Novocastrians know they live in a great city, with an array of natural beauty, diverse work and social opportunities, and wonderful, caring people. But what if our city could be even better, as a restorative city?
The port city of Hull in the United Kingdom is among the first places in the world working towards becoming a restorative city. It has many similarities to Newcastle in its approach to urban and social renewal after a decline in its traditional industrial base. Hull has embraced a vision of restorative practices centred on children and young people and extending to the broader community to enable the building, maintaining and repairing of relationships. The Hull experiences are relevant and timely for us to consider in Newcastle.
The roots of restorative justice can be found in approaches to dealing with young offenders and developing rehabilitative models of youth conferencing. These models focus on offenders taking responsibility for misconduct and taking action to repair harm done and restore relationships. Through this process, the victim of such misconduct and the community are restored to their previous status or may receive compensation or healing.
Together with some form of punishment, this restorative process can allow for reintegration of an offender into the community rather than alienating them and continuing the cycle of offending. A number of successful models of restorative justice operate in Australia, including in Newcastle. Over time the restorative movement, having gained a measure of community acceptance, has evolved 'beyond the repair of harm caused by criminal conduct to addressing problems in schools, social services, workplaces and neighbourhoods'.
Newcastle is on a journey to becoming a restorative city. This began with a symposium in June 2018 where restorative initiatives and practices operating in the city that showed that a different, relational approach to conflict can have benefits across the community. This journey is continuing with the Newcastle as a Restorative City Initiative (NRC) represented by a broad cross section of community groups, including the university. NRC is working across key organisations in education, health, justice, business and social services to support and develop projects using restorative approaches to help solve problems.
Newcastle as a restorative city is the focus of the next Newcastle Institute forum tomorrow (June 12) from 6pm-7.30pm, at Souths Leagues Club. newinstitute.org.au