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Conflict Resolution Service

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I wish to say a few words today in support of Conflict Resolution Service, an organisation that for more than 30 years has provided an invaluable service to the ACT community and economy by providing alternative methods for dispute resolution. Alternative dispute resolution approaches are a well-tested way of managing conflicts and are becoming standard practice across Australia. They are cost effective and often deliver better outcomes for the people involved.

Conflict Resolution Service seeks to resolve disputes by means of mediation. Trained mediators meet with those involved in a conflict to help them identify the issues, think of ways to resolve these issues, consider alternatives and then work together to reach an agreement. Mediators do not take sides or sit in judgement but instead simply facilitate the mediation process.

Common disputes handled by mediators at Conflict Resolution Service include neighbourhood disputes, such as those involving pets, fences, and noise; disputes within and between families, including those involving youth; workplace disputes; and commercial and small business disputes. In each case, the goal is to find productive solutions to conflicts that will satisfy all involved parties and prevent the situation from escalating or dragging on.

Without such mediation, many of these conflicts will end up seriously harming some or all of the parties involved and frequently require expensive legal action. Resolving conflicts creates a better society for all Canberrans to live in, and these alternative dispute resolution processes help prevent such conflicts from clogging up our already overstretched courts, saving significant sums of money and allowing the justice system to focus on cases that genuinely require litigation. This is a win for the parties involved, a win for the Canberra community at large, and a win for the ACT Government and our justice system.

Persons may contact Conflict Resolution Service for free if they wish to seek advice or discuss ways that clients can resolve disputes themselves. Mediation is also free for disputes involving neighbourhood, family, friends and adolescents. This service is likewise provided without charge for those on a low income regardless of what types of issues are involved. In all other situations, charges are based on a sliding scale of gross income. This arrangement removes any cost barriers to those in need of mediation.

In order to provide these services, Conflict Resolution Service is currently funded by the ACT Government, which, Madam Speaker, must be commended for supporting this crucial initiative. At the same time, demand for alternative dispute resolution and restorative practices in the territory has increased dramatically, as has complexity in terms of clients and operational environment. As a result, over the past ten years, Conflict Resolution Service has seen a doubling of client numbers, a fivefold increase in contacts with clients, and a tenfold increase in the time spent with clients.

I believe in what Conflict Resolution Service does. It is good for people, and it makes good economic sense, too. It is my sincere wish that this organisation will have the funding and support that it needs to continue to serve the Canberra community for another 30 years.

Thank you.

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