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The Learning Hub provides educational information and academic articles on the underpinning elements of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre's practice. Click on the sections below to learn more.


Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation and Problem Solving

What is it?

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is often professed as an alternative to traditional litigation. It has the potential to decrease costs to the individual and thus improve access to justice.

ADR is 'an umbrella term which is generally applied to a range of techniques for resolving disputes other than by means of traditional court adjudication.'[1]

ADR processes offer a number of benefits: the processes can be conducted in private; there is a focus on problem solving; it can provide a win-win (as opposed to win-lose) situation; it can repair relationships; it focuses on commercial realities of disputes rather than legal technicalities, and it is less stressful for parties than court procedures.[2]

One of the most advantageous aspects of ADR is that it is said to reduce costs, and in turn, provide an alternative pathway by which individuals can access justice.[3] It negates the need for many of the legal costs required in the traditional litigation process.


'Mediation is essentially negotiation facility by a neutral third party.'[4] The role of a mediator is to search for a solution that advances shared interests and reconciles conflicting interests, assisting parties to reach a consensual solution to their dispute.[5]


'Problem-solving approaches to justice have been developed over the last decade to address the underlying causes of crime and to find solutions to the complex problems facing offenders, victims and the community. These approaches aim to stop, or at least slow, the 'revolving door' where some offenders move in and out of the criminal justice system.'[6]

How it works at NJC

(Fact-sheet - Problem Solving Process)

'Problem solving is a court process unique to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre that helps people to address the difficulties relevant to their current matters before the court.

The Problem Solving Process involves a voluntary out-of-court meeting, organised by the Neighbourhood Justice Officer. The defendant, their legal representatives, and support people all come together to discuss the matters at court, develop options and to tackle any underlying problems of the person who is attending court.

[1] Hazel Genn, Judging Civil Justice - The Hamlyn Lectures 2008 (2010), Chatper 3, 'ADR and civil justice: what's justice got to do with it?' 80.

[2] Hazel Genn, Judging Civil Justice - The Hamlyn Lectures 2008 (2010), Chapter 3, 'ADR and civil justice: What's justice got to do with it?' p 81-82.

[3] Hazel Genn, Judging Civil Justice - The Hamlyn Lectures 2008 (2010), Chapter 3, 'ADR and civil justice: What's justice got to do with it? P 116.

[4] C W Moore, The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict (Jossey-bass, San Francisco, 1991)  14, cited in B. Wolski, The Role and the Limitations of Fisher and Ury's Model of Interest-Based Netogiation in Mediation.

[5] R. Fisher and W Ury, Getting to Yes (2nd ed, Business Books Limted London, 1981),  12, cited in B. Wolski, The Role and the Limitations of Fisher and Ury's Model of Interest-Based Negotional in Mediation,  210.

[6] Victorian Auditor-General's Report, (2011) Problem-Solving Approaches to Justice, p. 2.

Want to know more?

Addicted to Courts: How a growing dependence on drug courts impacts peoples and communities

Nastassia Walsh, a report of the Justice Policy Institute Washington, 2011. This report looks at the effectiveness of specialised drug courts in the USA, the simultaneous treatment of drug use as a crime and a disease

Alternatives to Imprisonment: Community views in Victoria

Dr Karen Gelb, a publication of the Sentencing Advisory Council, 2011. This report presents evidence of community views in Victoria about the use of alternatives to imprisonment. It is the first in a series of reports that the Council will publish on community views about crime, courts and sentencing

Community legal centres’ view on ADR as a means of improving access to justice – Part 1

Lola Akin Ojelabi, Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal, 2011. This article reports on views of community legal centres (CLCs) in Victoria on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a means of improving access to justice for disadvantaged members of the community.

Doing justice locally: The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre

George Mair and Matthew Millings, a Publication for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies London, 2011. This publication discusses the opening of the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre. It covers the Centre’s aims of enhancing the working relationships between criminal justice agencies and the local community in the criminal justice system

Principles of Problem-solving justice
Robert V. Wolf, a publication supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2007. This publication looks at the new challenges of applying the principles of problem-solving courts beyond specialised courts.

Problem-Solving Approaches to Justice

 D D R PEARSON Auditor-General of Victoria, a report of the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, 2011. This audit examines whether the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the Court Integrated Services Program are achieving their intended outcomes. It also assesses whether the programs are based on sound evidence and research and whether the department and the court are effectively managing the programs

The Reality of Non-Advererial Justice – Principles and Practice
Judy Gutman, Deakin Law Review, 2009. Contemporary best practice lawyering demands recognition and acceptance of the shift towards non-adversarial dispute resolution processes. Legal educators and regulators must also act on the new reality of lawyering

What can mainstream courts learn from problem-solving courts?

Michael King, Alternative Law Journal. 2007. This article analyses key principles underlying problem-solving court processes in the light of therapeutic jurisprudence and suggests how mainstream courts can use them.


Restorative Justice

What is Restorative Justice?

'Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasises repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour.' It is best accomplished when the parties themselves meet cooperatively to decide how to do this. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.'[1]

'The parties affected by harmful behaviour are engaged in reaching a common understanding of what has happened and in determining collectively how best to deal with the aftermath of what has happened.'[2]

How Restorative Justice works at NJC

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre seeks to apply a restorative justice approach in its everyday operation.

