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As students and even lawyers we assume clients have the option of ideal forums to resolve disputes. In reality this is unlikely unless you have money.

Let’s take where I live Devonport, Tasmania: population under 80,000 people; unemployment rate high; fear to walk the street alone; night AND day (…yes, day); and your everyday worker probably earns under $50k per annum.

The gap between extreme wealth and low-middle income earners appear to be increasing. As neo-liberalism spreads, the chance of the average Devonport-ian accessing the most appropriate dispute resolution process decreases. Why?

  • Lack of available services (nowhere to solve a nasty neighbourhood drama)

  • Lack of money (like who wants to pay for this when I have to pay for rent, food, child support and what-ever else??)

  • Lack of the ability to enforce any agreement made (yes, as if I have money put away for this. I just thought that they would stick to the agreement ).

Devonport does have the Legal Aid Commission conducting dispute resolution in limited cases involving children in family law disputes and Relationships Australia assists with both counselling and mediation. But general alternative dispute resolution centres do not exist.

Dispute Resolutions centres are reliant on government funding and private centres would not survive unless supported by the corporate world including universities.

Those who have the money to go to Court can do so and can take advantage of alternate dispute resolution that forms part of court management systems. The problem continues to impact on social justice.

Maybe some budding students can come up with a way they could use talent to assist with this significant concern?

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