- About victim-centred restorative justice
- How it works
- Who is involved?
- Our practitioners
- Sharing of information disclosed in restorative justice sessions
- Access and inclusion
- Principles of victim-centred restorative justice
- Expanding victim-centred restorative justice to more people
On this page
About victim-centred restorative justice
Restorative justice is a facilitated way to talk about how family violence and/or other crimes have impacted a person.
The purpose of the process is to:
- give someone who has experienced harm a safe and supported opportunity to tell their story
- reach a shared understanding with others about what has happened and its impact on them
- consider how to improve the situation.
For some people, this might involve talking with the person who has harmed them. For others, it might involve talking with:
- other family members
- close friends, or
- a representative from an organisation, institution or community.
A trained convenor prepares everyone for the conversation and makes sure it goes safely to meet the victim’s needs. This approach focuses on the harm caused to people, to relationships and to the community. It also emphasises repairing the harm, rather than punishment.
In victim-centred restorative justice only a victim/person harmed can initiate a restorative process. All parts of the restorative process are planned around the needs and choices of the person who has been harmed by crime or family violence. This includes:
- the referral
- the aim and outcomes of the process
- decisions about who is invited to participate
- the nature and pace of preparation
- what is discussed.
Victim-centred restorative justice recognises that victims are not always able to achieve a sense of justice within the legal system and gives them other ways to do so.
We can help you to understand what restorative justice is and if it’s right for you.
Within our service we use the terms 'victim', 'survivor' and 'person harmed' interchangeably. In practice, we use the term/s the victim prefers.
We refer to the 'person responsible for harm' as such. In the case of certain types of violence we may use 'perpetrator' or 'offender', depending on what the victim prefers or is most familiar with.
How it works
Restorative processes help people who have experienced crime and/or family violence to feel heard and have their experiences validated. Different victims might have different goals or needs. We can support the person harmed to have a restorative process with whoever they choose. It can be about:
- what has happened
- how the person harmed has been affected
- what can be done to make things better.
A restorative process could be either:
- Direct Restorative Process – a face-to-face conversation safely facilitated by a convenor
- Indirect Restorative Process – a safely facilitated restorative process that is not face-to-face. This could include a letter, video, communication that happens back and forth through a convenor.
We might hold one restorative process, or a series of processes. This will depend on:
- the victim’s needs and preferences
- the complexity of the situation
- the safety and readiness of who the victim wants to include.
The program is completely free and voluntary.
Who is involved?
We work with the victim to plan what they would like to talk about, and who the right people are to take part in this conversation.
This might be people who:
- caused the harm
- have been affected by it
- can help make things better.
This may or may not include the person responsible for harm.
Other people who take part might include:
- family members
- trusted friends or other loved ones
- people who give professional support, such as social workers or psychologists
- people from support services or other representatives from an organisation, institution or community
- the person who used family violence or is responsible for the harm.
We are a victim-centred service so we work with the victim to determine what type of process is possible and can best meet their needs. Sometimes victims may decide during their preparation that a restorative process is not the right option for them. They may also decide that it is not the best option right now but might be helpful in the future.
All our practitioners are experienced and trained in:
- family violence
- restorative practices
- cultural safety and inclusion.
Both the victim and other participants will have two specially trained practitioners working with them throughout their time with the service:
- A Specialist Support Worker to ensure each participant is physically and emotionally safe and supported. This includes during the restorative process and afterwards.
- A Convenor to work with the person harmed and other participants individually to learn their story and goals. They will help everyone prepare for the restorative process, facilitate it and follow up after the process.
We do not provide case management support. Our practitioners work with referring agencies and other organisations in the family violence sector, justice system or other support services to make sure that victims get the help they need. As an Information Sharing Entity (ISE), our practitioners will seek and share relevant information where required, especially if it relates to risk and safety.
Sharing of information disclosed in restorative justice sessions
People who choose to participate need to understand and consent to the rules of confidentiality and how the family violence information sharing scheme may affect them.
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme provides new ways for information to be collected, used and shared. Information can be about:
- people who use violence or who have been alleged to use violence
- other people involved in family violence.
Part 5A of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (External link) and its supporting regulations permit several organisations to share current and previously collected information about people involved in or impacted by family violence. This is to keep people safe, and people who use violence in view.
More information about the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme is available on the Family Safety Victoria website (External link)
Access and inclusion
Our service is one of many provided by Victim Services Support and Reform (VSSR). Other services include:
- the Victims of Crime Helpline
- the Child Witness Service
- the Intermediary Program.
We value diversity, inclusion and social justice. We are committed to treating people of all cultures, ethnicities, gender identities, bodily diversities, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, and religions with dignity and respect.
We are Rainbow Tick accredited.
The Rainbow Tick (External link) is a quality-based framework. It helps health and human services organisations show they are safe, inclusive and affirming services and employers for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer and questioning (LGBTIQ+) community. The Rainbow Tick standards were developed by Rainbow Health Australia.
