Australian National University (ANU) researcher, Dr Jillian Guthrie, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to Indigenous health and justice reinvestment policy.
Dr Guthrie is a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of western NSW and has lived on Ngunnawal country, in Canberra, for over 20 years, working on health-related research projects with a particular focus on the relationship between criminal justice and health.
Dr Guthrie says she was surprised but thrilled when she was told she would be receiving the Order of Australia for her work.
“I acknowledge that these awards really recognise and represent all the people that I’ve worked with as well around these projects that I’ve been involved in,” she said.
“I feel that I was just simply doing what I set out to do…I also acknowledge these awards are a kind of platform for promoting the kind of work I’ve been involved in with my colleagues” she said.
In March 2009, Dr Guthrie was appointed as a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra. She is also a member of the NHMRC-funded Indigenous Offender Health Research Capacity Building Group (IOHR-CBG). During her time at the Australian National University and in her other appointments, she has researched and written extensively about the need for more efforts to be made by states and territories to divert Indigenous offenders from prison.
Recent statistics from the ACT Council of Social Service revealed that Youth incarceration rate in ACT is the highest it has been in five years, as Indigenous children are locked up at 18 times the rate of non-indigenous children. This is the highest rate in Australia.
“I find it quite shocking really, we have to work as a community to address that,” said Dr Guthrie.
One of her most recent projects with ANU explores the potential of justice reinvestment in Cowra, New South Wales. Dr Guthrie was the principal investigator and worked with the communities to gain an understanding of what that might mean to them.
“It is about communities being enabled to not send their people away, particularly their young people, for crimes that are low level crimes… That’s one project that I guess I am most proud of in recent years.”
Some of her other work includes volunteering for Orange Sky Laundry, a mobile laundry and shower service.
“Orange Sky Laundry is a national, community initiative where we, as volunteers, go out and provide friendship and companionship with people who are doing it tough,”
“There are some fantastic vans that are set up with industrial strength washing machines and driers. We provide that kind of service, but in a way that’s secondary to providing some social contact for those people,” she said.
Dr Guthrie has worked in Indigenous health for close to 30 years and she said receiving the honour is opening a platform for “bringing other Indigenous students along” from ANU.
“I have the opportunity here to work with Indigenous epidemiologists and medical students and researchers and I think it’s a great way of creating a space for more indigenous scholars to come along.”