ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy on ABC Speaking Out discussing the need for a new approach to crime and punishment.

“…instead of looking at our mob as the problem, look at us as the solution.”

As the Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory continues, legal rights advocates have called on governments to rethink their approach to criminal justice. Shane Duffy believes Justice Reinvestment could be a win-win solution for state and territory governments, as well as Indigenous communities.





Recently the Communications and Sector Engagement team met with a range of stakeholders across the justice, health, community and child protection sectors in the Wide Bay region. The team gained valuable insights into some of the significant justice issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from a range of perspectives.

Engaging regularly with community and key partners on country in the regions is vital to ensuring our service delivery is aligned with varying community needs. It’s also used as an important reference when developing marketing and legal education resources as we work to produce materials that better address the nuanced issues faced by clients in our diverse communities.


ATSILS Hervey Bay Team


Our team in Hervey Bay work tirelessly to advance and protect the legal rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Fraser Coast region. With limited resources they go above and beyond to raise the profile of the service throughout the community and ensure the people of Maryborough and Hervey Bay have access to quality and culturally competent legal services.

If you need legal representation or assistance the team at Hervey Bay can help you with a broad range of civil, family and criminal law matters.


Services Provided: Criminal, Family and Civil Law
Address: Unit 2, 17 Torquay Road, Pialba 4655  (PO Box 755)
Phone: (07) 4128 2488
(07) 4128  3021

Always remember if you need urgent legal assistance outside of normal office hours you can reach the team in Hervey Bay 24/7 on our freecall legal assistance hotline: 1800 012 255




Close the Gap in ToowoombaChelsea, Josie and Kevin from our Toowoomba office were out in the local community for Close The Gap Day.

The team hosted a stall at the University of Southern Queensland campus and had a great day showing support for this important cause whilst raising awareness of our broad range of services.

The ever widening justice gap faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is intrinsically linked to poor health outcomes. Promoting access to quality legal assistance and legal education resources can work to address disadvantage in vulnerable communities and can help close the gap not only in justice, but in health as well.


Addressing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and rising imprisonment rates requires a nuanced approach, according to Antoinette Braybrook and Shane Duffy, Co-Chairs of the Change the Record Coalition.

This article is part of a #JustJustice series running at Croakey this week to coincide with Guardian Australia’s Breaking the Cycle project (which is featuring a number of #JustJustice articles), and to mark the publication of the second edition of the #JustJustice book.

Antoinette Braybrook and Shane Duffy write:

In recent months we have seen a renewed and welcome discussion about the crisis of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. What we need now is for all levels of government to start listening to peak and representative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, so that we can work together to address the unacceptably high rates of violence towards our women and children.

We all want to live in a safe community – with less crime and fewer victims. As a result we often default to the assumption that locking up as many people as possible will keep us safe.

But the evidence proves otherwise, with punitive approaches often compounding underlying issues. If we really want to address both rates of violence and rising imprisonment rates, we need to adopt a more nuanced approach.

Since our launch in April 2015, the Change the Record campaign has been working towards twin goals – to stop the disproportionate rates of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children, and to end the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These two goals are mutually reinforcing in a number of ways. Family violence is both a cause and a consequence of imprisonment. Our women are at the epicentre of the national family violence crisis. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are currently 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence than non-Indigenous women and 10 times more likely to be killed as a result of violent assault.

However, it is important to note that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who access our services experience family violence at the hands of men from a range of different backgrounds and cultures.

Underlying, interlinked root causes to violence, prison rates

At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women also represent the fastest growing prison population in Australia and it is estimated that around 90 percent of our women in prison have previously been a victim/survivor of family violence.

The experience of women accessing our services tells us that, more often than not, the criminal justice system fails to protect women from family violence, with punitive approaches providing an incomplete response to stopping the violence.

Both violence and imprisonment rates are also driven by a range of underlying and interlinked root causes, such as mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, family violence, exposure to the child protection system and other factors.

