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Restorative Visions and Restorative Justice Practices: Conferencing, Ceremony and Reconciliation in Australia

NCJ Number
Current Issues in Criminal Justice Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: July 1998 Pages: 5-14
Harry Blagg
Date Published
10 pages
Restorative justice and family group conferencing in Australia are examined; the author notes that the dominant representations of the conferencing process may impede rather than promote the development of an alternative vision of justice in Australia, particularly with respect to Indigenous people, and that basic issues need further discussion.
The data to date suggest that Indigenous families in Australia are reluctant to become involved with family group conferences or are ineligible, and that the introduction conferencing has done little to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in the justice system. The main ways of discussing conferencing involve a narrow interpretation of reintegration and a particularly symptomatic reading of Braithwaite's shaming thesis. Dialogue is needed about some basic issues about conferencing, with the aim of bringing the conferencing practice into alignment with the reconciliation process. The concept of restoration refers to the remaking of the status quo; however, the status quo may be an aspect of the problem needing transformation. The New Zealand movement has sought to empower families, whereas that in Australia has tended to empower the police and other powerful agencies such as justice ministries. It is important to respect the traditions and cultural practices underlying other societies' approaches. However, Australia's shift from care and protection to accountability and punishment has resulted in the rise of parent blaming and the separation of issues of offending from structural causes. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's recent report provides an alternative scenario of community justice in which governments and government agencies relinquish some controls over decision-making and help Indigenous communities devise solutions acceptable to them. Criminologists should become familiar with the reports important message that atonement, restitution, and reparation are required here as the basis for a reconciled society. 26 references