ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court helping change lives


On the second anniversary of the ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has celebrated the success of the court in providing a valuable pathway to help people change their lives.

The ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court was a commitment made in the 2016 Parliamentary Agreement between the ACT Greens and ACT Labor. Since its inception in December 2019, the ACT Drug and Alcohol Court has offered an alternative to custodial sentencing with therapeutic jurisprudence and holistic sentencing case management.

To date, forty-six Drug and Alcohol Treatment Orders have been imposed, with participants being a mix genders and from diverse economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Depending on the circumstances, orders can require participants to engage in a range of different activities including personal therapeutic counselling, treatment and intervention programs, relationship and family counselling as well as employment training.

The scheme has so far produced five successful graduates with many more having progressed to the final phase of their order.

“The purpose of the Drug and Alcohol Court is to achieve long-term behavioural change and divert people from the criminal justice system and jail. It takes a problem-solving approach to dealing with a participant’s behaviour, providing targeted and structured health and justice interventions while holding people to account for their behaviour,” Attorney-General Rattenbury said.

“This is our commitment to doing justice differently, and even with several interrupted years of COVID-19, the court is providing clear benefits for participants, their families, and the wider community.

“The measure of success is not only the completion of the program by individuals but the flow-on effects for those people, their families and for the broader community in terms of reduced recidivism.

“Of the alumni there have been no further demonstrations of recidivism or fresh matter appearing before a court. A consistent feature demonstrated by participants over the course of their order is an increase of pro-social modelling and community engagement through community volunteering, engagement and inclusion.

“We have also seen advanced participants self-initiating mentoring and fostering roles to assist and support junior participants.”

Acting Justice Richard Refshauge, the Supreme Court judge supervising the Drug and Alcohol Sentencing List, said the graduates’ commitment is exciting and invigorating.

"The acknowledged success of this List has been transformative of the lives of not only the graduates, but many who are progressing towards graduation, who have applied themselves with great effort to manage their drug dependency and criminal behaviour,” Acting Justice Refshauge said.

“Of course, some are not able at this time to meet the exacting demands of this process, but many have achieved some reform and may be able to take further steps in the future.

"I am proud to work with a large body of dedicated and able professionals in the Treatment Order team and the many counsellors and service providers who deliver such valuable assistance to participants and have made a substantial contribution to the protection of the community and its health.”

In the 2022-22 Budget, the ACT Government committed a further $13.2 million to the Drug and Alcohol Court over two years to continue its operations until 2022-23.