If we want our justice system to work, we need to recognise and respond to the complex needs of the individuals involved. For instance, the resources that are currently put into imprisoning our people could be better spent on investment into holistic wrap-around family violence services that aim to build resilience and reduce offending.

This includes for example a focus on prevention and early intervention programs, such as Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria’s Sisters Day Out program or Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service’s Kunga Stopping Violence Project.

We need Governments to shift their focus away from responding after an offence has been committed, towards investing in services which build communities, reduce violence and prevent offending from occurring in the first place.

Turn-away rates of 30-40 per cent

An example of the complexity of these issues is the story of Ms Dhu – a young, vulnerable Aboriginal woman who tragically died in police custody after being imprisoned for unpaid fines. At the time of her arrest, she was only 22 years of age and was a victim of domestic violence. She was arrested at the same time as the perpetrator and locked up in a police cell adjoining his.

The sad reality is that Ms Dhu should never have been arrested and she certainly should not have been locked up. Instead, she should have been provided access to holistic family violence support services – such as access to safe housing, community services, legal assistance and prevention and early intervention programs.

However, chronic under-funding and budgetary cuts to services means that we currently don’t have capacity to meet demand. For example, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) around the country are currently reporting a turn away rate of 30-40 percent because they are so under-resourced.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we both know first-hand the pain that is caused by violence against our women and children, and we want the violence to stop. But we also know from personal experience the ongoing impact of intergenerational trauma, mental health issues and the breakdown of our communities that is caused by the escalating over-imprisonment of our people.

Talking about addressing violence and imprisonment rates in tandem is difficult but, if we are to make progress in this area, it is critical that we adopt a balanced response which tackles these dual issues head on.

We don’t need more knee-jerk, ill-considered policies. It is essential that peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are front and centre in the solutions. Governments must meaningfully engage with the experts in frontline service delivery rather than seeing them as an afterthought.

Continuously defaulting to a simplistic ‘law and order’ approach only perpetuates cycles of trauma and disadvantage, and will not make our communities safer in the long-term.

It is in all of our interests to work together to develop smarter approaches, which are targeted at addressing the underlying causes of crime. This approach will not only cut offending and imprisonment rates, but critically will also increase safety by working to address the root causes of violence against women and children in the first place.

Antoinette Braybrook and Shane Duffy are Co-Chairs of the Change the Record Coalition.



View on Croakey:


Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standingMossman – Kuranda – Yarrabah

Staff from our Brisbane office ventured to Cairns, Mossman Kuranda & Yarrabah recently to meet with community members including representatives from the local justice groups. The team shared legal education resources related to blue card applications, provided information sessions and application assistance for the Royal Commission into Child Abuse and discussed some of the key justice issues facing these communities.

In Yarrabah the team met with local shire Mayor Ross Andrews and and Gindaja. It was great to hear about the important work being undertaken by the Gindaja Community Justice Program and to spend time with their Coordinator Lerissa and talk about ways we can work together to help address some of the justice and social problems facing the community. Some of the key issues discussed included problems related to domestic violence, driving offences and issues arising from breaches of community alcohol management plans.

ATSILS is committed to engaging with community regularly to ensure our services are responsive to local need and this trip provided an important opportunity to connect with local people and identify areas of need in relation to legal education and awareness.

to connect with local people and identify areas of need in relation to legal education and awareness.


Image may contain: 4 people, people smilingPictured here are Melda, Sarah, Robyn and Tegan, four of our finest aspiring Indigenous lawyers from the Cairns office.

These ladies work with ATSILS across our Court Support and Paralegal roles, strengthening their commitment to social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whilst on their path to legal practice. Melda, Sarah and Robyn are well into their Law degree studies and Tegan is a recent graduate.

ATSILS is committed to supporting staff on their justice journeys and we’re keen to develop future opportunities within our workforce to ensure staff are able to progress from key support roles to legal practice within the organisation.


Hear from some of our dedicated team working to change Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives for the better. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service provides innovative, professional and culturally competent legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Queensland.