31st October 2013
ABC NEws Online
Campbell Newman's stoush with judiciary could put court system in
crisis, prisoner advocate Debbie Kilroy says.
23rd September 2013
ABC 612 Brisbane
with Terri Begley
28th August 2013
National Indigenous TV
25th June 2013
with Richard Fidler
25th April 2013
Stringer Independant News
Inside Debbie Kilroy on women in prison
6th August 2012
mining and the can-do atttitude
30 May 2012
protection is failing children: research
24 May 2012
National Indigenous Times
Kilroy appeals for Queensland Government to show a heart for Sisters
Inside by maintaining $120,000 funding
ABC 7.30 Report
Government withdraws funding for women prisoners' group
10 May 2012
Steve Auston ABC 612AM
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 Governments continued
funding for the group to provide services to disadvantaged women
inside Townsville Womens Correctional Centre (TWCC).
Funding for the organisations family support
services, counselling support services, mother and children reunification
programs and other referral services is due to run out at the end
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
(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
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,
"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.
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.
Engineers Australia Building
Level 1, 447 Upper Edward Street
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
- '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
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
'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
'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
'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
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
"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
A quick glance across the Pacific to United States
should warn us that high levels of incarceration do not decrease
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
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
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
BE HEARD ON WOMEN'S
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
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
ARE PRISONS OBSOLETE?
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
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
8th June 2004
Prison Group Makes
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
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
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
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
" Debbie Kilroy, Director, Sisters Inside
" David Molloy, President, Australian Medical Association Queensland
" 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
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.
Engineers Australia Building
Level 1, 447 Upper Edward Street
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
QUEENSLANDER WINS PRESTIGIOUS
HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD
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
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
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
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
Wednesday 17 October, 2001
Thursday 18 October, 2001
At the Victorian Coroners Court, 57-83 Kavanagh Street,
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