Digital shackles or rehabilitative technology? Electronic monitoring in the Northern Territory’s youth justice system

Ms Elizabeth Colliver1

1Youth Justice, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Darwin, Australia

In November 2017 the Royal Commission into the Protection & Detention of Children in the Northern Territory recommended that electronic monitoring conditions should only be considered when there is no other alternative to remanding a young person in detention. Despite this recommendation, young people in the criminal justice system in the Northern Territory are increasingly being placed on both bail and sentencing orders that require them to wear electronic monitoring devices. These devices have clear benefits: they allow young people an opportunity to remain in their community, act as a visual reminder of obligations and limit the necessity for police curfew checks. However, they also carry complex social stigmas that have the potential to undermine the rehabilitation of a young person by preventing them from engaging in pro-social activities. Alarmingly, the data obtained from electronic monitoring of young people is also increasingly used in investigations of potential further offending. The data-driven investigative use of these devices cuts across one of the primary principles of youth justice, namely, rehabilitation. Finally, the availability and practicality of electronic monitoring is not equal between urban and remote communities, creating disadvantages for many Aboriginal Territorians living remotely.  In a jurisdiction where Aboriginal young people are substantially over-represented in the courts, is the ankle bracelet a culturally appropriate mechanism through which to monitor young people throughout youth justice proceedings?


Elizabeth Colliver is a criminal defence lawyer in the Youth Justice Team at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA). She practices in both the Youth Justice Court, Local Court and Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, as well as in ‘bush courts’ in remote Aboriginal communities.

In this role, Elizabeth aims to provide holistic and trauma informed representation to Aboriginal young people involved in the criminal justice system. It is through her exposure to the practical challenges of youth justice that she can advocate for innovative change in a system that sees Aboriginal children over-represented in youth detention centres.

Elizabeth Colliver has previously held roles as a solicitor in Victoria Legal Aid’s Indictable Crime Team and as an Associate to the Honourable David Parsons, a retired Judge of the County Court of Victoria and County Koori Court.

Elizabeth Colliver has previously held roles as a solicitor in Victoria Legal Aid’s Indictable Crime Team and as Associate to the Honourable David Parsons, a now retired Judge of the County Court of Victoria and County Koori Court.

Australasian Youth Justice Conference

The Australasian Youth Justice Administrators (AYJA) hosts a bi-annual Australasian Youth Justice Conference (AYJC) for academics, practitioners, and government and non-government agencies to drive and showcase youth justice initiatives and innovations nationally and internationally.  Learnings from these conferences contribute to evidence-based responses for youth justice and provide new ideas for youth justice at both a jurisdictional, national and international level.  EMAIL:

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