Last updated 20 June 2016
Mediation is a way of helping neighbours settle their issues of concern without having to go to court. It is a voluntary process where trained mediators act as an impartial third party and guide parties through a structured mediation process. The goal of mediation is to try to identify solutions to the problem and help people reach an agreement and end (or settle) their dispute. Mediation encourages people to discuss their concerns and to decide on a solution that is acceptable to all parties. This means saving time and legal fees, and it may help mend neighbourly relations.
In mediation, the disputing parties engage a mediator who assists the parties to communicate with each other. The mediator will not suggest a solution or decide who is right. All parties must be able to agree on the choice of mediator and the sharing of costs (if any) associated with the mediation.
An agreement reached in mediation is not legally binding, but it can be made enforceable by law if all the parties agree. When the agreement is drawn up, a statement can be included in the agreement saying that the parties want the agreement to be legally binding. The necessary documents can then be drawn up by a solicitor.
If a dispute was referred to mediation by a court or tribunal and the parties have reached an agreement, then the court or tribunal can be asked to make a consent order. This is an order containing the terms agreed upon at the mediation and means action can be taken if a party breaches the terms of the order.
People in neighbourhood disputes should not underestimate the benefits of mediation. Even very difficult and protracted disputes can be resolved by mediation. Sometimes, the dispute may remain unresolved, but the neighbours might have been able to agree on a path to take to resolve the dispute, for example obtaining expert advice. If the parties to the mediation are unable to agree, each may be able to take legal action. However, an advantage of mediation is that it can be used in disputes where there is no legal or regulatory remedy available.
The Dispute Resolution Centre is coordinated by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General and provides mediation throughout Queensland in a wide variety of matters. The service is free for neighbourhood disputes although the Dispute Resolution Centre will assess each application and may choose not to mediate some disputes. For further information about mediation see the Accessing Legal Assistance and Resolving Disputes chapter.