Our Mission is to provide and improve access to legal services and to promote law reform for North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women through advocacy and representation in the legal system.
In July 1998 the Commonwealth Attorney-General provided funding to the North Queensland Women’s Legal Service Inc (“NQWLS”) to provide services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in North Queensland. The NQWLS established the Indigenous Women’s Unit (“the IWU”). This was the first step towards the formation of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Services NQ (“ATSIWLSNQ”) as it is now.
The IWU operated from Townsville and Cairns at the offices of the NQWLS and a reference group was established to advise the Management Committee of the NQWLS about service delivery.
In February 2005 the IWU received approval from the Commonwealth Attorney-General to set up premises in Townsville, separate from the NQWLS.
In May 2005 the IWU relocated to St James Place in the heart of Townsville, with two staff members, a Principal Solicitor and a Community Development Worker (a part-time administrator was later employed by the service). The IWU continued to be managed financially by the NQWLS, which also provided support for the IWU during the transitional period. NQWLS established a sub-committee to oversee the IWU’s progression to independence.
In February 2006 the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Services NQ (ATSIWLSNQ) was incorporated and in March 2006 an interim Management Committee was elected. The service provided legal services and community legal education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the service region, while continuing to operate under the auspice of the NQWLS until July 2006.
ATSIWLSNQ is funded by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department and the State Attorney General’s Department, through Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Services Program (“CLSP”). In addition to recurrent funding the service receives “one-off” funding from time to time for particular projects.
The core work of ATSIWLSNQ is legal advice, casework including court representation, community legal education (CLE), outreach clinics and CLE workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Townsville and in rural and remote areas of North Queensland.
ATSWILSNQ is committed to working with its community networks to provide a range of legal services and to promoting and advocating for law reform as appropriate. ATSIWLSNQ reaches out to women who otherwise would not have access to legal services. We share with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in North Queensland information as to their legal options, which we hope will empower them to make informed legal choices.
(1) To ensure that traditional women’s law is respected and strengthened and at all times upheld to maintain the values of the family unit and the role of women within indigenous cultures;
(2) To provide legal advice, representation and advocacy, together with associated welfare services, to indigenous women and their families. There will be a special emphasis on North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families who face additional discrimination for reasons such as, but not limited to: poverty, displacement, social class, race, age, religion, disability, sexuality, isolation, and violence;
(3) To provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge to participate fully and coincidentally in legal matters affecting them;
(4) Where necessary, to advocate for reform of the law and legal processes and reflect the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women which fail to address their needs;
(5) To work towards the empowerment of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women within the legal system and to achieve social justice and equity before the law;
(6) To combat racism, violence, poverty, destitution, sexism, and discrimination of all kinds as they affect the spirituality, culture, custom, tradition, heritage, lore, health, wellbeing, interest, and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in North Queensland.
(7) To initiate, promote, and participate in research and inquiries where the objects are to evaluate any existing laws and legal processes, policies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Lore, customs, tradition, spirituality, as they affect the interest and require;
(8) To initiate strategies and action directed to the empowerment of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children within the justice systems and international covenants established by forums such as the United Nations;
(9) To promote and provide support and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman and children within and about the social justice systems so that they can and do confidently and competently participate in legal and related matters and forums;
(10) To prepare and publish materials and reports, participate in public forums and inquiries, Committees, organisation, litigation, make submissions, consult, and provide practical forms of education in order to achieve the Objectives of this Association;
(11) The Association supports the principles of the United Nation Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.