In a room filled with attentive listeners, Fiona Landon, with over two decades of experience as a Restorative Justice (RJ) facilitator, took the stage. She’s not just any facilitator; she’s the founder and senior facilitator for Project Restore NZ, a trailblazing initiative that has spent over 15 years addressing the complex and delicate realm of sexual harm through restorative justice processes.
Landon began her presentation by journeying back to the inception of Project Restore NZ. The project was born from the genuine concerns of survivors who often felt disenfranchised by their experiences within the traditional criminal justice system. With a passion to bring a semblance of peace, understanding, and closure to these survivors, the project chose to employ RJ processes tailored to meet victim survivors’ justice needs. This approach was designed to operate both in conjunction with and as an alternative to the conventional justice system.
As she delved into the diverse cases they handled over the years, the sheer variety was staggering. From addressing harm within families and whanau to assisting adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, their endeavors were vast and multifaceted. Landon shared poignant stories of their work with churches, workplaces, and entire communities, each a testament to the effectiveness of restorative processes in healing wounds and fostering understanding.
One of the most compelling parts of Landon’s presentation was the discussion on the learnings from these myriad cases. It was evident that this wasn’t just about recounting success stories; it was about analyzing, learning, and evolving. She spoke candidly about the challenges they faced, from the delicate task of ensuring both parties felt heard and respected to navigating the complexities of cultural and societal norms.
A few crucial takeaways emerged. First, the importance of a survivor-driven approach. Every case was unique, and the process had to be tailored to the individual needs of the survivor, ensuring their voice was central. Secondly, the restorative justice approach was not a one-size-fits-all solution. While many found solace and closure, others still preferred the structure and formality of the traditional system. Finally, the profound importance of an experienced, compassionate facilitator who could guide the process with sensitivity, understanding, and respect for all parties involved.
Landon’s humility shone through as she emphasized that the journey wasn’t without its missteps. However, every challenge was an opportunity for growth, and every success story was a testament to the transformative power of restorative justice in healing the profound wounds of sexual harm.
As the presentation came to a close, the audience was left with a profound sense of both the complexities and possibilities of using restorative justice in such a sensitive domain. Fiona Landon’s 15-year endeavor with Project Restore NZ was more than just a recounting of experiences. It was a beacon for all those believing in the power of empathy, understanding, and dialogue as tools for healing and justice.