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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

Mewise logo

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

Who’s responsible?

Who’s responsible for the current situation in Australia? And let’s be clear on this, the question isn’t who is at fault, but rather who is prepared to be responsible?

In our “hand-up world” it seems to me that we all have very good reasons why nothing is our fault any more. Every day there is another current affairs story where somebody bemoans the fact that it is their teacher’s fault they didn’t finish school, their parents’ fault that they are socially maladjusted or the government’s fault that they can’t get a job. Unfortunately, when framed from that position of disempowerment, such problems look incredibly difficult to overcome if not insoluble don’t they? If fault lies in the past, with somebody else, then how can we possibly be expected to correct it?

But fault and responsibility are different things aren’t they? We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and on that basis we now enjoy all the benefits of a free, democratic society, for which we are openly proud and grateful. But on the flip side, are we also prepared to take responsibility for the mistakes our great-grandfathers made, and had to make, to learn the importance of those values and to achieve them for our benefit? It is a far less comfortable place isn’t it?

On an intellectual level we all know that every nation has had its dark hours. We have all been both the oppressed and the oppressors, with the only successful case of genocide in the world hiding in our own history books. Modern psychological research has also helped us to understand that every generation is a product of the fears and prejudices passed on to them from the suffering of their own parents, and on that basis those same experts suggest that if you or I were a child of those parents, we would probably also be prepared to take radical steps that are arguably wrong, to please our “God” and our families as retribution for the suffering our parents sustained.

If we continue to resist responsibility because we eschew the idea of fault – who are we expecting to address the problems of our current world? Our children are clearly going to inherit them – but what are we doing to make it more likely that they will be equipped to actually face them and not repeat our mistakes?

In October, MeWise will be trialling a peer mediation program for primary and junior high school students in Bhutan. In mediation, young people learn the importance of taking responsibility for their problems in order to solve them, and how to work with their peers to generate options for the future, without an authority figure telling them what to do.

This October visit to Bhutan is the first official pro bono venture for MeWise, and the peer mediation program and teaching resources have been designed at the request of these gentle, Buddhist people because they understand the importance of including compassion and collaborative problem solving skills in the formal education of their future generations.
What are we doing?

The Case for MeWise Peer Mediation Programs in our own Schools….

At the primary and junior high school levels, peer mediation is a process that can
leave participants feeling satisfied and respected whilst resolving conflicts. As they
develop the language and communication skills needed for successful mediation,
students learn to take responsibility for their problems, listen to each other and
consider other’s viewpoints and perspectives. They find themselves able to move
from anger to a search for solutions, and they develop a collaborative approach to
problem solving that they can take with them into higher education and the wider
Community. The facilitative mediation process (where the mediator doesn’t judge or
advise but rather helps the participants to come up with their own solutions) also
encourages students to appreciate the level of responsibility inherent in self
determination, autonomy and personal freedom.


For All Students:

  • Through mediation students learn communication skills they can use at school and at home. They learn to put feelings into words, to reflect on and summarise what they hear, and to develop empathy. Children must answer questions like: “What do you think you would feel like if you were him/her?”
  • Mediation encourages students to discuss solutions to their problems in a safe, supportive environment where they can be honest and where they can show why something hurts them instead of talking tough.
  • Children develop a range of choices for playground problem solving. Many children find it easier to talk to other children.
  • Peer mediation can assist with language barriers as bilingual mediators supply language skills that build on staff capabilities.

For Student Mediators:

  • Peer mediators learn what it means to act impartially, even when mediating for classmates they know very well.
  • Peer mediators learn about confidentiality, and take an oath to respect the privacy and confidence of their fellow students as they serve their school community.

For Schools:

  • Peer mediators in schools provide an additional level of support for teachers for the resolution of playground conflict.
  • Peer mediation programs assist schools to establish a unique culture and support students, parents, chaplains and new teachers to understand the school’s expectations regarding the resolution of inter-personal conflict.

