Restorative Practice is about creating and nurturing meaningful and just relationships. Rooted in Indigenous traditions and thinking, Restorative Practice helps us recognise our inherent connections to one another and our communities. Good quality relationships between students, teachers, school leadership and other staff humanise the classroom and help create an effective learning environment. Restorative Practice is a way of being, thinking, interacting, teaching and learning – with relationships at the centre of all we do, every day.

desk equipment

Prep Students in Restorative Circle, Fairholme College QLD

It is about EVERYONE

With Restorative Practice no one is disposable in the school (or any) community. We recognise the inherent worth of individuals and the essential ties that bind each of us to each other: in the classroom, in the school, in society and in the broader world.

It is about RIGOUR

With Restorative Practice, we create safe, supportive spaces in our schools where we learn to bravely engage in and learn from crucial, honest, sometimes difficult, conversations. Restorative Practice builds capacity to live in, understand and embrace the real world with all its contradictions and complexities. And it builds capacity to work together to change aspects of the real world that are harmful and unjust.


Restorative Practice brings out our best selves. We build trusting, supportive classroom communities where we find effective ways to respectfully hold ourselves and one another accountable. It is also about accountability to the Indigenous roots of the approach, as a crucial reminder to ensure practices address all forms of social injustice.

It is about EMPATHY and TRUST

Restorative Practice is about learning to listen deeply to one another and to truly see those around us. It is about sharing our own stories and perspectives and attempting to understand the perspectives of others. When we - adults and students - practice mutual respect through our communication, empathy and trust is built and enacted daily. This enables our classrooms to become robust learning communities where we can engage, risk and develop.

Restorative Practice in Classrooms is about LEARNING

Restorative Practice ensures that classrooms are vibrant, dynamic, evolving learning communities built on meaningful relationships between students, teachers and adminstrators. We learn through relationship to value, understand, practice, and build crucial life skills - of working together, supporting and critically challenging one another, and fostering each other’s individual development and the well being of the community as a whole. Restorative pedagogy connects students with themselves and each other and, with that, to their curricula and the world.


One way to understand Restorative Practice in schools is to think through what it is not.

RP is not behaviour management

Restorative Practice in schools is not a behaviour management program. A restorative classroom is a microcosm of society where we recognise - like the larger society of which it is part of - that all our interactions are mediated through relationships. We strive for healthy relationships of mutual respect, support, trust to foster a community where participants can be their whole selves, where learning is natural, where everyone grows. Although behaviour change is a likely outcome of people feeling respected and understood and trusting the processes in place to deal with conflict and harm, behaviour change is not the goal.  

RP is not ‘soft'

Restorative Practice is not a soft approach to classroom management. Restorative Practice in schools challenges simplistic retributive thinking that confuses enforcing discipline, consequences and punishment with being ‘tough’.  Restorative teachers recognise the shortcomings of traditional disciplinary models of education and instead work through their relationships with their students - and facilitating those of students with each other - to hold individuals accountable, to develop personal and collective responsibility, and identify and tackle the actual, underlying issues that students (teachers, and administrators) live with.

RP is not simple

Restorative Practice opens space in the classrooms for curiosity and questioning, which opens doorways into understanding and addressing the complexities, contradictions, nuance and depth that form the realities inside and outside the classroom. Restorative Practice steers away from simple, standardised, conformist and riskless educational doctrines. Classrooms where students learn to trust each other and their teachers and where they know they are respected, supported and safe, are spaces where students learn to critically question the going-ons in their classroom, the substance of their curriculum and the realities and inequalities of the wider world. By definition Restorative Practice embraces complexity and the teaching opportunities it provides.

RP is not about controlling students

Restorative Practice is not about controlling students. Rather than imposing discipline through one-way relationships of dominance and control in the classroom, we develop and nurture the relationships in classrooms to build trust and create spaces of active engagement and mutual support where students, teachers and administrators work together to help each other to grow personally, socially and academically. In Restorative classrooms, discipline is an educative process where all involved (students, teachers, administrators) are supported to recognise their mistakes, be accountable for their actions and learn for the next time. It is not meant to ‘fix’ students but to encourage meaningful communal- and self-reflection.

RP is not easy

It is hard work for students, teachers and adminstrators alike to build the respectful, mutually supportive and robust relationships that are the centre of Restorative classrooms. Those hard yards are risky, they ask us to offer one another attention, respect and trust. Those yards require rigorous thinking, effort and flexibility. The reward is a robust learning classrooms where students flourish as knowledgeable learners, critical thinkers, and engaged citizens.

RP is not a one-off

Restorative Practice is not a technique or a process to be trotted out for a one-off response to an incident of harm. The use of restorative processes as a way to deal with conflict or harm are most potent when embedded in a broader relational ecology within the school, rooted in social justice. The way that harm is dealt with must cohere with how all aspects of schooling and relationships are approached. If that happens, RP becomes a way of being in (and out of) school and we can all reap its lifelong benefits.


