Gail Thorne

Photo supplied

'We’re there from start to finish': A look inside the First Nations Women’s Legal Program

This program, within the Women's Legal Service in western Sydney, exists because of the disproportionate representation of First Nations women when it comes to domestic violence.

In partnership with Domestic Violence NSW

It’s ten hundred hours on the frontlines of domestic violence and today we are out at the Women’s Legal Service (WLS) in western Sydney. We are visiting Gail Thorne, a proud Wiradjuri and Kamillaroi woman and the Senior First Nations Community Access Officer at the First Nations Women’s Legal Program within WLS.  

This program exists because of the disproportionate representation of First Nations women when it comes to domestic violence. Despite making up only 3.8% of the Australian population, Indigenous women are 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to domestic violence than non-Indigenous women, and were found to represent 23% of all female homicide deaths in 2022 (AIHW).  

These statistics are the reason DVNSW has spent the past week calling on the NSW Government to fully fund its previous commitments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan 2023-2025 and Target 13 of the Closing the Gap report. Like most workers on the frontlines, Gail acknowledges the fact that “to have a more safe and just community, we need more funding and resources.” 

Despite this, Gail’s energy, as she moves around the office, instils confidence. The passion is evident as Gail and her colleagues take turns manning the phoneline. The First Nation Women’s Legal Program offers a free legal advice phoneline where First Nations women can call First Nations staff directly. The program operates across the state with outreach clinics to ensure regional and rural women also have support.  

“We’re there from start to finish,” Gail asserts. “We will support her through her own journey. If she needs cultural support while she visits her appointments, we’ll do that. We’ll be there for every affidavit, every court matter, if we need to travel – we’ll do that”. This is the level of passion and commitment readily found on the frontlines – but rarely acknowledged or celebrated. Local heroes like Gail are the reason we are running this campaign across Domestic Violence Prevention Month.  

Gail is the 10th frontline worker Domestic Violence NSW have featured this May as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This 24 hours on the frontlines campaign run by Domestic Violence NSW uses a series of videos to showcase the pervasiveness of domestic violence in the community and the strength of the sector working tirelessly to stop it.

If you want to join the fight against domestic violence, make sure you sign their pledge. Check out the rest of the campaign on Domestic Violence NSW’s Instagram, Facebook or TikTok