Thursday, 3 May 2018 - 10:51am

Restorative justice, online and free

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A new free, online university course is offering insights into New Zealand’s leading role in the field of restorative justice – and Police has helped develop the content.

Victoria University of Wellington is offering the course Restorative Justice and Practice: Emergence of a Social Movement as part of its VictoriaX MOOC programme of Massive Open Online Courses.

The university describes the course as an introduction to the theory and practice of restorative justice.

It traces New Zealand’s pioneering role in bringing restorative practices into its justice, welfare and education systems, and teaches restorative practices and how they can bring positive change.

The content includes a video interview with Assistant Commissioner Wally Haumaha, Deputy Chief Executive Māori.

Professor Chris Marshall, Diana Unwin Chair in Restorative Justice in the School of Government, says the course is pitched at people who want to know more about the general principles and how they spilled from the justice sector into other areas.

The early weeks have a stronger focus on criminal justice before it moves toward looking at the use of restorative techniques in discipline and dispute resolution in education and elsewhere.

Chris cites victim/offender meetings, Te Pae Oranga iwi panels and Commissioner Mike Bush’s apology to Tūhoe on behalf of Police over Operation 8 as examples of Police embracing restorative principles.

“Some of the stuff going on in Police at the moment is really interesting,” he says. “There’s a real openness to this sort of process.”

Wally, the Police Commissioner’s representative on the national governance body for restorative justice, says the course will complement Police staff’s work in Prevention First and alternative resolutions.

“Iwi panels are absolutely part of the restorative justice approach, bringing together the victim and the offender,” he says. “In fact, we’d say it was an ideal model of the restorative process.”

The six-week course calls for a commitment of two to five hours each week. It is free, though there is a charge for a verified certificate.

It is facilitated through edX, a not-for-profit organisation which works in partnership with education providers worldwide.

The course launched this week but enrolments are still open.