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Evaluation of Indigenous Justice Program

The purpose of research project was to ‘determine the effectiveness of night patrol initiatives on community safety rates, preferably in comparison with statistically similar communities that do not operate night patrols’. (AGD; RFT 0510). The Northbridge Policy/Juvenile Aid Group (Northbridge/JAG) and the Safe Aboriginal Youth Patrols Program (SAYPP) represented two very different approaches to the use of Night Patrols. Both programs provided youth-focused night patrols but there were important differences between contexts, purposes, goals, and the approaches of the two programs:

  • Programs were provided in very different contexts (single inner urban versus dispersed rural);
  • In different jurisdictions (WA v. NSW);
  • Under different legislative instruments (policy changes and statutory child protection powers v. Community-based); and
  • With different service management and delivery methods (statutory management v. community managed).

Evaluation challenges: From an evaluation perspective, each program presented different challenges. The main challenges for the Northbridge component of the evaluation were:

  • Evidence of change: To collect sufficiently comprehensive data about relevant changes that occurred;
  • Evidence about causation of changes: To have determined the extent to which changes identified could be attributed to Northbridge policy intervention; and
  • Evidence of the effects of change: whether the policy addressed underlying issues or whether young people adapted their activities to avoid the intervention.

The main challenges for the NSW night patrols component of the evaluation were:

  • Effective data collection: finding practical and effective ways to collect data about the operation and effectiveness, and community support for night patrols in diverse regional and remote communities in NSW; and
  • Isolation: practical difficulties concerned with isolation and distance between research sites; the time and cost of field work; practicalities of support and training options for night patrol staff in isolated communities.

The evaluation strategy was informed by these considerations. The evaluation allowed for the different approaches (Northbridge/JAG v. SAYPP) to be compared and contrasted. Evaluation methods were developed for each site to maximise sensitivity to context of each evaluation, and where possible the data was collated in ways that maximised the possibility of cross-comparison.

The evaluation collected both quantitative data about crime, victimisation and child protection and qualitative data about how each program operated, the existing program record-keeping and reporting arrangements (at that time), referral processes and any limitations, perceptions of program achievements and limitations, constraints upon service provision, perceptions of night patrol staff training and support needs, perceptions of community safety and the effects of the program upon factors that underpin Indigenous disadvantage in law and justice. Perceptions of community safety are important because they contribute positively to people’s sense of well-being. However, different populations and communities have different safety expectations and perceptions may be unrelated to objective measures of risk. Qualitative data allowed the possibility of better understanding of diverse worldviews, conflicting values and goals in different sections of the community, thus taking account of impact heterogeneity.

The evaluation combined a literature review with qualitative and quantitative data gathered for each of the patrols. The report made recommendations about good practice and also suggested strategies for improvement.

Funding agency

Attorney General’s Department

Project duration



Associate Professor Trudi Cooper
Associate Professor Pamela Henry
University of New England, Professor Margaret Sims
University of New England, Associate Professor Elaine Barclay
Queensland University of Technology, Professor John Scott

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