Balancing the Act: ADCQ newsletter -

Secrets of successful conciliation

The Commission resolves most complaints of alleged discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification, and other contraventions of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act through the conciliation process.

A cartoon showing a  person standing on a small island labelled 'Positions'. Below water level is a huge mass labelled 'Interests'. A passing fish in the water says 'If he'd only look down here!Conciliation is a free, private, and informal process run by Commission staff (who are impartial) to assist parties reach their own agreement through negotiation. There is no requirement for parties to have legal representation at conciliation conferences.

The following tips, while produced with lawyers participating in conciliation conferences in mind, are equally useful for all parties engaged in the conciliation process — complainants and respondents alike.

Conciliation is a settlement-focused process. That means it is an opportunity to resolve a complaint through an agreement decided by the parties themselves, not imposed through a court-like process at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).

4 top tips

At the conciliation conference:

Separate the people from the problem

Be hard on the problem (the instances of discrimination, sexual harassment etc) but don’t attack the people involved. Be respectful and give your full attention.

Focus on interests, not positions

Don’t get bogged down in what the other side wants, but try to understand why they want it, and, if possible, acknowledge this. It will go a long way to making the person feel that they have been listened to, and more inclined to listen to the other side of the story.

Create options for mutual gain

Be prepared to be flexible and open to ways of resolving the complaint that may not have occurred to you. If a minor issue becomes an obstacle to resolving the whole complaint, consider if there are alternatives.

Use objective criteria

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the complaint realistically. Use case law for information about outcomes in similar complaints.

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