I created the original version of this program for the state primary school my children were attending in the early 90’s and it has operated successfully in that context ever since. I am thinking that now is the time to promote it commercially. Please let me know if your school is interested – I have a long list of pro bono work I’d love to do but as my husband reminds me – I have to generate some income first!

What were you doing on 20th March 2013?

On the first ever International Happiness Day, MeWise was in the Kingdom of Bhutan – the land where Gross National Happiness (GNH) is valued above gross domestic product (GDP). In Bhutan the 20th March was declared a public holiday, and all planned commercial activities had to be cancelled or postponed so that all citizens could spend the day with their loved ones and be happy. Because according to His Majesty the Fifth King, in Bhutan, happiness is more important than profit!

MeWise was conducting a consultancy project for the Bhutan National Legal Institute during February and March 2013, and as a result had the opportunity to create a unique model of mediation to reflect Bhutan’s spiritual, cultural and GNH values, and a plan to institutionalise Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) throughout the country. In this picture I am with the lawyers and Judges I trained in both ADR and teaching skills, to ensure that the project would be sustainable into the future. We are all wearing Bhutanese National dress which is the Kira for women and the Gho for men. My height and the length of my arms were a definite challenge for the poor tailor, who was concerned that the roll of material would not be long enough.

Five reasons why MeWise is a smart CSR strategy for you…

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business is here to stay. CSR goes beyond compliance and focuses on ‘social good’ demonstrating a company’s willingness to not only take responsibility for its actions, but to make a positive impact on its consumers, employees, local community and other public stakeholders who may be affected by its activities.

A CSR strategy which focusses on empowering your own people as well as your community stakeholders, delivers results in five key ways:

1. Social License
Local conditions, needs, and customs vary considerably and are often opaque, but can have a significant impact on your success in building social capital and trust. Regional and cultural differences demand a flexible and responsive approach and must be understood early in order to enable the development and implementation of effective strategies to earn and maintain social license.

Strengthening your organization’s capacity for effective cross-cultural communication, engagement, and collaboration will not only enhance efficiency, it will enhance your relationships with local communities, your reputation within them, and your ability to operate successfully and sustainably in a global market. For large corporates, investing in the development of those same skills within your local communities as part of your CSR strategy will further enhance the prospects of effectively communicating with your local stakeholders and finding collaborative solutions to potential conflicts early.

2. Triple bottom line
A socially conscious consumer public is insisting that People Planet Profit (the triple bottom line) is observed in every aspect of the corporate world. As the People component requires fair and beneficial business practices towards labour and the communities within which a corporation conducts its business, empowering those communities to engage in collaborative, interest based dispute resolution processes to facilitate better communication makes sense.

MeWise not only delivers value for the organization (shareholders) and the local community (stakeholders), as a social enterprise business itself it also delivers the flow on benefit of simultaneously supporting other important peace building activities in the developing world.

3. Human resources
A CSR program in negotiation and mediation skills can be an aid to recruitment and retention, particularly within the competitive graduate student market. Potential recruits often ask about a firm’s CSR policy during interview, and having a program focused on collaborative problem solving both within the organization and for your stakeholders can give a distinct advantage both in the market and among your own staff. This positive CSR story also empowers your frontline employees in their customer engagement and marketing.

4. Risk management
Managing risk is a central part of most corporate strategies. Reputations that take decades and millions of marketing dollars to establish can be ruined in hours through the poor management of conflict. These can also draw unwanted attention from regulators, courts, governments and media. Building a genuine culture of effective communication and collaborative problem solving within a corporation can offset these risks.

5. Brand differentiation
In crowded marketplaces, companies strive for a unique selling proposition that can separate them from the competition in the minds of consumers. Your association with MeWise and its social enterprise activities will not only deliver business value through the personal development of your staff, it will give a strong message about your broader commitment to distinctive ethical values.