Alternative to custody for women shows promising signs

The Life Skills Camps at Alice Springs is producing some positive results within a year of its opening.

This first alternative to custody facility of its kind in the Northern Territory provides police, courts and correctional services a sentencing alternative for Aboriginal women. It is one of the strategies in the Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

Women can stay for up to six months and receive targeted rehabilitation based on cultural values and leadership. Some of the residents have self-referred to the Life Skills Camp. Some have some have been convicted of crimes and are subject to some kind of court order, and others are victims of crimes.

From 1 January to 30 June 2021

  • 23 women have been referred to the Life Skills Camp with 13 women accepted.
  • Of those 13 women, more than 50 per cent completed their program and their mandated sentence.
    • One woman returned to her community and gained fulltime employment. Another woman is studying to become a health worker.
    • Where employment is not possible, clients have been placed on the most appropriate Centrelink entitlement such as a disability pension rather than Newstart.
  • The Life Skills Camp has delivered more than 2000 program sessions to residents and other women on day programs from the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
  • On 10 August 2021, there were four residents including an infant with her mother, with another three women about to enter.
  • There have been no reports of re-offending by any resident who has successfully completed their program.
  • Despite it being less than 12 months of full operations, indications are that the program is working.
  • A review is underway to identify ways to improve every aspect of the Life Skills Camp to ensure best practice and positive outcomes.

Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit Leanne Liddle says the facility’s true value comes when women return to their communities after participating in programs and they understand their triggers for crime.

‘In this alternative to custody, you get uninterrupted, one-on-one treatment in a culturally safe place’ Leanne explains. ‘The true test is whether the women gain control over their triggers, such as drug or alcohol issues, can function well in their community and don’t reoffend. The evidence so far it that it’s definitely working but it’s still early days’.

A second alternative to custody is in development on Groote Eylandt for men to commence operations in 2022.

More information about the Life Skills Camp: Alternative to Custody | Drug and Alcohol Services Australia Limited (dasa.org.au)

The official opening of the Life Skills Camp on 8 October 2020

At the official opening, from left: Stacey Aunei, Sandra Marty, a resident of the Life Skills Camp, and Fiona Matavao. At the official opening, from left: Stacey Aunei, Sandra Marty, a resident of the Life Skills Camp, and Fiona Matavao.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Selena Uibo cuts the cake for morning tea. Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Selena Uibo cuts the cake for morning tea.
Leanne Liddle with a resident of the Life Skills Camp and Minister Selena Uibo. Leanne Liddle with a resident of the Life Skills Camp and Minister Selena Uibo.
Chief Executive Officer of Drug and Alcohol Services Australia Carole Taylor. Chief Executive Officer of Drug and Alcohol Services Australia Carole Taylor.
Invited guests at the official opening. Invited guests at the official opening.
Alice Springs Correctional Centre Superintendent Grant Ballantine, Deputy Superintendent Geoff Blundell and Leanne Liddle. Alice Springs Correctional Centre Superintendent Grant Ballantine, Deputy Superintendent Geoff Blundell and Leanne Liddle.

Last updated: 06 September 2021

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