Restorative Practice is a multi-faceted concept.  It is open-ended, flexible and responsive to specific needs and circumstances.  As such, RP can be hard to define succinctly. But it is not simply ‘anything’. Importantly, restorative approaches must be guided by relational and justice-oriented principles and values. 

These leading Restorative thinkers and doers put forward their understandings of Restorative Practice: 

Dorothy Vaandering and Kathy Evans

Kathy Evans
& Dorothy Vaandering

United States & Canada

“Facilitating learning communities that nurture the capacity of people to engage with one another and their environment in a manner that supports and respects the inherent dignity and worth of all."


Elizabeth Elliot


"In philosophy and practice, restorative justice asks what is necessary to live collectively and as our ‘best selves’.”

Anita Wadhwa Restorative Justice Coordinator Restorative Empowerment for Youth Texas United States

Anita Wadhwa

United States

“We believe restorative justice is a philosophy that can create space for us to dismantle systems of inequality.”

Mark Vander Vennen Shalem Mental Health Network Canada

Mark Vander Vennen


“Restorative Practice is a way of thinking and being, focused on creating safe spaces for real conversations that deepen relationships and create stronger, more connected communities.”

Richard Hendry, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Richard Hendry


"RJ is fundamentally about building, maintaining and repairing relationships."

Christina Parker Assistant Professor Social Development Studies Univ of Waterloo Ontario Canada

Christina Parker


"In many ways, the Circle process challenges normative discussions—that is, White, upper-class ways of communicating - so that quieter and marginalized voices may be given greater valence and opportunity to participate. ... But dialogue based on a Circle process aims to transform and revolutionize thinking, communicating, and, ultimately, relationships."

Gillean McCluskey Edinburgh Scotland UK

Margaret Thorsborne

Nancy Riestenberg

Gillean McCluskey, Margaret Thorsborne & Nancy Riestenberg 

Scotland, Australia &
United States

“While the terms may vary, the best way to identify a restorative process is to look for the essential elements, the common core: relationship-building practices and interventions that seek to repair and strengthen those relationships”

As a concept, grounded in relationships and responsive to the surrounding context, our understanding of Restorative Practice will continue to evolve.

A word about language

Depending on where you live in the world and on your philosophical viewpoint, you might call these ideas and practices:

- Restorative Justice
- Restorative Justice Education
- Restorative Approach
- Restorative Practice(s)
- or just Restorative

This is an Australian website, so you will find the term Restorative Practice used, the one most often utilised by Australian schools. 

Here is some of the thinking behind the use of the various terms:

Restorative Justice and Restorative Justice Education: In the 1970s, Restorative Justice (RJ) emerged as a response to the failings of the criminal justice system and represented a radical shift in how we saw justice. When restorative ideas and practices were applied to schools in the 1990s, the same term - RJ - was utlised. Some restorative thinkers and educators advocate strongly for maintaining a focus on ‘justice’, since a restorative classroom or school must work to be a just one and focus on just relationships. They see some of the power being stripped away when the terms ‘practices’ or ‘approaches’ are used instead. The term RJ is popular in Canada and the United States. 

Others have sought to distance the approach in schools from that used within the criminal justice field. They prefer Restorative Practice or Approach. 

Restorative Practice: The drawback of the term, Restorative Justice, is that people can become stuck in ideas of victims and offenders; that this is only a process for dealing with harm. Instead, Restorative Practice (RP) focuses on the idea that there are many practices in schools - especially proactive ones which build relationships and teach social skills - that are restorative. The term RP is popular in Australia and England. 

Restorative Approach: The drawback of the term, Restorative Practice, is that we can become fixated on the actual practices, the steps or technique. Instead, Restorative Approach (RA) focuses on how the practices are the outcome of a Restorative relational philosophy and thus it is a way of being, of approaching all aspects of education. The term RA is popular in Scotland. 

Of course, ‘restorative’ is also a contested term! Importantly, it speaks to the origins of the approach - restorative justice. But some argue that a typical reading of the term is a problem in that no one wishes to ‘restore’ people or a community to unjust relations or conditions. Some suggest 'transformative’ more accurately describes the intent of Restorative ideas. Another interpretation, however, is that through relational values and restorative philosophy, we are seeking to restore people and relations to dignity, honour and justice.*

Regardless of the term you use, ensure that your approach is just, relational and lives in both your practice and your way of being. 

*For an excellent discussion of the terms ‘restorative’ and ‘justice’ see:
Vaandering, D. (2011). A faithfull compass: Rethinking the term restorative justice to find clarity. Issues in Criminal, Social and Restorative Justice, 14(3), 307-328.