Skip Navigation
Online Bookstore Book Supplements Newsletter Subscription For Academics For Bookshops For Authors About Us JournalsHolt Prize
Breaking Spears and Mending Hearts

Breaking Spears and Mending Hearts

Peacemakers and restorative justice in Bougainville

By Pat Howley


If ordering outside Australasia (ie from UK, Europe, Nth and Sth America and Africa) please contact Zed Books (UK) directly:

Pat Howley tells the extraordinary story of how, in the 1990s, in the crisis of civil war, the people of the island of Bougainville returned to their traditional peace making and conflict resolution processes as the western court system collapsed.

Prominent are the ordinary people who experienced the crisis - the victims, the freedom fighters, and the women who took a leading part in the peace process. Howley writes mostly through their eyes, in their words.

Howley, Executive Director of the PEACE Foundation Melanesia, was with them through most of the war. He oversaw a marriage of Western learning on restorative justice and win-win mediation  with custom law. The success was so extraordinary that the processes set up are now being used in most village communities as the norm for conflict resolution, even for serious matters such as murder.

Howley analyses the effectiveness of this marriage  and how it can be used in the future when Bougainville achieves autonomy. He also discusses the devastation to Bougainville's culture and identity caused by the giant copper mine which dominated the PNG economy, and how the islanders are coping with the residue of trauma from the civil war.

"A landmark study of reconciliation and restorative justice in action, profound and inspiring in its holistic view of justice ... Bougainville shows the world how indigenous people can reclaim their justice system ... This book shows how a people's peace can prevail over a war that was a product of colonisation."
Professor John Braithwaite, Australian National University



by Professor John Braithwaite


Part 1: Colony and Conflict

Introduction: A short history of Bougainville
The damaging cultural impact of the mine
The crisis years
The impact of the crisis years

Part 2: Breaking Spears and Mending Hearts

PEACE Foundation Melanesia
Mediation and restorative justice
Community development training
The peacemakers

Part 3: Ownership of Law and Justice

National reconciliation in Bougainville
Reconciliation and restorative justice
Law and justice
A law and justice structure
The emerging vision



Pat Howley … describes the events of this period in which there was a conscious effort at marrying Melanesian custom with the growing Western concern for notions of restorative justice. This is not an academic work, either in terms of the systematic marshalling of relevant historical, legal and other material, nor in terms of the depth of analysis. However, it does provide some interesting insights, especially when the author utilises local people to tell the story from their own perspectives.

David Weisbrot, Reform, Issue 82, 2003

This is an inspired and inspiring account of the emergence from colony toward autonomy; from civil war (and the breakdown of the western court system) to the return of traditional peace making, supported by restorative justice and reconciliation.
The author is no armchair observer; for half a lifetime, he has lived amd worked in PNG and its island province 275k east of Rabaul. In the manner of a mediator, he allows other participants a voice, mainly PEACE Foundation staff and trainers.
In 1964, Australian Territories Minister Charles Barnes told Bougainvillians they had no right to the minerals under their ground. The residents rebelled against what they saw as a lack of consultation by Australia and CRA, against what the residents saw as an unjust distribution of the mineral wealth, against the refusal of those parties and PNG to engage in discussion, consultation and consensus building. Thus, the dragon’s teeth were sown; thus, the BRA was born.
The author gives a moving account of the triumph of the human need for peace and reconciliation over the imposition of control from without. Restorative justice encourages confession, honesty and sincerity because of a desire to end the matter completely and properly. Punitive justice in court encourages concealing and distorting the truth out of fear of punishment and the need to be victorious. Under the system of restorative justice, offenders are forgiven and return to the community where they have the chance to re-establish themselves as healthy, contributing members. People can get on with their lives instead of living in the past.
Mediators will recognise what they already know, namely that their process transcends race and culture. Historians will be fascinated by the insights of participants in a time of great change. The book can be commended to the general reader for the positive outcomes over a most negative situation.

Ethos (ACT Law Society), Autumn 2003


Published October 2002
Publisher The Federation Press and Zed Books (UK)
ISBN 9781862874305
Australian RRP $35.00
International Price $30.00
currency converter


Criminology & Policing - Restorative Justice
Pacific Islands Studies
Indigenous Studies
Secondary School Resources

        BACK TO TOP