Katherine Women’s Information and Legal Service (KWILS) has celebrated 21 years of making a positive difference in the lives of vulnerable women and their families in the region.
Marking the date with an afternoon tea, local residents, business owners, service providers and government representatives were recognised for their role and continued support to the free legal service.
KWILS executive officer Jacqui Rimington said the legal service would not be able to assist the number of women who needed help without the community’s unique approach to collaborative service delivery.
“We work to support, represent and advocate for local women in the region. On a daily basis we work on gender issues and demand for KWILS is the highest it has ever been,” Ms Rimington said.
Ms Rimington said the KWILS grassroots approach and strong ties within the community dated back to 1995 when Indigenous legal service KRALAS and the health service Wurli Wurlinjang identified an urgent need for dedicated legal assistance to women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The service opened its doors on October 24, 1997 with one solicitor.
Since then, KWILS has provided assistance to thousands of women from diverse backgrounds across all parts of the region.
The organisation has grown to six full time employees as demand for the specialist women’s legal service is higher than ever.
“In the past year, there has been a 173 per cent increase in the number of clients,” Ms Rimington said.
“We now have an integrated duty lawyer and social support service for women impacted by domestic violence, which has allowed KWILS to offer a more holistic service for clients who need help with both legal and non-legal issues,” Ms Rimington said.
The NT’s long-serving Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon offered his congratulations on more than two decades of providing a “holistic legal service that is making a positive impact to the lives of vulnerable women and their families.”
“It is a tribute to KWILS and the excellent work they do that they are still here in spite of the many funding uncertainties and insufficiencies in recent times,” Mr Snowdon said.
“KWILS is community driven and with its collaborative approach has achieved much the whole Katherine region can be proud of.
“I wish KWILS, its staff and board of management, all the best for the future,” he said.
The afternoon tea commenced with a Welcome to Country delivered by Indigenous elder May Rosas, who spoke about the importance of the many services which advocate for women in the region.
“I would like to see as a custodian that Katherine services continue to provide important support to women. Especially for Indigenous women who sometimes don’t know what is available to them,” she said.
The ‘Family Advocacy and Support Service’ component of KWILS is delivered in partnership with the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission and is funded through the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
“Funding is allocated until June 30, 2019, but the clear demand for this important service will hopefully ensure it is continued in the future,” Ms Rimington said.
“Like other community legal centres, funding uncertainty and insufficiency has long plagued KWILS. Despite this, KWILS has maintained a steadfast focus on providing critical services to women in vulnerable circumstances,” she said.
It is a tribute to KWILS and the excellent work they do that they are still here in spite of the many funding uncertainties and insufficiencies in recent times.Warren Snowdon
Principal legal officer Matt Fawkner said the organisation’s holistic approach to treating the whole person has cemented their success in the Katherine region.
“We are here to help any woman affected by issues such as domestic violence, homelessness, child protection, family law, tenancy, discrimination, credit and debt and employment.
“Clients might come in with their kids, and if they haven’t eaten we will fix that up. It is about helping the whole person.
“It is this kind of approach that has made us successful now and into the future,” he said.
KWILS is located at 5/17 First Street Katherine and is open 8:30-4:30pm, Monday to Friday.
Women can contact the service by visiting the office or calling (08) 8972 1712 or free call 1800 620 108.
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