Dispute resolution meetings

A Conciliation Conference is a private and confidential meeting between the person or people who made the complaint (the complainant/s) and those who the complaint was made about (the respondent/s).

Conciliation Conferences:

  • is an opportunity to speak frankly and openly about the situation complained about;
  • is an opportunity to explore ways of resolving the complaint;
  • is an opportunity for the complainant/s and respondent/s to have some control of the how the complaint can be resolved.

Conciliation Conferences are not an opportunity for arguing the case or making legal submissions.

Because a conciliation conference gives the complainant and respondent the opportunity to discuss how the complaint might be resolved, it means they can:

  • reach agreement without going to the Tribunal or court
  • resolve the complaint confidentially and cost-effectively
  • bring the dispute to an end, fully and finally

At the Conciliation Conference

  • The complainant/s and respondent/s are given an opportunity to talk about the issues raised in the complaint.
  • They do not present their 'case' as if they are in a court or tribunal hearing.
  • They will not be ordered to agree to anything. It is up to them to decide if they can agree on an outcome.

Rules applied at conciliation conferences

Fairness: each participant has time and opportunity to share their view of the situation

Courtesy: participants must treat one another with respect and courtesy

Constructiveness: participants are expected to be constructive and not obstructive

Confidentiality: what is said is not for discussion outside the conciliation conference. It is a confidential process.

Representing parties at conciliation

Person running the conciliation conference

The person running the meeting is called the conciliator.  It is their job to:

  • chair the meeting and keep it on track
  • explain the purpose and process of dispute resolution through conciliation to the people at the meeting
  • help the people at the meeting to explore ways to resolve the complaint
  • make sure everyone at the meeting is treated fairly throughout the process
  • make sure the complainant/s and respondent/s have time to explain their position

The conciliator is impartial and cannot give legal advice.  They do not decide what the outcome of the complaint should be.

They can explain what the Anti-Discrimination Act says about particular situations and how it has been interpreted in previous complaints.

Where will the conciliation conference be held?

Generally the conciliation conference is held in the Conference room at Equal Opportunity Tasmania, in Hobart.

If the participants are in another part of Tasmania (or outside Tasmania), the conciliation may be held in Launceston or Devonport, for example.

Sometimes the Commissioner will allow a person to participate in the conciliation conference by telephone conference.

Attending the conciliation

The Commissioner has the power to order people to come to a conciliation conference.

  • A person who is ordered to come to a conciliation conference, must do so. There can be a penalty for not attending.
  • If there is a good reason a person cannot come to the conciliation conference at the time, date or place scheduled, they can ask for it to be changed or to take part by phone.

These people may be asked or required to come to a conciliation conference:

  • Complainant/s: the person or people who made the complaint
  • Respondent/s: the person, people, or organisation against whom the complaint was made
  • Other people who may be able to help the parties to understand or resolve the complaint

Representation or support at the conciliation

  • A person who is attending the conciliation conference as a party can ask the Commissioner for permission to have a representative or a support person come with them
  • A person may use an interpreter at a conciliation conference. Equal Opportunity Tasmania will pay the costs of the interpreter.
  • If a company, business or department is a party to the complaint and required to participate in a conciliation, they must have someone attend the meeting on their behalf and that person must have the authority needed to agree on any resolution

Confidentiality

Conciliation Conferences are held in private.

Everything said, written or done in the Conciliation is confidential.

If agreement is reached to resolve the complaint, the parties can decide whether the details of the resolution are to be kept confidential.

This means that, other than any agreement reached, what is said, written or done in the conciliation conference must not be spoken about or written about outside the meeting and cannot to be taken into account in any later legal proceeding held in relation to the complaint.

This is important because it means the people at the conciliation conference can feel comfortable and confident to talk about the issues, and propose ways to resolve the complaint, without fear of those discussions being used against them later.

If the conciliation is done by written correspondence or with the parties in separate rooms, the confidentiality rule still applies.

Resolving the complaint

The complainant/s and respondent/s are asked to think about how the complaint might be resolved before participating in the conciliation process.

They are asked to think carefully and creatively about what they think is a fair and reasonable outcome.

The kind of outcomes that are identified as suitable generally depend on the nature of the complaint.  For example, if the complaint is about work issues, the complainant may, for example, want a written apology, a reference from the employer, anti-discrimination training for managers/supervisors and staff of the employer.

Agreement

If the parties reach an agreement on how to resolve the complaint, that agreement is legally binding and everyone involved must do what they have agreed to do.

To make sure that everyone remembers what was agreed, the conciliator will make a written record of the agreement and the parties will be asked to sign it. Once it is signed, the parties will be given a copy of the agreement, and the signed original will be kept on the Commissioner's file for the complaint.

An agreement is enforceable as if it were an order made by the Tribunal.

If someone doesn't do what they promised, the other party can ask the Supreme Court to enforce the agreement, or can ask the Commissioner to apply to the Supreme Court for this to happen.

Costs

Conciliation is a free service provided by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Everyone coming to a conciliation conference must pay their own travel and meal costs, etc, and any legal fees if they are legally represented.

No agreement reached

If the conciliation conference does not result in an agreement on how to resolve the complaint, there may be further investigation by the Commissioner's investigator, or the complaint may be referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for Inquiry.