The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has recently completed research into the experiences of Koori women and the justice system. This project is one of the Commission's key responsibilities under the Aboriginal Justice Agreement 3.

The Commission worked with four focus groups composed of Koori female prisoners at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. The Commission also conducted five case study interviews with female prisoners and with Koori women who had left prison. In addition, 15 key informant interviews with people across the justice system, community service organisations, Magistrates and academics were undertaken.

The research also found that in 2012, 80 per cent of Koori women entering Victorian prisons were mothers. A high proportion of Koori women prisoners were themselves clients of child protection services as children. Many now have their children in informal or formal out-of-home care.

The report entitled Unfinished business: Koori women and the justice system is now available.

You can download the reports below or view online as a PDF.

Read the report: (PDF) | (DOC)
Read the main findings summary: (PDF) | (DOC)

Background

The recently evaluated Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 2 (AJA2), identified that the development of effective diversionary options for Koori women remains one of the main unfinished tasks and was a priority recommendation. There has also been considerable advocacy and research on this issue.

Studies have shown that imprisoning Koori women on remand and during pre-sentence periods can have crippling, long-term effects on their families and the broader community, particularly when less than 15% of Koori women on remand ultimately receive custodial sentences.

These women are generally young and often impacted by violence and trauma. Their offences are predominantly property related, infringements and the execution of warrants.

Research reveals high rates of psychological affective disorders (depression, anxiety), and post traumatic stress disorder among Koori women in prison. These findings come from interim results from the Victorian Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisation (VACCHO)

What we found

While at any one time around 30 Koori women will be in Victorian prisons, many cycle through the system multiple times, often on short sentences, or on remand and then not sentenced. Koori female prisoners are generally young, and many have experienced family violence, sexual abuse and intergenerational trauma. Homelessness before and after prison is common.

Offending and imprisonment patterns for Koori women differ from those of Koori men. They also differ from those of other women, noting that Koori women's health and wellbeing depends on a strong connection to culture. Thus, connection to culture is a crucial protective factor and must lie at the heart of any intervention.
While a range of successful initiatives have been established in Victoria for Koori men and other groups, there remains a lack of effective diversion options for Koori women.

Next steps

The report makes 29 recommendations to agencies across government, including Victoria Police, Magistrates' Court, Corrections Victoria, Justice Health, Department of Justice, Department of Human Services, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People and the Victorian Auditor-General.

The recommendations address over-representation of Koori women across the criminal justice system, as well as specific recommendations regarding the establishment of a culturally and gender appropriate model of diversion. The report also identifies principles of effective intervention to guide the further development of prevention, diversion and post-release programs.

The Commission looks forward to progressing these recommendations through the Aboriginal Justice Forum over the coming months.

More information

For more information about this project please contact the project team on 9032 3405 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thursday, 08 November 2012 14:31

Local Government Human Rights

Charter Report 2012 – local government input

Every year the Commission produces a report on the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Charter reports are available to download.

Local Government Human Rights Forums 2012

To help support councils in their important work with human rights, the Commission hosted a series of local government human rights forums in November and December 2012 in Melbourne, Wangaratta, Ararat and Mildura. The forums aimed to develop skills to put human rights into practice in governance and service delivery roles.

The development of the forums was greatly assisted by an Advisory Group with representatives from a range of councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, and the Victorian Local Governance Association. Information and case studies coming out of the forums will be available in the Local Government section of this website. Please let us know if you have anything to add or would like to see as part of this resource.

Thursday, 26 July 2012 10:54

Fair go, sport!

Research shows sport is a significant site of homophobic harassment, discrimination and exclusion.

The Australian Government report, The future of sport in Australia, identified the need to understand these issues and create new opportunities for inclusion and participation.

With this in mind, the Australian Sports Commission funded Fair go, sport! in 2010.

This project aimed to:

  1. increase awareness of sexual and gender diversity
  2. promote safe and inclusive environments
  3. develop a flexible model of engagement that can be adapted for other sporting codes and their governing bodies.

The project now has four components:

  1. Fair go, sport! Phase 1: Our original work with Hockey Victoria and Hockey Australia, completed in December 2011, developed a peer mentoring approach to support project advocates.
  2. Fair go, sport! Phase 2: Commenced in June 2012, this Phase worked with four additional state sporting associations (Basketball, Cycling, Football and Skate Victoria / Roller Derby) and consolidated the achievements in Hockey
  3. Fair go, sport! Reservoir High School: In 2012 we applied the FGS model and approaches within the school’s sport, health and physical education programs.
  4. Fair go, sport! Schools: Commencing in 2013/14, Whittlesea Secondary College, Castlemaine Secondary College and Keilor Downs College have been implementing the project and developing strategies for inclusion in school sport.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 12:59

My work rights

The My work rights project aims to raise awareness of women’s rights at work. Experiencing harassment and discrimination can have real, negative impacts on your confidence and wellbeing. If you ignore this behaviour it may happen again. Quitting the job entirely might just mean it happens to someone else.

The Commission’s research with young Victorian women in 2011 showed that:

  • a third have experienced workplace sexual harassment
  • more than a third have been discriminated against at work.

We also discovered that young women often don’t make a complaint about discrimination or sexual harassment at work. They are more likely to resign.

My work rights website

To coincide with International Women's Day 2016, we relaunched the My work rights website and made it relevant to all  not just young  women in the workplace. 

The My work rights website helps people identify discriminatory behaviour, providing mixed media examples of behaviour that is against the law, plus links to more information and resources.

And if you are experiencing discrimination or sexual harassment yourself, or if you have witnessed it in your workplace, My work rights has some suggestions about what you can do next.

Browse our library

Many of the reports and submissions in our publications and resources tackle issues of discrimination, harassment and human rights. We’ll guide you through the law in Victoria and how it affects you at work.

Contact the Commission

If you have any questions about sexual harassment, discrimination or victimisation you can call the Commission’s Enquiry Line for a free and confidential chat or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can also fill in our online complaint form or send us a letter.

Contacting us doesn’t mean that you have to lodge a complaint. We can work through some of the options and help you to decide what to do next.

Lodge a complaint with us
Chat live with us now
Subscribe to our eBulletin