive Director, Queensland Alliance of Mental Illness and Psychiatric Disability Groups Inc.
" Mark Conway, Senior Social Worker, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Corporation (QEA) for Legal Services
" Susan Bothmann, Coordinator, Prisoners' Legal Service Inc.
" Helen Connor, Chairperson, Australian Mental Health Consumer Network

Advocates from a diverse range of organisations are calling for an open and independent inquiry into systemic failures, which have been highlighted by the Cornelia Rau case.

Hawken Auditorium
Engineers Australia Building
Level 1, 447 Upper Edward Street
Spring Hill
When: 11:15am to 11:45am
The Cornelia Rau debacle has exposed a cluster of human rights abuses and systemic failures. Advocates have long voiced concerns that human rights abuses regularly occur in institutional settings. Vulnerable people who need care and support are often left to languish on the streets or in prison.


10 December 2004


The co-winner of this year's national human rights medal, Queensland prisoner advocate Debbie Kilroy, can no longer carry out much of her award-winning work because of Queensland Government restrictions.

Ms Kilroy told the award ceremony in Sydney today (Friday) that the work of her organisation, Sisters Inside, which assists women prisoners and their families inside and outside prison, had been severely curtailed by the State's correctives services department just weeks after she lodged a human rights complaint against the Queensland Government.

The complaint alleged systemic discrimination against female prisoners, who largely share disadvantaged and abusive backgrounds, and was accompanied by specific allegations of abuse made by individual prisoners.

Sisters Inside has provided counselling and assistance for women and their families for twelve years. It supports children ensuring they can visit their mothers regularly, provides post-release support for women who leave prison with few possessions, as well as sexual assault counselling for the 90 present of female prisoners who have experienced sexual abuse or assault in their lives.

Women accessing these services have far less chance of returning to prison. The services benefit women as well as the entire community, because women are enabled to rebuild their lives and do not re-offend.

'For most of these women, the notion of human rights is unheard of. They have lived all their lives believing that have no rights at all,' Ms Kilroy said.

'Sisters Inside has worked hard to remind these women of their human rights, and of the humanity. This is fundamental to us all. I find it incredibly ironic that today I am accepting an important national award for this work which I can largely no longer do.'

Ms Kilroy has lived the experience of discrimination inside prisons. Institutionalised as a teenager, she went on - as too many young Australian women do - to endure a prison sentence inside Brisbane's Boggo road, where she saw first hand the way prisons perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage, abuse and humiliation experienced by the majority of female prisoners in their early lives.

After her release in 1992, she established Sisters inside, which has since won international admiration and acclaim and the respect of Australian governments of all persuasions. The Queensland organisation is celebrated by human rights groups oversea for its successful programs and its unique structure, which ensures that active involvement of women inside in al decision-making.

Now, however, that work is threatened. 'Sisters has dared to raise issues of injustice, has dared to stand up for the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the easiest people for government to criticize and ignore - and we have been locked out of prisons because we have taken that risk,' Ms Kilroy said.

'The government's actions are clearly designed to halt our scrutiny of human rights abuses in Queensland prisons. But where there is no scrutiny there is secrecy, and secrecy breeds abuse. We won't be silenced.'

Ms Kilroy was awarded an OAM in 2003 for her work, and last year also won that national community section of the Telstra Businesswomen of the Year award. She is a qualified social worker, psychotherapist, and LLB candidate. She lives in Brisbane with her husband, Joe kilroy. They have two children.

15 October 2001


The Coronial Inquest into the death on 11 September 1998, of Paula Richardson at the formerly private Metropolitan Women's Corrections Centre (now Dame Phyllis Frost Centre) will resume at 10am on:

Wednesday 17 October, 2001
Thursday 18 October, 2001

At the Victorian Coroners Court, 57-83 Kavanagh Street, South Bank.
Open Court

Over three years there has been 10 days of hearing. Evidence heard so far:

Paula Richardson 23, was found hanging by a shower curtain in a management cell at MWCC; she was of aboriginal heritage; she was given a forced strip search where she was held face down by 4 officers and had her clothes cut off her; she had a history of self harm; her parents had expressed concerns to the prison; computer records indicate Paula buzzed up out of the cell she was found hanging in 27 times before she was found.

The last witnesses include the former General Manager of the MWCC then run by Corrections Corporation of Australia and the then head of the New Prisons Project in the Department of Justice.

The family of Paula Richardson is being represented by Brimbank Community Legal Centre Phone 03 93631811 mobile 0421 791 803