Deborah's cover image
Deborah

Deborah Kilroy OAM

Year of Award: 2013 Award State: Queensland Community > Social Change
Social Welfare > General
To contribute to decarceration through identifying innovative alternatives to imprisonment which could be implemented in Australia - USA, Canada
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We have seen some Churchill Fellows who are doing wonders with reducing recidivism. Deborah Kilroy AO (Queensland, 2013) wants to abolish prisons altogether.

She believes our current correctional system is a failure and criminal sanctions are not an effective way of dealing with social problems. She points out the undeniable fact that our women’s prisons are filled with a disproportionate number of Aboriginal women and homeless women. The children of prisoners are five times more likely than the general population to end up in prison when they grow up. The number of women prisoners has increased in the past 20 years, yet there has been no increase in the crimes committed by them.

‘Powerless people are imprisoned, while more powerful people go free,’ she writes, emphasising Australia’s tendency to follow the United States and Canada’s race to incarcerate the most dispossessed ‘for longer and more brutalising periods.’ Deborah suggests that the massive resources spent on prisons should be instead invested in communities and individuals to ensure that everyone has equal access to the means to live with dignity, with the basic needs of housing, healthcare and education met. Most of those who commit crimes could do community service and suspended sentences, which would save society millions of dollars and better protect the rights of women and children.

Deborah is a former prisoner. She is now a practising criminal defence lawyer. After being released from prison in 1992, she studied and gained four degrees. In 2007 she became the first and only former prisoner to be admitted as a legal practitioner in Queensland. Deborah is the CEO of Sisters Inside Inc., a support group for women in prison. She writes in her thought-provoking report: ‘A gratifying element of my trip was the opportunity to meet so many women … with a shared vision of a future free of prisons.’ Her awards include the Soroptimists International Woman of the Year, 2001; the Order of Australia Medal, 2003; the Australian Human Rights Award, 2004; and the Peace Women Award, 2010.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

Awards and Honours

  • 2003 awarded Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community, particularly through providing assistance to women in correctional facilities.

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