Source: (1999) A paper presented to the Australasian Conference On Drugs Strategy Adelaide, April, 1999

This paper will examine a range of issues surrounding the official responses by schools and other communities to incidents involving drugs and youth. Such issues include the damage to the emotional and social bonds within schools, families and their respective communities and the trauma that occurs in the wake of these incidents. Official sanctions to such incidents which often produce highly emotional reactions are sometimes less than helpful and create more damage and trauma. Neither do they produce the learnings for those affected (including the "offender") for which they are supposedly conceived. What also needs to be addressed in our responses is the harm to those young people and to their relationships with the significant people in their lives. Community Conferencing, now used across schools and the justice system in Australasia, North America and the United Kingdom, offers a restorative approach in these often trying circumstances for those people drawn into the mess these incidents cause. This paper will explore this restorative philosophy and practice aimed at rebuilding and strengthening social and emotional bonds. It will offer some powerful insights into the beliefs which drive our official sanctions. Such an approach can be adapted to other interventions in a flexible way by the system and individuals in it to produce just and at the same time, healing outcomes for those most affected, without being punitive.