On 16 June 2010, the Attorney-General Robert McClelland,
introduced the Civil Dispute Resolution Bill (the
Bill) into Parliament. The Bill's purpose is
to promote a move away from the often stressful, expensive
adversarial culture of litigation by requiring litigants to take
genuine steps to resolve their legal disputes before commencing
The Bill follows on from the Access to Justice (Civil
Litigation Reforms) Act 2009 and implements key
recommendations made by the National Alternative Dispute Resolution
Advisory Council (NADRAC) in their 2009 report,
The Resolve to Resolve. NADRAC is an independent body that
provides policy advice on the use and development of alternative
The ultimate objective of the Bill is to reduce the matters
requiring judicial determination, save time, costs and distress for
the parties and the courts. Furthermore, the Bill allows the court
to better assess the real issues in dispute from the outset of a
matter, better equipping it to use its discretionary powers to make
further Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
orders at an early stage.
What does the Bill say?
The Bill provides a regime whereby a litigant, when filing a
matter in court, will also need to file a 'genuine steps
statement' outlining the steps already taken to reach a
resolution and an explanation as to why a resolution has been
unachievable. The respondent is then obliged to either agree with
the applicant's Genuine Steps Statement or provide a statement
outlining why they disagree.
When deciding what is meant by 'genuine steps', the Bill
requires consideration of the circumstances surrounding the
particular case and could include anything that will narrow the
issues in dispute including:
an exchange of correspondence between the parties which
outlines the issues in dispute and suggestions for resolution;
an informal exchange of documents between the parties similar
to the discovery process in litigation; or
more formal methods such as mediation or conciliation.
Failure to file a Genuine Steps Statement in proceedings
won't necessarily invalidate the application instituting the
proceedings, a response to such an application or the proceedings.
The court will however, be able to exercise its discretion to award
costs for non-compliance or if it determines that 'genuine'
steps were not taken to resolve the dispute.
Who does the Bill apply to?
The Bill applies to matters commenced in the Federal Court or
the Federal Magistrates Court. There are however, the following
matters concerning the Native Title Act 1993 and the Family Law
Act 1975 are excluded as a result of existing requirements for
matters involving civil penalty provisions are excluded on the
basis that it is inappropriate; and
matters on appeal to the Federal Court are excluded on the
grounds that attempts to resolve disputes have already been
Something to remember
It is important to note that the Bill does not force parties to
settle, or abandon their legal rights. As with usual ADR methods,
parties are able to terminate the process if attempts to resolve
disputes are unsuccessful or if they are not progressing in a
This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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