MERIT Program - Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment


The Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) Program is a voluntary program for people who have matters at participating Local Courts. The program targets people with a drug problem who are eligible and suitable for release on bail and who are motivated to engage in treatment and rehabilitation.

MERIT is a 12 week program. We can help you to:

  • Reduce or stop drug use
  • Improve your health
  • Break the cycle between drug use and crime.

What can I expect?

Participants are closely case-managed by the MERIT team throughout treatment and the Magistrate receives regular reports on their progress The final hearing and sentence generally coincide with the completion of the MERIT Program. Magistrates are then able to consider the participant's progress in treatment as part of final sentencing.


Participants must meet the following conditions:

  • be suitable for release on bail or not require bail consideration
  • be an adult with drug dependency or an alcohol problem
  • not be involved in offences related to significant violence or sexual assault, or matters that will be heard in the District Court
  • be suitable for treatment and have a treatable problem
  • be approved to participate by a Magistrate.

Services provided 

Treatment options available include:

  • Detoxification
  • Methadone and other pharamacotherapies
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Individual and group counselling
  • Case management and numerous forms of welfare support and assistance.

How to access

Participants can be referred to the MERIT Program by:

  • a magistrate
  • a solicitor
  • the police
  • themselves.

You should discuss the options available to you with your solicitor before making a decision.  A Legal Aid Solicitor may be available to people wanting to participate in the MERIT Program. 

If you or your lawyer require any further information on the MERIT Program, contact us on 1300 652 226.


Click here to find your local MERIT program location across NSW.



The Orana Centre
2 Rawson Street,
Phone: 1300 652 226


47 Berry Street
Phone: 1300 652 226


Contact Information

Illawarra MERIT Program

The Orana Centre
2 Rawson Street,

Shoalhaven MERIT Program

47 Berry Street
1300 652 226

Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5:00pm

MERIT Staff regularly attend Wollongong and Nowra Local Courts to take referrals, complete assessments or answer questions about the MERIT program.

Wollongong Local Court: Tuesday 9am to 12.30pm

Nowra Local Court: Monday 9am to 2:00pm