During the past several years, family group conferencing (FGC) models used in New Zealand and Australia have received considerable attention in North America. Representatives from both countries have lectured and provided training workshops throughout the United States and Canada. Audiences have ranged from those in the victim-offender mediation (VOM) and restorative justice movements to many law enforcement officers, school officials, and a growing number of victim advocates.
This attention has resulted in the introduction of a number of pilot projects and new program initiatives that incorporate some form of the FGC approach. One Pennsylvania-based organization, REAL JUSTICE, is vigorously promoting a specific police- and school-based model that originated in Wagga Wagga, Australia. REAL JUSTICE has trained hundreds of police officers and school staff members and is working to replicate this Australian model in a number of sites. The Minnesota Legislature funded the development of FGC pilot projects using the REAL JUSTICE model in nine communities in the First Judicial District.
Rarely has a new criminal justice idea received such extensive exposure to and interest from audiences as widespread as activists, professionals, and the general public in such a short period of time. No other restorative justice approach has so quickly brought such large numbers of law enforcement officials to the table as active stakeholders in the restorative justice movement.