What is Youth Justice Group Conferencing?

Our Youth Justice Group Conferencing program enables dialogue between young people who have offended, their victims and the wider community.

The program aims to divert young people from further or more serious offending. It brings together those involved or affected by an offence to discuss how the young person can make amends for the harm done. In the process, it helps young people see the impact of their actions on victims of crime, and supports young people to restore relationships with those they have harmed.

Youth Justice Group Conferencing is a problem-solving approach to offending that is based on principles of restorative justice, which balance the needs of offenders, victims and the community.

We deliver Youth Justice Group Conferencing throughout Melbourne, Victoria, and have piloted the program in Darwin, Palmerston and Katherine in the Northern Territory since early 2017.

Who can participate?

The program is for young people aged 10–17 years at the time of offending, who have:

  • Jesuit Social Services girl2pleaded guilty, or have been found guilty of, an offence(s)
  • committed offences serious enough to warrant an order or a custodial sentence
  • consented to participate, and
  • been assessed as a suitable participant

How does Youth Justice Group Conferencing work?

1. We create a safe environment for the group to meet

Our group convenor provides a safe environment for everyone involved and affected by an offence to come together.

Before the conference

Before the conference, the convenor identifies and prepares people for the conference, including:

  • the young person, their immediate and extended family and supports
  • the victim, or a representative, and their family and supports
  • a legal representative
  • a police informant
  • community members

The convenor also help participants agree on an outcome plan, which sets out what the young person will do to make amends for their offending, and how they will prevent re-offending.

This lead-up phase can take up to 6-8 weeks to complete.

During the conference

The convenor facilitates the group conference to ensure all participants’ voices are heard.

The group conference normally takes about two hours.

2. We enable dialogue between people affected by the offence

The dialogue in a group conference is controlled and structured. It allows those affected by the crime to:

  • face the young person
  • talk about what happened
  • discuss how they were affected
  • ask the young person questions about the offence
  • decide how to make things better

Victims take an active role in the dialogue. They contribute to a discussion about what the young person should do to make amends for their offending and to avoid re-offending.

Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, and raise their understanding of the impact of their offending on the victim.

3. We help prevent young people re-offending

Young person sitting outsideYouth Justice Group Conferencing provides the Children’s Court with an alternative pre-sentencing option that aims to divert young people from further or more serious offending.

The program intervenes before a young person receives a sentence, in order to:

  • divert the young person from more intensive supervisory court outcomes
  • reduce frequency and seriousness of re-offending of young people referred to the program
  • increase victim satisfaction with the criminal justice process
  • effectively integrate young people into the community following the conference process

How can I refer people to Youth Justice Group Conferencing?

In Victoria

A Magistrate in any of Victoria’s Children’s Courts can refer a young person to Youth Justice Group Conferencing, under section 414 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.

Prior to referral, the Magistrate arranges a Youth Justice Court Advice Worker to assess a young person’s suitability for the program.

A young person’s suitability is based on their:

  • acceptance of their role in offence
  • level of remorse
  • victim awareness, including level of empathy toward the victim
  • safety and/or special needs, including intellectual functioning, substance abuse and cultural values
  • interpersonal skills, and how these effect their participation in the group conference

In the Northern Territory

A Judge in any of the Northern Territory’s Children’s Courts can refer a young person to Pre-Sentence Conferencing, under section 84 of the Youth Justice Act.

A referral is made after a court has found a young person guilty of an offence, and the referral can be made on the application of the young person or on the Court’s initiative.

To learn more, please contact Youth Justice Group Conferencing staff at our Brunswick or Darwin offices.

Related material

  • Download a brochure for our Northern Territory-based Youth Justice Group Conferencing program
  • Read a fact sheet about Youth Justice Group Conferencing, published by the Victorian Government Department of Health & Human Services.