In partnership with Aboriginal communities, the Northern Territory Government (NTG) is developing the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement (NTAJA or the Agreement).

This document – Pathways to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) – is a companion document to the draft Agreement. It brings together the background information, consultation findings and evidence that informed the development of the Agreement. It provides the rationale for the initiatives and strategies contained in the Agreement.

Aboriginal Justice Agreements (AJAs) first emerged as a result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) which handed down its final report in 1991. Six years later, continued high incarceration rates and deaths in custody of Aboriginal people prompted a high-level meeting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) leaders. As an outcome of this meeting, it was recommended that each state and territory, in coordination with respective Aboriginal Justice Advisory Councils4 and relevant Aboriginal bodies, develop AJAs to improve the delivery of justice programs and outcomes for Aboriginal people.5 However, it was not until later that year, at the National Ministerial Summit on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in Canberra, that all state and territory governments, except the Northern Territory, agreed and adopted the recommendation to implement strategic agreements in partnership with Aboriginal people.

Key Findings:

  • Between 2000 and 2010, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory introduced AJAs, while in South Australia and Tasmania the development of justice agreements was never followed through.
  • Over the seven years of the Agreement, in two stages, the signatories aim to improve justice responses and services to Aboriginal Territorians
  • Participation, self-determination and capacity building have been consistently identified as instrumental to improving justice outcomes. For these principles to be upheld in the development, implementation and evaluation of AJAs, community capacity and authority to drive decision-making must be supported. The effectiveness of an AJA is contingent on its ability to effectively engage with Aboriginal people.
  • Aboriginal Territorians are overrepresented in the criminal justice system as both offenders and victims.8 Focusing on offenders alone neglects a significant aspect of Aboriginal justice challenges. Separating offending and reoffending from victimisation undermines the ability to improve justice outcomes due to the significant overlap in factors that contribute to Aboriginal people becoming both victims and offenders.
  • Once found guilty, the court can impose different sentencing options. In the NT, there are six sentences that can be considered ‘community-based’ and may involve supervision by Community Corrections. These sentences include supervised bonds, community work orders, community-based orders, home detention orders, community custody orders and suspended sentences.
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