Ms Debbie Kilroy, CEO of Sisters Inside joins us this December.

November 24, 2016

The 2016 STOP Domestic Violence Conference will be held over 5-7 December at the Mercure Brisbane, QLD. Ms Debbie Kilroy, CEO of  Sisters Inside will join us at the conference to discuss ‘Providing Innovative Domestic and Family Violence Counselling and Prevention Programs with Criminalised and Imprisoned Women’.

Increasingly, DFV and sexual assault services are being sub-contracted by corrections departments across Australia to deliver counselling and prevention programs inside prisons.  Sadly, women prisoners report that these services often have limited value and, on occasion, cause actual harm.

Models of DFV service delivery which are effective in community settings are generally not transferable to a prison context.   Prisons are inherently violent places: the relationship between prisoners and officers replicate elements of a DFV situation, and women rarely return to a supportive environment following a counselling session or group activity.  Service provision can be interrupted or stopped by prison officers, without warning, at any moment.  Women may only be able to engage with occasional sessions due, in particular, to the short period of imprisonment for most women and systemic requirements and constraints.  As a result, there is an escalated risk of re-traumatisation for women participants in this setting.

Over the past 20 years, Sisters Inside has progressively developed and refined a unique approach to DFV service delivery, customised to the particular needs of women prisoners.  This model takes particular account of women’s vulnerability within this violent environment and the need to ensure her moment-to-moment emotional safety throughout the service delivery process.

This workshop is designed to provide details of the realities and constraints of DFV service delivery in a prison setting, and to introduce participants to key elements of the Sisters Inside model.  The format will include presentation of a paper, followed by Q&A and ample time for discussion.  This is a critical workshop for organisations currently providing DFV services inside women’s prisons, or those intending to tender in the future.

Debbie Kilroy OAM (MLB., GD.FMenH., GD.LPrac., BSocWk.)

Debbie Kilroy spent much of her teens and twenties in (youth and adult) prisons. During these years, she lived with violence in both prison and her domestic life.  As a result, Debbie became deeply aware of the injustices endemic throughout the criminal justice system, and the impact of DFV on women’s criminalisation.  Upon release in 1992, Debbie immediately set out to build an organisation to respond to the needs and human rights of criminalised women and affected children, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families both at an individual and systemic level.  Sisters Inside’s first program – sexual assault counselling (usually in the context of DFV) with women in prison – began in 1994 and has provided continuous service for over 20 years.

Whilst in prison Debbie began studying social work and has subsequently also qualified as a Gestalt Therapist and Legal Practitioner.  She currently divides her time between being CEO of Sisters Inside and Principal Lawyer of her own law firm.  Debbie engages with the current realities for criminalised women and their children on a daily basis, and continues to be closely involved with design and delivery of DFV and sexual assault counselling and group programs with women prisoners.

Debbie’s life is driven by her commitment to reduce the criminalisation and imprisonment of women and children; address the serious over-representation of Indigenous women at all levels of the criminal justice system; and mitigate the impact of mothers’ imprisonment on their children.  Her achievements have been recognised through a variety of honours and awards, including being a shortlisted Queensland nomination for Australian of the Year (2016), Churchill Fellowship (2014), Australian Human Rights Medal (2004), and Order of Australia Medal (2003).

For more information on the conference and to secure your spot, please visit the conference website.




Add your Comment