What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice focuses on the harm caused to people by a crime or other wrong rather than on the violation of a law. It is about acknowledging and addressing the harm caused to individuals and their broader communities. The focus is on healing, meeting needs, accountability, and addressing damaged relationships.
The Open Circle vision
Open Circle puts people at the centre of our processes. We believe in people’s capacity to draw on their own resilience, wisdom and strength when they are faced with unwelcome and unexpected life circumstances. Open Circle’s restorative processes aim to respond to harm in ways that don’t make things worse.
Open Circle recognises that harm occurs within a social and structural context. By bringing people together, Open Circle’s restorative processes can enable people to address the context of harm and work towards preventing future harm.
Open Circle processes
Open Circle brings people together to collectively acknowledge and respond to experiences of harm. With careful preparation, Open Circle makes difficult conversations possible by providing opportunities for respectful dialogue. This can include giving voice to those who have been affected, sharing further information surrounding the harm, taking responsibility for the harm caused and exploring steps to be taken in the future.
Open Circle services
Restorative justice conferencing
Open Circle provides access to a restorative practice called conferencing. In the conferencing process, those affected by a crime or other harm can talk to each other. People who can take part include victims (or people harmed), offenders (or people responsible for causing harm), their family members, relevant community members and other people who have been impacted. The conference process can involve a face-to-face meeting or another form of communication, for example a letter exchange. Either way, the process is facilitated by a neutral person called a convener, who makes sure the process is respectful of and fair to everyone involved.
The conference process is:
- Voluntary – people only take part if they want to
- Confidential – what is said during the process is confidential (unless everyone involved agrees otherwise)
- Supported – program staff spend time with each participant in the lead up to a conference to help everyone prepare
- Constructive – the process offers benefits to all who take part and care is taken to ensure no one is harmed by participating
- Flexible – as much as possible, the process is responsive to people’s needs.
Open Circle takes a flexible approach to the types of cases accepted for restorative justice conferencing. Referrers are encouraged to contact Open Circle for a discussion. Examples of cases that can be referred include, but are not limited to:
- Crimes committed by people 18 years and older, with the exception of family violence offences
- There is another restorative justice program that responds to offences committed by young people, the Youth Justice Group Conferencing Program
- The Department of Justice and Community Safety offers a restorative justice program that responds to family violence in cases where the perpetrator is an adult
- Motor vehicle collisions – whether or not there have been criminal charges
- Workplace injuries
- Harms experienced by RMIT students or staff on campus.
Consultancy and research
Open Circle’s team of restorative justice policy experts helps organisations and government to develop restorative practices that are tailored to their needs and priorities, and those of their clients and service users. Previously, the Open Circle team have assisted the TAC, WorkSafe and RMIT University to design and implement restorative programs.
Open Circle also contributes to restorative justice research and thought. The Open Circle team is available to speak at conferences and events, and welcomes opportunities to collaborate.
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