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Table of Contents

Our Story

Who We Are

Legal Service For Women

The Top End Women’s Legal Service (TEWLS) is a not-for-profit, specialist women’s legal service focused on advancing the rights of women and non-binary persons. Located in Darwin, we support women across the Top End of the Northern Territory (NT) to access integrated, trauma-informed, and culturally secure free legal and support services. TEWLS advocates to achieve justice for women, to promote women’s human rights, and to redress inequalities experienced by women.

Our vision is a community in which women enjoy and are entitled to legal and social justice.

Our work includes:

  • Empowering and assisting women to make informed legal choices and achieve fair outcomes.
  • Advocating for laws and policies that respect and promote women’s rights.
  • Educating women to know their legal rights.
  • Building the capacity of our community to identify and respond to women’s legal needs.

TEWLS’ provides services across the areas of civil, family, and migration law, and holds specialist expertise in domestic, family, and sexual violence. Critically, our client-centric service model means that a client can access legal assistance from one legal practitioner in multiple areas of law. TEWLS can provide free legal advice and information to all women and non-binary persons, regardless of their circumstances.

TEWLS is currently funded by the Commonwealth Departments of the Attorney General, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Social Services, with additional contributions received from the Northern Territory Government and via pro bono partnerships.

Today, the service continues to provide free and accessible legal and support services to women in our community, with our vision remaining as strong as the time of the service’s inception.

Our Story

Legal Service For Women

In 1996, TEWLS was established following a recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) for the establishment of a network of women’s legal services.

A series of three (3) reports released by the ALRC, titled “Equality Before the Law”, reported on what the ALRC referred to as “the failure of justice for women in Australia”. Following the release of the reports, women in Darwin met and agreed to work together, establishing a structure that would allow different communities to participate and contribute to the service in ways appropriate and accessible to them, while existing within the one (1) women’s legal service.

TEWLS consolidated and grew, establishing innovate programs, while working to remain true to its foundations of being a responsive, accessible legal service for women in the Greater Darwin region.

Today, the service continues to provide free and accessible legal and support services to women in our community, with our vision remaining as strong as the time of the service’s inception.

Our Journey


TEWLS is established following a recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).

From the beginning, TEWLS conducted outreach to remote Indigenous Communities in the Top End. This project became the Aboriginal Women’s Outreach Unit (AWOU). TEWLS also provided legal services within the Greater Darwin region.

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TEWLS’ volunteer legal clinic is established, staffed by value-aligned and expert legal practitioner volunteers across the Greater Darwin region. The volunteer legal clinic format has now been in operation for over 25 years and continues to this day.

1996 - 2006

Over the years, TEWLS and the AWOU grew and eventually, TEWLS receives funding to run the program as one of several Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) throughout Australia.

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In July 2006, the FVPLS becomes their own entity, and the organisation now known as the North Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Service (NAAFLS) is created.


TEWLS relocates to new premises at 17 Lindsay Street, Darwin with support from the Northern Territory Government.

In mid-2017, TEWLS commences a pilot health-justice partnership with the NT Department of Health at the Royal Darwin Hospital. The pilot runs on a weekly basis, with a TEWLS solicitor attending the Royal Darwin Hospital to provide legal advice and ongoing representation assistance to both in-patients and out-patients. Although the pilot originally ran from 2017 to 2019, TEWLS is proud to be rejuvenating this health-justice partnership in 2024 with funding from the Commonwealth Government.

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TEWLS commences a pilot “in-reach” partnership with the Dawn House Women’s Shelter. The pilot runs on a fortnightly basis, with a TEWLS solicitor attending Dawn House to provide legal advice and ongoing representation assistance to women fleeing domestic, family, and sexual violence.


TEWLS receives a NT Human Rights Award winning the Fitzgerald Justice Award for significant contributions to the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of human rights in the area of Law and Justice.

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2020 - 2022

TEWLS continues to grow, successfully securing funding for and commencing expanded services, including:

– Partnerships with all four (4) women’s shelters across the Greater Darwin region; Dawn House, Catherine Booth House, YWCA Australia, and Darwin Aboriginal & Islander Women’s Shelter (DAIWS).
– Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot, focused on providing integrated migration, family, and domestic, family, and sexual violence legal services.
– A dedicated workplace sexual harassment and discrimination practice consistent with Recommendation 53 of the landmark Respect@Work Report.

In 2022, the TEWLS office at 17 Lindsay Street undergoes significant renovations, doubling the size of our office space to make room for our growing team.


TEWLS continues to offer free legal help to all women and non-binary persons in the Greater Darwin region, and in some areas of law, across the NT, with particular focus on women experiencing disadvantage due to financial circumstances, domestic and family violence, homelessness, cultural and linguistic differences, and/or disability. Our team continues to grow as we strive to provide increased services in a time where demand continues to significantly exceed capacity.

