Edition #24

Restorative Justice report launch!

Last week the CIJ released a report on our restorative justice pilot program for serious motor vehicle collisions, and launched our new restorative justice service, Open Circle (which you can read more about in the story below).

The report “It’s healing to hear another person’s story and also to tell your own story”, details our two-year pilot which ran from 2016-2018 and was funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board.

The pilot offered restorative justice processes to victims (including family members), offenders and others affected by motor vehicle collisions where someone had been killed or seriously injured. We accepted 14 referrals for restorative justice processes, including face-to-face conferences.

Our report includes detailed, de-identified interviews with participants about their experiences, and presents key findings, including that restorative justice can meet the needs of victims in ways the traditional criminal justice system cannot. It recommends that restorative justice be made more widely available in Victoria.  

We were delighted to have the Hon. Ben Carroll, Victorian Minster for Crime Prevention, Corrections, Youth Justice and Victim Support, to launch the report at RMIT’s beautifully renovated Capitol Theatre. 

You can read the full report here.

Open Circle - a new restorative justice service for Victoria

At the same event, we were also excited to be launching Open Circle, a new restorative justice service run by the CIJ that responds to crime committed by adults and other experiences of harm. 

Following on from our significant work in restorative justice, including the pilot program, as well as with the TAC, Worksafe and others, the CIJ has identified a need for increased access to ongoing restorative justice processes in Victoria for victims and others affected by unwelcome and unexpected life events. 

Open Circle services are available for people affected by crimes committed by adults (with the exception of family violence), as well as other incidents of harm like workplace injuries and traffic collisions. Open Circle will also consult on restorative practice for organisations and conduct research. 

Open Circle brings people together to acknowledge and respond to experiences of harm. With careful preparation, Open Circle makes difficult conversations possible by providing opportunities for respectful dialogue. 

Open Circle is now taking referrals. Visit to find out more.
Staff movements

The launch of Open Circle also brings with it some key staff movements, as Nareeda Lewers moves into a new role as Open Circle Manager, after playing a central part as a CIJ Senior Adviser in running the Restorative Justice Conferencing Pilot Project and also in establishing the new Open Circle service. Nareeda is shortly off on maternity leave, and we will announce her replacement in the coming months. In the meantime, we wish her all the best in this new exciting chapter!
We are also welcoming Renee Handsaker to the team as Open Circle’s Principal Restorative Justice Convenor. Renee comes on board after her excellent work providing restorative justice consultancy services for the CIJ's Restorative Justice Pilot program, where she ran conferences between people involved in serious motor vehicle collisions. You can read more about Renee’s extensive biography here.

Meanwhile Stan Winford will become the Associate Director of Open Circle, in addition to his role as CIJ Associate Director.

The Open Circle team is Nareeda Lewers, Stan Winford and Renee Handsaker

Exciting new partnership with Youthlaw!

The CIJ is thrilled to kick off its partnership and co-location with Youthlaw with a new project. Announced last week by Victoria's Attorney-General Jill Hennessy and the Legal Services Board, Youthlaw and CIJ will receive funding for a two-year project enabling us to explore and test early family violence legal and non-legal support options for young people who use or experience violence.

The project is based on the premise that giving young people earlier specialised support from a lawyer and youth worker will be less stressful, and give them a more positive and participatory experience of court, as well as improving safety and personal outcomes. The project will enable Youthlaw to recruit a lawyer and a social worker to provide earlier, multidisciplinary pre-court legal support. The CIJ will conduct the research and evaluation component of the project. This will explore young people’s experiences and promote the need for them to feel heard and contribute to project design solutions. 

Project design and referral pathways to early, pre-court supports will be developed in close and collaborative consultation with critical stakeholders, including the Melbourne Registry of the Children’s Court of Victoria, Victoria Police, Victoria Legal Aid and Orange Doors (Family Safety Victoria).

This project also builds on the research and findings of the PIPA Project – on which we'll have more to say in the coming months, with release of the final report slated for early next year.
Legal Services Board funds Aboriginal employment program

Building on the success of work done through the existing partnership with RMIT, the CIJ and Woor-Dungin, we are now embarking on a new phase of our Aboriginal Ex-Offender Employment Program, thanks to a grant from Victoria’s Legal Services Board. The project, Reducing barriers to employment for Aboriginal people: rethinking the role of criminal record checks, will ramp up our work tackling discrimination around old and irrelevant criminal history for Aboriginal job seekers.

