Over Conflict Resolution Service’s 30+ years of working with diverse members of the community, contributing to the resolution of varying disputes, and employing diverse and evolving service types… One thing has remained the same – our overarching vision of working towards ‘A restorative Canberra built on relationships that positively transform conflict’. But what does a “restorative” city look like in real life? What does this mean for Canberrans? And what does it take to turn this vision into an attainable reality?
Forging a restorative city
In answering the first and most germane question, “what is a restorative city?” consider the definition of the word “restorative” in itself, ‘serving to restore, capable of renewing health, and strengthening’. Now apply that definition in the context of our local people, relationships and what it means to live in, connect with and be a part of our Canberra community as a whole.
We must ask ourselves – how can we live, breath and work in ways that foster connections to one another, that we all universally need to feel welcome, well and safe? It’s as much about both striving to overcome current obstacles standing in the way of relationships, inclusion and accepting differences; as it is about recognising relevant problems and harm that has been done in the past to avoid missteps as we move into the future.
There will always be areas to mend or bolster in paving the conceivably gold brick road, to eventually reach this idealistic city view. That’s why it is referred to as a restorative approach.
In the fitting words of Canberra Restorative Community (CRC), by “having this as the common goal core to all that we do, the fostering of relationships and connections that are just and healthy, marked by equality of respect, care, and dignity… [will be ever more attainable.]”
The building blocks for constructing this capital goal
Having the ambition to build this construct is one thing, putting it into working practice for our community is another. Unfortunately, as with many contemporary methods, no one size fits all. Each situation has different elements to consider such as culture and relevant expectations surrounding a range of topics like justice, child protection, education and workplace safety, for example.
While there are practices, processes, policies, and strategies surrounding each of these topics that can lay a blueprint for us to learn from in positively evolving our relationships, communication styles and resolving disputes. When it comes to ensuring that we can then build upon and utilise such principles in the best possible, future-thinking way, we need to consider various criteria.
In this way, the restorative approach is best sign-posted as being:
- Relationship focused: By extending the scope from looking at just individuals and individual issues, to holistically considering broader contexts and scenario connections.
- Demanding inclusive/participatory strategies: allowing us to not only listen to but learn from those involved in varying situations while empowering them to participate in decision making.
- Democratic: Ensuring equal access and voice in any deliberative processes, so that all views can be heard before any major decisions are made.
- Future-focused: Looking towards building a positive future, rather than looking back down a darker path filled with blame and shifted accountability.
- Not risk-averse: Seeking to understand and avoid harm, while taking into consideration that all relationships are dynamic and forever changing. This requires a flexible approach that can respond to such changes and unexpected or new circumstances.
Enhancing the blueprint and laying the foundations
Fostering strong relationships is undoubtedly a fundamental base for achieving this goal – but building upon and cultivating Canberra relationships and collaborations in this way also extends past the rapport of the personal connections or the individual Canberran. CBC notes that successfully obtaining this vision will “take strong collaborations and genuine commitments to work in partnership with one another across government and community, across private and public sectors, within government, across the silos created by lines of responsibility and budget, across the political spheres and public administration, across academia and community, and across theory and practice.”
That’s where we come in. By practicing what is preached in this sense, we engrain this restorative ethos into the fabric of everything that we do at CRS. From the bottom-line principles that fall under our values of being professional, effective, accessible and enabling for the people of Canberra; to our antecedent mission to repair and strengthen relationships by preventing, managing and resolving conflict; to influencing recognition and change amongst broader community bodies, by creating corporate partnerships and petitioning to governmental bodies on relevant topics. We aim to be a key foundation to lean on and to guide Canberra to reach this idealistic destination.
For further information on what a restorative city and community means for Canberra, read more here.