Rites of passion

remorse, apology and forgiveness in Youth Justice Conferencing


  • J. R. Martin University of Sydney
  • Michele Zappavigna University of New South Wales




functional linguistics, apology, remorse, forgiveness, adolescent offenders


Youth Justice Conferencing is a form of diversionary justice for adolescent offenders introduced in New South Wales, Australia in 1997. In Youth Justice Conferences adolescent offenders meet with their victim and other relevant members of the community to discuss relatively minor offences and work out some form of community service by way of reparation (instead of going to court, getting a criminal record, and possibly serving time in juvenile detention). For some commentators conferences are interpreted as a rite of passage involving a passion play of remorse, apology and forgiveness as young offenders are positioned to say sorry for what they have done. This paper explores from a functional linguistic perspective what might be involved in an exchange of feelings of this kind, taking into account recordings of conference practice explored in Zappavigna and Martin (2018).

Author Biography

Michele Zappavigna, University of New South Wales

Michele Zappavigna is a senior lecturer in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. Her major research interest is how people use language and other modes to form social alignments, particularly in the domain of social media. Recent books in this area include: Discourse of Twitter and Social Media (Continuum, 2012), Researching the Language of Social Media (Routledge, 2014) with Ruth Page, Johann Unger, and David Barton, and Searchable Talk: Hashtags and Social Media Metadiscourse (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).


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How to Cite

Martin, J., & Zappavigna, M. (2019). Rites of passion: remorse, apology and forgiveness in Youth Justice Conferencing. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 12(2-3), 101–121. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.36986