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Conciliation – how it works

Complaint Information Service
Tuesday 7 May, 2019

Many complaints that the Australian Human Rights Commission receives are resolved through conciliation.

Conciliation is an informal, flexible approach to resolving complaints – matters can be settled by an exchange of letters, a telephone negotiation between the Commission and the people involved, a telephone conciliation conference or a face to face conciliation conference.

We will discuss with you the best way to try and resolve the complaint and what sort of outcome you are seeking. We will also talk with the respondent about the options they have and the benefits of resolving the complaint through conciliation.

The conciliation conference is not a public hearing, a court of law or a tribunal. That means parties do not have to prove or disprove the complaint. Instead conciliation allows people to state their point of view, discuss the issues in dispute and settle the matter on their own terms.

You do not need a lawyer to participate in conciliation. If you want a lawyer or another type of advocate to participate in the conciliation conference, you need to discuss this with the conciliator before the day of the conference and obtain their permission.

The Commission is an impartial third party during the conciliation process. Our role is to assist the parties to consider different options to resolve the complaint and provide information about possible terms of settlement. We can also help write up the conciliation agreement.

Outcomes will vary depending on the nature of the complaint. However, agreements can include an apology, reinstatement to a job, compensation for lost wages, changes to a policy or putting in place anti-discrimination policies.

If the complaint can’t be resolved through conciliation, you can apply to have the matter heard in the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. In certain circumstances, an application to the court must not be made by the complainant unless the court has granted leave to make the application.

The majority of conciliators at the Commission are nationally accredited under the National Mediator Accreditation System. For more information, visit the Mediator Standards Board website at


For more information about conciliation:

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Contact us

For more information, contact the Infoline on 1300 656 419 (local call) or 02 9284 9888. You can also send us an email at