This accreditation aligns with Victoria’s first whole-of-government LGBTIQ+ strategy. Pride in our future: Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ strategy 2022-32 (External link) provides the vision and plan to drive equality and inclusion for Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ communities within all aspects of government work. The strategy acknowledges we have made great progress towards a fairer Victoria for LGBTIQ+ communities, but there is much more to do. LGBTIQ+ people continue to face unacceptable levels of discrimination and inequality in their everyday lives.
LGBTIQ+ people want, and have a right to, feel safe and welcomed to access both dedicated and mainstream services. That’s why we ensure LGBTIQ+ people are safe, included and affirmed from the moment they enter the door.
We provide access to professional interpreters and Auslan interpreters for any participants that require this support.
We are committed to providing a flexible, accessible and supportive service for people with a disability.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) is committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. We seek to prevent harm of any kind impacting children and young people and have zero tolerance for racism, child abuse and inequality.
Children and young people’s rights, relationships, identity, and culture must be recognised and respected, their voices heard, and their concerns acted upon. We aim to foster a culturally safe, child safe and child friendly environment for all children and young people we have contact with, deliver services to, or are impacted by our work.
For more information about child safety at DJCS, please see:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Restorative Justice responses
We acknowledge and respect the long history of restorative justice in Aboriginal communities and the work of Aboriginal organisations in building restorative responses in Victoria. We are committed to learning from Aboriginal-led programs, continuously improving our services and supporting self-determination in the design of all justice related responses that impact on Aboriginal people and communities.
Principles of victim-centred restorative justice
Our approach is underpinned by principles from the Restorative Justice for Victims of Family Violence Framework (2017). Although initially developed for the Family Violence Restorative Justice Service, these principles continue to represent the critical components of working in a victim-centred context.
The Victorian Family Violence Restorative Justice Framework is a response to a recommendation of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (External link)
At its core, victim-centred restorative practice is designed to deliver benefit to people harmed by family violence and/or other crimes. While other participants may also benefit, this shouldn’t compromise the main aim of supporting the victim to meet their own goals.
Do no further harm
We protect the physical, emotional and cultural safety of everyone involved, with a particular focus on victims. Risk is comprehensively assessed and managed throughout their engagement.
A restorative process only happens if our practitioners can safely and effectively meet the victim’s needs.
Taking part is voluntary
Taking part in the service is voluntary for everyone. This means we can make sure that each person can:
- engage without coercion
- talk openly and honestly.
People who take part can stop participating at any time.
We work with people, we don’t do things to them or for them. Victims are the experts of their own experience. We support and empower people to safely tell their own story in their own way and make choices that are right for them.
The right process at the right time
Victim-centred restorative justice is trauma-informed. It offers victims process options that are accessible, flexible and responsive to their goals, needs, risks and circumstances. This might mean communicating directly or indirectly, multiple processes if needed, or working out if restorative justice is right for them at all.
Victim-centred restorative justice is also safer and more effective when it can meet victims where they are at in their journey. The “right time” might be:
- soon after an experience so they feel closure, or
- after more time has passed and they feel ready to address what’s important to them.
This also means we have safeguards to protect from coercion or further harm and prevent interference with other legal matters. We can also help participants engage with therapeutic support, interventions or other justice processes first.
Perpetrator acceptance of responsibility
A victim might want a person who has used violence or committed a crime against them to be involved. That person can be included in the restorative process if they show us that they can take accountability for their behaviour and the impact it has had on those affected, and it is safe for them to be involved.
Appropriate resources and skills
We work with victims for as long as they need. This allows us to provide them with the restorative process that considers their unique situation and needs. Our practitioners are highly skilled in family violence, trauma-informed practice and restorative practices. Additional support can be arranged by seeking expert advice and secondary consultations with appropriate organisations.
Restorative justice should be seen as part of the larger system of justice responses and supports. Victims who are engaged with other parts of the justice system can use it. Those who can’t or choose not to engage with other parts of the justice system can use it too. We can also help sequence responses and supports to make sure that the process is safer and more effective for the victim.
Transparency of process and outcomes
We are clear about:
- what lies ahead and how the process will go
- where participants will have choices
- how decisions that affect them will be made.
This empowers each person to decide if and how to take part in a restorative process.
Expanding victim-centred restorative justice to more people
Restorative options for applicants to the Financial Assistance Scheme and families experiencing adolescent violence in the home will be coming in future years. Please contact us via VCRJProgram@justice.vic.gov.au (External link) to learn more.
Victim-Centred Restorative Justice Program
VCRJProgram@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)
(03) 9194 2994
If you are in danger, please call 000.
If you need crisis support, contact Safe Steps (External link) on 1800 015 188 or the Victims of Crime Helpline (External link) on 1800 819 817.