Seeking Justice in the 21st century : The Contested Politics of Race and Gender


This lecture discusses the articulation between the new justice practices of restorative justice and Indigenous justice, and the politics of race and gender. The speaker describes the findings from her research into youth justice conferences in South Australia, and then discusses Indigenous and non Indigenous women’s views of restorative justice; restorative justice and sexual assault; and Indigenous justice practices, including Indigenous courts and sentencing circles. She discusses the reasons for the racialised split in women’s views on restorative justice; the advantages of restorative justice in cases of youth sexual violence; and the lessons learned in Canada about the uses of sentencing circles in remote areas for sexual and family violence. For over a decade, Canadian Indigenous women have raised questions about the use of Hollow Water type healing circles and sentencing circles, arguing that these may treat offenders too leniently in the name of community interests and ‘cultural differences’. Compared to Canada, less criticism has been raised by Australian Indigenous women on the ways in which male community leaders may use circle sentencing to their advantage, together with the lack of resources and safety for victims. The lecture concludes that the promises of the new justice are running ahead of practices, which are still largely offender centred. Those victims who wish to participate in restorative justice or Indigenous justice should be brought in on a more equal footing. Without finding common ground between the aspirations of Indigenous and feminist or women’s social movements, experiments with new justice practices will not succeed.

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