Restorative Practice has been around for a good while in its current form (though it’s still evolving), and elements of it have been used independently for many years; indeed, many indigenous people’s traditional forms of dispute solving are strongly restorative and have existed for centuries.
The six Principles of restorative practice are:
- Restoration – the primary aim of restorative practice is to address and repair harm.
- Voluntarism – participation in restorative processes is voluntary and based on informed choice.
- Neutrality – restorative processes are fair and unbiased towards participants.
- Safety – processes and practice aim to ensure the safety of all participants and create a safe space for the expression of feelings and views about harm that has been caused.
- Accessibility – restorative processes are non-discriminatory and available to all those affected by conflict and harm.
- Respect – restorative processes are respectful to the dignity of all participants and those affected by the harm caused.
It’s important to emphasise that Restorative Practice is a way to be rather than something to do, or in an organisation, ‘the way we do things here’. It’s not something which is done sometimes, or under particular circumstances. It is not a behaviour management tool, and it is not just about disputes and incidents. This is not always clear as many people’s first contact with it is from hearing about or experiencing Restorative Justice, where typically offender and victim(s) are brought together after an incident to discuss what happened and find a way forward. As a way to deal with incidents more effectively than normal processes allow, Restorative Justice has many merits, and is included in its entirety on any Restorative Practice implementation, but it is only one element of Restorative Practice, and is not the complete picture.
Restorative practice provides clear and practical actions and behaviours which initiate, support, strengthen and, where necessary, repair relationships between individuals and groups. It promotes understanding, trust, respect and thoughtfulness and requires that people understand that every one of their choices and actions affects others, and also that people are responsible for their choices and actions and can be held accountable for them. It recognises that a community will work together to make things as good as they can be for themselves whilst minimising negatives, and it encourages dialogue about how to do this.
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