Youth Justice Group Conferencing in the Northern Territory – Lessons and Future Directions

Elle Jackson

Jesuit Social Services
Manager – Darwin

Elle Jackson commenced her career in 2011 and has worked in the practice areas of adult justice, Youth Justice and advocacy in both the Government and non-Government sectors. She joined Jesuit Social Services in 2015 as a Senior Practitioner and since this time has held various leadership roles in the organisation in both the adult and Youth Justice portfolios, most recently managing a Victorian Youth Justice Advocacy Campaign. Elle is currently Jesuit Social Services’ Manager (Darwin) and oversees the Youth Justice Group Conferencing Program Pilot.

Jesuit Social Services is a social change organisation with more than 40 years’ experience working with people involved in the justice system. Principles of restorative justice are at the heart of what we do: working to rebuild the web of relationships that sustain us as a community.

Building on our experience delivering Youth Justice Group Conferencing (YJGC) in Victoria, since early 2017 Jesuit Social Services has delivered the pre-sentence YJGC pilot program in the Darwin, Palmerston and Katherine regions of the Northern Territory.

Group Conferencing is a therapeutic process that offers an additional resource within the traditionally adversarial justice system, creating an opportunity for dialogue between members of a community affected by conflict. It brings together the young person, victim, their support people and others to engage in a process of ‘truth-telling’ and ‘problem-solving’ – transforming conflict into cooperation and developing a workable plan to repair harm and help prevent future offending.

By seeking to address harm as well as the wrong doing, YJGC can help achieve better outcomes for young people, victims and the wider community than the traditional court process alone.

Recognising the positive impact of restorative approaches and responding to the recommendations of the 2017 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory Government has since committed to extending conferencing in the Territory.

This presentation will highlight the program’s achievements and challenges to date, lessons learnt and future directions for YJGC and restorative justice in the Northern Territory.