Common sense justice

Groote Eylandt Law and Justice Group

Groote Eylandt, home to about 2200 people, once had the highest imprisonment rate in the Northern Territory. Now a new, community led approach to accountability is breaking the cycle for young people.


Locals set up the Groote Eylandt Law and Justice Group in 2020 to make offenders accountable to the community and break the cycle of crime.

In staggering results for community safety youth crimes against property or person fell from 346 in 2018/19 to 17 in 2021/22. The number of burglaries has fallen from 81 to just two.

“When it comes to youth offending, context is important,” said Tony Wurramarrba, chairman of the Anindilyakwa Land Council.

“Many of the children on Groote Eylandt have grown up among family members who have had difficulties with the law, and served time in prison, while several have become disengaged from school.”

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Alice Springs Alternative to Custody Program

The Alice Springs Alternatives to Custody Program commenced in January 2021. More than three-quarters of the 25 participants have graduated and have yet to reoffend. 

The majority of those women are now working or studying in their communities. Participants can stay for up to six months and receive targeted rehabilitation based on cultural values and leadership. 

Leanne Liddle, the director of the NT Aboriginal Justice Unit and the Territory’s 2022 Australian of the Year said women, many of them young mothers, were  being locked up in the Northern Territory for crimes that are frequently non-violent, further compounding disadvantage and intergenerational disadvantage.

“When you look at the demographics of the women who are behind bars in the Territory, most are Aboriginal, most have children, many have been victims of crime themselves, they have poor English language skills and will be serving a sentence of less than six months,” Ms Liddle said.

“We really have to ask ourselves whether prison is the best thing for them; the best way to get them the support they need to prevent them reoffending; and the best way to make their communities safer.”

Fortunately, initiatives such as the Alice Springs Life Skills program are showing that there is a smarter way of closing this revolving door of incarceration.

Are you ready to stop the revolving door at the prison gates?

Arrente Community Boxing Academy

This Alice Springs boxing gym provides purpose, discipline and community to young people in the central Australian town and surrounding areas. Founder Jason knows these are active ingredients young people need to thrive, particularly if they have come into contact with the justice system.

For some of the people who pull on the gloves, boxing changes the course of their life. Jason was one of them.

I was a troubled kid,” he told ABC News. “Stealing cars, robbing people and quite violent and angry.

His introduction to the sport came when the court released him to a mentor – a boxing coach – as a more effective alternative to prison.

Today Jason is playing that same role for young people in Alice Springs and beyond.

The 2022 NAIDOC Week advocate of the year is building a safe haven for people who need it with training that instills balance, self-control and ambition.

Ready to break the cycle so our communities are safer?

The Maranguka Way

Maranguka, meaning ‘caring for others’ in Ngemba language, is an Indigenous-led justice reinvestment program based in Bourke, NSW, that supports initiatives to keep youths out of jail.

Launched in 2013 in partnership with Just Reinvest NSW, the grassroots program which invests in preventative, diversionary and community development initiatives that address the underlying causes of crime, is already having a positive impact.

For more than two decades the remote community in the state’s north-west had been overrepresented in the justice system. However, according to an impact assessment carried out by KPMG in 2018, the reinvestment program had led to significant improvements in a number of touchstone areas, including:

  • Family strength with a 23 per cent reduction in police recorded incidents of domestic violence.
  • Youth development with a 21 per cent increase in Year 12 retention rates and 38 per cent drop in charges in the top five juvenile offence categories.
  • Adult empowerment with a 14 per cent reduction in bail breaches and 42 per cent reduction in days spent in custody.


The KPMG report concluded that the justice reinvestment scheme had a positive economic benefit for the region, of a gross impact of $3.1 million, of which two thirds was reduced pressure on the justice system and one third was broader economic compact to the region.

“As a community, we have been led to believe that the only way of dealing with offending rates is to ‘get tough on crime’ when the evidence simply doesn’t support this.” NT-based spokesperson.

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Jesuit Social Services

The origins of Jesuit Social Services origins date back to 1977 and the opening of a small hostel for young men after their release from youth justice centres and prisons.

Now, the social change organisation provides community-led solutions to some of the most difficult and demanding areas of human service, including crime, addiction, mental illness and entrenched social disadvantage.

Jesuit Social Services in Australia have run restorative justice conferences in the NT for many years. The Northern Territory Youth Justice Programs – including Back on Track, Youth Justice Group Conferencing and Alice Springs Youth Diversion Program – work to divert children and young people away from the criminal justice system. The RESTORE and Engage programs work to reset relationships, address harm that has been caused, prevent further harm from taking place and get lives back on track.

A recent evaluation by Swinburne University found that group conferencing was associated with a reduction in recidivism of up to 40% compared to mainstream justice processes and was extraordinarily cost-effective. One conference cost the equivalent to keeping a child in custody for four days.