29 July 2020

CEO update | July 2020 | Focusing on diversity and inclusion planning

Dear members,

I hope you are continuing to be safe and well and are managing through these turbulent times. For our members living in Victoria, I wanted to extend my thoughts and support as you work through the challenges you are currently facing. If there is anything we can do to better support you, please let us know. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure a varied CPD and webinar programme is in place and will continue to deliver our programmes virtually.

Our team has been keeping busy as we have been planning for the new financial year. We have commenced July with some exciting initiatives such as the launch of our online five-day mediation programme, and the first meeting of a number of our facilitative sub committees. This financial year is a big one for the team, and there is a huge programme of work ahead of us. In order to deliver on our goals, we have made some changes to our organisational structure so that we instil a high performing and appropriately resourced structure, and professional team. We are looking to further develop a level of cohesiveness and collaboration across Australia and New Zealand. In doing this I have asked Trevor Slater, our GM in NZ to extend his role in Resolution Institute across the ditch, and to take on other responsibilities in a newly created role as our Chief Operating Officer. This shows the importance of our partnership and how we will work together to better serve our members across the Tasman. More information on other changes to staff roles, and who will perform these roles will be made available shortly.

Diversity and Inclusion Planning

In our recent strategic planning session with the Board, we discussed the diverse nature of our membership, the diversity profile of dispute resolution professionals generally and the varied practices in which we all operate. In these discussions it became clear that whilst our organisation has always respected and valued diversity in our membership, we have not proactively promoted or addressed areas where diversity was lacking across the membership and the varied DR specialities that our members practice in.

As a result of this discussion, we wanted to give a strategic focus and attention to advance diversity and inclusion among our members, employees, partners, clients and customers, stakeholders, professions, and the dispute resolution community more broadly. We want to ensure there is equality of access to the services we provide and that we are responsive to the needs of those we provide our services to, better reflecting the diverse population in Australia and New Zealand. This is directly aligned to our value of Diversity; we treat people with respect and celebrate diverse perspectives.

There are many organisations in our industry who are making commitments to diverse and inclusive practice, and we are seeing progress through organisations such as the NZ Bar Association,  Australian Bar Association and the independent bars of Australia, Arbitral Women, and International Council for Commercial Arbitration, just to name a few. Such organisations have put frameworks in place, developed fit for purpose charters and are embedding diversity in all their initiatives, and it is time for Resolution Institute to join these organisations.

As a result, we have included this in ‘Our Strategy’ in the objective relating to ‘Member engagement and value’. We have explicitly made the commitment to ‘Act as champions for diversity and inclusion in our membership and the dispute resolution community more broadly’.  It is now time for us to think about what this will look like in action, and how we will bring our commitment to life and bring real change to the dispute resolution community. I realise that this isn’t a one size fits all approach — the focus will vary across different practice areas and we will need to consider our unique profile as we develop a plan to realise our goals.

As a starting point, to demonstrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion, Resolution Institute has become a member of the Diversity Council Australia (DCA). DCA is Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit peak body for diversity and inclusion, providing us with a unique knowledge bank of research, best practice, and expertise across all diversity dimensions. If we overlay this research with the learnings of other organisations, together with the specific needs of our community, then we can focus our attention on initiatives that can drive real and meaningful change.

Trevor Slater advised in his last NZ update, that we have now started the process of establishing a Maori Caucus in NZ so that we are more culturally inclusive and competent as an organisation.  By undertaking this development as an organisation, we are acknowledging our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is critically important for our operations and membership in NZ and I hope that this first initiative demonstrates the strength of our intent, and provides a path for us to follow across the whole of Resolution Institute, in both Australia and New Zealand, to drive real change.

We are living in a unique, challenging and defining time in history, and now is the time for us to listen, learn, and most importantly, act. We welcome your thoughts, experiences, and insight as we look to build out our Diversity and Inclusion plan and future initiatives. If you have a passion for this area and would like to get involved, please do not hesitate to contact me as it would be a privilege to harness the experience and diverse perspectives of our membership as we develop a plan for change.

I will also look to other organisations so that we can support, endorse and extend the initiatives of our existing and future partners, who share our commitment to equality and diversity and are able to demonstrate this in their own policies and activities.

This is an exciting time for us, and I personally know that driving change like this is never easy or straightforward. Commitment and leadership are key; with the commitment of our members and staff, and the leadership of our Board, I am confident that we will work together to make a difference.

Warmest regards,