Our History and Network
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 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 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.
From its establishment, TEWLS conducted outreach to remote Indigenous Communities in the Top End of the Northern Territory. This project became the Aboriginal Women’s Outreach Unit (AWOU). Over the years, TEWLS and the AWOU grew and eventually, TEWLS received funding to run the program as one of a number of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) throughout Australia.
In July 2006, the FVPLS became their own entity, and the North Australian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service (now known as the North Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Service) was created.
In 2007, the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department provided funding to establish the Indigenous Women’s Project (IWP). The IWP involves regular outreach visits to Aboriginal communities in the Greater Darwin region, as well as an outreach service to the Darwin Prison (from 2015, the Women’s Sector within the Darwin Correctional Centre). TEWLS continues to run the IWP, which is today funded by the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
In 2017, TEWLS relocated to new premises at 2/17 Lindsay Street, Darwin, with the in-kind support of the Northern Territory Government. Our offices are close to public transport and other utilities, and we are very grateful to the Northern Territory Government for their continuing support of our service.
In mid-2017, TEWLS commenced a pilot health-justice partnership with the Northern Territory Department of Health at the Royal Darwin Hospital. The pilot runs on a weekly basis, where a TEWLS solicitor attends the Royal Darwin Hospital to provide legal advice and ongoing representation assistance to in-patients and out-patients.
In 2018, TEWLS commenced a pilot partnership with the Dawn House Women’s Shelter. The pilot currently runs on a fortnightly basis, where a TEWLS solicitor attends Dawn House to provide legal advice and ongoing representation assistance to women fleeing domestic and family violence.
TEWLS continues to offer free legal advice and corresponding legal services to all women in the Greater Darwin region, with particular focus on women experiencing disadvantage as a consequence of their financial circumstances, domestic and family violence, homelessness, cultural and linguistic differences, and disability.
Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA)
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.