November started with an exciting few days at the Relate Resolve Restore Conflict Resolution Conference in Wellington. The conference brought together restorative justice practitioners and mediators from across New Zealand and abroad to share insights, experiences and skills. Many participants commented on the benefit of “breaking down the silos” between these areas of practice to learn from each other.
The range of restorative justice practice in New Zealand was well-represented at the conference, featuring presentations on the topics of youth and adult criminal justice, schools, universities, workplaces, elder harm, restorative city efforts, responses to historical harms, and more. The range of applications illustrated that there is no one specific defining restorative practice, rather it is the underpinning values and the prioritization of relationships and connection that unite the RJ community.
On day one of the conference, I had the opportunity to present my research in a session titled The Role of Ritual in Conflict Resolution. The presentation was very well-received and I enjoyed the conversations it sparked with other conference attendees over the following days.
One of the most exciting things about the conference for me personally was getting to present with Kathleen McGoey, Executive Director of Longmont Community Justice Partnership, the Colorado Restorative Justice nonprofit where I used to work. Kathleen has been a great mentor, teacher and friend in my professional and life journey and it was wonderful to have her in New Zealand! We presented Teaching Restorative Practices through Games, a laughter-filled hour highlighting a fun and effective way to teach restorative practices. The feedback for the session was wonderful!
Day three of the conference was focused specifically on elder harm issues. My colleague, Haley Farrar, and I delivered a workshop on using restorative circles to respond to elder harm issues. At the end of the day, there were two role plays using standard mediation and a restorative circle process to respond to a fictional case. Haley and I facilitated the example circle. It was a privilege to get to share an example of restorative circles with a wider audience and to showcase how the process can be effective in a wide range of cases.
This month, I also found out that I had been awarded a Quaker Peace and Service Aotearoa New Zealand Grant in order to carry out a project I proposed that will use restorative processes to cultivate a sustained dialogue on the issue of sexual violence on campus. This project will begin early next year and I will post updates as it unfolds.
The November Rotary Peacebuilder Newsletter, which William Timpson from the Fort Collins Rotary Club has been kind enough to ask me to contribute to, is available here.
This month I have also started interviews with former restorative justice participants (victims and offenders) as part of my research. It has been incredibly enlightening and an honor to hear peoples’ stories of participating in the process and the positive change it has brought to their lives. I continue to feel so incredibly lucky to be part of the restorative justice movement.