Restorative Practice: Building a Stronger Community

Siobhan Bloomfield
Assistant Principal, Student Wellbeing and Engagement at St Aloysius College

A cornerstone of our approach

Restorative practice is used to create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel heard and valued and where conflicts can be resolved in a constructive manner. The restorative practice has its roots in the traditions and practices of Indigenous communities, such as the Māori people. Based on principles of empathy and accountability, one of the key benefits of restorative practices is the emphasis on repairing harm and addressing conflicts through dialogue and understanding.

At St Aloysius, we use restorative practices to assist staff, students, and other community members in maintaining and restoring relationships by prioritising repairing relationships that have been harmed and creating a sense of belonging for each community member. Restorative practice views wrongdoing as a violation of relationships rather than just a violation of rules. We implement restorative practices as we understand that the most profound learning occurs where healthy relationships are fostered. This approach seeks to reduce repeat offences by addressing the root causes of harmful behaviour, which may include incidents of bullying, disruptive classroom behaviour or disrespectful conduct in the wider community. The effectiveness of restorative practice lies in its ability to foster empathy, promote accountability and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their actions through the use of open dialogue and the exploration of the impact of actions on others to allow those who have caused harm to actively participate in making amends.

Restorative practices are a cornerstone of our approach at St Aloysius. We understand that our students are constantly developing cognitively, emotionally, and socially at different ages and stages. The principles of restorative practice , which focus on understanding what has happened, support our students in building the increasingly complex skills needed to build, maintain, and repair relationships. By seeking to understand the motivations behind people's actions and the impact of their actions on themselves and others, we tailor our high-quality implementation of these practices to the age, stage, and life context of our students, fostering their social and emotional development.

Developing our student's social and emotional competency

Our students are supported in engaging with restorative practices through the development of their Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) capabilities. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions (CASEL). As part of Nourish, a component of the College's Wellbeing Program, the SEL capabilities are embedded in various programs specially designed to focus on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Teaching SEL to our students through direct instruction, schoolwide practices, and policies, we focus on helping our young people build skills in each domain, and we understand that it is an ongoing process. The use of restorative practice plays a crucial role in nurturing our student's SEL competencies, and through using restorative practice, we provide our student's opportunities to practice social and emotional skills to express their emotions, listen and respond to the feelings of others and develop empathy.

What Restorative Practice Looks Like at St Aloysius College

The critical components of the restorative practice process at the College include:

  • Dialogue and Mediation. Through the facilitation of open communication between the person who has been harmed and the offender
  • Accountability – Through encouraging the offender to take responsibility for their actions
  • Repairing Harm – Through the identification and implementation of ways to make amends

Bullying, a pervasive issue in schools across Victoria, can have a long-lasting effect on the person who has been harmed, perpetrators and the broader school community. Research has indicated that the traditional punitive approaches can often lead to failing to address the underlying causes of bullying behaviour and may not provide closure or healing for the person who has been harmed. Implementing restorative practice, we address the root causes of bullying by fostering empathy and understanding among the school community. The person who has been harmed is given a voice and an active role in the resolution process. Offenders are encouraged to understand the impact of their actions and are supported to develop more positive social behaviours. Studies have indicated that students who participate in restorative practice are less likely to engage in repeated bullying behaviours, as restorative practice focuses on behavioural change and accountability rather than just punishment for actions. Students who have been harmed through bullying and who participate in restorative practices feel heard and validated, which can support the student in mitigating any psychological impact felt through bullying.

Student Voice

Each year students contribute to the Student Code of Conduct, a document developed by students, in the language of students, ensuring they hold themselves responsible for upholding the College Mission and Mercy Values, reporting bullying and refraining from participating in disrespectful and unsafe behaviour.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2018). Core SEL competencies. Chicago: CASEL. Retrieved from