Women's Lived Experience in Decarceration & Carceral Resistance

Tuesday, 25 October 2022 - 6:00pm

In this episode of Done By Law we feature audio from the wonderful seminar ‘Women’s Lived Experience in Decarceration and Carceral Resistance’, held on Monday 24 October 2022 at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne.

This evening of discussion, reflections and solutions was hosted by Fitzroy Legal Service and featured the insightful contributions of a number of expert panellists, including practitioners, and women with lived experience of incarceration and the criminal justice system.


Panel 1 – Systemic changes required to address women’s over-incarceration

  • Elena Campbell (Moderator) – Centre for Innovative Justice
  • Karen Fletcher – Flat Out
  • Lisa Abbott – TaskForce
  • Elena Pappas – LACW
  • Megan Pearce – VLA

Panel 2 – Women’s Lived Experience

  • Nina (Moderator) – Homes Not Prisons, Women Transforming Justice
  • Jacqui Bampton – Women Transforming Justice
  • Sara – Homes Not Prisons, Women Transforming Justice
  • Jasmine Barzani – Homes Not Prisons

    We have unfortunately only been able to feature 30 minutes of this jam packed two and a half hour evening. To watch the whole event, head to YouTube via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB_TlMR3tTo&ab_channel=FitzroyLegalServi...



    Full biographies


    Panel 1:


    Elena Pappas 

    Elena is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women, and community legal centre established specifically to combat women's increasing criminalisation and imprisonment. She also sits on the Board as an Executive Director.  Elena is a passionate advocate and leader who is dedicated to working collaboratively with organisation and individuals to address the causes of women’s criminalisation.  She currently leads LACW’s policy and systemic advocacy work, and is Co-Convenor of Smart Justice for Women, a sub-committee of the broader Smart Justice coalition convened by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.  Elena previously worked at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service where she held the position of Senior Lawyer in the Criminal Law team. She advised and appeared on behalf of clients in complex criminal matters and shared responsibility for the mentoring and management of junior and support staff. Prior to this, Elena was an Associate in the Workplace Relations team of a private law firm in Melbourne. She holds a Master of Public and International Law from the University of Melbourne. She has worked as a volunteer with the Mental Health Legal Centre, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service.

    Lisa Abbott


    Lisa Abbott is the Executive Manager Social Impact and Growth at TaskForce Community Agency, a not-for profit operating in Victoria delivering a suite of services to our most marginalised. Lisa has worked with those in contact with the justice system for 20 years in Government and community and over the last five years has been leading the development and delivery of the Living Free Project, a project supporting vulnerable girls and women who are at risk of, or are in early contact with, the justice system. The project drives cross sectoral collaboration and seeks to improve service system responses to enhance how our health and community sectors support women who often fall through service gaps.

    Karen Fletcher
    Flat Out

    Karen Fletcher is the Executive Officer of Flat Out Inc, a community organisation that supports and advocates for women and trans and gender diverse people to get out and stay out of prison. She is a lawyer by trade has worked as a prison advocacy lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service and Prisoners Legal Service QLD and as a public health lawyer, with a special interest in drug decriminalisation, in government and non-government agencies. She is an activist in the Homes not Prisons campaign in Victoria.

    Megan Pearce


    Megan has spent much of her career working alongside criminalised people, particularly women and children. Having started her career as a criminal defence lawyer at Legal Aid Queensland, Megan has also led major law reform inquiries into Victoria’s criminal trial process and child protection system.
    Between 2018 and 2022, Megan worked at Darebin Community Legal Centre (which merged with Fitzroy Legal Service in 2019), first managing the Women Transforming Justice project and then Fitzroy Legal Service’s Social Action and Public Interest Law team. In both these roles Megan contributed to program design and advocacy work aimed at disrupting the cycle of women’s criminalisation. In July 2022 Megan commenced a role at Victoria Legal Aid focusing on discrimination and equality law.

    In 2013-14, Megan also completed a master of laws at the University of Toronto, where her thesis critiqued the effectiveness of human rights frameworks to respond to violence against women

    Elena Campbell


    Associate Director of Research, Advocacy & Policy, Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University. Elena is a lawyer, writer and former political staffer who has worked in legal and social policy for over two decades. Elena's expertise includes therapeutic justice, court interventions, the impacts of crime victimisation and the prevention and elimination of violence against women and children.  At the CIJ, Elena oversees a program of research which predominantly focuses on family violence, court interventions, crime victimisation and the way in which experiences of trauma - including structural and systemic trauma - can push vulnerable cohorts, particularly women, into contact with the criminal justice system. Elena has led projects for Government departments and courts to support the implementation of recommendations from Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence. Elena has also been Principal Chief Investigator in multiple, ANROWS-funded projects looking at the use of violence by young people and adults.  Previously Elena worked as a legal adviser and staffer in the Victorian Government for over a decade. Elena has also been employed as a consultant for a range of social policy and justice organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission. 


    Panel 2:


    Nina Storey
    HNP and WTJ

    Nina is an unapologetic criminalized survivor. Having experienced state sanctioned violence she now spends her time advocating for the rights of criminalized survivors. Nina would love to see the abolishment of the prison industrial complex in her lifetime. 

    Her systemic advocacy commenced in 2018 as a member of the Women’s Transforming Justice Project. Nina now sits on the council of Victim Survivors Advisory Council, is a member of the Expert Advisory Panel at Safe and Equal, a WEAVER for research group at Melbourne University and sits on the steering committee of the Homes Not Prisons Campaign. Nina stands in solidarity with the traditional owners of these lands and acknowledges they have the solutions to living in a world of unity, we must make space and elevate their voices for their stories to be told and shared.    

    Nina lives works and plays in Millowl, Phillip island on the lands of the Bunurong people of the Kulin nations, with her son and Kelpie.   

    Jacqui Bampton

    Jacqui is a formally incarcerated woman who has worked with Fitzroy Legal Service as part of the Women’s Leadership Group. She lives with anxiety and mental health concerns, and has previously struggled with substance dependency and homelessness. Jacqui is deeply passionate about working alongside other criminalised people, with a particular interest in supporting women to navigate child protection. Jacqui is a warm advocate, loyal friend and proud single mum.   

    Sara-Michelle Stilianos

    Sara is an active member of several community groups and organisations aimed at ending incarceration – including as a Homes Not Prisons steering committee member and – previously – as part of Fitzroy Legal Service’s Women Transforming Justice project. Sara has lived experienced of criminalisation and incarceration. She’s driven toward social change and is a fierce advocate for abolishing the carceral system and it’s supporting structures, which only serve to perpetuate further harm and violence by exerting power and control over people’s lives. Alongside studying a Bachelor Degree in Social Science, Sara stands in solidarity with all oppressed women and continues to fight for the rights of women and children. 

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