Back to top

Restorative practice

We have funded an evaluation of restorative practice in a mental health setting in Queensland. Restorative practice is used in mental health services overseas, and is a way to prevent, respond to, or resolve conflict in mental health settings—however, there has been little research on its effectiveness. 

Trial at The Prince Charles Hospital

Restorative practice is not currently used in mental health services in Australia. However, in an Australian-first trial, restorative practice in mental health services is being used at The Prince Charles Hospital.

The trial is a partnership between The Prince Charles Hospital, Queensland Health Victim Support Service and the Dispute Resolution Branch of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

This project presents a unique opportunity to address the gap in the research on restorative practice, and to trial its effectiveness in a local mental health setting. The Commission has funded an independent evaluation of the trial over three years. 

What is restorative practice?

Restorative practice is a voluntary process for repairing harm caused between people, that is structured to create supported opportunities for communication between the person (or people) harmed and the person (or people) who caused harm—either intentionally or unintentionally. 

The people involved talk about the harm, its impacts, what needs to happen to repair it, and who needs to be involved in that process. The process involves discovering the perspectives of all those involved to aid healing.

About the study

There has been little research on the effectiveness of restorative practice in preventing or responding to conflict in mental health settings, nor what might be good practice in this setting. 

This is despite the fact that restorative practice has been used in mental health and forensic mental health services in the UK, the Netherlands and Canada since 2012.

Project purpose

The evaluation is to assess the benefits of restorative practice in mental health services. 

The evaluation will study the effectiveness of two restorative practice models—one in the Secure Mental Health Rehabilitation Unit and the other in community mental health teams. In particular, they will evaluate whether the model achieves benefits for the people harmed, the people who have caused harm, and the services themselves.

The evaluation will also find opportunities to improve the models and/or the way they are used in mental health settings.

Adopting restorative practice in mental health settings aligns with the Shifting minds whole-of-system improvement focus priorities about:

  • building on reform through the development of mental health, AOD and suicide prevention services and systems
  • strengthening human rights protections, and
  • renewing cross-sector approaches.

Project design

The study will look at both the process and outcomes of restorative practice. 

Study participants include:

  • people with lived experience who have used The Prince Charles Hospital mental health services
  • hospital staff 
  • members of the project team
  • members of the Restorative Practice Project Steering Committee
  • restorative practice facilitators involved in the project, and
  • participants in restorative conferences.

People with lived experience and staff of the Caboolture Hospital Secure Mental Health Rehabilitation Unit will also take part in a comparison study of outcomes. 

Evaluation reports

The evaluation reports deliver important evidence about the value of restorative practice approaches in mental health care.

Next steps

The Commission will continue to support restorative practice in mental health and the evaluation findings will show further options for promoting and supporting any expansion of the trial.