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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/practice-approach/practice-framework/whai-matauranga/knowledge-and-research/relational-restorative-theory/
Printed: 19/05/2024
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Whai mātauranga

Last updated: 30/08/2021

Relational-restorative theory

A method of thinking about relationships and their effect on our work and lives. This theory aligns with our practice approach.

What relational-restorative theory is

Relational and restorative theories support the belief that relationships impact deeply in our work.

They challenge us to think about:

  • what kinds of relationships we're establishing
  • how intentional and effective these are in supporting outcomes
  • the quality and power balance within our relationships
  • how we build quality and repair and restore relationships when harm is done.

Why it's important

Research consistently shows that the most important condition for achieving positive outcomes is the quality of the relationships between practitioners and the tamariki and whānau they work with.

Key points

  • Quality relationships are central to wellbeing and pivotal to change for all human beings. Humans are hardwired to connect — just as we need food, shelter and clothing, we also need strong and meaningful relationships to thrive.
  • Quality relationships are built on safety, trust, respect, empathy, honesty, responsibility, power-sharing and other similar characteristics. Quality relationships bring therapeutic benefits for those involved.
  • Restorative practitioners build and maintain positive relationships to prevent harm and to maximise cooperation, progress and healing. They intervene when harm occurs and facilitate restorative conversations to help repair relationships. They make time and space for people to be heard.
  • A key idea in restorative practice is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in authority do things with them and not to them or for them.
  • Truthful dialogue focused on restoring and repairing relationships helps put things right when harm has occurred. When well facilitated, the person harmed and the person who has been harmed both benefit from restorative conversations — and things are not left undone for victims.
  • Punishment may influence behaviour, but it often doesn't address the internal needs and drivers underpinning why people behave in harmful ways. Restorative approaches support people to learn and reflect on their own behaviour, the needs sitting behind their choices, and the needs, feelings and impacts on others.
  • Restorative justice is defined by Chris Marshall, Professor of Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington, as "a way of responding to a wrongdoing and conflict that seeks, above all else, to repair the harm suffered, and to do so by actively involving the affected parties in mutual dialogue and decision-making. The process brings victims, offenders and their supporters together, in a safe and controlled environment with trained facilitators to talk truthfully about what has happened, the impact it has had on their lives, and what is needed to put things right again and prevent recurrence."
  • He defines restorative practices as practice that uses the restorative justice principles of participation, empathy, problem solving and respectful dialogue to "build healthy and equitable relationships between people and to maintain them in times of stress or conflict by utilizing conversational and problem-solving skills. The term describes efforts to create a calm, supportive and cooperative institutional culture where the quality of the relationships between people enables everyone to thrive and succeed together."