Section 5(a) of the Courts Legislation (Neighbourhood Justice Centre) Act 2006 provides that: 'In assigning a magistrate to the Neighbourhood Justice Division, the Chief Magistrate must have regard to the magistrate's knowledge of, or experience in the application of, the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice.'

The NJC encourages active participation in the justice process for victims, offenders, their families, and the community. 

Want to know more?

An overview of restorative justice around the world

Daniel W Van Ness, A paper from the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, 2005

This paper will provide an overview of the current use of restorative justice around the world.


Restorative Justice: the Evidence

Lawrence W Sherman and Heather Strang, a Smith Institute Publication, 2007

This is a non-governmental assessment of the evidence on restorative justice in the UK and internationally, carried out by the Jerry Lee Centre of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania for the Smith Institute in London. The purpose of this review is to examine what constitutes good-quality restorative justice practice, and to reach conclusions on its effectiveness, with particular reference to re-offending


Therapeutic Jurisprudence

What is Therapeutic Jurisprudence?

'Therapeutic a mechanism for promoting law reform using wellbeing as the lens through which the law is studied and the behavioural sciences as the source of possible remedies that could be adapted for use within the legal system.'[1]

'Therapeutic jurisprudence focuses on the law's impact on emotional life and on psychological well-being.'[2]

As Mr David Fanning, Magistrate of the NJC stated in a recent interview: 'The whole underpinning of therapeutic jurisprudence is to actually deal with those fundamental underlying causes of offending. If you deal with those issues - the housing issues, the mental health issues, the drug and alcohol issues - then you will affect the offending behaviour.'

How Therapeutic Jurisprudence works at the NJC

Therapeutic jurisprudence is a fundamental concept in the Neighbourhood Justice Centre.

The consideration and application of a therapeutical jurisprudential approach to justice has been codified in NJC's relevant legislation.

Section 5(a) of the Courts Legislation (Neighbourhood Justice Centre) Act 2006 provides that: 'In assigning a magistrate to the Neighbourhood Justice Division, the Chief Magistrate must have regard to the magistrate's knowledge of, or experience in the application of, the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice.'

The notion of therapeutic jurisprudence is a major consideration in the sentencing process.

The NJC is also unique in that it conducts court reviews with clients on Community Based Orders after they receive their court order. Court reviews are an opportunity for the client to return to court and sit with the Magistrate to discuss their progress regarding their order. It is a great opportunity for the Magistrate to either reaffirm that the client is on the right track and offer positive reinforcement, or to inform the client that they have not been adequately keeping up and to let them know that there will be serious consequences. It is also a chance for the client to provide important feedback to the court.

Community Justice

What is Community justice?

'Community justice broadly refers to all variants of crime prevention and justice activities that explicitly include the community it their processes and set the enhancement of community quality of life as a goal.'[1]

'The overarching factors that distinguish the community justice model from other alternative approaches are:

  • Applying therapeutic and restorative practices not only for crime but for social and cultural problems affecting a specific neighbourhood or community;
  • Community members play a meaningful, collaborative and ongoing role in the life of their community justice centre.'[2]

Karp and Clear (2000)[3] have identified a number of key elements, principles, processes and outcomes specific to the community justice model:

  1. It operates at a neighbourhood level;
  2. It is problem-solving;
  3. It decentralises authority and accountability;
  4. It prioritises a community's quality of life; and
  5. It involves citizens in the justice process.

How Community Justice works at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre is Australia's first and only Community Justice Centre. The elements of a community justice model are evident in the structure and organisation of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre.

Want to know more?

Community Justice: A Conceptual Framework
Karp & Clear, Criminal Justice Review, 2000. Karp and Clear develop a conceptual framework for community justice. Their exploration of the subject includes the following topics: the emergence of community justice; the community justice ideal; key elements of community justice; principles of community justice; an integrity model of community justice; and current issues in community justice.

Community Justice Around The Globe: An International Overview
Robert V. Wolf, Crime and Justice International, 2006. An overview of community courts and community prosecution initiatives around the world.

Principles of Community Justice: A Guide for Community Court Planners
Greg Berman, Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice, Centre for Court Innovation, 2010
This guide is intended to help criminal justice reformers who are interested in learning more about community courts.

Initial Evaluation of Reconviction Rates in Community Justice Initiatives
Darrick Jolliffe and David P. Farrington, United Kingdom Ministry of Justice, July 2009
The aim of the project was to assess the initial impact of the Community Justice Initiatives in North Liverpool and Salford on later measures of offending.

Community Courts: An Evolving Model
Eric Lee, Deputy Director for the Center for Court Innovation, US Department of Justice, 2000
A paper about the development of community courts and its changing role.

What Community Policing Teaches Us About Community Justice
Bonnie Bucqueroux, accessed from
The purpose of this article is to explore both the opportunities and the obstacles of community justice, in the hope of encouraging experiment and innovation and avoiding mistakes.

An Overview of Restorative Justice Around the World                                                                                                                    Daniel W Van Ness, A Paper from the Eleventh 



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Reviewed: 16/2/2016 © 2016 State Government of Victoria