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About the Conference

The Justice Health Conference is a national conference convened by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA). In 2021, the PHAA will be running the fourth Justice Health Conference, as a virtual conference. 

The 2021 Conference theme is: Evidence, Accountability, Action. 

The first PHAA Justice Health Conference, held in Melbourne in 2009, provided a much-needed platform for “sharing evidence and making recommendations for the way forward”. This focus on translating evidence and ideas into meaningful action remains at the core of the Conference objectives. This year’s theme takes direction from this notion of a ‘virtuous cycle’ between research evidence and meaningful action, but also focusses on the importance of accountability. Researchers must be accountable to the populations they study, including through co-design with those who have lived experience of the criminal justice system. Government and non-government agencies responsible for the health of people in custody must also be held to account against relevant national and international standards, and systems must be in place for routine, independent monitoring and surveillance. As the saying goes, “What gets counted gets done”.

Since the last PHAA Justice Health Conference, held in Sydney in 2019, the world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on people living and working in custodial settings, and on healthcare delivery in these settings. United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization have drawn international attention to the health needs of people in custody, and the recently published UN System Common Position on Incarceration has further reinforced the principle that “prison health is public health”. The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, presented to the UN General Assembly in 2019, drew global attention to the health needs of incarcerated children, and made a compelling case for moving away from incarceration to more effective, therapeutic responses for children in contact with the criminal justice system.

In Australia, 30 years after the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in both prison and youth detention is at an all-time high. ‘Justice targets’ have been added to the bi-partisan Closing the Gap framework for achieving health equity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and others in Australia, in an effort to reduce incarceration rates. Whether these targets are sufficient to not only reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, but also improve their health outcomes, remains to be seen. In 2020, the Commonwealth Government released its Indigenous Evaluation Strategy; outlining  a commitment to greater accountability of all Commonwealth-funded programs to achieve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Pressure for Government implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is also mounting; a protocol which aims to improve the human rights of people in detention and hold Governments accountable on both local and international levels, Holding the Commonwealth to account in this regard is contingent on access to data and rigorous, independent evaluation. Lastly, since the 2019 PHAA Justice Health Conference, there has been growing momentum behind calls to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which in Australia is still 10 years old in all states and territories.

The PHAA Justice Health Conference 2021 provides a timely opportunity to explore these and other issues relevant to the health of justice-involved people in Australia. It is an opportunity to present the latest research and evidence, to share ideas and experience of working in or on the system, and to connect with colleagues across the country.


Conference Objectives


  • Create a culturally safe environment for knowledge sharing, collaboration and relationship building;

  • Identify and address the issues and inequities which impact on the health of justice-involved people;

  • Bring together public health and justice professionals to compare experiences, share ideas and solutions, to improve the health and wellbeing of people who have contact with the criminal justice system and their families;

  • Build a strong public health system that is inclusive of people who move through criminal justice settings; and

  • Identify and document key actions/next steps for the sector.

Target Audience

The Conference will facilitate conversations across and between the criminal justice and public health sectors. Attendees will include health and custodial officials, policy makers at the Commonwealth, State/Territory and local levels, program managers from both the public and private sectors, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and community members, people with lived experience of incarceration, prison doctors and nurses, researchers, service delivery agencies, and anyone interested or working in justice health.

Conference sub themes


Below are the sub-themes for the Conference. This list of themes is not exhaustive, and is intended to convey the breadth of topics of potential interest to conference delegates.

Individual-level health issues, such as:

  • Physical health, mental health, trauma, social and emotional wellbeing

  • Disability, including neurodevelopmental disability

  • COVID-19 and other communicable diseases

  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use

  • Complexity and multimorbidity

Family, peer, and community involvement, such as:

  • Parenting, intergenerational issues

  • Prison visits

  • Elder engagement

  • Public reporting and the media

Service delivery, such as:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services, and cultural safety

  • Models of care and healthcare governance

  • Evaluation and evidence of effectiveness

  • Standards, benchmarking, and routine monitoring

  • Continuity of care

Evidence and research translation, such as:

  • Data sources; research and evaluation methodologies

  • Correctional authorities as gatekeepers for data and evidence

  • Indigenous standpoint, data sovereignty, and Critical Race Theory

  • Research translation

  • Voices of individuals with lived experience

System and workforce issues, such as:

  • Workforce health and wellbeing, and workforce professionalisation

  • Intersectionality, gender, and ageing

  • Multi-sectoral responses

  • Cultural competence and cultural safety training

  • Justice reinvestment

  • Abolition and alternatives to incarceration

Human rights and accountability, such as:

  • International obligations, and OPCAT

  • Mechanisms for oversight and accountability

  • Coronial inquiries and recommendations

Presentation Types


Long Oral
Presenters will have 10 minutes to present. Abstracts submitted must have clear learning objectives and outcomes. All presenters must provide a pre-recorded presentation. Presentations will be uploaded to the virtual Conference Portal for participants to view on-demand. Q&A sessions will not occur, given the online pre-recorded format.

Short Oral (Rapid Fire)

Presenters have 6 minutes to present, using up to 6 PowerPoint slides (including title slide). All presenters must provide a pre-recorded presentation. Presentations will be uploaded to the virtual Conference Portal for participants to view on-demand. Q&A sessions will not occur, given the online pre-recorded format.

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