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So What If …

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at The Wheeler Centre

We Didn’t Have Prisons?

This event is now fully booked. We have reserved spaces for any First Nations people who missed out on a booking – please email ticketing@wheelercentre.com or call 03 9094 7800 to request one.

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 would our society look like if we abolished incarceration? What are the alternatives in terms of prevention, deterrence and rehabilitation? What would we do about violent citizens? And what changes might we need to make to our health, housing and education systems to enable a prison-free society?

Presented in partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week.

So What If ... We Didn't Have Prisons?


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 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.

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.

So What If …

Swing by the Wheeler Centre in May for a series of lunchtime talks about the future. We promise no hazy trend-forecasting; we’ll stick to specifics. We’ll speculate on social structures and systems – from citizenship and gender to law and order – and discuss how changing things up might change our world. In partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week, we’ll ask: what's broken, what's working, and what should we leave behind?


More about this venue, including large map, parking, public transport and accessibility.