A diversionary program is a form of sentencing usually run by police departments, courts and other agencies. It is aimed at better, long-term outcomes for the offenders and their community, as well as for the criminal justice system. These programs, available in all Australian jurisdictions, provide offenders an opportunity to avoid a criminal record or have a reduced sentence by meeting certain treatment and training requirements. Diversion can occur at any point—pre-arrest, pre-trial, pre-sentence, post-sentence and pre-release.

A range of diversionary programs are used to address the contact with and progression through the juvenile and criminal justice systems by Indigenous Australians. This is in accordance with the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework, endorsed by the Australian governments in 2009 (SCAG WGIJ 2009), which addresses unacceptably high levels of incarceration of Indigenous Australians.

This resource sheet reviews evidence for the functioning and effectiveness of various diversionary programs in the context of Indigenous contact with the justice systems. These include both mainstream and Indigenous-specific programs.