The convenors listed below were selected in 2016 for a National Panel.
Each was officially accredited by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman as qualified to facilitate a Restorative Engagement Conference.
A Direct Personal Response (DPR) meeting in the context of the National Redress Scheme uses essentially the same format as Restorative Engagement, and so each of the listed convenors should also be qualified to work as a DPR facilitator.
The Australian Association for Restorative Justice strongly supports the use of appropriately qualified professional facilitators in the National Redress Scheme.
A detailed rationale for engaging a DPR facilitator is provided below.
New South Wales
0438 677 019
Michelle de Vries
0430 249 009
0407 044 019
0405 459 535
0408 447 525
0407 044 020
0402 057 754
0438 083 395
0418 272 449
John A McGruther
0433 474 728
0434 278 577
0418 165 997
0402 776 647
0405 336 206
0476 061 988
0416 059 662
1300 110 010
0407 561 875
0417 167 580
0431 287 717
0412 368 823
0417 336 806
0412 809 902
0411 643 857
0414 299 142
0418 554 129
0402 235 557
0447 710 062
0439 875 475
0 3 9077 2163
0403 656 063
0417 465 505
Dr Alikki Vernon
0401 585 416
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A FACILITATOR IN A DIRECT PERSONAL RESPONSE?
The word “facilitate” means to make easier. When a group of people need to meet, a professional facilitator can make it easier for them to meet effectively. The facilitator takes responsibility for the meeting process. Typically, responsibility extends beyond convening the meeting. Responsibility extends to preparatory work beforehand, and follow-up afterwards. When a facilitator acts as a guide through these stages of a process, the participants can better focus on the content.
This distinction between the content of a meeting – what participants talk about – and the process – how they talk – may seem simple enough. Yet it is frequently overlooked. The common failure to distinguish the content of a meeting from the process is illustrated by three very different meanings of the word agenda:
1. “Agenda”most often refers to the content of a meeting: the issues being discussed.
2. However, “agenda”may also refer to the meeting process: the order in which those issues are addressed; whether there is simply a presentation, or some discussion,or more thorough deliberation; how questions are asked, and so on.
3. If content and process are not clearly distinguished, a meeting can be undermined by “hidden agendas”.
“Hidden agendas”, by definition, are not discussed – but rarely are they entirely hidden. They tend to manifest in a meeting as unconstructive behaviours, inexplicably strong feelings, &/or thoughts made audible as puzzling comments. The more complex the issues, and the stronger the feelings around those issues, the greater the risk that hidden agendas will undermine the fairness of the process, and of any agreed outcome.
In some situations, a facilitator can design a meeting, or series of meetings, from first principles, to meet the needs of participants in a particular individual case. In other situations, a facilitator may work for a program that deals with some particular type of case.
Programs that deal with particular types of case typically offer a process with a very specific format. A Direct Personal Response is an example of one such process with a very particular format, designed to deal with one particular type of case.
A Direct Personal Response is made available as part of a “redress package” offered by the National Redress Scheme.
Redress is available to a person who experienced sexual abuse as a child, while in the care of an institution. A common element in such cases is that the institution failed in its duty of care. It failed to prevent the abuse, and then typically also failed to respond adequately or appropriately when abuse was reported. The original abuse was compounded by the institution’s failure to meet its duty of care.
Someone who experienced abuse in an institutional context typically lives with a legacy of “betrayal trauma”. The redress package to address this betrayal trauma consists of (i) a reparation payment, (ii) additional counselling, &/or (iii) an opportunity to engage in a Direct Personal Response meeting.
The Royal Commission noted that, for some survivors, a direct personal response may be the most meaningful part of the redress experience, and have the longest lasting positive impact. Survivors wish to: speak to their experiences in a safe environment, to be heard, understood and believed; have the abuse and its impacts acknowledged; and then have the institution accept responsibility, provide a genuine apology, and then a clear account of measures to prevent abuse recurring and arrangements for responding more effectively to any future reports of abuse.
The Direct Personal Response can be understood as a restorative process.
Although designed specifically to deal with betrayal trauma, a Direct Personal Response is informed by the same general principles as other restorative processes. The first general principle is to (i) do no further harm. This is necessary-but-not-sufficient. A restorative process must also maximise the opportunity to heal, and healing work requires two further general principles: (ii) work with people wherever possible – in preference to doing things to or for them – and (iii) work to set relations right.
As it happens, the phrase Direct Personal Response may not fully reflect these foundational principles. “Response” implies a one-way dynamic of communication, whereby a representative of the institution offers an apology, which the survivor can choose to receive. A transaction this simple will rarely set relations right.
Meaningful apology usually requires more complex engagement, and is best understood as a process. If conducted correctly, meaningful apology can have a transformational effect and set-relations-right. And this transformation is most likely where the dynamic is less that of providing an outcome in the form of a “response”, and more that of engaging directly in a process. Thus, meaningful apology comes through Direct Personal Engagement.
For those involved to engage, directly and personally, in meaningful apology, this requires that they:
- recognise what happened and the impact that it has had; then
- provide Reasons, by identifying how it happened, and how it has had that impact; then
- allocate Responsibility, by reflecting on where culpability lies, including the extent to which a specific case illustrates general systemic failures; then
- express Regret with empathic sorrow; and only then
- agree on Redress, by identifying what can be done, as far as possible, to repair harm, prevent further harm, and promote well-being.
The people involved are trying to diagnose accurately how the past affects the present. This requires that they systematically recognise what has happened, provide adequate reasons, and attribute responsibility fairly. Only when the people involved have worked their way through this sequence, and so reached a shared understanding, does it make sense then to:
- express formal regret –
because now there is an adequate understanding of what is regretted – and
- agree on redress –
because now there is an adequate understanding of what needs to be repaired, what harmful outcomes need to be prevented, and what healing outcomes need to be promoted.
To help ensure that participants can address all these elements of a meaningful apology, and in the right sequence, a Direct Personal Response meeting is divided into distinct stages:
- the survivor recounts their experiences, and the impact of those experiences (possibly with some contribution from their supporter(s))
- the institutional representative then responds;
- there is open dialogue between all participants;
- negotiation around any further actions.
It is highly unlikely that all of these elements of the process will fall into place by chance or good luck.
The Royal Commission noted a range of ways in which existing programs and processes failed procedurally. A facilitator can help achieve meaningful apology, and guard against failure, by bringing a thorough knowledge of the program and the process format, and applying specific skills to:
- consult about the process;
- support all participants to engage constructively;
- support a person who experienced abuse to provide a coherent narrative of the key experiences they wish to recount;
- support strategic negotiation, thereby identifying options for mutual gain;
- coach participants so as to reinforce what is working well throughout their engagement;
- ensure administrative follow-through on any agreement for further action..
To achieve these outcomes, a facilitator needs to attend to particular procedural challenges before, during and after a Direct Personal Response meeting.
A panel of approximately 40 professional convenors was selected in 2013 to facilitate Restorative Engagement Conferences for the Defense Abuse Response Workforce (DART). Between late 2013 and early 2016, panel members convened over 600 Restorative Engagement Conferences involving former and current personnel of the Australian Defence Force. These Restorative Engagement Conferences were judged to have been highly successful according to several key criteria, including (i) therapeutic benefit for survivors recounting their experience to a current senior officer, and (ii) educational and motivational impact for those senior officers. As a result, when DART concluded, the Restorative Engagement program was reestablished under the aegis of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The panel of professional convenors was reestablished, now with over 60 members, in anticipation of demand from the National Redress Scheme. These conveners are also qualified to facilitate Direct Personal Response meetings.