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Innovations

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Summary

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) was established to pilot Australia’s first community justice model. This unique position allows the NJC to design trial and implement innovations in justice delivery, innovations that are both big and small.

Significant innovations include:

  • Therapeutic and restorative approach to justice delivery – The Neighbourhood Justice Centre Act (2006) legislated the NJC Court to act in a therapeutic and restorative manner with little formality. For an external analysis of this approach in practice at the NJC court follow this link.
  • Multi-jurisdictional court - The NJC sits as a Magistrate's Court, a Children's Court (Criminal Division), a Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal, and a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). As a result the services are broader and network of partnerships more effective than sole jurisdictions. For people attending court this equates to increased access and destigmatisation, as no one knows why someone attends the NJC.
  • Sole Magistrate –The NJC has a sole magistrate who hears all matters before the court and tribunals. Consequently, the Magistrate has an in-depth understanding of the variety of justice issues facing the City of Yarra. This consistency allows a relationship to develop between the Magistrate and the people attending court. 
  • Problem solving process – this process assists court clients to address difficulties regarding their matters before the court and assist them to get back on track. A Neighbourhood Justice Officer will set up an out of court meeting for the defendant, their legal representatives, and support people to tackle the defendant's problems. This process is about acknowledging that crime is not a contest to be won, but a series of problems to be solved. For a problem solving case study and more information, read the Problem Solving Fact Sheet
  • Use of mediation in court – The NJC refer parties for civil cases directly to mediation as a preferred way to settle. This mediation is available on the spot and involves a single mediator rather than two a different practice to elsewhere and significantly more efficient for clients. This approach has now been adopted by VCAT elsewhere also.
  • Young Adult Restorative Justice Group Conferencing Project (YARJGCP) – The NJC piloted a restorative group conferencing process for young adults.
  • Integrated inreach service model - The NJC offers numerous services for Yarra residents. These service staff are contracted from local agencies and work on site offering holistic case management and a ‘one stop shop’ where multiple services are accessed at the one venue. This service model is unique ensuring clients remain connected to their local services and community.
  • Community Justice Advisory Group –  The NJC implemented a unique community/ government governance structure from 2007 -2011. Members included the NJC Magistrate and Director and community and agency representatives. They met monthly to consider the direction of the NJC. This approach was Yarra specific and going forward it was identified that community justice required a broader structure.
  • Community building - Fundamental to the community justice approach is the ability for the justice system to actively participate in local issues and respond to concerns in a coordinated way with community and partners agencies. With this focus the NJC works with and in the community to strengthen connections and increase civic participation.
  • Court preventing crime – the NJC court is involved in reducing crime in a number of ways including court practices judicial reviews and case management
  • Community usage of the NJC: The deliberative design of the NJC ensures that there are clear community spaces within the building. The NJC has 2 large rooms and several small rooms which are available for community use, free of charge. As well there is a dedicated children’s space. This deliberate design creates a multi purpose building which positively impacts on the atmosphere.
  • Twilight VCAT hearings – The NJC began afternoon VCAT hearings. There was a hypothesis that scheduled day time hearings may have been a factor in poor attendance by respondents in VCAT residential listings.

 

 

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Reviewed: 19/12/2014 © 2016 State Government of Victoria