While so much of QIFVLS’ work is done ‘at the coal face’, helping members of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities in crisis, there are also huge efforts being made by members of our organisation to drive systemic change from the top down.

In this January edition of Our Communities Matter, we recognise the enormous commitment that QIFVLS is making towards addressing the systemic problems that hold back improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to build reforms that tackle the underlying reasons behind domestic and family violence.

In addition to her day-to-day QIFVLS’ leadership role, CEO Wynetta Dewis has a deep commitment to high level reform. Just this month, Wynetta was appointed as one of 12 First Nations expert panellists to the Albanese Government’s First Nations National Plan Steering Committee. This newly created national body was established to provide advice on the development of a standalone First Nations National Plan to address Target 13 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap 2020-2030. Target 13 states that: By 2031, the rate of all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is reduced by 50 per cent, as progress towards zero. This appointment is additional to Wynetta’s other policy work.

Wynetta’s workload and commitment to the cause is matched by our award-winning PLO Thelma Schwartz whose energy, drive and focus sees her consistently engaging in task forces, working groups and advisory panels across Queensland and nationally with the clear aim of enacting law and policy change for the improvement of our community’s well-being. Thelma’s most recent award is a reflection of her deep commitment to working for the most vulnerable, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: the Queensland Law Society’s 2023 Access to Justice Award.

Thelma is very often QIFVLS’ public face, passionately advocating for domestic and family and violence reform on behalf of those who rarely have a voice or a presence in the wider media. Her regular appearances on the ABC, from news programs to current affairs panel shows, are always articulate and compelling.

In a recent appearance on ABC News, Thelma was asked to respond to a Queensland police report showing a 50% increase in domestic and family violence cases leading to the death of the victim between 2022 and 2023. Her answer, while seemingly obvious to those involved, may still present a psychological hurdle to some politicians, policy makers and senior police, who for too long have sought solutions only through the criminal justice system.

“Like oil and water” is how Thelma describes the established approach to tackling domestic and family violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities compared to that advocated by QIFVLS and other First Nations groups.

The work and contributions by Thelma as part of the Queensland Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce are captured in two reports: Hear Her Voice Report 1 (Addressing coercive control and domestic and family violence in Queensland) and Report 2 (Women and Girls experience across the criminal justice system) and include a raft of wide ranging reforms that the Queensland State Government has committed to, including legislation to increase protective measures for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence and sexual violence.

Both reports strongly advocated for a co-ordinated, whole of system response to address the epidemic of domestic and family violence in Queensland and especially as it impacts our most vulnerable, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In its first recommendation (since accepted), Hear her Voice Report 1 proposed that the Queensland Government work in partnership with First Nations peoples to co-design a specific whole-of-government and community strategy to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland’s criminal justice system and meet Queensland’s Closing the Gap justice targets.

Key to the success of the recommendations is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are heard and supported to address domestic and family violence, which includes a cultural, healing lens and for men to become a part of the solution. “Accountability is key” says Thelma. “And not accountability simply through punishment and a custodial sentence but by changing perpetrator’s attitudes to violence, to gender equality, to healthy and harmonious relationships. In rewriting the solutions handbook, there needs to be a place for men’s healing or the cycle of attitudes towards violence will never end”.

Last December, both Thelma and Senior Policy Officer Kulumba Kiyingi attended the National Family Safety Summit in Perth, where these familiar themes were once again raised. As Kulumba noted: “What was common across the board was that there must be a place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to be accepted as part of the solution. And within that, there has to be room for healing. Healing for the family, healing alongside traditional men’s business and healing within traditional women’s business”.

To advance these urgent reforms and to ensure QIFVLS has a voice at the policy-making table, our dedicated policy team of Kulumba Kiyingi and Esther Tambo are in regular contact with the state and national agencies responsible for progressing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and work with other Government Departments to ensure a co-ordinated response to achieving the priority reforms and targets.

It’s slow and steady work that takes persistence. The Productivity Commission’s draft report released in July 2023 showed that in terms of the National Agreement there was a ‘business as usual’ approach and that there was much still to be done for Government to work together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community-controlled organisations.

