A Journey to Restorative Cities in Canberra and Newcastle

Submitted by NED Foundation on Sat, 16/12/2017 - 17:18

How we started on the journey to establish Newcastle as a restorative city.

Mary Porter AM, December 2017

What is a Restorative City?

A Restorative City is a city that approaches social and community challenges through restoring relationships and applying restorative practices rather than one that seeks to divide, blame and punish. It encourages the community to work together, through conflicts, disputes and anti-social behaviour, to resolve the harm caused. This approach ultimately creates a more harmonious, safe and cohesive city.

Why is the NED Foundation particularly focusing on restorative practice?

Years ago, Ned Iceton came upon Terry O’Connell on an ABC presentation of Australian Story and learnt of his journey of discovery of how to use restorative practice to bring about cultural change and healing in the community. Terry was a serving police officer at the time and searching for alternatives to the law and order response that unfortunately still exists today.

Ned decided to explore these concepts further and to encouraged members of the network to work with him to look for opportunities to bring about this cultural change wherever they could.

With Ned’s encouragement I was able to support this cultural change in Canberra where I was an MLA in the ACT Legislative Assembly for almost 12 years. The journey of discovery and change had already commenced with the RISE project out of the ANU involving the AFP. Ned provided seeding funds to further support other restorative initiatives in education. Meanwhile the ACT Legislative Assembly passed legislation to gradually introduce diversionary program, adult circle sentencing for indigenous adults, and indigenous guidance officers to assist young people to access restorative conferencing. Finally, opportunities for offenders and those harmed to be able to choose to resolve matters and seek healing through restorative practice at the level of most serious offending.

However, the ACT Government realised that cultural change of such importance, and the need to restore relationships and address harm, is not something that should be siloed in certain parts of a society, but rather the way a city, and those who live and work in it, can adopt. So now Canberra has embarked on this journey, drawing from the experiences of other such cities throughout the world.

Since relocating to the Hunter region of NSW, on the shores of Lake Macquarie, the NED Inc Board had asked me to investigate the amount of restorative practice that was happening here and the possibility and any interest in Newcastle becoming a restorative city.

Fortunately, I was able to be put in touch with members of the Newcastle University law faculty and the community legal service. I met with the Dean, Tania Sourdin, Associate Professor John Anderson and Dr Nicola Ross, as well as Shaun McCarthy - who heads up the University of Newcastle Legal Centre (UNCL) - who immediately expressed a strong interest in working with NED to achieve this goal.

NED provided, and continues to provide, a financial contribution to employ a “project officer” attached to the Law Faculty. A steering committee, made up of people drawn from the University and the community sector, has been formed to drive the project, as well as a much larger advisory committee made up of representatives from across the, justice, community, local government and business sectors.

The project has also received strong support from the team at the ANU, headed up by Professor John Braithwaite, The Canberra Restorative City team and Terry O’Connell. Members of the law faculty and myself attended the NAJ conference in Sydney earlier this year to make a presentation about the restorative city project. Since then the Dean and our project officer attended a conference on restorative practice in New Zealand and John Anderson and Nicola Ross attended a conference in HULL, UK, to learn more about its restorative city journey.

Now planning is well underway for a symposium will be held in Newcastle on 14-15 June 2018 to introduce the notion of a restorative city, and celebrate the great restorative based work already occurring in what is a truly innovative city. International speakers from successful restorative cities around the world will present at the symposium, sharing their journey, their experiences and their insights. The symposium will also give local practitioners and workers in the field to share what is happening on the ground. The symposium will be an important step in engaging the community in an exciting opportunity, to put Newcastle on the map as one of the growing number of restorative cities, and give the much-needed direction and momentum to go forward on what will require long term commitment.

NED Inc is proud to be involved and is certainly committed to the initiative.

 

How can you be involved?

Register your interest on our website today to keep up to date with symposium developments. The website will also contain our Call for Presenters information. We are also running a school’s video competition for students in Years 10-12 with prizes to be run! See the University of Newcastle website for more information.