Thinking outside the box for better justice outcomes
The NJC opened in 2007 as a three-year pilot. Practices tested in those early years are now, a decade later, part of the bricks and mortar of our work. Here's a snapshot of the elements that work for us and which we contend, can work in other courts and for other communities.
The Neighbourhood Justice Centre Act (2006) compels the NJC court to act in a therapeutic and restorative manner, with as little formality and technicality as possible.
Pertinently, the Chief Magistrate must appoint a magistrate who has knowledge or experience of therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice.
One venue, many courts, one community
The NJC is the venue of several courts and tribunals. That is, our one courtroom is the venue for a Magistrate's Court, Children's Court, Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal, and Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
An addition, we only hear matters relating to residents of our local government area (and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with strong connections to the place and people with no fixed address who are alleged to have offended here). This geographical approach to justice is often called 'post-code justice'.
One magistrate presides over the courts, but should we open a second courtroom and need a second magistrate, 'post-code justice' will protect the integrity of the tailored services the community needs.
Read more about our court's problem solving practices here.
Embedded specialist service model
People attending the NJC receive the widest range of treatment and support services in any Australian court, and we can provide these services because of our Embedded Specialist Services Model.
In short, the NJC is home to case workers/clinicians employed directly by the NJC, but the majority of services are provided by external services (including No To Violence, Launch Housing, NEIMI and the Salvation Army) who base staff at the Centre.
Read about the benefits of our Embedded Specialist Services Model.
Proactive crime prevention
Unlike mainstream courts, the NJC also plays a proactive role in reducing crime from happening again or in the first place.
We take our restorative and problem-solving practices to the streets to improve community safety, and to reduce the number of people who end up walking through the doors of our courtroom.
Community use of the NJC
Our building is a community resource; that is community groups, residents and local not-for-profits can use our facilities. We even run a social enterprise cafe.
Being a resource and safe space for the community sheds a new light on the role courts can play to foster trust in, and knowledge about, our justice system.
Security with a smile
As place that's many things to many people, we do not have 'airport' security at our door. Rather, our security guards greet people with a smile, help people navigate the building, and are in the background unless required to step forward.
There is always one member of the security team on patrol, including walking outside the building, and always one guard stationed on the court floor.
This security model supports a mix-use building, and reduces the stigma and stress of entering a courthouse.
Build it, test it, launch it
As the hub of justice innovation, we push ourselves to develop smarter and more efficient justice services. To date, we launched a number of Australian firsts, including the first online intervention application and addiction recovery app in the court environment.
Read more about our digital solutions.