Mediations are private meetings where parties come together to discuss ways to reach an agreement (settle) with the help of a mediator.
The mediator does not make a decision in the case. Their role is to help you and the other party to agree on a resolution at the mediation instead of VCAT deciding the case for you at a hearing.
The mediator may be:
- a VCAT member or an accredited mediator appointed by VCAT
- an accredited mediator from the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria, if we decide your dispute is suitable for Fast Track Mediation and Hearing.
Why you should come to mediation
It’s important that you come to VCAT so that you can have your say.
A mediation gives you the opportunity to come to an agreement (settle) with the help of an independent person called a mediator. What happens at a mediation is private.
If you don’t come, you will lose an opportunity to reach an agreement and VCAT may decide the case for you.
Mediation has many benefits:
- it can save you the cost, stress and time of going through the VCAT hearing process
- you can negotiate an outcome that you can both live with
- you both have control of the outcome. At a hearing VCAT makes the decision, which may not go in your favour
- even if you don’t resolve everything, you may reach agreement on some issues. This may mean you spend less time at a hearing.
What to expect at mediation
At a mediation the mediator:
- explains the process
- manages the discussions
- helps everyone involved in the dispute identify the key issues.
The mediator will:
- allow all parties a chance to have their say
- make time for all issues and options to be explored
- help the parties reach a practical solution
- make sure negotiations are fair and respectful
- call breaks when needed
- make sure parties are not disadvantaged during the mediation.
The mediator does not:
- take sides
- make a decision
- give legal advice.
After the mediation the mediator confirms the outcome with VCAT.
How long mediations take
A mediation can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a full day. The notice or order we send you shows how long it’s expected to take.
Some disputes about goods and services may be suitable for Fast Track Mediation and Hearing. If we decide your case is suitable, a mediator contacts you to discuss the process. It involves a short mediation (up to 60 minutes) and, if you can’t reach agreement, a hearing on the same day.
How to prepare for your mediation
It’s important to be prepared for the mediation so that you have the best chance of coming to an agreement without going to a hearing.
Read the notice or order you receive from VCAT carefully. It tells you what you must do before the mediation.
To get ready for a mediation, be ready to answer questions about:
- the details of the dispute
- your claim or your defence
- how you think the dispute could be resolved.
Think about the other party’s point of view and come to the mediation with an open mind.
What to bring to the mediation
Bring all documents and supporting information about your claim. This could include, for example:
- any documents sent to VCAT or the other party
- a copy of the application (if you are the applicant)
- reports from experts
- invoices or statements
- written authority to represent (if you are representing a party).
You won’t be asked to present evidence at the mediation but you may want to refer to documents, such as expert reports. You will need all your supporting documents if the dispute goes to a hearing after mediation.
What you can’t bring
For safety reasons, you cannot bring into our venues:
- weapons and any other items that could be used as a weapon
- any sharp items (for example, manicure sets, table knives, forks and scissors)
- harmful substances and chemicals
- glass bottles and any other glass objects
- tools (for example, stanley knives, box cutters).
- You will be searched and scanned by security when you enter.
Who you can bring
You can bring someone with you to your mediation for support, such as a friend or family member. They can’t usually speak on your behalf, but they can help explain what you need (for example, ask for a break).
The mediator decides on the day who is present in the mediation room and how they take part.
You can’t bring someone to translate for you. If you need an interpreter you must ask us to arrange for one.
Legal and professional help
If you want a lawyer or other professional representative to speak for you at mediation
- let the other party know in writing before the mediation, and
- ask VCAT’s permission when the mediation starts. You will need to explain why.
We generally don’t give permission if the claim is for goods and services under $15,000.
Some parties have an automatic right to have a lawyer or other professional representative at VCAT.
We cannot give legal advice.
At the mediation
The date you come to mediation at VCAT is shown on the notice or order we sent you. We will tell you if the date changes.
Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through the security screening (similar to security at the airport) and find your room.
You can check the time and location of your mediation after 4.30pm the day before. See Upcoming hearings.
One of the advantages of a mediation is that it feels less formal than a hearing. For most mediations, the parties and the mediator sit together around a table and discuss the dispute and everyone can have their say.
Even if you have a lawyer or professional representative, you must come to the mediation because you have personal knowledge of the issues in dispute.
Tips on how to settle the dispute
You are in mediation to try to come to an agreement to solve the dispute. It will save you the time, stress and costs of going to a hearing at VCAT. Reaching agreement helps you put the dispute behind you and move on with your life.
- Stay calm. You may be upset or offended that there is a dispute. You’re more likely to get an outcome if you stay calm.
- Be prepared to negotiate. Think about a range of options or alternatives you would be prepared to accept. Think about the choices and what your ‘bottom line’ really is.
- Listen. Listen carefully to the other party so you don’t miss important details. You could also pick up things that will help with your argument.
- Watch your tone. Avoid aggressive, offensive language and behaviour. This is not acceptable.
- Focus on the outcome. Be clear about what you hope to achieve and how you suggest you can get there.
