How neighbourhood mediation works

Before mediation

Try to resolve the dispute between yourselves before you try mediation. Face-to-face meetings with your neighbour are often better than phone calls or emails.

Think carefully about what you want to say and how you will say it before you meet.

Arrange to meet somewhere that you can both sit comfortably and you won’t be interrupted.

Explain the problem as you see it and give your neighbour a chance to tell their side. Listen carefully and don’t interrupt them.

If you come to a solution it’s a good idea to write down the details and arrange to meet in the future to see how things are going.

If you can’t agree neighbour mediation may help. Neighbourhood mediation can save time, legal fees, and court costs for you and your neighbour.

Mediation is not a legal process

Mediation is not a legal process and our mediators will not:

  • give legal advice
  • decide who is right or wrong
  • make a decision for you
  • suggest what should happen after mediation
  • force you to agree on something.

Mediation sessions

You and your neighbour attend face-to-face meetings with 1 or 2 of our mediators who will try to help you agree on a solution.

At a mediation session, our mediators will:

  • guide you and your neighbour through discussions about your concerns and issues
  • stay neutral and not take sides
  • make sure that you and your neighbour have a chance to be heard equally
  • make sure that discussions do not get out of control
  • break down the problem into smaller issues
  • make sure that all relevant issues are talked about
  • help you and your neighbour to think of options that may help to resolve the disagreement
  • help you to write down the details of any agreement you reach.

See how to prepare for mediation.

Details are private

We keep all records confidential. We will not make anything that you say during mediation available to the courts or the public.

If you come to an agreement during your session, it will be between you and your neighbour—no one else will enforce it.

The neighbourhood mediation process

Step 1: Contact a Dispute Resolution Centre

If you are having a disagreement over a tree, dividing fence, noise or pets and would like to try mediation, contact one of our Dispute Resolution Centres. We will take some details from you and answer any questions you may have.

Step 2: We contact your neighbour

We will ask you to provide us with some contact details for your neighbour—such as their postal address, email address, or phone number.

We will contact your neighbour to:

  • explain the mediation process
  • offer to set up a meeting between the two of you to discuss your concerns
  • let them know we want to help you both sort out your disagreement, and will not take sides.

If we are not able to contact your neighbour within a reasonable timeframe (usually 10-14 days), we will close our file and let you know.

Step 3: We set a date and time

If your neighbour agrees to go to mediation, we will book a session and let you and your neighbour know the date and time. This is usually within 2 weeks of your neighbour agreeing to attend. Sessions last between 3 and 4 hours.

If your neighbour does not want to go to mediation, we will close the file and let you know that they have said no. We will not be able to tell you their reason for saying no.

Step 4: Prepare for mediation

It is important that you prepare for your mediation session. Preparing will help you to:

  • have all of the documents you need on the day
  • keep an open mind
  • work out exactly what’s most important to you and what you want to say
  • understand the best way to communicate what you want and how you feel.

Step 5: You and your neighbour attend mediation

During your mediation session, you will talk to the mediators and your neighbour as a group, and to the mediators privately.

At your mediation session you should:

  • take part in discussions as much as possible
  • be open and honest with your neighbour
  • follow the rules set by the mediators.

You can tell the mediators that you would like to take a break at anytime.

Case study

This example is a disagreement over whether or not to build a dividing fence.

If you and your neighbour go to mediation—no matter where you live in Queensland, or what your tree or fence disagreement is—the process will be similar.

The problem

Kate and George are neighbours in an inner-city suburb. Kate wants to build a fence between their properties so that she can get a dog.

George does not want a fence.

Kate and George talk about it but are not able to agree.

Kate contacts her nearest Dispute Resolution Centre, who agree to mediate their problem for free.

The staff at the Dispute Resolution Centre explain the process to Kate and phone George, who is happy to go to mediation.

Preparing for mediation

Kate and George both have plenty of time before their session to think about what they want out of the process.

Kate wants to build a 1.8m (6ft) high wooden picket fence between their properties and thinks that she and George should each pay half of the cost.

George does not want any fence built and definitely does not want to help pay. However, he does want to keep a good relationship with Kate.

They both prepare an opening statement before their session.

At the mediation session

The mediators starts by asking Kate and George to make their opening statements. As Kate had asked for mediation, she is invited to give her statement first.

Kate says she wants to build a fence because:

  • she lives alone, and wants a dog to help her feel safer in her home—she needs a fence between their properties to keep the dog in
  • her house would look nicer with a fence
  • it would give her more privacy.

In his statement, George says he does not want a fence because:

  • he does not want his vegetable garden to be shaded by a large wooden picket fence as the vegetables need full sun to grow
  • he thinks a wooden picket fence would be very expensive and he does not want to help pay for a fence because he is struggling financially.

The mediators draw up a list of issues to discuss. Kate and George spend a couple of hours talking. They learn more about each other’s reasons—for example George relies on his vegetable garden to keep his grocery bill down.

Once Kate and George work their way through the issues, the mediators talk to each of them privately.

The mediators then help Kate and George think about ways to resolve the disagreement—focusing on why they want the issue resolved, rather than what they originally wanted. For Kate, key issues are safety and privacy.

Kate and George talk about ways to resolve the problem including:

  • Kate paying for the full cost of building a 1.8m (6ft) high wooden picket fence
  • Kate building a fence made of something different so that the sun can still shine through on George’s vegetable garden (for example, a chain wire fence)
  • Kate building a lower wooden picket fence that would not block as much sunlight and getting a smaller dog
  • Kate building a 1.8m high wooden picket fence and helping George relocate his vegetable garden to another part of his property
  • Kate not putting up a fence—or getting a dog—but putting in a security system.

If Kate and George reach an agreement, the mediator writes it down and gives each of them a copy.

If they can’t resolve their dispute, they will probably agree on a way to keep talking because they both want to get along.

If they feel they need a mediator’s help in the future, they can contact the Dispute Resolution Centre again.