Bay mediator will be missed

After 18 years and almost 1000 cases, Hervey Bay mediation specialist Allan Read is preparing to retire from helping solve community disputes.

A foundation mediator with the State Government’s Dispute Resolution Branch, Mr Read was a member of the first intake of mediators to be trained in the Wide Bay region back in 1997 when the service was still in its trial phase.

Since then he has helped literally thousands of local people settle their differences in a wide variety of matters, and at no cost to the parties involved.

Mr Read is one of 12 Wide Bay mediators who work part-time in their spare hours to help local people settle disputes without going to court.

Strictly impartial, the mediators guide the conflicted parties through a structured mediation process, with issues ranging from neighbourhood, family, commercial, workplace and property disputes to marriage separation.

“Mediation saves time, legal fees, and court costs for the people involved and the community at large, and it helps free up the court system,” Mr Read said.

“We don’t give advice or pass judgment, we just keep discussions going smoothly so the parties can find their own solutions.”

Mr Read and his fellow mediators around the State have a particularly high success rate, with more than 85 percent of disputes resolved amicably.

A marketing and taxation specialist in the United Kingdom, Mr Read was ‘looking for something different to do’ in his spare time when he and his wife immigrated to the Bay in 1995.

He completed a diploma in relationships counselling and applied to become a mediator when he saw an advertisement in the local paper.

Many of his early cases focused on community mediation, with a lot of neighbourhood fencing issues.

As his experience and expertise expanded, so did the range of work, with Mr Read and other local mediators also assisting with court work.

The one case that stays with him was an unusual one, with a coroner referring two parties in dispute over the burial arrangements of a child.

“Both parties entered negotiations with a substantial degree of hostility but left in agreement and able to maintain a civil relationship afterwards,” Mr Read recounted.

“It was a long, emotional mediation but worked very well in the end.”

He said there was often an underlying issue to a problem and if the mediator can help find it, then it often solves the problem between the two parties.

That was the case when he mediated two lifelong friends from a local sporting club who fell out over the disposal of some equipment to the point where they no longer spoke.

“They committed to mediation and eventually realised the problem had arisen due to a misunderstanding,” Mr Read said. “They were still chatting an hour after the mediation had completed.”

“Sometimes mediations come down to a compromise, sometimes to a win-win.”

Mr Read said he found a number of attractions with the job.

“In part it’s the satisfaction of achieving a successful outcome, and in part it is the fact that no mediation is ever the same,” he said. “Even with an issue like fence or tree problems, what is important to the people on both sides is often different.

“It might be something as simple as someone took out someone else’s girlfriend

20 years ago, they are now living next door to each other but the old hurt still remains.”

Mr Read will finish his mediation career – at least in the Bay – in September, when he and his wife are likely to return to the UK for a while for family reasons.

“I will miss the mediation but they have a voluntary Citizens Advice program over there which takes questions on law – that might appeal to me!” he said.

If you are in dispute with your neighbour and live in the Wide Bay area, contact the staff of the Wide Bay Dispute Resolution Centre on 4125 9225 or free call 1800 68 1109 outside the local call area.

Find more information on the services of the Department of Justice and Attorney General's Dispute Resolution Branch or find out how to become a mediator.