New approach to Aboriginal restorative justice helps reduce reoffending

23 Nov 2020 | 2 mins

A restorative justice program designed and delivered in partnership with Aboriginal elders and prisoners has led to a reduction in reoffending.

Dr Jane Anderson, an honorary research fellow in UWA’s School of Social Sciences, said increasing numbers of Aboriginal prisoners in WA was cause for widespread concern and the restorative approach could produce intermediate outcomes linked to reductions in reoffending.

Restorative justice addresses the harm of wrongdoing and initiates the repair and building of people and relationships.

“One way of reducing reoffending is through in-prison programming but there is a significant lack of culturally appropriate programming,” Dr Anderson said.

To address the issue, Dr Anderson worked with Aboriginal/Noongar Elders and prisoners to design and deliver an Aboriginal in-prison restorative justice program in a regional prison.

“This regional approach to justice has been guided by an Aboriginal perspective and adapted to provide a culturally constructive intervention to crime and wrongdoing,” Dr Anderson said.

In an article published in The International Journal of Restorative Justice, Dr Anderson documents a range of culturally appropriate forms, such as story, art, music, play and ceremony (ritual) in an Aboriginal in-prison restorative justice program. She also examines how these forms are used to address the harm of wrongdoing and repair Aboriginal prisoners and their relationships.

Dr Anderson said the established approach to in-prison programs for Aboriginal prisoners was culturally inappropriate.

“Our project demonstrates a different approach by enabling Aboriginal stakeholders, including Elders and prisoners, to become involved in providing culturally responsive programs within a prison to help prevent reoffending and provide effective reintegration into society,” she said.

As a response to the over-representation of Aboriginal prisoners in the WA prison system, Dr Anderson aims to highlight the urgent need to evaluate conventional prison programming for Aboriginal prisoners as well as foster more culturally responsive restorative justice programming for Aboriginal prisoners.

The program also provides evidence of a culturally responsive restorative justice practice needed for rehabilitating and restoring Aboriginal prisoners to Country and family.

Media references

Dr Jane Anderson (UWA School of Social Sciences), 0419 952 735 

Simone Hewett (UWA Media and PR Manager), 08 6488 3229 / 0432 637 716

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