Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women

Benefits of restorative justice conferencing

Restorative justice conferencing can have positive benefits for all involved.

The process acknowledges the impacts and consequences of crime on victims and the community.

Restorative justice conferencing provides an opportunity for everybody involved to be heard and understood. It also allows those most affected by an offence to be a part of the process of deciding how the child should make up for their behaviour.

The focus of restorative justice conferencing is to start repairing the harm caused by the criminal actions of the child.

Benefits for the child

Conferencing provides an opportunity for the child to:

  • admit to the offence
  • accept responsibility for what they have done
  • understand how their actions have affected other people, including their victim
  • start repairing some of the harm caused by their offending behaviour to make amends
  • start repairing relationships
  • use the conferencing process to help change their future behaviour.

The child is required to admit to the offence and take responsibility for their actions and the harm they have caused. By gaining an understanding of their impact on others, the child can help work out ways to help start repairing the harm to the victim and hopefully gain insight that may guide their choices in the future.

Research has shown that conferencing can be more effective in reducing reoffending than traditional justice methods.

Facing up to what they have done and to those they have harmed can be hard for many children. It is important that the child participates with the support of those who care for them, including their parents. The experience can help strengthen these relationships.

The conference process is designed to help children learn from their actions, provide them support and try to keep them out of the justice system. Admitting to an offence and choosing to participate in a conference might divert the child from court and keep them out of the traditional justice system.

To help reduce an overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the justice system it is important to ensure a child’s cultural needs are met.

The involvement of Elders and communities in the restorative justice process can connect a child to their community and support a child’s cultural needs.

Benefits for the victim

A restorative justice conference provides an opportunity for the victim to:

  • tell their story directly to the person who caused them harm
  • ask for answers to the questions they may have about the crime
  • contribute to a result that is meaningful to them for how the child should start making up for the harm
  • be involved in the justice process.

Crime causes harm to victims. Research shows that restorative justice conferencing can help victims recover from this harm through:

  • being given a voice in the justice process
  • having a say about the offence and the outcome
  • meeting the offender
  • understanding more about the offence committed against them.

Victims can be empowered through regaining their confidence, optimism and sense of safety.

The victim’s recovery from an offence is also assisted by being able to have support people, including family and friends, participate with them. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims can have an Aunty, Uncle or members from a Community Justice Group attend if they wish.

The vast majority of victims who have participated in a restorative justice conference have said they would recommend the process to other victims.

Benefits for the families of the child and victim

Conferencing provides an opportunity for the families to:

  • provide support to their loved one
  • be involved in the justice process
  • assist the victim through the process
  • be involved by guiding the child towards changing their behaviour.

This restorative justice process allows the significant people in the lives of the child and victim to help manage the response to an offence. The conference seeks to bring people together, strengthen relationships, help people recover from an offence, and provide a timely response.

Having family members attend the conference can provide a great amount of support for the victim and the child. This is an opportunity to speak and explain how this offence has impacted you, your family and your loved one.

Disapproval is directed toward the offending behaviour and the goal is to ensure all participants are treated with respect and support. Research has shown that this can reduce offending and help all participants feel more safe and satisfied.

Family is a key strength in the community. You can provide support for your child but they will need to admit to the offence and face up to the people involved.

Taking part in a restorative justice conference can help family members and carers to better understand their child’s actions, how they were feeling, and what support is available. It is an opportunity for family to encourage their child to accept responsibility and to support their child in their development.