Restorative justice is an internationally recognised evidence-based response to criminal behaviour. It views a criminal offence as more than an act of breaking the law and examines:

  • the impact on society
  • the harm caused to the victim, family relationships and the community.

The restorative justice process requires effort and participation from the child, which differs from traditional justice responses.

A restorative justice conference is a meeting between a child who has committed a crime and the people most affected by that crime to discuss:

  • what happened
  • the effects of the offence
  • repairing the harm caused to the victim.

Restorative Justice Conferencing evaluation

KPMG was commissioned to undertake an outcome and economic evaluation of the Restorative Justice Conferencing (RJC) program (PDF, 33KB). The evaluation covered the period 2015–16 to 2017–18 and examined the effectiveness of the program in achieving its intended outcomes, as well as identifying cost savings and benefits to government and the community.

Outcomes summary

Overall, RJC had been successful in achieving its intended outcomes that included:

  • a reduction in reoffending magnitude (reoffending frequency and seriousness)
  • reparation of harm for victims
  • young people taking responsibility for their offending behaviour
  • improved wellbeing of victims
  • healing relationships and promoting connections
  • a reduction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the youth justice system.

Key findings

  • RJC processes, compared to court processes, had a greater impact in reducing overall reoffending magnitude for young people (by approximately 78%), except for offences to the public.
  • RJC processes were more effective in reducing reoffending magnitude for young people in the older age group bracket who committed more serious offences against individual victims.
  • Compared to court processes, RJC assisted youth crime victims more to repair the harm caused and assisted young perpetrators more to take responsibility for their actions.
  • While RJC faced resourcing pressure due to increased referrals, the program offered a more cost-effective alternative and was found to be more cost efficient (by approximately 33%) than court processes.
  • Overall savings associated with RJC over a 5-year period was estimated to be $106.4 million related to reductions in reoffending magnitude, reductions in custody nights, and diversions from court processes.

Restorative Justice Project: 12-month program evaluation

The Restorative Justice Project: 12-month program evaluation (PDF, 2.5MB) examines performance and early outcomes during the first 12 months of operation after the reintroduction of court referrals.

Key findings

  • Following the reintroduction of court referrals on 1 July 2016, there was a 151% increase in referrals to restorative justice conferencing—increasing from 839 referrals (police referrals) in 2015–16 to 2,110 referrals in 2016–17 (police and court referrals).
  • Restorative justice conferencing is having a positive impact on reducing re-offending rates, with 59% of young people not reoffending within 6 months of their conference.
  • Restorative justice resulted in positive outcomes for victims and communities, including apologies, volunteer work for victims or communities and young people producing items for victims (e.g. sorry paintings or poems).
  • Over 70% of victims reported that the conference process helped them to 'manage the effects of crime'.
  • One in 5 agreements involved young people undertaking counselling or educational programs.
  • Young people were highly compliant in completing their agreements (96% of finalised agreements in 2016–17).

The Restorative Justice Case studies report (PDF, 949KB) provides in-depth examples of social, wellbeing and cultural outcomes achieved through restorative justice conferencing. The case studies also provide a practitioner account of the conferencing process and include reflections about key elements of best practice.

Last updated 22 January 2024

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