Dr Fiona Allison has been working since early 2011 as a Senior Research Officer within the Justice and Social Inclusion Unit at the Cairns Institute, JCU. During this time, she has been senior researcher on and project coordinator for theIndigenous Legal Needs Project (ILNP), an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (LP 100200455). The ILNP is the first comprehensive exploration of the civil and family law needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally. It examines the nature and extent of civil/family law need, Indigenous peoples’ access to civil and family law justice and the connection between unmet civil/family law need and social exclusion of and criminalisation within Indigenous communities. Fiona is now working on a national research project re-thinking how we define access to justice for First Nations people in civil law areas.

Fiona has completed a Doctorate in Law looking at race discrimination and First Nations access to justice issues. She has also taught human rights and related subjects to staff of Papua New Guinea's Department of Justice whilst at JCU and is a member of the Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group (ADLEG), academics with expertise in discrimination law. 

Fiona is a justice reinvestment (JR) practitioner. JR relies on a community development approach to reducing contact with the criminal justice system, and in First Nations communities its focus is on building self-determination. Fiona has worked with JR in Katherine NT and Cherbourg QLD, and currently works with this framework in Aboriginal communities in NSW. Fiona chairs Justice Reinvestment Network Australia, a network of people and organisations implementing and/or advocating for JR in Australia. She also works on place-based approaches in Cairns, working with the Cairns South Together .

Prior to working as a researcher Fiona practised as a lawyer with the community legal sector in NSW and the NT, and as an Aboriginal Outreach Solicitor on a number of remote communities, a generalist solicitor and family violence solicitor. She has also worked at the Australian Human Rights Commission as an investigator/conciliator, and has taught law subjects to Indigenous students at Tranby Aboriginal College, Glebe Sydney, as part of the National Indigenous Legal Advocacy (NILA) program.

Particular areas of interest include access to justice, Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system, law and policy reform, place-based and community development approaches, Indigenous social justice, discrimination and other areas of human rights law and justice reinvestment

Past projects

Fiona has researched at JCU, UNSW and UTS, and as a consultant on a number of projects with an Indigenous rights focus. To date, these have included:

  • research into introduction of Indigenous bail diversion initiatives in Victoria for the Koori Unit, Department of Justice (Vic); 

  • caseload comparison for Aboriginal Legal Services nationally, comparing workloads and outputs for ATSILS and other legal services; 

  • an evaluation of the Remote Justices of the Peace (JPs) Program for the Department of Justice and Attorney General (Qld); 

  • mapping and evaluation of Indigenous Justice Agreements for the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department; 

  • project coordination and research for the NT Council of Social Services and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) working towards introduction of justice reinvestment in Katherine, NT

  • research for the Department of Justice and Attorney General (QLD), working towards introduction of justice reinvestment in Cherbourg, QLD

  • evaluation of a health justice partnership at Wuchopperen, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service in Cairns

  • evaluation of a social worker initiative which embeds social workers to work in partnership with lawyers at the NT Legal Aid Commission.

  • access to justice project in the Barkly Region of the NT, which includes Tennant Creek and remote Aboriginal communities

  • project consultant for the Department of Justice and Attorney General (QLD) for a justice reinvestment project in Cherbourg, QLD 

  • project consultant for justice reinvestment project in Katherine, NT, in collaboration with Charles Darwin University

Current projects include:

  • Research, collective impact project in Cairns South, seeking to improve outcomes for 0-12 year old children, with Mission Australia and Communities for Children

  • Co-Lead Investigator, evaluation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-based and focused health justice partnership based in Inala, Brisbane

  • Data Lead and Researcher, justice reinvestment work in Moree and Mt Druitt, NSW

  • Research Fellow, First Nations civil law access to justice project at UTS

  • setting up digital archive for Freedom Ride surveys, surveys completed with Aboriginal people during the Freedom Ride in NSW (1965)

  • assisting with establishment of racism register for First Nations peoples in Australia, at Jumbunna UTS and with the National Justice Project


  • human rights and discrimination law
  • access to justice
  • justice reinvestment
  • community development approaches to improving justice outcomes
  • place-based approaches
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2019 - Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research
  • 2021 - Member Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters
Other research outputs

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 19+ research outputs authored by Dr Fiona Allison from 2008 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Government Department of Social Services - Contract Research

Cairns South Collective Impact continuation

Indicative Funding
$132,000 over 2 years (administered by Mission Australia)
The Project will bring together representatives from government, community organisations, and a wide range of service providers to focus on this particular social issue. It will support the Early Years sector to lead the development of a detailed child development 'agenda' and to establish long-term system improvements that will increase support and enhance outcomes for children and their families in Cairns South.
Allan Dale, Jancy McHugh and Fiona Allison (Cairns Institute)
Human Dimensions; Marine Estate Planning

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