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Introduction

According to Braithwaite (2004), restorative justice is:

...a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal.

Restorative justice can be seen as a subset of restorative practice, which offers a common thread to tie together theory, research and practice in diverse fields such as education, counselling, criminal justice, social work and organisational management.  The fundamental premise of restorative practice is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.

The use of restorative practices can:

  • reduce crime, violence and bullying
  • improve human behaviour
  • strengthen civil society
  • provide effective leadership; and
  • restore relationships

While restorative practices have been widely used in youth justice and education settings to repair harm, there is a great deal of debate about its suitability in cases of family violence.  Chief among the criticism is that when applied to intimate partner violence, these informal practices can fail to protect the safety of survivors or lead to re‑victimisation.  It is also argued that restorative practice may minimise the harm done to women or appear too lenient in the punishment of perpetrators.  However, other commentators have made opposing arguments, seeing restorative practice as offering a better way to seek safety and accountability than the current legal system.   Pennell and Burford (1995), for example, contend that family group conferencing offers a way to expand a coordinated community response to stopping violence against women and their children, recognising that family violence cannot be stopped without the concerted and cooperative effort of families, communities, and state institutions.

In November 2015, Relationships Australia’s online survey sought further understanding of the community’s views on the applicability of restorative practices to family violence by posing a few questions to visitors to our website.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites