Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Former Cowboy named as inaugural First Nations Justice officer

The Queensland Government has appointed a former Cowboys NRL player and police officer as the state’s inaugural First Nations Justice Officer.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said former Queensland Police officer, Stephen Tillett, would bring invaluable understanding and first-hand experience to the new role.

“I am proud to announce Stephen’s appointment to this important new role, which further demonstrates our commitment to addressing the over-representation of First Nations peoples in the criminal justice system,” Minister Fentiman said.

“Stephen has a distinguished career of more than 20 years with the Queensland Police Service serving in communities across Far North Queensland, including Cape York and the Torres Strait.

“During this time, he managed important local crime prevention and safety initiatives including with the award-winning Speak Up, Be Strong, Be Heard child protection project, aimed at increasing community awareness of youth sexual violence and abuse within Far North Queensland.

“As project manager for the Cairns Safer Streets initiative, he was part of a multi-disciplinary team of Queensland Government agencies working to deliver a local response to help improve community safety in west Cairns.

“Stephen has also held senior positions within the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, including working on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice programs in the Courts Innovation Program.”

More recently, he has been appointed to leadership roles with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing in the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, and in Queensland Health where he worked on the First Nations Health Equity Strategy.

“Additionally, Stephen has been a member of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel, which provides expert advice to the council in its work to understand and address disproportionate representation of First Nations peoples in the criminal justice system,” the Minister said.

The new First Nations Justice Officer role has been funded as part of the Queensland Government’s response to the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s first Hear Her Voice report.

“We’re acting on the Taskforce’s recommendation to reduce the representation of Indigenous people in our criminal justice system through this appointment and establishment of a First Nations Justice Office which will sit within my department,” the Attorney said.

“Too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to come into contact with our justice system as offenders and are disproportionately represented in our prison population.

“The first priority for Stephen and his team will be to lead development of a whole-of-government and community strategy to address this issue, to be co-designed in partnership with First Nations communities’ leaders and organisations.

“The office will also be responsible for leading reforms including improving the cultural capability of the justice system and engaging with First Nations communities about their experiences in the justice system,” she said.

Minister Fentiman said Mr Tillett was a Torres Strait Islander man, with his mother coming from St Paul’s on Moa Island.

“Outside of his work to strengthen partnerships with First Nations people, Stephen is a strong supporter of rugby league in Queensland, having played professionally with the North Queensland Cowboys from 1995-1996.

“He has also been a volunteer director for the Northern Pride Rugby League Football Club and member of the Queensland Rugby League Indigenous Advisory Committee and Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council.”

Mr Tillett commenced his new role on Monday.

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