Since 2020, Yuwaya Ngarrali has made significant progress and impact in relation to its community-led model of diversion from the criminal justice system. The Two River Pathway to Change model was developed, tested, documented and refined during this period, informed by international evidence and local priorities that gives simultaneous attention and strategies at the systemic, community and individual level to effect change. As a result we have seen the KPI of less than 10% of Aboriginal children & young people appearing in the Children’s Court exceeded, with the most recent available data indicating it to be 7.8% (a figure we will be able to track and measure more precisely in the future with our own linked dataset).

We have documented DEG providing direct assistance to 144 Aboriginal community members around criminal justice-related matters, including 17 young people provided intensive support by the Youth Team; 14 young people and 19 adults assisted by the Community Troubleshooter Team; and 94 clients of the Dealing with Fines Team.

The Two River Pathway to Change model has enabled an effective community-led approach customised to the Walgett context that gives necessary simultaneous attention and strategies at the systemic, community and individual level to effect change.  

The work to date provides evidence of the effectiveness of an ACCO-led model of diversion. We have also learnt that there are many more young people in Walgett needing intensive and holistic support and that this is not a model that DEG can deliver solely at the scale and depth that is required, but is ideally placed to build based on its expertise and relationships with other ACCOs and relevant agencies in Walgett due to the Two River Pathway to Change model and the trust from young people, their families and community.  

In 2022-23, all that we have learned has underpinned the development of a new Walgett Youth Wellbeing Service and Accommodation which provides an innovative model of collaboration between DEG, Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT that will respond to one of the nation’s most pressing human rights and policy challenges. 

Early Meeting of the Youth Justice Working Group later the Holistic Working Group in 2018
Early Meeting of the Youth Justice Working Group later the Holistic Working Group in 2018

Yuwaya Ngarrali - the partnership between DEG and the UNSW, recruited three members of a new Youth Team in 2020. We worked together - led by Peta MacGillivray, to build a holistic, community-led model

to divert young people from the criminal justice system in Walgett. 

This Youth Diversion Demonstration Model, which was named ‘Bulaarr Bagay Warruwi Burranba-li-gu’ by the Dharriwaa Elders Council, aims to create new, positive opportunities and life streams for current and future generations of Aboriginal children and young people in Walgett. 

The Youth Diversion Demonstration Model that we have developed and refined through our collaboration process is, like all of Yuwaya Ngarra-li’s work, underpinned and driven by our core principles and built on the integration of community knowledge and priorities, identified needs, existing evidence, and reflection and lessons from our years of collaboration. It is also systems-focused, with its outcomes and impact designed to be sustained over the long-term.

It has three main strategies:

  • Work directly with children and young people
  • Build and support community leadership and family engagement
  • Influence and ensure accountability of agencies and services

The establishment of the Youth Justice Working Group - later changed to Holistic Working Group (HWG), from 2019, supports the part of the model that seeks to influence services and agencies. This group has been meeting monthly ever since. Police and the NSW Government have since established other groups that include members of this HWG however they do not interact with the HWG which is community-led despite DEG's requests of Dept Regional NSW and NSW Police.

In 2022 the research and evaluation arm of our Yuwaya Ngarrali team produced a report so that we could see from government data if our program was achieving outcomes. The result is the Yuwaya Ngarra-li Research Report: "Has criminal justice contact for young people in Walgett changed over time? Analysis of diversions, charges, court and custody outcomes 2016-2021"..