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Inquiry into Alternative Dispute Resolution
- 6 May 2009: Parliamentary Committee proposes future directions for alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice in Victoria
- 5 September 2007: Parliamentary Inquiry into Alternative Dispute Resolution
Parliamentary Committee proposes future directions for alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice in Victoria
From Johan Scheffer MLC, Chair
6 May 2009
The Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee today released a report proposing future directions for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and restorative justice in Victoria.
The Committee’s chair Mr Johan Scheffer MLC stated, “In recent times, ADR and restorative justice have emerged as part of a wider movement of non-adversarial justice, which seeks to use innovative and alternative means to deal with civil disputes and criminal offending outside the traditional courtroom.”
Mr Scheffer stated, “ADR is well-established in Victoria, but the Committee heard that more can be done to harness its benefits. Some of the better known types of ADR include mediation, arbitration and conciliation.”
The Committee’s report contains 44 recommendations which aim to realise the potential of ADR services in Victoria, ensure high quality services and make ADR accessible to all members of the community. The Committee’s recommendations include:
- reducing barriers to access for members of the community, including establishing more dispute settlement centres throughout the state, providing more assistance for people from non-English speaking backgrounds and developing culturally appropriate services
- increasing the capacity of Victorians to resolve civil disputes themselves through education about conflict resolution and communications skills
- increasing the supply of ADR services, particularly by exploring the scope for additional industry ombudsman schemes and by undertaking research into the potential use of online ADR.
“In contrast to ADR which is already used extensively in Victoria, restorative justice is still operating at the margins of the justice system,” Mr Scheffer said. “Restorative justice refers to programs in the criminal justice system under which people involved in an offence collectively resolve how to deal with its aftermath. Group conferences – which involve a meeting of the offender, victim and community members – are the most common form of restorative justice used in Victoria.”
“While recognising the potential benefits of restorative justice, the Committee has suggested a more careful and staged approach in this area,” said Mr Scheffer.
The Committee’s report contains 34 recommendations aimed at enhancing current restorative justice programs and making restorative justice more widely available in Victoria, including:
- improving the experiences of victims participating in the Youth Justice Group Conferencing (YJGC) Program, a restorative justice program operating in the Children’s Court of Victoria, through increased provision of information and support to victims and more follow-up with victims after a group conference
- increasing the quality and consistency of restorative justice services through the training and accreditation of providers
- expanding restorative justice programs in Victoria, including a staged rollout of restorative justice programs to suitable adult offenders, a pilot program using restorative justice for some more serious offences (but not for family violence and sexual offences) and a trial restorative justice program for suitable offenders after they have been sentenced by a court.
The Committee’s report also notes significant evidence gaps in relation to both ADR and restorative justice.
Mr Scheffer stated, “We need to know more about what works in the areas of ADR and restorative justice and what doesn’t and why. This report urges the Government and the justice system to build a better evidence base for future program and policy development.”
“ADR and restorative justice are not substitutes for the formal justice system but are meant to complement it. In many cases they can provide a valuable alternative to the traditional adversarial approach to justice,” said Mr Scheffer.
The Committee conducted an extensive consultation process and Mr Scheffer thanked all those who participated in the inquiry.
The Victorian Government has six months to table its response to the Committee’s recommendations in the Parliament.
A copy of the Committee’s report can be obtained from the Committee’s website http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/archive/lawreform or by contacting the Committee on 8682 2851.
For further information or comment contact Ms Kerryn Riseley, Executive Officer, Victorian Parliament Law Reform Committee: 8682 2850
From Johan Scheffer MLC, Chair
Wednesday 5 September 2007
The Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee today called for public submissions on alternative dispute resolution in Victoria.
The chair of the Committee Johan Scheffer said that, “The Committee is looking at the reach and use of alternative dispute resolution or ADR as it’s become known. We are also looking at whether there should be more regulation of ADR, for example to set minimum training requirements for practitioners.”
“ADR is often hailed as a solution to costs and delays in the courts because it helps people solve disputes outside the courtroom.”
“In 2005-06, just 16 of Victoria’s ADR services handled over 1 million inquiries and complaints.”
“The criminal justice system is using ADR more too. Two courts are running restorative justice programs that bring offenders, their families, police and in some cases victims together to repair the harm caused by crime.”
“The growth of ADR services has been remarkable and it’s time to take stock,” Mr Scheffer said.
“The Committee will be looking at how ADR promotes access to justice and good outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged Victorians.”
“We’re also interested in the community’s views on whether more government regulation of ADR is needed to ensure services are consistent and accountable.”
The Committee has released a discussion paper for public comment.
“I encourage people with an interest in ADR, and members of the public who have used ADR, to make submissions,” Mr Scheffer said.
The closing date for submissions is 9 November 2007. The Committee is due to table its final report in Parliament by 30 June 2008.
A copy of the discussion paper can be obtained from the Committee’s website http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/archive/lawreform or by contacting the Committee on 8682 2851.