Karen Iles joins the National Justice Project

Last Updated on 08/03/2023 by National Justice Project

We are excited to welcome Karen Iles, director and solicitor of Violet Co Legal & Consulting, to the National Justice Project Statutory Board. We spoke with Karen about her work, advocacy and what she hopes to achieve through partnering with the National Justice Project. 

Getting behind campaigns that make an impact 

When we spoke to Karen about her new leadership role, she told us she’s joining because “it’s important that we get behind community organisations and campaigns that are having an impact.” 

“What I really value in the National Justice Project is their work on systemic racism, on First Nations deaths in custody, in coronial inquests, and their advocacy for health justice: that’s work that not many other organisations are doing, and it’s so important,” said Karen. 

With her own firm following similar principles to the National Justice Project, Karen says that “the work that the NJP does is so critically important and really unique in our society.” 

It’s the right thing to do. I see it as a real privilege to sit at the table and support the team in any way I can.”

— Karen Iles

“The National Justice Project is a radical voice. Because they’re not tied to government funding, they’re free to be the strongest advocates they can possibly be,” she said.

Advocating for the rights of victims of sexual assault 

After experiencing injustice firsthand, Karen now advocates for gender equality and racial justice, working with organisations on strategic consultation projects and representing people who have survived sexual assault or suffered from discrimination at work.  

In her own work, Karen aims to highlight the inequities in the legal system, expose the mishandling of sexual assault cases by courts, and hold police accountable for failing to investigate sexual assault.

“Ninety percent of people don’t report sexual assault, and of the ten percent that do, it’s only a fraction that actually get investigated, secure charges, and then go to the DPP.” 

“The vast majority of the twenty percent of Australian women that have been sexually assaulted will never receive any kind of justice.” 

Portrait of Karen Iles.

Holding police accountable to community expectations 

Karen is calling for legislative changes to the way police respond to sexual assault, saying “Police must have a minimum duty to investigate. We have to remove the discretion from police because we know from inquiry after inquiry that the police have very systemic issues with misogyny, racism, and homophobia.” 

She also argues that investigations of police misconduct must be reformed; “we need genuinely independent police integrity review bodies that are not staffed by police and not staffed by ex-police – not police investigating police.”  

“Unfortunately, the police just haven’t been able to self-manage and do their job themselves, so we need to give them a hand with a bit of legislation. We need to codify the community expectations of police and then – where the police are not meeting those expectations – we need to hold them to account.” 

The National Justice Project has worked on a number of cases examining police failure to investigate sexual assault and serious crimes, including the cases of Baby Charlie Mullaley and Mona Lisa and Cindy Smith.  

Collaborating to eradicate racism from the workplace 

Before joining the Board, Karen’s firm has already collaborated the National Justice Project and the Jumbunna Institute in the Call It Out First Nations Racism Register. When someone registers an act of racism at their place of work, the Call it Out team can refer that person to Violet Co to help them consider their legal options.  

“Through Call It Out, the Jumbunna Institute and NJP have been highlighting how racism manifests in workplaces, and how it interacts with employment law. A number of Aboriginal people have come forward disclosing racism in their workplaces, and then when we’ve deemed some of those cases to be strategic, our firm has represented those individuals.” 

Karen told us that she’s looking forward to deepening her involvement with the National Justice Project as a Statutory Board member, saying: “It’s the right thing to do. I see it as a real privilege to sit at the table and support the team in any way I can. The National Justice Project team’s dedication, skillset, and strategic minds are just exceptional.”