In June 2004, the Northern Territory Department of Justice and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) entered into a funding agreement to provide services to Indigenous offenders. Subsequently, the Elders Visiting Program (EVP) was developed in partnership with Community Councils and Elders groups.  Since the inception of the EVP, strong relationships have been forged and maintained between the Northern Territory Department of Correctional Services (NTDCS) and Indigenous communities in urban and remote locations.

The importance of maintaining links between Indigenous offenders and their respective communities was acknowledged by the partner agencies, as was the ability of Indigenous Elders to exert a positive influence on Indigenous offenders.  

NTDCS recognises the importance of traditional lore, kinship ties and cultural practices to Australia’s Indigenous peoples.  The need to take cultural identity and the spirituality of Indigenous offenders into account is fundamental to supporting rehabilitation and reintegration goals.

The EVP operates in the Darwin and Alice Springs Correctional Centres and the Youth Detention Centres. Indigenous Elders from communities across the Northern Territory are supported to attend the centres to provide direct support, advice and information to offenders.  Elders from the following communities participate in the EVP:

  • Tennant Creek
  • Nhulunbuy
  • Kalkarinji
  • Yuendumu
  • Hermannsburg
  • Katherine
  • Lajamanu
  • Tiwi Islands
  • Groote Eylandt
  • Ngukurr
  • Beswick 

The program has undergone significant expansion over its lifetime with increasing numbers of communities participating and improved support structures implemented to support the work Elders do with offenders in the correctional centres and in community. 

Recent developments in relation to the EVP include:

  • Establishing Regional EVP forums that provide opportunity for Elders to engage directly with NTDCS, to identify and discuss community concerns and to strengthen relationships 
  • Establishing remote community engagement positions within NTDCS that will work directly with Elders and community
  • Strengthening the relationship between Community Corrections and Elders within the community
  • Building a more expansive support network in rural and remote communities with Community Corrections Officers and Elders to facilitate community orders as an alternative to imprisonment
  • Developing a framework that improves the interface between reintegration processes and the EVP
  • Establishing the Prison Work Camps in the Barkly Region and Nhulunbuy
  • Developing an induction handbook for the EVP that details and clarifies the relationship and processes for both Elders and NTDCS

In addition to these developments, a specific Indigenous meeting space has been designed within the new Darwin Correctional Centre which is intended for Elders to conduct visits in an environment that is consistent with the cultural identity of Indigenous offenders.​