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, over 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.
Our court only hear matters relating to residents of our local government area, including First Nations people and Torres Strait Islanders who have strong connections to the area, and people with no fixed address who are alleged to have offended here. This geographical approach to justice is often called 'post-code justice'.
While tempting to say that this localised approach enables us to build trust with the community, in fact, it compels us to have a heightened awareness of how we honour the trust that we ask our local community to have in us.
The model also means we acutely understand the criminogenic conditions, knowledge that has a flow-on effect when working with allied sectors to address complex issues.
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 and services provided by external services 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 crime prevention role.
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 use our facilities. We even run a social enterprise cafe.
Being a resource and safe space for the community shows how justice centres are as much a part of the fabric of community life as, say local libraries, and offering a welcome space for community to gather is a powerful symbol of accessible, transparent justice.
Security with a smile
As place that is many things to many people, we do not have 'airport' security. Rather, our security guards greet people with a smile, help clients and visitors to navigate the building, and are otherwise in the background unless required to step forward.
There is always one member of the security team on patrol, including walking around the outside of 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 services. To date, we've 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.