Source: (2006) In, John Muncie and Barry Goldson, eds., Comparative Youth Justice, London: Sage Publications. PP. 79-95.

This article presents a critique of current juvenile justice policy in New Zealand, which has been widely lauded as offering the first example of restorative justice practices. The Children, Young Person’s and their Families Act 1989 introduced a new paradigm for youth justice, one that incorporated the first elements of restorative justice practices. Despite the intentions of the 1989 Act, the authors show how the reforms, and in particular the family group conferences (FGC) process, does not empower ethnic minorities but instead simply uses selective elements of the Maori culture in an effort to make the juvenile justice system appear more culturally appropriate. Victims rarely report feeling empowered by the restorative practices and the Maori people have complained that although some of their justice and restorative practices were co-opted, they are still not allowed any actual power over their juvenile offenders. The authors note that in order to be a truly restorative system, the New Zealand model must enhance participants’ ability to exercise control over the course of juvenile justice. The 1989 Act attempted to respond to the criticism that New Zealand’s juvenile justice completely eschewed the traditions and beliefs of the Maori and other ethnic minorities. In the face of growing demands for an entirely separate system of justice for the Maori, the government developed the Children, Young Person’s and their Families Act 1989, which provided a more culturally appropriate juvenile justice system that also sought to de-dramatize the issue of youth crime. The new juvenile justice paradigm included an information and formal warning system, a diversionary plan, and, perhaps most importantly, FGC. Advocates of the new paradigm lauded the culturally sensitive nature of the reforms and pointed to the restorative properties of the FGC process. The FGC process was conceived of as an empowering process for ethnic minority youth and borrowed heavily from the cultural traditions of the Maori and other ethnic minorities of the region. (National Criminal Justice Reference Service,