All posts by Melinda

ADR in Practice

Last week we had the opportunity to see ADR in action through visits to various Queensland courts and tribunals. Of particular interest was our visit to the Fair Work Commission, which is responsible for maintaining a safety net for employees and employment conditions as well as regulating other workplace issues. Conciliation is one of the tools used by the Commission to resolve disputes, which we discovered generally occurs via telephone, is not binding on parties with the matters discussed in conciliation being confidential and not admissible at any subsequent hearing.  At the other end of the spectrum the Tribunal conducts arbitration hearings which are more formal in nature and are usually on the record. During our visit we were lucky enough to observe a live telephone conciliation which was an invaluable experience for our guests.

One of the things we observed in the conciliation was how little the conciliator spoke, the conciliator explaining the reason for this being to give parties a sense of self determination over the outcome. She told us that the key to being a good conciliator is to listen and then focus on the interests of the parties, why are they seeking a particular outcome and how can that can be achieved. In the past year 36,600 disputes were lodged with the Commission, which led to 19,000 meetings and conferences and 1000 arbitration hearings, with the majority of matters being settled before they reached a hearing. Even if not settled disputes can be re4solved through the commission relatively quickly, and even a complex matter can be dealt with in six months which reinforces the importance of Alternate Dispute Resolution in providing meaningful results for clients.

We also had the pleasure of visiting and viewing a session at the Indigenous Issues and Therapeutic Sentencing court.  This court has been in existence since 2002 where it was set up via consultation with the Chief Magistrate at the time and various Indigenous elders.  The court seeks to give indigenous defendants the same opportunities as non-indigenous defendants.  Unlike in other courts the magistrate directly addresses and asks questions of the accused, and whilst that appears informal, the basic formalities of a court are still adhered to.

The elders play a key part in proceedings, their advice and opinions being highly regarded and the magistrates taking the advice of the elder’s into account when passing a sentence. The court also utilises cultural reports and health checks. The purpose of the cultural report is to gather information in relation to the personal cultural background of the defendant, also looking into any possible alcohol and substance abuse issues. The health check is required to ensure that defendants can participate in any activities that may be ordered by the court. Despite the amazing work done by this court we were sad to learn that resources available to it are discretionary, and at the whim of the elected government at the time.

We also visited the new Supreme and District Court complex in Brisbane; where we were able to view a jury trial which was a novel experience for our guests as the Czech Republic operates under the Inquisitorial system where jury trials do not occur.

This week’s visits were a great learning experience for our guests and gave them a chance to see the ADR processes in action in Queensland. Over the next two weeks Michaela and Veronika will continue to work on a range of workshop presentations to take back to the Czech Republic to explain these practical applications of ADR to promote its growth and acceptance.

Our sincere thanks go to Fair Work Commissioner Susan Booth, Magistrate Tina Previtera and Teresa Kearney from Russells Lawyers for granting us access to their respective organisations over the past week. Their insights and knowledge has been much appreciated.

Sope Agbejule

The MeWise team outside the new District and Supreme Court Complex.

The MeWise team outside the new District and Supreme Court Complex.

ADR and Power

Power resides where men believe it resides- Varys

The Australian state of Queensland is known for its sun, sand, sea and surf and Michaela and Veronika have certainly had their fair share of all four this week. In addition to their studies they have visited the Sea World and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as some of the Gold Coast’s famous beaches. It was a week of firsts for our visitors including cuddling koalas, feeding kangaroos, patting marine creatures and discovering indigenous Australian artwork and dancing. As the Czech Republic is a land locked country this was also Veronika’s first swim in the surf! Being able to visit the beach is something I have taken for granted in the past, but won’t be doing in the future.

This week also marked the beginning of the research project which involved a crash course in mediation theory by Melinda and attending Dispute Resolution lectures at QUT. The dispute resolution course is a new compulsory course being taught by James Duffy and Rachael Field, two of the foremost experts on dispute resolution in Australia.  This week’s lecture focused on power, and in particular how power relates to and interacts with ADR. Power manifests itself in all manner of ways including financial power, legal or moral power and even knowledge and understanding power. Laurence Boulle defines power as the ability to affect the perceptions, attitudes and behaviours of others and the lecture focussed on negotiating power, which is the ability to identify and use the sources of power available in a negotiating process.

 Power, just like conflict, can be both real and perceived and underestimating an opponent can be just as dangerous as overestimating an opponent. In the first instance you act out of arrogance whilst in the second you act out of fear, both of which can be damaging in representing  a client. We learned that effective lawyers must be keenly aware of their own power, the power of the other side and the power of their respective clients. Despite the complex concepts discussed in the lecture Michaela and Veronika found It enjoyable, with Veronika going so far as to call it “juicy”! They also enjoyed the engaging lecture style of James and Rachael and said they would like to see more of that in the Czech Republic.

Next week we have a series of official visits planned to enable our visitors to see ADR in action in our courts and Tribunals, so stay posted!

Sope Agbejule

Another first – Coffin Bay (SA) oysters washed down with Tasmanian Pinot Gris!

Another first – Coffin Bay (SA) oysters washed down with Tasmanian Pinot Gris!

A Big Aussie Welcome

bridge photo

On the 13th and 14th of September 2014, Veronika Vanisova and Michaela Hermanova landed in Brisbane. After a long journey (Michaela’s flight took  off on September 11 and landed just after Australia had raised its terror threat warning) the girls embarked on a tour of South Bank the main cultural precinct in Brisbane, and also tried their first meat pie an Australian staple that is apparently not available in the Czech Republic! Both students at Charles University Prague, Michaela and Veronika are embarking on a study tour of Australia seeking to gain an understanding of how ADR operates in Australia how it can be integrated into the Czech Legal System.

