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Indigenous Law Bulletin

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Griffin, Denese --- "The National Network of Indigenous Women's Legal Services Inc" [2004] IndigLawB 24; (2004) 6(1) Indigenous Law Bulletin 13

The National Network of Indigenous Women's Legal Services Inc

by Denese Griffin

on behalf of the National Network of Indigenous Women’s Legal Services Inc

The National Network of Indigenous Women’s Legal Services Inc (NNIWLS or ‘the Network’) is a national peak body for Indigenous women’s legal services. It is a national network promoting social justice for Indigenous women (with a particular emphasis on law and justice) which undertakes advocacy, promotes high quality service delivery and service coordination.

Established in 1998, NNIWLS has been operating since 2001 with philanthropic grants and grants from ATSIC. The Our Strong Women leadership training workshops also received a project grant from the Commonwealth Office of Status of Women.

The Network was formed by, and has a membership that consists of:

All these services provide legal help to Indigenous women, children and families. Every day these services see the effects of communities in pain; hurt that goes very deep and leaves many of our women and children at risk. Whilst the services provide legal help, the main aim is healing and working with women and children and often with men.

Members of the Network

The Network was first formed by Indigenous women working in community legal centres under the Indigenous Women’s Initiative Programs funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. The main aim of the Programs is to provide access to and equity of legal services to Indigenous women.

NNIWLS objectives

Since the establishment of the first Indigenous Women’s Program, Indigenous women working in the programs have been meeting at the National Association of Community Legal Centres Annual Conference. As there were only a small number of Indigenous women at each conference they met in an ad hoc manner to talk about their work and provide support for each other.

While the number of IWPs has increased, many Indigenous women work in isolation as the sole service provider, particularly in rural, regional and remote areas. Their roles include community legal education worker, paralegal, community development worker, Aboriginal liaison officer and Aboriginal access worker.

In response to the plight of Indigenous women and children experiencing family violence, the first Family Violence Prevention Legal Unit was piloted in Kempsey, NSW followed by twelve Family Violence Prevention Legal Units established in 2000. The services provided by the Units centre around services for Indigenous people, particularly women and children, to address their legal needs and reduce the incidence of family violence in a holistic manner.

These Indigenous Women’s Legal Services work together with other groups, government departments and community groups to help with, not only the legal needs, but also the healing processes.

Today, in addition to maintaining contact through attendance at the Annual Network Day Meetings, NNIWLS produces a Network booklet, newsletters and email lists to allow members to network and share information and resources. A project of NNIWLS has been the highly successful Our Strong Women – Indigenous Women, Law and Leadership, featured in this edition of the Indigenous Law Bulletin.

The Network is incorporated and has a fulltime Network Coordinator and a Strengthening Committee to carry out the functions of the Network.

Key achievements for the Network include:

ATSIC Review
Inquiry into child custody arrangements in the event of family separation
Inquiry into Current Legal Aid and Justice Arrangements

The Network has received support from the Reichstein Foundation, ATSIS, Commonwealth Office of Status of Women, National Women’s Justice Coalition, the National Association of Community Legal Centres and lobbying and support from individual Indigenous and non-Indigenous women throughout Australia.

Denese Griffin is the Network Coordinator of NNIWLS.

Phone 08 9475 0755, Fax 08 9475 0756, Mobile 0439 954 648,


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