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The Wheeler Centre

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So What If … We Didn't Have Prisons?

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Photograph of Robyn Oxley, Debbie Kilroy and Meriki Onus

Robyn Oxley, Debbie Kilroy and Meriki Onus at the Wheeler Centre — Photo: Sophie Quick

Australia’s prison populations are booming and their demographics are heavily skewed – with Indigenous Australians shockingly over-represented. Why do we rely so heavily on prisons in our criminal justice system? And what are the alternatives in terms of prevention, deterrence and rehabilitation? 

Presented in partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week.


Portrait of Robyn Oxley

Robyn Oxley

Robyn Oxley is a Tharawal woman from South-West Sydney with family connections to Yorta Yorta along the Murray River, near Echuca in Victoria. Robyn is a Lecturer in Criminology for the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University. Her research interests focus on Aboriginal affairs within the criminal justice system, the pre and post release support of Aboriginal offenders and self-determination.

Robyn is interested in Family Violence and the criminalisation of Aboriginal women as victims due to family violence. Robyn is an activist, an abolitionist and advocate for Aboriginal people, ensuring self-determination is practiced and at the core of all things Aboriginal.

Portrait of Debbie Kilroy

Debbie Kilroy

Debbie Kilroy was imprisoned for drug trafficking in 1989 for six years. She was stabbed and witnessed the only murder inside an Australian women's prison, and lost almost everything: her marriage, her home and her children. After her release in 1992, Debbie established Sisters Inside to advocate for the rights of women and girls in prison.

Portrait of Meriki Onus

Meriki Onus

Meriki Onus is a Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman who grew in Gippsland. Meriki is currently doing policy and advocacy at Djirra. She also has significant experience in campaigning in community on issues such as deaths in custody, youth detention, racism and more recently the Djapwurrung trees. Meriki is also a co-founder of Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance and is one of the organisers of Melbourne Invasion Day ‘Abolish Australia Day’ rally. She is passionate about transformative justice and abolition in her community.

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