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Responding to Substance Abuse and Offending in Indigenous Communities: Review of Diversion Programs

NCJ Number
Jacqueline Joudo
Date Published
147 pages
Findings are presented from a study examining the response of governments to Indigenous substance use and related offending in Australia, specifically the type and extent of diversion programs currently operating and issues around accessibility and barriers to participation and completion.
There are currently few Indigenous-specific diversion programs operating in Australia, so the decision was made to include all mainstream programs as none specifically exclude Indigenous people. Anecdotal evidence from interviews and some program evaluations suggest that Indigenous participants are less likely to complete programs than non-Indigenous participants and that the type of drug(s) considered problematic differs greatly between these groups. Among the commonly cited possible barriers are that drug diversion programs often require an admission of guilt, exclude those who have multiple charges, exclude those with previous criminal convictions, do not cover alcohol or inhalant misuse, and exclude those with mental illness. Evidence also suggests that perceived barriers are valid, but it is far from conclusive. Future research should involve consultation with Indigenous people about the issues they feel limit their access to diversionary programs, and seek relevant data to assess the actual impact of these barriers. That Indigenous Australians continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system is widely acknowledged. The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) was contracted by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) to examine the way that Australian governments had sought to address Indigenous substance use and related offending. This involved undertaking an audit of the diversion programs, drug and otherwise, which currently operate in the jurisdictions with the purpose of diverting Indigenous offenders. This report presents the findings and policy implications of this examination. Figure, tables, references, and appendixes A-D