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RJI’s Submission to Australian Parliament: Institutional Child Sexual Abuse legislation (2.14.18)

February 14, 2018

The following is RJI’s written testimony as submitted to the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs as they take up legislation in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse (2015). We also provide the link to the current legislation.

RJI’s response as it appears on the website of the Parliament of Australia please find item submission #78 for Restorative Justice International’s written testimony.

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/AbuseRedressScheme/Submissions
Current legislation:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/legislation/bills/r6006_first-reps/toc_pdf/17252b01.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

There are 3 comments. Add Yours.

Jane Anderson —

Thanks Lisa
I’ve read your submission, which certainly affirms the ethos of RJ and its value for crime victims. (I would also add it has significant value for sex offenders.)

Re your recommendation of participation in inprison RJ programs using victims (eg Sycamore), in theory, yes. However, in practice and for sex offenders – that needs careful development and monitoring.

I regularly have sex offenders in the inprison RJ programs I run (ie., a revised Sycamore). Although there are difficulties, they can be navigated to the satisfaction of all participants. Nevertheless, it would concern me that other Sycamore volunteer facilitators (who, for example, do not have the background that I have) were to have them participate. Nevertheless, I would also assert that there is considerable scope for innovation relating to this matter.

I hope the Commission takes yours and Rob Mackay’s submissions into account. We desperately need different ways of administering justice and which addresses harm. There are too many whose wounds are left festering and without the means to attend them.

Kind Regards, Jane

    lisarea —

    Thank you, Jane. We appreciate your comments especially given your own experiences. We hope the Australia Parliament will take very seriously the needs of victims of sexual abuse and embrace restorative justice. If in-custody restorative justice programs are considered of course the necessary safety precautions would need to be in place. Our primary recommendation is to put the needs of the victims of sexual abuse first and provide them with the “right” to restorative justice. In-prison restorative justice programs using victims (surrogates) are powerful and could be helpful. I have first hand experience directing an in-prison restorative justice in the state of Texas (1998). The benefits to the participants: victims and offenders alike were remarkable.

Jane Anderson —

Lisa, it is high time that conventional law processes, namely, retributive justice, recognise the value of restorative justice. As a complement, it can assist especially victims but also offenders to process what has happened.
As a victim of child sexual abuse myself I made myself available to the Royal Commission. Immediately afterwards, I wrote the following article “Restorative Justice beyond the Royal Commission” https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=38616. That received an unprecedented positive response.
I then participated as a crime victim in a Sycamore Tree Project. By the year’s end, I accidentally became the facilitator of that inprison RJ program. Thereafter, I brought the expertise I have garnered as a social anthropologist to that programming, developing and delivering it successfully. Last year 20 crime victims and 101 prisoners went through the program. We anticipate the same numbers this year.
A small number of victims of CSA and sex offenders participated in that programming. Although, I well recognise that what they really need a program that is crafted to this particular crime. It is this potential and scope that I hope the Australian Parliament will consider.
Punishment is not enough, and in and of itself, will not heal wounds. Restorative Justice when well practiced can bring about transformation that can benefit many, including those whose lives have been traumatised and damaged by child sexual abuse.