This will include providing information and training to Aboriginal job-seekers and employers about the requirements of criminal record checking, to reduce discrimination and facilitate access to employment. We will also continue our research identifying and promoting best practice among employers who have been hiring people with a criminal record. Ultimately, we plan to establish a virtual employment ‘hub’ to link Aboriginal people with a criminal record to organisations that can support them to become job ready and prospective employers with Aboriginal employment providers.

The CIJ’s Associate Director Stan Winford, Professor Bronwyn Naylor from RMIT’s Graduate School of Business and Law, and Associate Professor Georgina Heydon from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies continue to be involved with this work, along with members of the Woor-Dungin team. 

Children's Court of Victoria service delivery reform project

The Children’s Court Service Delivery Reform Project is using human-centred design to improve the experiences of court users and to encourage a collaborative approach towards better outcomes in the court’s system. 

To date, more than 80 interviews, workshops and consultations have been conducted with court users, including Magistrates, court staff, legal professionals, government agencies and community service providers, to understand and explore challenges and opportunities in relation to the court. 

The Project Team is currently analysing the data collected and framing specific opportunity areas for action within the Court. The research has highlighted the complexity of service delivery within this jurisdiction, as well as stakeholders’ commitment to achieving positive outcomes for children and families.

In the next phase, the Project Team will support the court to prioritise opportunity areas and to co-design and facilitate trials of service reform solutions that respond to those priorities.
Workplace manslaughter laws introduced to Parliament

Our Associate Director Stan Winford’s work contributing to the formation of new workplace manslaughter laws for Victoria has come to fruition this week, as the legislation was introduced into the State Parliament. Stan’s role as Chair of the Victorian Government’s Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incident (Families) Reference Group supported families affected by workplace deaths to help develop the laws.

The legislation proposes fines of up to $16.5 million and up to 20 years in jail for employers who negligently cause a workplace death. The amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) were an election promise by the Andrews Government.

An average of 30 people are killed in Victorian workplaces every year - 19 people have already lost their lives so far in 2019. You can read more about the proposed new laws here.
Translating research to influence policy

One of RMIT’s core strategic goals is to ensure our research has an impact in the world beyond the university. A Researcher Policy Capability Network has recently been established to support researchers to achieve this aim, bringing together more than 70 researchers with an interest in informing and influencing public policy.

The CIJ was pleased to have the opportunity contribute to this network on October 15 when our Associate Director Stan Winford joined RMIT colleagues from other parts of the university for a panel session on ‘Translating Research for Policy Audiences’.

Stan spoke about some of the many ways the CIJ is applying its research to promote positive reforms to Victoria’s justice system. In particular, Stan highlighted the partnership with the Woor Dungin on the Criminal Records Discrimination Project, as well as the Supporting Justice project, which has been supporting people with lived experience to communicate their stories. 
Victorian Financial Counsellors Conference

Financial Counsellors Sarah Davidson and Raylene Carnie recently attended the Victorian Financial Counsellors Conference in Ballarat. The theme for the conference was Expanding Horizons and included speakers such as journalist and author Adele Ferguson, and the Minister for Consumer Affairs, The Hon. Marlene Kairouz. Held over three days, the conference included sessions on topics such as working with perpetrators, and working with resistant clients. The three days also provided the opportunity to network with creditor providers and utilities and share new learnings and experiences with others. 
Financial counselling - some early data

Our important financial counselling work with women at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DPFC) women’s prison has now been running for three months.

This project has employed a financial counsellor to work with the Mental Health Legal Centre’s Inside Access Program, assisting women in prison with their financial counselling needs, such as unpaid debt.

The project has so far seen some great outcomes, including...


Semester 2 winds up

Meanwhile, the financial counselling program has also provided RMIT financial counselling students with a unique placement opportunity supporting women who are in prison at DPFC. Our first two Diploma of Financial Counselling students have completed their 110-hour placement, with one enjoying it so much, she has asked to come back for her final 110-hours! Two more financial counselling students will be starting soon.

The inclusion of financial counselling as part of the Inside Access program has also further enriched our multidisciplinary experience for students. Financial counselling students are now working alongside RMIT law and social work students and professionals providing integrated services to criminalised women.

