Bonita Holland’s Story

Author: Bonita Holland
Bonita Holland’s Story

Bonita Holland travelled to Australia to research inclusive Restorative Justice practices for students in conflict in schools and young offenders with special needs.

The Fellowship

Australia is one of a number of countries that has been practising Restorative Justice as a response to youth offending, and to bullying or conflict in schools, for over 20 years. However, at the time of Bonita’s Fellowship in 2012, the use of Restorative Justice in the UK was a more recent development. Bonita wanted to observe how experienced facilitators adapted their practices to meet the needs of young people with a range of special needs.

During her Fellowship, Bonita visited schools that are implementing Restorative Justice programmes, attended a conference on Restorative Justice and met with a number of organisations working in this field. A highlight of her trip was visiting the Restorative Justice Unit in Canberra, whose model includes an initial assessment of domestic violence offenders in order to gauge their readiness to engage in a restorative process. She also spent time with the Family Support Service in Goulborn, a visit which Bonita credits with deepening her understanding of the principles which underpin Restorative Justice and profoundly affecting her thinking on the practice.

The Results

Upon her return to the UK, Bonita was commissioned by the Restorative Justice Council (RJC) to produce guidance for practitioners, trainers and managers, which has been disseminated widely. During the next three years, Bonita delivered training workshops across the UK in order to share the good practice she witnessed during her Fellowship, and was honoured to be invited to deliver training to the Youth Offending Teams in Belfast in 2014. Bonita was also part of the RJC quality standards working party, and successfully lobbied for inclusive practice to be made a part of core standards.

Learning from Bonita's Fellowship has proved influential: her report was heavily referenced and quoted in a 2016 book by Margaret Thorsborne, a leader in the field who played a major role in the introduction of restorative practices into schools and workplaces in Australia and internationally. Additionally, a Prison Reform Trust report about looked after children cited as good practice training for residential staff, Youth Offending Teams and foster carers in Surrey, which was developed based on learning from Bonita’s Fellowship.

During her Fellowship, and particularly her time in Goulborn, it became clear to Bonita that many Restorative Justice participants were not ready to engage fully or safely in the process and that a period of pre-process counselling could contribute to successful outcomes for all involved. This realisation ultimately led her to re train as a psychotherapist. She gained her qualification in the summer of 2016.

Read Bonita's report here

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Read more Fellows' Stories in Prison & Justice Reform