ADR Processes: Impact of Purpose and Values on Ethics and Justice

Dr Lola Akin Ojelabi1  and Professor Mary Anne Noone 2

1 Law School, La Trobe University, Victoria Australia 3086

2 Law School, La Trobe University, Victoria Australia 3086 

ADR processes are now used extensively in Australia to resolve disputes in courts and tribunals, between businesses and individuals, consumers and retailers, employees and employers and between health service providers and patients to name a few. In addition, government sees ADR as an important tool in improving access to justice for ordinary citizens. However, what justice means in different ADR contexts may differ. One possible explanation for the divergence of views on justice and ethics in ADR practice is the fact that practitioners function within specific legislative contexts, come from different professional backgrounds and disciplines and also use a range of processes.  While some processes have clearly stated normative purposes under enabling legislations and charters, others do not. There are also industry-scheme ADR processes with normative purposes beyond individual disputes.

This paper reports on a project that begins to identify and explore ethical issues arising for a range of Australian ADR practitioners. Drawing from this empirical research, this paper discusses the relationship between the purpose of an ADR process, its legislative basis and underlying ADR values, the practitioner’s ethical responsibilities and ethical issues that arise for ADR practitioners working in different fields. It also examines the potential of ADR processes to promote substantive and procedural justice.


Lola Akin Ojelabi is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Her research is in the field of conflict/dispute resolution including on DR processes and access to justice for disadvantaged groups and individuals and ethics and justice in DR practice. Lola was involved in research project evaluating the Broadmeadows Family Relationship Centre for cultural appropriateness and addressing family violence in Family Dispute Resolution. Lola is also interested in the role of international law in promoting global peace and justice. She has researched on the impact of culture on conflict and conflict resolution and how underlying values of the United Nations’ Charter may assist with resolution of seemingly intractable conflicts. This research resulted in the development of a framework for conflict resolution. Lola conducts professional development workshops on culture and conflict resolution and ethics in DR practice.

Mary Anne Noone
The thread drawing together Mary Anne’s research, teaching, professional and community service activities is a passion for improving access to justice. Her current research focuses on ethics and justice in mediation and integrated legal and health services. Amongst a range of previous appointments, she served 12 years as a part-time member of Social Security Appeals Tribunal. She is an accreditated mediator. As well as her academic work, Mary Anne is currently a Board member of Carers Victoria and President of South Port Community Housing Group.


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