Restoring well-being following a crime is something the Wairarapa Restorative Justice team delights in watching unfold.
The programme, run through Featherston's Presbyterian Support Service Family Works, has been offering services for the past three years, bringing offenders and victims together in a safe and controlled environment. This allows the offender to acknowledge their wrongdoing and both sides to reach an agreement on putting it right.
With a wealth of experience in social work and from taking part in the pilot Restorative Justice programme with Mana Social Services in Rotorua, co-ordinator Lynne Whata helped launch the service in Wairarapa and said it was highly successful locally.
Two staff members facilitate a meeting between victim and offender giving the victim a chance to talk about how they feel and the offender the chance to put it right.
Cases are referred through the courts by judges but people can refer themselves as well. The vision of the service is to do what is right, be self-aware and be compassionate to all.
"I've been passionate about restorative justice. I like it because it gives victims a voice. It restores mana ... it has worked in every case so far. You can see the offender be remorseful and you get to see the victim telling them how the incident has hurt them and their family. It's healing for the victim and accountability for the offender."
People can choose to take part in the process or not.
"They can opt out at any time but if they stay there it's healing."
The most difficult cases to work through were generally car accidents or a hunting accident where a death had occurred, Mrs Whata said.
"It can be very emotional for everyone involved. It's hard not to let it affect you. Death can be a hard one. There is a lot of emotion from both sides. It's awful. Most families are still grieving." Offenders don't often realise just how much harm they caused and often victims don't know the reasons behind the offender's actions until such meetings take place, she said.
"They think it's going to be easy but then they realise it is not ... Often the circumstances aren't known until they are face-to-face. Often the victim wants to help the offender so they don't go down this track again. It's all part of the healing process for them. The offender realises the wrong and harm they have caused and it helps put them back on track. It makes them see it from their victim's point of view. It restores that healing, restores mana for everyone involved."
It's one job this seasoned social worker really enjoys doing too. "I love it because it results in a good outcome for the community. That's what it is all about for me and the rest of the team."
Restorative Justice staff can be contacted by calling (06) 308 8028 or by emailing email@example.com.