Therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice for family violence: expanding the options for responding effectively to violence and other abuse

Alikki Vernon[1], David Moore[2] & Russell Jeffrey[3]

[1] Dr Alikki Vernon, Consultant & Vice President, Victorian Association for Restorative Justice

[2] Dr David Moore, consultant & President, Victorian Association for Restorative Justice

[3] Russell Jeffrey, Manager, Community Conferencing, Neighbourhood Justice Centre & Secretary, Victorian Association for Restorative Justice

The social movement for “restorative practices” in Australia has recently aligned with (i) efforts to deal with abuse in institutional settings and (ii) efforts to address family violence.

For example, the restorative engagement program within the recently concluded Australian Defence Abuse Response Taskforce provided an effective response to the harm caused by workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying, physical abuse &/or sexual assault in an institutional setting.  Lessons from this pioneering work are now being adopted din a national redress scheme.

In a parallel development, the Victorian Family Violence Royal Commission (VFVRC) in 2016 recommended the development a framework and pilot program to deliver restorative options for victims of family violence [Recommendation 122] and to assist young people and families in situations where adolescents are using violence in the home [Recommendation 128].  When used appropriately within well-designed programs, the group conferencing process can support systemic improvements to Victoria’s response to family violence.

Members of the Committee of the Victorian Association for Restorative Justice (VARJ) will describe current innovations using restorative practices to manage cases of family violence, including where court sentencing has been deferred and a case referred to group conferencing.  The presenters will also explain how pilot programs that provide family-systems interventions to address adolescent family violence in the home are being officially coordinated with Victoria’s youth justice group conferencing program.

These emerging practices represent a combination of therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice – consistent with 2010 amendments to Victoria’s Sentencing Act.  There are important lessons from these experiences about what might be required in the way of policy development, program management, and the training and mentoring not only of specialist group conference facilitators, but of other professionals involved in the administration of justice.


David B. Moore is a Melbourne-based consultant specialising in conflict management and constructive communication across the government-, corporate-, and community sectors.  He is also Principal Consultant to Sydney-based Prime Change Consulting.  David has trained facilitators nationally and internationally, taught at multiple universities in history, politics and law, and published widely on conflict management, change management, and organisational governance. He has recently been special advisor to the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, work that is now continuing with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and national redress schemes.  David is the current President of the Victorian Association for Restorative justice.

Alikki Vernon has worked as an independent consultant in dispute resolution and restorative practices for over 20 years. Her professional practice includes managing workplace conflict, improving the governance of community and government organisations, supporting mental health case management, identifying effective responses to institutional abuse and family violence,.   Alikki also coordinated the program of dispute resolution at La Trobe University School of Law for a decade.  She is Vice President of the Victorian Association for Restorative Practices.

Russell Jeffrey is currently the Manager of Community Conferencing, Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC).  Russell qualified and practiced several trades before qualifying as a social worker, and working in both Scotland and Australia.  He was a youth justice group conferencing facilitator with Jesuit Social Services before becoming the state-wide manager, with the Department of Health and Human Services, of Victoria’s youth justice group conferencing program.  He accepted the full-time position of Manager of Community Conferencing at the NJC in 2016 after the success of an earlier secondment.


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