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Alternative dispute resolution

The Attorney-General's Department provides advice on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) issues and policy to Australian Government agencies.

If you are looking for:

  • an ADR practitioner, such as a mediator, or assistance with a legal problem, visit the Australian Government's Access to Justice website
  • information about mediator accreditation, visit the Mediator Standards Board website
  • information about dispute management, including dispute management plans for government agencies, visit our dispute management page
  • information about family dispute resolution, visit our family dispute resolution page.

Your Guide to Dispute Resolution

Your Guide to Dispute Resolution contains basic information about common Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes, as well as some tips for using ADR and resolving disputes generally. It is a resource to help ordinary Australians understand a bit more about ADR. It will also be useful for practitioners, who can use it to inform their clients about ADR processes.

Copies of the guide are available to download below:

A limited number of hard copies of the guide and explanatory ADR brochures are also available. To obtain copies of the guide or brochures, email adr@ag.gov.au or call 02 6141 3002 to let us know your details and number of copies you would like.

What is alternative dispute resolution?

In an ADR process an independent third person helps people to resolve their dispute. ADR processes do not include judicial determinations, such as decisions made by a court or tribunal.

Dispute management is where disputes are identified and managed early and effectively. Some key strategies to manage disputes include:

  • responding promptly and sensitively to disputes
  • assessing disputes to determine appropriate responses
  • resolving disputes in a timely manner.

There are three main types of ADR processes:

  • facilitative
  • advisory
  • determinative.

Facilitative

This process is where a dispute resolution practitioner assists the parties to a dispute to identify the disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives and try to reach an agreement about some issues or the whole dispute.

Examples of facilitative processes include mediation, conciliation, facilitation and facilitated negotiation.

Advisory

This process is where a dispute resolution practitioner considers and appraises the dispute and provides advice as to the facts of the dispute, the law, and, in some cases, possible or desirable outcomes and how these may be achieved.

Examples of advisory processes include: case appraisal, conciliation (where advice is offered or used) and (early) neutral evaluation.

Determinative

This process is where a dispute resolution practitioner evaluates the dispute (which may include the hearing of formal evidence from the parties) and makes a determination.

Examples of determinative processes include: arbitration, expert determination and private judging.

Definitions of common ADR terms, including many of the ADR processes available, can be found in the document Dispute Resolution Terms on the NADRAC publications webpage.

National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC)

NADRAC was an independent non-statutory body established in October 1995 that provided expert policy advice to the Attorney-General on the development of ADR and promoted the use of alternative dispute resolution.

NADRAC concluded in late 2013 following the whole-of-government decision to simplify and streamline the business of government. NADRAC has made substantial contributions to the development and promotion of ADR in Australia. Previous NADRAC publications can be found on our NADRAC publications page.

ADR and the Legal Services Directions

The Legal Services Directions 2005 are a set of binding rules issued by the Attorney-General about Commonwealth legal work.

The directions are relevant to ADR because they require agencies to act as ‘model litigants’ by:

  • considering other methods of dispute resolution (such as alternative dispute resolution processes like mediation) before commencing legal proceedings.
  • not commencing legal proceedings unless satisfied it is the most appropriate method of dispute resolution.

More information about the Legal Services Directions is available on the Legal Services Directions page (see OLSC Guidance Note 12 on ADR) and Legal Services Directions 2005 document.

ADR Interagency Group

The ADR Interagency Group discusses ADR and dispute resolution issues, particularly those relevant to Australian Government Agencies. The group provides an opportunity for agencies to work collaboratively, share knowledge about ADR policy and other initiatives in ADR.

Australian Government agencies are invited to join. If your agency is interested in sending a representative, contact the Dispute Resolution Section of the Attorney-General's Department at adr@ag.gov.au.