Over the next few weeks we will be working to create materials that educate and inform. To aid in our understanding of ADR we will be meeting with legal practitioners who are considered experts in their field. Interacting with these experts will be an invaluable experience and one I am most looking forward to.   So far the response to mandatory ADR in the Czech Republic has been negative, to counter this Veronika and Michaela are seeking to develop ADR in the Czech Republic at a grass roots level, starting with primary students and working their way up to the legal profession. Within the Czech Republic the judiciary is reluctant to recommend it as a method for conflict resolution. In this regard Veronika and Michaela are pioneers and representative of a wave of young people all around the globe seeking to positively impact the world around them. The hope is that the materials Michaela and Veronika are preparing will create a culture shift in the way ADR is thought about in the Czech Republic, and promote non-adversarial practice as a viable method for resolving disputes.

All conflicts whether big or small arise both out of a failure to listen and a failure to understand. When people feel like their needs are not being adequately addressed they turn to conflict, this is true for conflicts both domestic and international. Over the next few weeks I am looking forward to learning more about the Czech Republic and how what we do in Australia in terms of ADR can be applied to the Czech Republic and vice versa.

Sope Agbejule.


Happy New Year News

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How many meanings can you find in our logo?     

Like us on Facebook and enter our logo competition before 31 January to win one of three bottles of Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon…

Happy New Year News!

Did you know that even with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the first decade of the 21st century has seen the number of annual battle deaths in the world at its lowest ever in history? And if it doesn’t feel that way to you, the experts tell us that is probably because there is more information about wars in the media, rather than more wars themselves.

Stories about the ways people can collaborate and cooperate to get better outcomes peacefully clearly doesn’t sell papers, which regrettably also means that there are not a lot of examples or role models visible in our everyday lives. So if you want your organisation to operate that way, you need to make those skills and examples explicit, and in a way that your people can both understand and then use, to improve your business outcomes. That’s where we come in.

Our experienced MeWise team can create a powerful learning experience for your people, at your location and on your schedule, to make sure that these essential skills are explicit and operating in your organisation. In designing our programs we will consult with you to ensure that our materials are authentic and our learning experiences relevant for the challenges you are facing today.

MeWise provides custom designed skills development programs in:

Communication and Conflict Resolution:            

Communication and conflict containment skills are critical in all businesses, both internally and externally, where one broken link in the chain of relationships can have lasting business implications…

  • How to deal with difficult personalities
  • How to identify sources of conflict
  • How to stop conflict from escalating
  • How to intervene effectively and preserve workplace relationships


Interest based negotiation skills are essential when liquidity is reducing and contingency plans are necessary to deal with breached covenants and contractual variations…

  • How to turn positional (distributive) bargains into interest based (integrative) solutions
  • How to optimise relationships through the bargaining process
  • How to create options for mutual gain
  • How to negotiate wisely under pressure


Mediation skills are essential in an environment of “stretched human resources” where customer /supplier issues, project delays and contractual disputes are daily challenges…

  • How to facilitate better negotiation skills in those around you
  • How to open up conflicts and lead people to wiser solutions
  • Micro and macro mediation skills including: active listening, identifying issues, exploring interests, option generation, reality testing, reciprocal bargaining and crafting wise agreements.


In 2014 our team of expert consultants has grown to six and I’d like to introduce them to you:


Adjunct Professor Iyla Davies was admitted as a solicitor in 1984 and is currently the Head and Chief Executive of The Women’s College within the University of Queensland. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at QUT and UQ, a Director of the Legal Aid Board Queensland and National President of University Colleges Australia. For over 20 years she was a law academic specializing in family law, dispute resolution and mediation. She has also held community leadership roles as the Queensland and National President of Relationships Australia and as a member of the Queensland Law Society’s Specialist Accreditation Board. Every dollar Iyla earns as a MeWise consultant goes into a scholarship fund for disadvantaged students to attend The Women’s College at UQ.


Jacki O’Mara is a solicitor who has worked in both the private and public sectors providing advice on policy development and dispute resolution processes. She has studied mediation and participatory processes at the Harvard Law School and has assisted with teaching and assessment in undergraduate and Masters level alternative dispute resolution and mediation courses at QUT. Jacki is committed to working with clients to ensure the benefits of effective negotiation and communication are achieved to significantly improve working relationships.


Linus Power has spent many years working in the fields of politics and government. He has extensive experience in working on large-scale projects involving diverse stakeholders, both throughout Australia and in PNG and Fiji. Linus has studied at the Harvard Kennedy School where he completed extensive studies in multiparty negotiation and conflict resolution and became a faculty teaching assistant in negotiation analysis.


Col McCowan OAM is a registered psychologist, teacher and counsellor. He is also the Director of Cromach Careers, an International Fellow of the UK-based National Institute of Career Education and Counselling (NICEC), and on the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Career Development (AJCD). He has worked extensively as a consultant for organisations such as UNICEF, UNDP and AusAID in Bhutan, Vietnam, Thailand and Oman and has also managed a wide range of projects addressing specific organisational issues which have included extensive staff development and capacity building.


Janne McCowan is an experienced teacher, having been the Principal of large primary schools in both city and rural areas, and is currently enrolled at Griffith University in a Research Masters investigating children who are disaffected learners. She is also a fully trained expert in the world renowned Behaviour Management Program promoted by William (Bill) Glasser from the USA, which focusses on training young people in the use of self-control in social situations. Janne has volunteered her services with primary schools in Bhutan since 2009, and assisted with our pro bono program there in 2013.                   

Until next time…

Professor Melinda Edwards,
Managing Director,  MeWise Pty Ltd.
 img_3     About the AuthorMelinda Edwards is an Author, Speaker and Social Entrepreneur. She can be found on twitter – @MelindaMeWise and on the web at