Survivors of domestic violence or sexual crimes will be able to access restorative justice for the first time from November, as the final stage of the scheme is rolled out.
Restorative justice brings offenders face-to-face with their victims so they can try to repair the harm caused by their crime.
New laws passed on Tuesday will allow underage offenders who don't confess to their crimes straight away to participate in the scheme for the first time. Before, only offenders who accepted responsibility immediately could access restorative justice.
But ACT Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury also revealed phase three of the restorative justice scheme would begin on November 1, which would extend the scheme to include family violence and sexual offences.
Mr Rattenbury said that day would be a "significant moment" in the life of the scheme.
"It breaks down the final legislative barriers which prevented victims of crime from having access to restorative justice, simply because they were survivors of particular offence types," Mr Rattenbury said.
"This will complete the rollout of the restorative justice scheme as it was envisioned by the Restorative Justice Sub-Committee in 2003.
"In preparation for phase three, the Restorative Justice Unit has been building its capacity to manage complex offences, establishing service provision agreements with educational and therapeutic service providers, and consulting closely with stakeholders to finalise guidelines for the management of phase three offences.
"Provided that no significant issues arise during the finalisation of this consultation process, I anticipate that phase three of the Restorative Justice Scheme will commence on 1 November 2018."
The bill passed on Tuesday also widens the opportunities for victims to request a referral to the scheme.
Under the previous legislation, referring agencies had to get agreement from the offender first, which meant the Victims of Crime Commissioner - as an advocate for victims - could not actually use their referral powers.
"Once phase three has commenced, this referral opportunity will provide additional scope for the Restorative Justice Unit to manage offences of sexual and family violence where power imbalances may mean it is not safe to notify the offender at the point of referral, that a referral has been made," Mr Rattenbury said.
It also removed the requirement for referring agencies to assess an offender's ability to agree to participate in the scheme, before providing a referral.
"This responds to concerns raised by the ACT Supreme Court in the 2016 case of The Queen and Forrest, where then Justice Refshauge identified that referring entities had to draw indirect inferences about a person when that person was not present before them," Mr Rattenbury said.
Restorative Justice Unit staff will still assess an offender's suitability to take part in the scheme though.
Since the restorative justice scheme began in 2005, offenders have provided more than $200,000 in reparation to their victims and completed more than 7400 hours of community service at the request of their victims.
"While the Government recognises that restorative justice might not be needed by every victim of crime, it remains committed to ensuring that all eligible victims of crime have the opportunity to access restorative justice if and when they want it," Mr Rattenbury said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. You can call the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on (02) 6247 2525. In an emergency contact 000.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.