Artwork: "I’m In Smith St" by Anne Warren
Places and faces
While the Neighbourhood Justice Centre's court focuses on the aftermath of crime, our Crime Prevention & Community Justice team addresses the broad-scale issues that cause, or stem from, crime and social harm.
Taking justice to the streets
As practitioners of community justice we see crime as a problem to be solved through collaboration, and think as much about who is not at the table, as who is.
We also recognise that marginalised communities have the expertise, knowledge, collective wisdom and skills—albeit often latent—to improve their communities.
Taking a strengths-based approach means we don't focus on the problems our communities faces, we focus on our community's strengths, capacities and assets to improve things. In this, justice facilitates, rather than dictates, solutions to crime and social disorder.
It's fair to say that improving the quality of community life (the overarching goal of community justice) takes time, is often challenging work, and requires all participants to reflect on, and change, entrenched biases and assumptions. It also requires skilled facilitation, but it's worth the effort: collectively-developed solutions meet the needs of many not just the rights of a few, and solutions that are germinated in, and for, the community bear fruit.
For a justice centre, working in the community also helps us to gather deeper intelligence about the social, cultural, and political contexts that shape the people we serve and assist, so every conversation we join on the streets informs our court and services.
Smith Street Dreaming illustrates how partnerships can lead to surprising, and surprisingly creative solutions.
Crime prevention in action
Working with our community requires us to wear any number of hats depending on the circumstances and people involved. By and large, we are:
- Leaders: drive the project
- Supporters: advise, provide materials and/or funding, or attend as a show of support
- Brokers: bring groups together
- Builders: provide forums, workshops or training to encourage information exchange, professional development and local collaboration
- Participants: involved in networks, forums, consultative groups
- Hosts: provide space and resources
- Advocates: champion our local community across government and community agencies
Toolkit for working with community
With over a decade's experience, we believe justice requires a set of skills to work in and with the community it services.
- Listen and hear what people say
- Be patient
- Commit to the idea of a ‘good society’
- Tune in what is going on
- Be adaptive and flexible
- Understand and respect cultural and social protocols
- Let go of ego
- Focus on strengths
- Act with integrity
- Don't hold a vested position
- Be hopeful when all around you are feeling hopeless
- Be curious. Ask questions. Enquire.
These aren't are not the standard skills required for traditional criminal justice workers and would rarely be outlined in a position description. However, for community justice practitioners dealing with complex issues, it's skill-set for change.
It takes a village to raise a child
The Neighbourhood Justice Centre is working with over 20 local organisations to give young people in our community the best start in life by fostering healthy behaviour and education.
Young people are vulnerable to taking risks that put them in harm’s way, which is why we are targeting youth alcohol and drug experimentation, anti-social behaviour, sexual risk-taking, and school disengagement.
We’re tackling these issues using Communities That Care (External link) ®, an early intervention and prevention framework.
Our Communities That Care partners include around 18 Yarra schools, the Department of Human Services, and Victoria Police, and a range of social services. Implementation is led by Yarra City Counsel.
We're part of 17 Communities That Care groups in Victoria, including Mornington Peninsula, Myrtleford, Knox, Geelong, Cardinia, Warrnambool, East Gippsland and Bendigo, with around 800 communities worldwide.