Restorative Justice as a site of Environmental Justice

Dr Deborah Cleland1, Dr Miranda Forsyth1

1School Of Regulation And Global Governance (regnet), Anu, Acton, Australia


Restorative justice (RJ) and environmental justice (EJ) arose from a deep dissatisfaction with the outcomes offered through conventional regulatory processes from law making to enforcement. Both are characterised by special attention to context – to the unique configurations of time and place that lead to harm and can help in healing – while offering space for voices that normally go unheard. However, inside Australia’s regulatory space, both RJ and EJ have historically held tenuous sway over justice-as-usual. What would it mean to bring bring both concepts into mainstream environmental regulation? Drawing on interviews with regulators, activists and community groups, and considering Australia’s recent environmental history, we consider the complementarities and conflicts of a Restorative Environmental Justice paradigm. We argue that restorative opportunities are many, but will require a commitment to power-sharing and truth-telling that regulatory agencies have historically found extremely challenging. Balancing moves towards treaty with finding ways to build trust and working relationships with rural communities experiencing the twin effects of long-term agrarian and industrial pollution and deindustrialisation will be key to moving towards restorative justice, while environmental justice may well turn on increasing accountability for industrial actors and developers who are perceived as acting with impunity.


Deb Cleland (PhD, FHEA) is a Postdoc at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) ANU working on the Linkage project Restorative Environmental Justice. She brings her research into social justice, inclusion and sustainability to life through writing and performance. In her academic life she works on how regulation can improve quality of life and citizen engagement in our democracy. In her other life she works on how play can do the same thing (

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