Until  change occurs across the totality of the system, including tackling and unwinding entrenched attitudes, the only option available to ending the domestic and family violence scourge in our communities will continue to be the ineffective application of the criminal justice system.

In 2022, the Independent Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police Service responses to domestic and family violence handed down its report. In it, Her Honour Judge Deborah Richards made 78 recommendations calling for urgent changes to police attitudes and behaviours towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The report found the QPS had a history of racism, sexism and misogyny that needed to be addressed urgently. Our PLO Thelma Schwartz was amongst a number of First Nations peoples, including serving First Nations Police Officers, to give evidence before the Commission.

To this end, QIFVLS and Thelma have actively engaged with the QPS to deliver culturally appropriate training to the Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Course, providing Queensland police with a fresh perspective and deeper understanding of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities they serve.

The policy work that the QIFVLS team engage in is vital for the improved safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the longer term. And while our staff continue to assist and comfort those most at risk within our communities every day, we are also taking action to drive change from the top down.

So when our clients say “I still love him but I just want the violence to stop”, this reminds us of the importance of our mission – not just for tomorrow but for the generations of our mob still to come.


This month OCM opens the door to our Brisbane office and steps inside for a look at our colleagues operating from Queensland’s capital city.

The Brisbane team service a large geographical area which extends from the Sunshine Coast to Southport on the Gold Coast, and as far west as Ipswich. With a total population of over 2 and half million and servicing a minimum of 10 Court registries, Brisbane is one of the busiest QIFVLS offices.

This extensive territory includes the traditional land of four clans: The Turrbal, Yugerra, Yugambeh and Kabi Kabi (or Gubbi Gubbi) people.

Being based in a metropolitan city brings its advantages, with the Brisbane team able to offer clients access to a wide range of services, with programs geographically closer and better resourced than is generally available in more remote locations. And where access to legal services in communities are limited, resulting in service conflicts, this is far less likely to pose an issue in a metropolitan centre.

Our Brisbane team provide advice and representation in the following practice areas: Family Law, Domestic Violence, Child Protection and Victims Assist Qld. This includes assistance by way of advice, preparation of correspondence and/or Court material, attending Mediations or Court Ordered Conferences, and attending and appearing at Court. They are supported by a committed Case Management team provides non-legal support, by way of ongoing referrals and case management assistance.

The Brisbane team consists of:
Leah King – DPLO (for North and West Brisbane);
Brandon Begley – DPLO (for South and East Brisbane);
Stephanie Clutterbuck – Solicitor (for North and West Brisbane);
Hala Hamed – Solicitor (for South and East Brisbane);
Lovisa Lundberg (Health Justice Partnership Solicitor);
Rita Gibuma (Case Management Officer);
Pamela Donovan (Administration Officer).

A snapshot of our Brisbane office, so the next time you speak to one of the team there, you have a sense of the space where they are talking to you from.
With office Christmas celebrations disrupted by major weather events (and with some offices still waiting to enjoy their belated festivities), Head Office, Cairns and Townsville Offices did manage the opportunity to squeeze in some festive fun.



Editions of all Our Communities Matter newsletters are now available on the website. Using the dropdown menu, select the year and month of the issue you’d like to revisit.


Are you in search of an rewarding profession that will take you on journeys through the breathtaking landscapes of Queensland? One that promises not only career advancement and skill enhancement, but also attractive perks, substantial travel allowances, and one-of-a-kind professional adventures? Are you drawn to a career that enables you to make a positive difference in the lives of others?

Look no further – your new career awaits you! At QIFVLS, we are dedicated to combating Family and Domestic Violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Our methods encompass education, advocacy, legal reform, court support, and casework assistance. By focusing on early intervention and prevention, our aim is to empower individuals impacted by Family Violence to regain control over their lives. We are in search of outstanding and dynamic individuals who can join us in achieving this mission.

If you envision yourself fitting into this scenario, we encourage you to see what’s available here.

Please consider making a personal or corporate donation to help our teams deliver the services that are so vital to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Watch the video below for one example of how some of the donations made to QIFVLS is utilised to make the lives of people in crisis better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm8yeKrpRlYFrom left to rightWyneet

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