Whether it’s mediation between a separating couple, an organisation and employee, or student and teacher, it’s our role to ensure everyone participating in our mediations feel empowered by the process, have their voice heard and are treated fairly throughout the entire experience. At Fresh Start, we assist parties in mediation, to work towards practical and achievable outcomes they can live with so parties can move forward in life, work or school. We do this in an efficient and informal manner rather than the drawn out, intimidating and hugely expensive experience of going to court.
Our mediators and family dispute resolution practitioners have broad experience working across the law, business and education sectors. A small and committed team, we oﬀer a personalised, practical and cost-effective opportunity for parties in conflict to resolve the issues between them. We also understand there needs to be trust between the mediator and the parties in dispute, which is why the mediator that the parties deal with from the outset, will be the mediator who sees the entire process through.
It’s taken a long time for our society to understand and accept LGBTQ+ people. Whether it’s our neighbours, colleagues or service providers in sectors from retail to health that we interact with every day, understanding and acceptance remains a learning journey. And while we’ve come a long way, we’re not there yet.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we get it. We understand the additional stress and anxiety some of us experience dealing with people who do not have an in-depth comprehension of the diverse identities and characteristics that exist under the ‘LGBTQ+ umbrella.’ If you’ve ever been asked, which one of you is the mother? you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. More than anything, it’s exhausting.
We serve the community we belong to. We have the tools needed for respectful communication, use the appropriate language, understand pronouns, recognise non-binary and gender expansive identity, and respect disclosure choices. We don’t make assumptions around sexuality or gender, based on an overly simple, user-friendly definition of ‘LGBTQ+’. We understand through education and lived experience, the intersectional challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people each and every day.
Our promise to you, is the process of mediation will be inclusive and respectful, giving you one less thing to feel anxious about.
A Conciliator with The Fair Work Commission, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and accredited mediator with the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, a lawyer with over 20 years of experience leading complex, multi-party negotiations, teamed with a background in secondary education, small business and leadership roles in volunteer organisations, Fresh Start principal mediator Kris Darmody brings a unique skillset and life experience to each mediation in the property settlement, FDR + family, school, workplace and commercial sectors.
A skilled and practical negotiator, Kris has always sought to refocus parties on a common goal throughout difficult and drawn-out discussions. Kris is future-focused and works to assist parties to consider and negotiate options presented through a realistic and practical lens.
Kris’s success as a lawyer working in business and the creative industries relied on her considerable skill in navigating several stakeholders with conflicting needs involved on a single project. Often these negotiations would need to reach agreed-to outcomes within very short timelines. To her mediation work, Kris brings focus, patience, diplomacy, empathy and genuine belief that an outcome in the best interests of involved parties, is always within reach.
In addition to the law, Kris’s background in education enables her to bring a unique understanding and insight into the needs of young people when conducting child-focused and school mediations. Prior to her legal career, Kris taught in secondary schools in regional Victoria and Melbourne, teaching students in years 7 – 12. Her perspective and unique understanding of the many challenges teachers must navigate in schools, adds great value to her mediation work in schools involving disputes among students, teachers, parents and the broader school community.
Identifying as LGBTQ+, and an active participant in LGBTQ+ communities for over 25 years, Kris also understands many of the particular needs and nuances of the community – as well as some of the unique challenges that people in LGBTQ+ relationships may need to navigate. Her volunteer roles include 3 years as President and board member of Midsumma Festival, Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural festival, board member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and was also a board member of Arena Theatre Company, a theatre company for young audiences. Kris’s contribution to the enrichment and progression of rights for the LGBTQ+ community continues today through her mediation practice, where she brings, through lived experience, dignity and understanding of the complexities and diversity within the LGBTQ+ community to her work.
Kris is flexible, professional and highly skilled, bringing experience, empathy and genuine interest to her mediation work.
A Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner accredited with the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department and Nationally Accredited Mediator, Cath is also a child consultant providing Child Inclusive Mediation services focused on the experiences of the children in separated families to help parents in dispute.
