i’ve been up in kyneton all day, meeting with jenny who heads up prison chaplaincy in Victoria. we’re beginning to plan a conference on restorative justice which is to be held next year. our conversation kept coming around to the fact that restorative justice is something that can only happen when a whole community is brought to restoration… Since our australian community is built upon a fundamental lie that the country has swept under the carpet for the last 200 years, and we can’t even look restorative justice in the eye in that issue, how do we even begin …

[speaking of which, lisa hall is a teacher in Utopia, a remote indigenous community in the NT. she’s a voice I trust in the current sea of ignorant opinions… her blog posts at the moment are heartbreaking and eyeopening].

we realised pretty early on that working out what needs to happen before redemption and restoration are made real in our society is a never ending process, but that we need to begin asking the questions and naming the problems even if we don’t know the solutions to them. that’s counter-cultural in the church, we only like asking questions we can answer.

this was the beginning of our list today:

what do we, as a community, do with prisoners with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities when they leave prison, and when their primary carers [normally their parents] are too old / unable to care for them… and when the government has dismantled the institutions that could have cared for them?
how do we, as a community, look beyond ‘single issues’, which tend to focus on symptoms not problems… [take away gambling and some other addiction will take its place]?
what do we do about the fact that often the only accommodation, post release, that recovering drug addicts can find is with people who are still using?
what do we about the cycle where the parole board won’t release prisoners until they have accommodation, but prisoners can’t get accommodation without knowing when they’ll be released from prison
what do we, as a community, do about the fact that the prison population is increasing, even though the rates of crime are decreasing
what do we, as a community, with the knowledge that the majority of victoria’s prison population comes from just 14 postcodes… and with the knowledge that we’ve known this for years and done nothing about it….
what do we, as a community, do about the fact that much of the prison population is made up of people who are 4th generation unemployed and dependent on welfare…

[i’ve been thinking about why i’m pro-denominational recently, even when i’m pretty ambivalent about church! this is one of the reasons: a denomination has the capacity and resources to work on issues like this. the church has a vision of redemption and restoration which it can offer the world; a denomination has a loud enough voice to advocate to governments, and can do so unapologetically, as well as having resources to put into work that simply wouldn’t get funding any other way.]