In Semester 2 law students have also completed placements with our partners at the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women and the Young Workers Centre. We are now looking forward to the summer semester when we’ll have our first students on placement at our new partner Youthlaw, once they relocate to join us at our new office on Pelham Street.

"My placement at the Mental Health Legal Centre... allowed me to see first-hand the strengths that can come from social workers working alongside lawyers to provide quality support and positive outcomes for clients of all walks of life." - Nicole Blazinovic, final year Bachelor of Social Work (honours)

Where are they now? 

Paula O’Byrne finished the RMIT Juris Doctor in 2015. The CIJ had a chat with her to see what she's been up to since.

When did you graduate, what have you been doing since then? 

I graduated at the end of 2015 after studying part-time for five years. As I was juggling study, work and young kids, it was an awesome feeling to finish. At the start of the course I was unsure whether I’d go on to practice as a lawyer. However, by the end I figured I might as well complete my practical legal training (PLT) and then decide. 

Restorative justice launch coverage

Media reporting of our restorative justice launch included a great article in The Sunday Age by journalist Miki Perkins "United by tragedy, two mothers find solace in an unlikely relationship". The article featured the stories of Rosalie and Rosalyn, two women who participated in our restorative justice conferencing pilot program for serious motor vehicle collisions. We'd like to thank them for being so generous to share their stories publicly. 

Stan and Nareeda were also pleased to be invited on to ABC Radio Melbourne to be interviewed by presenter Raf Epstein on Drive about the pilot and the new Open Circle service. They also had the new, hair-raising experience of taking talk-back calls!

Meanwhile, the CIJ has also produced our own content on the work, including a blog by our Director Rob Hulls "Restorative justice can help victims heal". And we've dedicated an episode of our Talking Innovative Justice podcast to the topic, which you can listen to here.

Craig Foster on sport and human rights 

If you missed the annual RMIT Higinbotham lecture on 17 September 2019, don't fret. Luckily ABC Radio National's Big Ideas program has recorded the speech and you can listen back to it via their website. This year's lecture was from SBS football commentator and former Socceroos captain Craig Foster, who spoke on the topic "Sport and human rights: can sport change the world?" The lecture was both insightful and inspiring and well worth a listen.


Are we failing abused women who kill?

For at least 12 months, ABC journalist Hayley Gleeson has been pursuing investigative feature stories looking at women, family violence and the criminal justice system. Her latest effort focuses on women who, after experiencing years of violence and abuse by their partners, eventually respond by killing them. The article takes an in-depth look at the justice system's treatment of these complex cases, and poses the difficult question, what is a proportionate response? It also features comments from Jill Prior, Principal Lawyer with our partners at the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women, along with many other experts. 


Senior Advisor, Research & Advocacy

This position will undertake project, research and advocacy activities in line with the Centre’s research strategy working under the broad direction of the Associate Director, Research, Innovation & Reform. The Senior Advisor will assist the Associate Director to identify and monitor emerging trends and developments in innovative justice; conduct discrete pieces of research to support the Centre’s work; contribute to the preparation of grant applications as well as applications for ethics approval in a range of contexts; support the co-ordination of research activities; draft submissions to inquiries and; and assist in the production of high quality written publications on behalf of the Centre.

CIJ out and about

Coming up are the following CIJ speaking engagements:

24 October - Restorative Justice and Enforcement Symposium, Environment Protection Authority Victoria - Speaker: Stan Winford

29 October - Presentation to Judicial College of Victoria - responding to perpetrators of family violence in court. Speaker: Elena Campbell

8 November - Australian Institute of Judicial Administration - Panel Presentation - Justice for Young People. Speaker: Elena Campbell

14 Nov - National Legal Aid conference dinner Speaker: Rob Hulls

14 Nov - Presentation to Judicial College of Victoria - responding to perpetrators of family violence in court. Speaker: Elena Campbell

26 November - Victoria Police Academy - presentation on responding to perpetration of family violence by adolescents and working with perpetrators more broadly. Speaker: Elena Campbell.

9 & 10 December - Workshop on adolescent family violence - International Network on Filial Violence, Melbourne. Speaker: Elena Campbell

10 - 13 Dec – Australian & New Zealand Society of Criminology Conference, WA. Speaker: Rob Hulls
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