Many issues that lead Aboriginal people to breaking the law are factors that sit outside the justice system and many Aboriginal people have never had help to deal with these problems.
The social and economic circumstances of many Aboriginal Territorians are inextricably linked to a history of colonisation, dispossession and dislocation from land, family, language, culture, knowledge systems, authority and values. Government policies and practices throughout the history of Australia, including the removal of children from families, continues to disrupt the lives of Aboriginal families and have far-reaching consequences including inter-generational loss, trauma and grief. People may have conditions that have never been diagnosed or treated, such a mental illness or addiction.
Aboriginal Territorians experience disproportionately high rates of poor mental health and wellbeing, and domestic and family violence. Across Australia, Aboriginal people are less likely to drink alcohol, but those who consume alcohol are more likely to drink at harmful levels. Alcohol misuse is associated with the prevalence and the severity of assaults and domestic violence in the NT. Alcohol misuse contributes to family problems including child abuse and neglect, work and financial problems, and family breakdown.
Aboriginal Territorians experience poorer health outcomes and higher rates of physical and cognitive disabilities that non-Aboriginal Territorians. Aboriginal people with cognitive disabilities, such as Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, are at an increased risk of contact with the justice system.
Racism can be a key source of distress and socio-economic disadvantage for Aboriginal people. Discrimination has an impact on employment prospects, access to services and contributes to poor social and emotional wellbeing. Research in the NT found a significant association between interpersonal racism and depression among Aboriginal Territorians.
Childhood experiences of violence and abuse are high risk factors for violent offending and re-victimisation later in life. If you have been abused as a child and never been able to get help to deal with the trauma, this will impact on your behaviour and physical and mental health. Australia-wide, most Aboriginal women in prison have experienced disadvantage, and physical or sexual abuse.