The effects of lateral violence can range from a sense of powerlessness to depression and self-harm. Elders are often victims of lateral violence, but they can also commit it themselves.

In Bendigo, lateral violence has become such a problem that the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BDAC)  has introduced a Restorative Justice model to their grievance process.

To make sure they do it properly, two BDAC staff have received accredited training from Melbourne-based Restorative Justice expert David Moore.

BDAC’s CEO, Joanne Badke, says lateral violence has been around for generations and a recent Victorian-based awareness campaign has further highlighted its prevalence in the workplace.

“It’s started to affect grievance processes, staff relationships, team-building, and a whole range of things. And in this day and age where the governing requirements of Aboriginal organisations, when we’re actually managing the staff relations and risk management, it has a lot bigger effect,” she says.

Joanne Badke says lateral violence has been a part of the Aboriginal community since colonisation. “We’re actually bringing ourselves down,” she says. “Alienating our own people and affecting their employment opportunities.”

Hence, the recent introduction of Restorative Justice practices to BDAC.

She says: “Starting a grievance process in an organisation just doesn’t address the issue properly, but Restorative Justice was actually based on an Indigenous concept of coming together and working through that yarning process and coming to a resolution. So it’s an ideal model for us.”

Joanne Badke admits there are risk factors around RJ and whether industrial agents like Work Cover and Fair Work Australia actually understand what lateral violence is and what effect it has on the individual.

Instead of pursuing a disciplinary process, Restorative Justice allows them to aim for cultural change in an organisation, so that lateral violence is no longer regarded as acceptable.

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