- Think about the other party’s position. They have their own perspective on the dispute, just like you do. Compromising and agreeing to some of their interests, as well as satisfying some of yours, gives you a better chance of reaching an outcome.
At a mediation, everyone must be respectful and polite:
- Switch your mobile phone off or to silent
- Remove hats and sunglasses
- You don’t need to bring your own water.
- Do not record any part of the conference without permission, for example, take photos or make audio or video recordings.
Mediations are private
Conversations at mediations are private and anything that’s said won’t be considered by a member if you later go to a hearing.
You may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. This means you can’t disclose to anyone, including the media, what was said or done or any confidential documents shown.
Mediations at VCAT cannot be recorded and the mediator’s notes are not kept on file.
During the mediation the mediator may meet with the parties separately in private sessions. What you discuss in private sessions stays between you and the mediator, unless you agree that the mediator can tell the other party.
Give someone permission to settle for you at a mediation
You can ask someone to take part in a mediation and agree to a settlement on your behalf. They need personal knowledge of the issues in dispute and you must give them your permission. This is called authority to settle.
If you're attending by phone or video
Make sure you’re ready for your phone or videoconference hearing at the allocated time or within the allocated timeframe. If you’re not available for the hearing, orders may be made against you.
Phone and videoconference hearings may be less formal, but there are still rules to follow and things to do. Our cases are heard by members. Some cases are heard by judicial members (our president or vice presidents) who are also judges.
Etiquette for phone and videoconference hearings
- Turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions. Use headphones if possible.
- All VCAT hearings, including phone and videoconference hearings, are recorded.
- It’s important you email any documents or evidence you want to rely on in your hearing to VCAT and all other parties well before your hearing.
- Mute your phone or microphone if not speaking to avoid feedback or noise.
If you come to an agreement (settle)
What happens after the mediation depends on the agreement you reach.
If you come to an agreement (that is, reach a settlement) at the mediation, the agreement is put in writing and signed by all parties.
There may also be a ‘cooling off’ period in some cases. This applies when:
- one of the parties is not legally represented
- the mediation is conducted by a mediator (not a member).
The cooling off period is two full business days after the mediation when any party can change their mind and withdraw from the agreement.
The mediator gives you information about the cooling off period if it applies to your case.
If you don’t come to an agreement
If you don’t reach agreement on all the issues, the case may go to a hearing:
- at a later date
- on the same day if we decide your goods and services dispute is suitable for Fast Track Mediation and Hearing
The VCAT member who hears the case won’t know what you talked about at the mediation.
Settle before a hearing
Even if an application has been made against you, you can still try to resolve the dispute yourselves without going to VCAT.
Fast track mediation and hearing
If your dispute is about goods and services and your claim is between $500 and $10,000, you may be able to attend a fast track mediation.
How to communicate with VCAT and other parties
Understand when and how to communicate with VCAT and any other parties involved in your case.
Help and support
What happens if I can’t come to VCAT?
If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can:
- ask to attend by phone – VCAT decides if this is fair to all parties.
- apply to change the date (adjourn) two business days before you’re due to come. For a final hearing, you must do this at least five business days before.
- ask for permission to give someone the authority to come in your place. This is different from having a legal or professional representative.
Template of written authority for someone to represent you
Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.
I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company),, a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.
I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.
The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.
Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________
What happens if we come to an agreement before attending VCAT?
You can contact the other party (or they can contact you) at any time to try to come to an agreement before the hearing. If you do reach an agreement, you and the other parties must let us know in writing, and copy in the other party, as soon as possible.
If you make an offer to settle and you want to keep it confidential, make it in writing to the other party and use the words ‘without prejudice’ in your offer.
This means that if your offer is not accepted by the other party, it cannot be discussed at a hearing.
You can try and resolve the dispute without VCAT right up until the day of the hearing, and for residential tenancy disputes, in the hearing.
After you settle, if you’re the applicant you can end your case by asking us:
- to withdraw your application
- to strike out your case with the right to apply for reinstatement (except in a review of a planning decision)
- for consent orders.
What happens if I miss my mediation?
If you have been invited to a mediation for a residential tenancy dispute, you need to attend unless you have authorised someone else, such as a housemate, to participate in the mediation and reach agreement on your behalf. A hearing will be scheduled for a later date if one of the parties does not attend and is not represented.
If you’re taking part in Fast Track Mediation and Hearing and you don’t come to your mediation, you might also miss your hearing as it’s likely to be on the same day.
In some cases, if you don’t come to your mediation, VCAT may order you to pay the other party’s costs.
How do I get an interpreter?
If you need an interpreter, contact us to arrange a professional interpreter (at no cost to you) before the hearing.
Make sure you ask for an interpreter as early as you can.
We connect with a large network of interpreters in 160 languages. Tell us in English what your language is when you ask for an interpreter. It’s best to ask when you apply to VCAT or as soon as possible after we’ve sent you your hearing date.
We don’t allow a relative or friend to interpret for you at a hearing.