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Reaching Meaningful Outcomes in Family Conferencing

Harding, Marni
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Paper presented at the “Juvenile Justice: From Lessons of the Past to a Road for the Future” conference held on December 1-2, 2003, in Sydney, Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Downloaded 3 May 2004.

The paper reflects upon the current practice of the Family Conference Team 10 years after its creation and draws together the lessons the team has learned over time about the operation of conferences. The author notes that a “meaningful” experience for an individual can be related to an experience that is comprehensible, understandable, indicative, significant, suggestive, and/or purposeful for that person at that time. The concept of a “meaningful outcome” from a family conference is therefore subjective, since it is based on the perceptions, responses, and reactive behaviors of each individual involved in the dynamics and procedures of a specific conference. For all individuals in a family conference to have a “meaningful” outcome, the Youth Justice Coordinator must have the ability to balance the needs of all conference participants during the conference process. This involves identifying the needs and expectations of all parties, including the juveniles, their families, victims and their supporters, community representatives, and police. The conference itself is designed to balance the needs of all participants in constructing the outcome. The ultimate goal of the conference is to have participants experience the features of restorative justice, which pertains to accountability and positive change for the offender and restoration for the victim and the community. In the South Australian juvenile justice system, family conferencing is considered a diversionary program. A family conference can proceed in the absence of a victim, and the conference decision can be binding without the consent or agreement of a victim who participates in the conference. This paper examines specific practices of family conferences, including the use of apologies, victim compensation, community service, and “other” outcomes. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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