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Speech for Dispute Resolution Forum Anniversary

Welcome everyone to this celebration of the very first anniversary of what we have called the Dispute Resolution Industry Forum. For those that do not know me, my name is Katherine Johnson and I am the current president of ADRA, the Australian Dispute Resolution Association. ADRA is the only voluntary membership organisation in the Dispute Resolution landscape that can boast 30 years of continuous service next year, ie 2016. More details about that celebration closer to the time. For now, I hope to give you a brief summary of how we got to where we are as the DR Industry Forum and a brief outline of what we hope will assist you today to consider the possibility of creating a unified voice with which to approach Government about the needs and concerns of the DR industry both on a National and International basis.

Briefly then, the idea of the Forum arose at the end of 2012 precipitated by the unceremonious ‘amalgamation’ of NADRAC within the AG’s Department – an amalgamation which occurred with no consultation of any  DR organisations. ADRA like many other organisations at the time made submissions to Government about the possible negative impact of the amalgamation; but ADRA like the other individual organisations realised that there was no single body that the government could easily have approached in order to have any consultation. In the absence of such a body, any Government could easily assume that the DR industry was simply not sufficiently mature to have a ‘consultation group’ to contact. And responding to all of the submissions to government from individual DR organisations was clearly an inefficient and insufficient way for any government to make any decision. ADRA therefore consulted with the groups that now form the steering committee and asked Jeremy Gormly as the former head of NADRAC, to join that group.

The aim therefore of the steering committee from its onset was to consult with as many other National DR organisations that was logistically feasible, and offer them the opportunity to consider whether the DR industry was now sufficiently mature to form such a ‘consultative group’ as a unified voice with which to address their needs to Government on a National and International scale. The method we chose was to invite a representative sample of organisations from the 2008 NMAC conference held in Canberra from which 42 participants accepted the invitation and participated in the first Dispute Resolution Forum held on 14 May 2014 at AIDC premises. For those that attended I do not think it is an over exaggeration to say that the day was a resounding success with the participants making it abundantly clear that another similar meeting should be held at the end of the year in 2014. The steering committee therefore accepted the task to follow through with that request.

Given that the National Mediation Conference was to be held in Melbourne in September 2014 the steering committee was mindful that holding another DR forum towards the end of 2014 would be difficult.  Hence after several considerations, and following the resounding success of the National Mediation Conference with 600 delegates, the steering committee decided that the best way forward to capture the good will and enthusiasm of the previous Forum Day was to have a follow-up anniversary celebration inviting the same participants as last year which is the purpose of today’s meeting.

The steering committee is very mindful that the participants today are a select group and there has been much discussion about the way this group was selected. There has also been much discussion about whether the right questions were asked at the first forum. We are mindful that all is not perfect and that there is always scope for improvement. We are also very mindful of the enormous changes that have occurred in the DR landscape with the amalgamation of LEADR and IAMA some would say as a possible consequence of the first forum day and both of whom are represented on the steering committee. Nonetheless a start has been made and an opportunity afforded again today to this group of DR thinkers to re-consider questions raised from the first forum to ask the ‘right’ questions this time.  Ultimately the goal of today is to not lose sight of the reason we have come together, namely to see if we are sufficiently mature/ready as an ‘industry’ or a ‘profession’ or whatever other body we chose to call ourselves, to have a unified voice with which to approach government on significant DR issues being mindful that this group represents not just mediators but also arbitrators, adjudicators and other types of Dispute resolvers.

From a strictly personal perspective my view of such a ‘consultative group’ is much like forming a federation where the needs of the industry much like the needs of the country are met, but where the individual functioning of professional bodies akin to States stays the same; and the daily functioning of individual organisations akin to local governments continues as it has always done.

 Today’s program offers each of the organisations present, 3-4 minutes to discuss  your views about the proposed  ‘consultative body’ and whether the enormous changes in the DR landscape since September 2012  has affected  your daily functioning. Laurence Boulle will then give us an overview of what is happening in the ‘bigger picture’ perspectives of the DR landscape and with all that information you will have a chance to consider the possibility of formulating some type of unity such as a ‘charter’ like the one sent as an example, or formulating another type of entity either on-line or otherwise. To assist with this consideration, we will also have available for you via skype at about 2:00-2:30pm an expert in formulating an on-line presence in various forms. The day will conclude as it began with an overview of where to from here for the former NADRAC with Jeremy Gormly.

It is now my pleasure to officially open the forum by introducing our first convener for the organisational session, Mary Walker. 

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