Cath takes an empathetic and collaborative approach to her work with families. In a calm and supportive manner, Cath helps parents in dispute focus on the best interests of their children as she guides separated couples to a deeper understanding of their new roles as co-parents. A firm believer in parents working together to reach an agreement in the best interests of their children, Cath also appreciates the challenges parents face in respectfully moving forward as co-parents, ensuring her mediations are conducted in a safe and supportive environment where all parties are seen and heard. While it is not an easy time for parents, Cath works closely with parties in the hope that court is not the inevitable next step.
Also bringing a background in business leadership to her mediation work, Cath’s experience and understanding of the complexities of workplace conflict also adds to her skills and expertise as a workplace mediator across large and small businesses. Passionate about working with young people and teaching them mediation skills to problem solve and deal with conflict, Cath is also a skilled mediator relating to matters arising at school. Understanding the evolving challenges faced by students, parents, teachers, and the wider school community, Cath is a passionate advocate for mediation as a means for resolving conflict and ensuring school remains an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.
Mediation follows a clearly defined structure and can be conducted in person or online, via Zoom. Mediations generally take a half or full day and follow the process below:
The mediator will welcome parties, provide details of the process for the day and ensure each party understands the role of the mediator and what to expect during the mediation.
Each party involved in the mediation will be asked to make an 'opening statement' about why they are at mediation and provide a summary of the items and topics they would like to discuss during the mediation. Most people prepare their opening statement prior to the meeting.
Following each party’s opening statement the mediator will list the issues and topics for discussion, which will form the agenda for mediation.
The aim of this phase of the mediation is to explore each of the items on the agenda and assist each party to gain an understanding of the other party’s perspective. The mediator will facilitate the discussion and help the parties think about options and alternatives for moving forward into the future.
Following exploration, each party will have the opportunity to talk with the mediator in a separate session. Separate meetings are private and confidential and give the mediator a chance to check in with each party on how they feel the mediation is going. Separate sessions also offer each party the opportunity to talk freely and confidentially with the mediator about anything that they did not want to discuss in an open joint session. The mediator will also help parties explore and discuss any proposals to put to the other party or options for agreement. A separate session can occur or be requested at any stage during the mediation.
Throughout the mediation and following the separate meetings with each party, the mediator will work with both parties to put forward a range of options with the aim of reaching an agreement. This can involve testing the realities and practicalities of options being discussed and the consideration of implications and potential outcomes of an agreement not being reached.
If agreement is reached on some or all of the items discussed during the mediation, this will be captured in writing to formally reflect the terms reached by the parties. It is each party's responsibility to ensure they are aware of the legal implications of the decisions made. It is not the mediator's role to provide advice to either or both of the parties at any stage of the mediation process, and it is recommended parties seek legal advice prior to mediation. Parties will also have the opportunity to seek legal advice before agreeing to all or some of the items included in the proposed agreement.
This can be via a phone call or in-person meeting. The pre-mediation intake session is a separate and confidential meeting between the mediator and each party. The purpose of this first step is for the mediator to understand the circumstances of your dispute situation– what brought you to mediation, what you hope to achieve and anything we may need to know about you that could impact the mediation – for example, whether you feel comfortable being in the same room as the other party, or whether you prefer online mediation. The more we know about your situation, the better placed we are to assist.
The intake session also gives us a chance to go through each phase of the mediation process with you – ensuring you understand exactly what to expect on the day. Each party must go through the intake session individually before we can proceed to the mediation. The intake session also gives the mediator the chance to assess whether your dispute is appropriate for mediation. Instances where mediation may not be an alternative to the courts would be in the case where there is a serious safety concern via an emotional, physical or psychological threat to one of the parties, or if one party flatly refuses to participate.
As a starting point, we encourage you to give us a call and have an obligation-free chat about mediation and how it may be suited to the nature of your dispute.
If you are confident mediation is appropriate to the resolution of your dispute, then feel free to book your intake session, using the calendar tool below.
Start the mediation process by booking your intake meeting HERE
At Fresh Start Mediation we understand you will probably have some questions. Fill in your details HERE and one of our team will give you a call, otherwise you are welcome to call us.
Fresh Start Mediation services the whole of Australia, offering face to face and online mediation options.