Richard Dening's picture
Richard Dening
Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice Unit of the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate

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Practitioner Restorative Stories

The Restorative Justice Unit process and its elements

Publication Date: 

The process is coordinated by a ‘convenor’ or a pair of convenors for complex and serious matters, who prepares for RJ and helps everyone talk to one another.

Three stages are involved:

(a) What happened? The offender talks about what, how and why they did what they did and how they think others were affected.

(b) How were people affected? Starting with the victim, the convenor asks everyone what they thought and felt... Read more

Stories of Harm and Healing

Publication Date: 
Ben’s story

I dropped out of high school and got into a bad situation with a bunch of guys from my suburb. One day we broke into a house and stole a heap of stuff. Then we took off with the car and ended up writing it off.

After we got busted, the police said I could do RJ or go to court. Meeting the people I hurt – Chris and Leigh, was really nerve-wracking because I knew I had done a terrible thing to them. But I also knew it was... Read more

About the Practitioner

Field of Interest: 

The Restorative Justice Unit provides Restorative Justice Conferencing for criminal matters in the ACT justice system.


Richard undertook degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Law at the University of Queensland. He saw Restorative Justice was a way of addressing some of the challenges of the legal system informed by insights from peace studies and behavioural sciences.

Richard subsequently became involved as a volunteer with the Alternatives to Violence Project which is a peer facilitated nonviolence program in the community, schools and prisons. The program was developed in the 1970s in the USA by a group of long-term prisoners in collaboration with Quakers and civil rights leaders to address violence in prisons. It was Restorative Justice without the title, and helped Richard develop a deep understanding of how to work with people in a group context to understand their own needs and values and empower them to deal with difficult issues and conflicts in their lives. 

Richard went on to work as part of Queensland's Mental Health Court, however, noting that restorative approaches to enhance the criminal justice process, was propelled into the Restorative Justice field.

Richard completed training in Restorative Justice Conferencing in 2010 before joining the Queensland Dispute Resolution Branch as a Restorative Justice Convenor in 2013. He eventually went on to manage this multi-location service (covering Brisbane, Gold Coast, Cairns and Townsville).

Along the journey, Richard also worked in conflict management with emergency services personnel, and also undertook a project on dialogue-based (mediation, family group decision-making and Restorative Justice) prevention and response for elder abuse. Richard is also an accredited mediator and a conflict coach and these skills and experience strongly inform his practice as a Restorative Justice convenor. 

Brings to the Discussion: 

The ACT has been at the forefront of Restorative Justice, establishing a legislated scheme in 2004 with a phased introduction providing for Restorative Justice conferencing at any stage of the criminal process. This was fully implemented in 2018. The scheme was introduced in a staged manner, commencing with youth in 2005, expanding to include adults and serious offences in 2016, and gender based violence in 2018.

It is recognised as the most comprehensive offering of any jurisdiction in the country and is the model for many other states and territories.

The team of 12 in the Restorative Justice Unit come from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of experiences including legal and dispute resolution, youth work, corrections, education and psychology . There are two positions for identified First Nations people, an Indigenous Guidance Partner and an Indigenous Convenor, who work with the whole team to ensure a safe and supportive environment for First Nations participants.

Staff have had access to first class training in Restorative Justice conferencing from trainers and practitioners from all over the country and abroad. This was particularly crucial as part of receiving endorsement to commence working with matters involving gender based violence in 2018.

Additional Information: 

The work of the unit is trauma-informed and victim-centred and works hard to provide a culturally safe environment for First Nations people.


Organisational Role(s): 
  • Director
  • Children's Court
  • Community based
  • ACT Director of Public Prosections
  • Bimberi Youth Justice Centre
  • Local Court
  • ACT Policing
  • ACT Magistrates Court
  • Alexander Maconochie Centre-adult correction centre in the ACT
  • Referrals from the adult and youth justice system
  • ACT Supreme Court
  • Victims of crimes
Services Offered: 
  • Corrections and prisons
  • Criminal Justice
  • Elder Abuse
  • Gendered violence
  • Policy development
  • Program development
  • Reflective practice
  • Research
  • Responding to child sexual abuse
  • Responding to sexual assault/harm
  • Restorative Circles
  • Restorative Conferencing
  • Sexual assault
  • Youth justice

Practitioner Location and Reach

Civic, ACT, 2601
Area Covered: 
Territory -ACT