Children's Court

Alternative Dispute Resolution


The Children's Court uses Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures in care and protection cases. 

The purpose of ADR is to provide a safe environment that promotes frank and open discussion between the parties in a structured forum to encourage agreement on what action should be taken in the best interests of the child or young person.

The Children’s Court uses three types of ADR: dispute resolution conferences, external mediation and care circles.

Dispute resolution conferences

Dispute resolution conferences are a form of conciliation conducted by children’s registrars pursuant to section 65 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. Children’s registrars are legally qualified and trained in alternative dispute resolution techniques. 

A dispute resolution conference is a process in which the parties, with the assistance of the children's registrar, identify the issues in dispute, develop options, consider alternatives and try to reach an agreement which is in the best interests of the child or young person. Under this conciliation model, the children's registrar has an advisory role, not a determinative one, and might, for instance, express views on what the court may consider relevant if the matter goes to a hearing.

For more information about attending dispute resolution conference, refer to Going to a Dispute Resolution Conference.

Practice Note No. 3 provides information about the procedures involved in conducting DRCs.

External mediation

Parties to care and protection proceedings in the Children's Court may also be referred to external mediation pursuant to section 65A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. The purpose of an external mediation conference is the same as a dispute resolution conference. These conferences are conducted by skilled mediators who are independent of the Children's Court.

Currently, Bidura Children’s Court is the only court referring matters to external mediation. For more information about external mediation, refer to Going to Mediation.

Practice Note No. 3 provides some information about referrals to external mediation.

Aboriginal care circles

Aboriginal care circles aim to encourage more culturally appropriate decision making for Aboriginal children and families involved in care and protection cases in the Children's Court. Care circles provide an alternative process for resolving issues relating to the future care of Aboriginal children and young persons by incorporating the participation of respected Aboriginal elders and community members in the decision making process. For more information, refer to Aboriginal care circles.

Care circles are available in Nowra and Lismore. Detailed guidelines have been developed to explain how the process works. Further information can be obtained from the Care Circles project officer through the relevant Local Court.