On 5 April 2016 Dr Lola Akin Ojelabi, Senior Lecturer at La Trobe Law School, presented a paper titled ‘Conceptions of Justice in Alternative Dispute Resolution and Access to Family Justice’ at the University of Lancaster Law School, during the Annual Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2016.
In Australia, family disputes may be formally resolved either through adjudication or using family dispute resolution (FDR) processes. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) defines FDR as a process, not including a judicial process, involving an independent family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) who assists those affected by separation or divorce to resolve their disputes. The FDR process is now compulsory for all parties seeking a parenting order unless exempt. Parties are exempt where there is family violence although research shows that some family violence matters fall through the gaps. The compulsory nature of FDR raises a number of justice issues including the appropriateness of FDR for cases involving family violence and parties from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. This paper identifies issues of access to family justice from existing research and literature and explores how these justice issues may be addressed. Drawing from findings from empirical research, it then considers conceptions of justice in mediation practice within the civil justice system and compares those with conceptions of justice in FDR practice. Finally, it discusses ways in which access to family justice may be improved in FDR practice.
Lola is admitted to practice law in Victoria, Australia (2004) and Nigeria (1992). Lola is also a Nationally Accredited Mediator (Australia). Prior to joining La Trobe Law School, Lola practiced law for about ten years at a top tier law firm in Nigeria, Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors. Lola’s PhD examined 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 has researched and published in the field of conflict/dispute resolution including on DR processes and access to justice for disadvantaged groups and individuals and ethics in mediation practice. Lola is also interested in the role of international law in promoting global peace and justice.