Rebecca Edwards is currently completing her PhD at La Trobe Law School, Bendigo. Rebecca has been employed on a sessional basis in the School of Law for the last 9 years teaching a large number and broad range of subjects including Dispute Resolution. Prior to this work, Rebecca practiced as a lawyer for over 10 years in rural and regional Australia, working predominantly for legal aid clients (both as a private solicitor and as an employee of Victoria Legal Aid), as well as a two year period working of the Kimberly Land Council as a Native Title Lawyer in Broome, WA, and a 3 month stretch as a volunteer legal analyst at the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, Tanzania. Rebecca now balances work and study with family life with her two primary school aged children, a number of board roles and the running of a small farm where the family raise small-scale free-range, grass-fed, ethically raised pork, lamb and beef and duck eggs.
Consistent with its philosophy to support unrepresented litigants, in June 2009 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“VCAT”) implemented a pilot strategy in mandated mediations involving an unrepresented litigant and a mediator who is not a Tribunal member (known as a panel mediator). The strategy was to provide parties in these mediations with a cooling off period of two business days, enabling them to withdraw from a meditated agreement without penalty.
Through the use of electronic surveys of mediators and telephone interviews with disputants, Rebecca is attempting to discover whether VCAT’s innovation actually does provide support to unrepresented litigants. Her two main research questions are:
- whether the unusual and innovative provision of a cooling off period following a mediation is utilised by unrepresented disputants (i.e. do disputants actually seek advice about their mediated agreement subsequent to the mediation?)
- whether the provision of a cooling off period following a mediation empowers unrepresented disputants (i.e. regardless of whether disputants speak to anyone about the mediated outcome, do they feel better about the outcome knowing that they can withdraw from it without penalty for a certain period of time)
The research is currently at the stage of analysing the data with final write up expected later this year.
Papers and presentations
Rebecca first presented a draft paper on her research at the ADR roundtable in Sydney in September 2016. A more up-to-date paper was presented at the Asia Pacific Mediation Forum’s Conference, in Lombok, Indonesia in February 2016. With luck and hard work, a solid draft of the thesis is expected to be completed by the end of this year.