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Community Work Orders (NT)

A person found guilty of criminal offences in the NT can be sentenced to a number of different penalties. One of these is a Community Work Order (CWO), which requires them to complete a certain number of unpaid hours of community work to make amends for their offending. This article outlines how Community Work Orders are used in the NT both for adult offenders and young people.

What is a Community work Order?

A Community Work Order is a sentence that requires a person to complete a stated number of hours of unpaid work on an approved project.  A CWO can require a person to do up to 480 hours of work.

Before a person can be sentenced to a CWO, their suitability for community work must be assessed by the Department of Corrections and arrangements must be made for them to participate in an approved project.

A person who is on a Community Work Order must:

  • Participate for the number of hours directed;
  • Participate in a satisfactory manner;
  • Comply with the reasonable directions of a probation and parole officer while participating in the project;
  • Inform a probation and parole officer of any change in their residential address within 48 hours.

A person must not be required to undertake more than eight hours of community work on any one day.


If a person breaches a Community work Order, a court may order that they be imprisoned for a period that equates to one day for every eight hours of work that they failed to perform, or for seven days, whichever is greater.

A person breaches a CWO if they fail to comply with its terms or if they fail to carry out their obligations. It is also a breach of a CWO to commit an offence while participating in the approved project, to assault, threaten, abuse or insult a probation and parole office, to disturb or interfere with another person who is participating in a CWO or to change one’s address in order to avoid completing a CWO.

If a person is believed to have breached a CWO, a justice of the peace may issue a summons directing them to attend court or a warrant for their arrest.

Reviewing a CWO

A CWO may be reviewed on the application of the offender or of the Commissioner of Corrections. When this application is made, a court can discharge the order, revoke the order and deal with the matter afresh, or reduce the number of hours the offender is required to work or extend the period of time during which the work must be completed.

A CWO may be reviewed because the offender is in custody for another matter, because carrying out the order is impracticable because of the offender’s behaviour or because the operation of the order offends another person.  

Community Work Orders under the Youth Justice Act

When a young person between the ages of 10 and 18 is found guilty of an offence, they are sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 2005. A young person can be sentenced to up to 480 hours of community work under section 94 of that act. A young person who is on a Community Work Order is subject to the same obligations set out above.

When can a person not be sentenced to a Community Work Order?

There are a number of offences under NT law that carry mandatory imprisonment. These include sexual offences and aggravated assaults where the victim suffered harm, as well as very serious crimes such as murder. When a person is found guilty of an offence that carries mandatory imprisonment, they cannot be dealt with by way of a CWO.  

A person will not be sentenced to a CWO unless they indicate that they consent to participate in an approved project and unless there is an approved project available that they are suitable for. In some remote communities, there may not be any approved projects and offenders in these locations will not be able to receive Community Work Orders as sentences.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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