Reducing Aboriginal young people’s contact with the criminal justice system in Walgett has always been a high priority for the Yuwaya Ngarra-li partnership, and galvanising concern for the Dharriwaa Elders Group (DEG). Over two years of careful work, the ‘Bulaarr Bagay Warruwi Burranba-li-gu –  Two River Pathway to Change’  model was built from the ground up in Walgett with Yuwaya Ngarra-li advisor Peta MacGillivray at UNSW.

Despite the difficulties of working remotely through the last couple of years, the DEG has recruited a crucially important Youth Team in Walgett, including Zoe Sands, a criminology graduate from UNSW whose family is from Walgett. Youth Coordinator Trish Sharpley has long sought a better way to help and support her young clients, and believes this program led by the Dharriwaa Elders Group offers a crucial and significant change in ways of working locally on the ground.

“I feel so powerful in this red shirt because I know the community listen to the Elders, and now young kids are listening to us... having your own culture standing behind you, that’s the biggest thing.”

The youth team’s work on the Two River Pathway to Change program is uncovering and responding to major gaps and deficiencies in the support for Aboriginal young people and their access to effective diversion from the criminal justice system in Walgett. The intensive work with individual young people has enabled young people to successfully complete youth justice conferences and outcome plans, participate in successful mediation and have successful court appearances diverting them from further court appearances and potential incarceration.