About restorative cities

What defines a restorative city?

Anzac WalkA restorative city is one in which key organisations implement restorative justice programs and restorative practices widely throughout the life of the city. Restorative city projects invest in, and focus on, the children and young people that live in their cities. The requirements to transform a city are: the identification of a need for restorative practices; the development of a shared vision; education, support and resources; a management plan for the transition to restorative practices; and, finally, the use of restorative practices throughout the community.

To create the social transformation into a restorative city, interdisciplinary restorative practices are implemented throughout a range of sectors, such as the criminal justice system, education, socials services, law enforcement, heath and workplaces, in order to achieve positive impacts for the community. In particularly, restorative cities focus on enabling positive results for the most vulnerable members of the community, particularly children and young people. Examples of restorative cities around the world include Hull and Leeds (UK), Oakland (USA), Whanganui (New Zealand) and Canberra (Australia).

The use of restorative practices to transform the culture and social fabric of a city focus on building strong and healthy relationships throughout the community. This is achieved by incorporating restorative practices such as circles, mediations, conferencing and relationship-building exercises into the community. Whilst the implementation of this restorative approach will look different in each restorative city, the practices will focus on encouraging the resolution of disputes and disagreements through communication, addressing inappropriate behaviour and promoting a caring and inclusive culture.

Restorative cities have many positive impacts in the community, as they are safer, happier, hopeful places where all members of the community share in progress and urban renewal. The introduction of restorative justice into criminal systems has resulted in less offending, less recidivism and greater participant satisfaction with the process by all parties, including those offended against. In schools, students learn how to build relationships, resolve disputes and understand other points of view. This leads to higher attendance, improved educational outcomes and improved school culture. Workplaces that engage with restorative practices are more productive and inclusive.

What do restorative justice programs and restorative practices involve?

Restorative justice and restorative practice involve a focus on building sustainable relationships between community members. It focuses on growing strong and positive connections in order to effectively address the problems associated harm and conflict. As long as the process is underpinned by restorative principles, restorative justice and restorative practice can involve a range of different methods based on the particular context and situation.

Restorative justice has traditionally been associated with criminal justice systems and involves all parties involved in an offence or wrongdoing joining together to address the harm that has occurred. Techniques such as victim-offender mediations, restorative justice conferencing and therapeutic justice are used. These techniques can bring the offender, victim, community members and other interested parties together to discuss the offending and may also propose ways forward which heal the victim and the community, while reintegrating the offender into the community. The introduction of restorative justice into criminal systems has resulted in less offending, less recidivism and greater participant satisfaction with the process by all parties, including victims.

Restorative practices have been adapted and developed from restorative justice. These practices are implemented in a proactive manner in order to build and strengthen the connections and relationships between different people throughout the community. The development of strong relations enables the growth of enhanced communication skills that can be utilised to repair the occurrence of harm and inappropriate behaviour in a range of different settings, such as schools, workplaces and social services. Examples of restorative practices include circles and restorative conferencing.