What is conciliation?
Conciliation is a flexible, quick and cost-efficient way of managing and resolving complaints. Conciliations are collaborative (rather than adversarial), and confidential. Conciliation is about good faith. It is a way to sort out problems in a confidential process facilitated by an impartial conciliator. This means the complainant will have the opportunity to resolve the concerns raised in the complaint by discussing it directly with the service provider face-to-face in a safe and constructive environment.
What does the conciliator do?
The conciliator’s role is to facilitate a conversation between the parties and assist them to sort out past difficulties and develop strategies for dealing with future issues. The conciliator is not a judge, does not decide who is right or wrong and does not take sides. The conciliator helps both sides talk about the matters that concern them and makes sure the conversation progresses fairly and constructively. The conciliator may also provide general information about the law and how the law may apply to the complaint, but the conciliator is not a legal advocate for either side.
Before conciliation can commence, both parties need to agree to participate in conciliation. Generally, the complainant and the service provider participate in the conciliation process. If the complaint is about medical / clinical treatment, an appropriate clinician and a manager may represent the service provider. You do not need a lawyer to participate in the conciliation conference. You may bring a support person, interpreter or other advocate to the conference, but you must discuss this with the conciliator before it begins.
Is it confidential?
Conciliation is a confidential process. This means that to the further extent allowed by the law, all parties participating in the conciliation, including the Commission, cannot disclose what was discussed in the conciliation conference in any related legal proceedings. This encourages both sides to have an open, frank and meaningful discussion about the matters that concern them. The conciliator will expect both sides to keep confidentiality and ask the parties to agree to this in good faith. Where confidential information is divulged to the conciliator or the Commission, that information will not be passed on to the other party, unless you agree.
What is the process?
When a complaint has been received, it is assessed and/or investigated to determine whether it will be suitable for conciliation. Sometimes complaints contain a number of issues and some of these issues may go to conciliation whilst others are investigated.
Once a complaint reaches conciliation, both parties are consulted to determine their goals regarding the dispute. Both parties must agree on the issues that will be addressed in the conciliation conference.
Each party will have a private meeting with the conciliator before the conciliation conference begins to give both sides the opportunity to discuss the complaint with the conciliator.
During the face-to-face conference, each party will again have any opportunity to talk to the other party about how they see the issues and what goals they would like to achieve through the conciliation process. The conciliator assists both parties to communicate and identify opportunities for resolution through future-focused and problem-solving approaches.
If the complaint is resolved during conciliation, the terms of agreement are documented by the conciliator. These terms of agreement are then finalised and signed by both parties. The parties can decide whether the agreement is confidential or not. It is enforceable by a court of law if the agreements in it are breached.
If the complaint is not resolved, the complaint is then re-assessed to determine other options for addressing the complaint.
How can I prepare for conciliation?
Commit 3-4 hours on the allocated date and time of the conciliation conference.
If necessary, seek independent legal advice to ensure you are informed about your legal position and about your options.
Prepare what you would like to say to the other party about the complaint. You must also be prepared to listen to the other party in a respectful way.
Think about a range of options to resolve the complaint.
Attend in good faith. This means that you participate in the conciliation process with a view to resolve the issues with solutions that are acceptable for both parties.