Our Team

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TEWLS’ dedicated legal and support teams, with over 40 years of combined legal experience, provide proactive and high quality integrated legal services within a trauma-informed service model. Our staff includes lawyers, community and project officers, client support officers, and administrative personnel. TEWLS’ staff bring decades of legal and support experience from across both the NT and Australia, with particular expertise and knowledge of women’s needs in the Top End.

TEWLS is also supported by a strong team of volunteer lawyers through the Wednesday Evening Clinic, many of whom are senior specialist experts, as well as via pro-bono partnerships with local and national law firms, and by interns and Practical Legal Training (Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice) placement students. This volunteering facilitates a high level of expertise, value adds to in-house expertise and ongoing case work, and increases service capacity to ensure increasing numbers of women are able to access justice. 

TEWLS offers volunteer placements and/or internships to law students, as well as volunteering opportunities for practising lawyers. For more information about how you can get involved with TEWLS, please see the Volunteer section of this website. 

TEWLS is an independent, non-profit organisation. We are an accredited member of Community Legal Centres Australia (CLCA), an umbrella organisation representing over 200 community legal centres across Australia.

TEWLS is fortunate to have a dedicated, skilled, and diverse Management Committee of seven (7) volunteer members, who guide the services strategic direction and ensure we meet our obligations both as an accountable community organisation and accredited community legal centre. Operational management of the service is delegated to the TEWLS Chief Executive Officer. 


Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA)

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TEWLS is part of a national network of accredited, specialist, women-led community legal centres, specifically developed to improve women’s lives through specialist legal representation, support, and advocacy.

Across Australia, Women’s Legal Services provide high quality free legal services, including advice, representation, and law reform activities, to support women’s safety, access to rights and entitlements, and gender equality.

Women’s Legal Services prioritise women’s safety, access to rights and entitlements and gender equality. They have specialist expertise in safety and risk management, maintaining a holistic and trauma-informed legal practice, providing women additional multidisciplinary supports, including social workers, financial counsellors, and trauma counsellors, for long-term safety outcomes.

Women’s Legal Services approach the legal issues facing women and their experience of the legal system within a broader analysis of systemic gender inequality. They are committed to providing individual services whilst also working towards deeper legal and cultural change to redress power imbalances and address violence and gender inequality.

There are specialist Women’s Legal Services in every jurisdiction in Australia. Together, these services comprise Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA), which works together to advocate for better justice responses to women in Australia.

For more information about WLSA, click here.


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About Our Service Artwork

Yams and Berries – Muluymuluy Wirrpanda

Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala NT

Muluymuluy holds extensive knowledge of native plants of North East Arnhem Land and her artwork embodies this knowledge.

There are four plant species represented in this print, all berries or yams and edible species. They are Buwakul (Dhuwa – native grape), Dilminyin (Yirritja – scaly ash), and Ganguri/Manmuna (Dhuwa – long yam).

Photo: Kristy Brown

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Advancing Women’s Rights
Free legal help for women & non-binary persons


The TEWLS website has a “quick exit” button in the top right-hand corner of the page.

This button will close the TEWLS website and open the Bureau of Meteorology website. You may need to use this button if you are worried that someone is watching you use the computer or that you have been looking at the TEWLS website.

The “quick exit” button does not delete your browser history. This means that if someone checks your browser history, they will be able to see that you have visited the TEWLS website.


Remember, deleting large parts of your internet history may be dangerous. This is because it may tell someone that you do not want your internet history to be found.

If you need help with online safety and/or technological safety, you can visit the eSafety Commissioner website here or you can call 1800 RESPECT on their 24-hour telephone counselling and support service. If you are in danger, you should call the Police on 000.


If you would like to speak to TEWLS with an interpreter:

You can call TEWLS on 1800 234 441 and ask to speak to us with an interpreter. We can organise this for free. You will need to tell us your name, your phone number and the language that you speak. We will then call you back with an interpreter on the phone.

TEWLS are able to organise interpreters for most languages, including Aboriginal languages and Auslan.


You can also organise for TEWLS to contact you:

To organise for TEWLS to contact you, please complete the form through the Request An Appointment button on the TEWLS home page.


If you would like to listen to the TEWLS website in an
Aboriginal language:

TEWLS has had four Top End Aboriginal languages recorded for this website. You can click the “play” button to listen to these recordings.

The languages that are currently available are:

  • Murrinh-Patha
  • Tiwi
  • Warlpiri
  • Yolngu Matha

If you would like to read the TEWLS website in a language other than English:

The TEWLS website is able to be translated to lots of different languages. To change the language settings, press the “English” button in the top bar of the website and choose the language that you speak.
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