This paper outlines recent Australian developments in restorative justice and conferencing. Restorative justice encompasses a variety of practices at different stages of the criminal process, including diversion from court prosecution, actions taken in parallel with court decisions, and meetings between victims and offenders at any stage of the criminal process.
Apart from the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, all Australian jurisdictions have introduced legislation incorporating conferencing in their responses to youth crime. All but one of the statutory-based schemes favour non-police-run conference models. Australia and New Zealand are world leaders in the use of conferencing as a form of restorative justice.
When used as a diversion from court prosecution, conferences involve a young person who has admitted to the offence, his or her supporters, the victim, his or her supporters, a police officer and a conference convenor coming together to discuss the offence and its impact. The conference then moves to a discussion of the outcome that the young offender is expected to complete. The sanctions or reparations may include an apology, paying some form of monetary compensation, undertaking work for the victim or the community and attending counselling sessions, among others. The outcome is legally binding.
Research from around Australia is reported in this paper.