INTRODUCTION AND AIMS: Diversion from court and prison has been recommended for Indigenous Australian youth who commit offences. As no evaluations of such programmes have been published, we describe processes and early outcomes of a diversion programme in the Northern Territory. DESIGN AND METHODS: From 2003 to 2006, among 1700 remote Indigenous community residents, 35 young people (aged 11-18 years, median 15 years) committed offences. They were diverted from criminal justice and referred to a community-based diversion initiative. Client assessment records and staff interviews furnished data to examine clients' diversion pathways and early programme results. RESULTS: Eighteen clients were reportedly using a substance at the time of their offence; cannabis (n = 9), petrol (n = 5), alcohol (n = 4). The remaining 17 had histories of using one or more of these. Two clients could not complete local diversion programs because they moved to other regions; one case was not pursued for legal reasons, leaving 32 clients exposed to the local programme. By July 2006, four clients were continuing in their programmes, three had breached them, but 25 had completed them in periods ranging from 2 to 60 weeks (median = 26 weeks), a completion rate of 89% (25/28). Just one client re-offended after completing diversion. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: A high completion rate was achieved despite: a dearth of locally available drug and alcohol treatment services and diversion options; shifts in police approaches; heavy administrative burdens to meet legal requirements; and difficulties communicating across cultural barriers.