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If you have a discrimination, sexual harassment, vilification or victimisation complaint, the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) or the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) can help you to try and resolve your complaint with the respondent/s through a conciliation conference.
What is a conciliation conference?
A conciliation conference is a meeting to try to help you and the respondent/s resolve your complaint. The conciliation conference may be held in person or by teleconference and is attended by you (the complainant), the respondent/s and a conciliator. You may ask a support person (friend or family member) to also attend.
The QHRC or the AHRC conciliator is the person who organises the conciliation conference and helps you and the respondent/s discuss the complaint and work towards resolving the complaint.
Why should I settle my complaint at a conciliation conference?
The benefits of settling your complaint through conciliation are:
- Certainty—in conciliation, you can have your say about the outcomes you want. If you take your complaint to a tribunal or court, the judge, tribunal member or commissioner will decide the outcome, and you cannot predict what that outcome will be.
- Privacy—if you settle your complaint, it is possible to negotiate to keep the terms of your written agreement private and confidential. If you take your complaint to a tribunal or court, there will generally be a public hearing and the decision will be published online.
- Less time and stress—tribunals and courts have many formal procedures you must follow including preparing written legal arguments and evidence, and appearing and cross-examination at a final hearing. You must follow these procedures which will take a lot of your time and energy, and it may take up to 12 months before the tribunal or court makes a decision about your complaint.
- No costs—if you settle your complaint in the QHRC or the AHRC, you will avoid the costs of taking your complaint to a tribunal or court. You will also avoid the risk of having to pay the other side’s legal costs if an order is made against you.
If you don’t settle your complaint and you decide to take your complaint further, be aware the risk of having to pay the other side’s legal costs is much higher in the Federal Courts than in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).
How should I prepare for my conciliation conference?
Get legal advice
You should get legal advice about your complaint’s strengths and weaknesses. Call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 and ask to book a free telephone legal advice appointment with a discrimination lawyer. This is a one-off appointment only (up to 60 minutes).
Prepare what you want to say at the conference
Be prepared to actively participate in the conciliation conference.
Write a summary of your key concerns, and the impact the respondent/s’ behaviour and/or actions have had on you. Be prepared to read this summary at the beginning of the conference.
List the outcomes you are hoping to achieve, and their importance (priority) to you. Be open to considering different options to resolve your complaint.
Think about how the respondent/s may reply to your requested outcomes and what they may suggest to resolve your complaint.
Be prepared to compromise, but only compromise on changes you can live with.
What happens at the conciliation conference?
The conciliator will provide you and the respondent/s with an opportunity to share your perspectives, understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case/s and explore potential outcomes to resolve your complaint.
Be aware the respondent/s to your complaint may not make any admissions of unlawful conduct at the conciliation, and the conciliator will not make any findings of unlawful conduct. Instead, the conciliation will provide you and the respondent/s with an opportunity to negotiate a resolution to your complaint on your and the respondent/s’ own terms.
If your complaint is resolved, the conciliator will prepare a written agreement. You can negotiate to keep the terms of the written agreement private and confidential. You should ensure the written agreement reflects the outcomes agreed during the conciliation before signing it. This agreement will then be binding on you and the respondent/s and enforcable through the relevant tribunal or court (eg the QCAT or the QIRC).
You can find out more about the conciliation process at www.qhrc.qld.gov.au and www.humanrights.gov.au.
What happens if I don’t resolve my complaint at the conciliation conference?
If you don’t settle your complaint during the conciliation conference, the conciliator may help you to continue to negotiate afterwards—by telephone and/or email—with the respondent/s to your complaint. Otherwise, the conciliator will give you a notice to confirm your complaint couldn’t be resolved by conciliation.
You will need to decide if you want to take your complaint further in a court or tribunal. Be aware the notice from the QHRC or the AHRC will include a deadline for taking further action with your complaint. Read the My discrimination complaint was not resolved. What happens next? factsheet for information on going to the QCAT or the QIRC.
If you decide not to take any more action, your complaint will come to an end.