Have you ever thought the world would be a better place if everybody just respected one another?
The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council (LRAC) has set out to answer how a government could introduce such an ethos, with the release of an issues paper on the feasibility of Canberra becoming a restorative city.
Last year the ACT Attorney-General commissioned the paper, which considers how restorative justice practices – in which victims and their perpetrators undergo a mediation process that is mutual, respectful, just and aimed at healing – could work in other areas of dispute resolution.
Chair of the LRAC, Professor Tony Foley said restorative cities aimed to be respectful, safe, empowering, and inclusive, and implement practices that overtly include community members who were often marginalised or subject to discrimination.
“Restorative practices are used quite commonly in educational settings and many schools in the ACT would already be using restorative methods to resolve discipline issues,” Professor Foley said.
“The ACT Government has asked, ‘can we expand the use of restorative justice’?”
A number of cities throughout the world have taken action to become restorative cities including Bristol and Hull in the UK and Whanganui in New Zealand.
It is a broad concept that is already being applied though legislation and natural law by values and faith-based organisations, the ACT Human Rights Commission and the Restorative Justice Unit. However, the paper considers whether it could be implemented more specifically to focus areas.
“Two focus areas might be right for that expansion. One is in the area of child protection disputes and the other is in the area of disputes around public housing.”
The paper calls for submissions from members of the Canberra community, particularly (but not exclusively to) those involved in either system.
Providing explanations and examples, the paper poses the following questions:
What does restorative justice mean to you?
What restorative justice values discussed here do you think would help make our community more restorative?
If the ACT was to become a more restorative community, what do you think that would look like?
What characteristics or values do you consider are necessary for our community to become more restorative?
Do these characteristics or values need to be formally established e.g. adopted by the Legislative Assembly or introduced in legislation?
What changes might be needed to make our City more restorative?
What barriers prevent our community from becoming more restorative and how can we overcome these?
Are there other areas which should be considered as priorities for attention in moving towards a more restorative city?