Name, Position and Company.
Name - Nina Harding
Position - Senior Mediator
Company - Nina Harding Mediation Services Pty Ltd (founded in 2002)
Career Journey and Highlights.
- I have been a commercial mediator for more than 30 years and I love that each day is different and brings a new story. I first heard about mediation in 1989 when I was working as a Paralegal in London for a large UK Law Firm. One of the Partners at the firm, Eileen Carroll asked me if I would help to set up a Centre for Dispute Resolution (CEDR) for resolving the backlog of construction and other disputes in the UK. She thought that an Aussie would do this well, as the Australian government was well ahead of the UK, already promoting mediation for commercial dispute resolution. I worked with the marvellous Dr Karl Mackie, the CEO of CEDR, it was a steep learning curve but a great introduction to a process that was going to change the practice of law forever.
- When I eventually returned to my home in Sydney, I had to decide, legal practice or mediation. I chose mediation, the riskier choice in those days. I remember how lawyers used to look at me with suspicion when I described how mediation could be used to resolve claims or settle disputes. Before I left the UK I asked if anyone knew any Australian mediators. David Newton's name was mentioned several times. David was the first Secretary General of the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre (established in 1986 by the NSW government) and knew more about commercial mediation than almost anyone in Australia at that time.
- David and I established The Accord Group, the first full time commercial mediation practice in Australia in 1992. The Accord Group name was already being used in Hawaii by our friend and colleague, Dr Peter Adler, an absolute rockstar in the mediation world. He gave David permission to use the name and I think we made him proud. I am enormously grateful for the opportunities that David shared with me. We mediated anything and everything, from franchising disputes, landfill extensions, workplace disputes, hospital closures, local government planning disputes, and contract disputes. We designed dispute resolution systems for different industries, we mediated large multi-party disputes, managed mediation panels and conducted training around Australia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, and genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. David was a generous and kind man, who taught me to share the spotlight, and how to mediate with integrity and sincerity. He is greatly missed.
- On a whim I headed back to university to complete a Master of Laws. This helped to take my understanding of conflict, negotiation and mediation to another level. I wrote papers which were quoted back to me many years later. At this time, I also began making short video clips on various mediation scenarios. Over the years I was asked to make other videos including for Macquarie University about workplace complaints and videos describing Farm Debt Mediation for the NSW Government.
- After 10 years at The Accord Group, I started my own business, Nina Harding Mediation Services (NHMS) in 2002. I was appointed to numerous mediation panels including the NSW Workers Compensation Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Office of the Franchising Mediation Adviser, The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and NSW and Qld Farm Debt Mediation, among others. I also had various appointments including as the SPAN ADR Adviser for disputes in the telecommunications industry and I am currently the Australian Film Code Conciliator, resolving disputes between film Distributors and Exhibitors.
- I had been teaching for many years for The Accord Group but now I had a chance to branch out and do things in my own style. My friend and colleague Trevor Slater, now COO at The Resolution Institute, asked me to design a program for financial industry staff, to teach them how to resolve complaints more effectively. With Trevor's support and input, we trained thousands of people, and this led to similar training for the Energy and Water industry with the support of the amazing Ombudsman Janine Young. This in turn led to similar training for Ombuds and Tribunal Staff around Australia and New Zealand.
- I still love teaching, telling stories, and I feel a great responsibility for the students I teach. I have conducted in-house training for hundreds of organisations including ATSIC, NSW Premier's Department, The Law Institute of Victoria, many law firms, CBA, The Australian Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Aboriginal Land Councils and US Aid.
- I am a Visiting Senior Lecturer at The University of Hong Kong and have taught at many Australian universities. With the support of the Energy and Water Ombudsman (Victoria) and the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman NZ I started an online training company called Frontline Complaints for Call Centre staff. We offered online training modules on a variety of topics to upskill staff in handling complaints.
- I am now described as expert in complaint handling. Over the years I have mediated hundreds of workplace disputes, involving every imaginable type of issue, most of which are a break down in relations and communication that can be greatly improved after colleagues are able to safely discuss their concerns.
- In 2014 I co-authored The Workplace Conflict Guide with Simone Farrar and John Whelan, still available as a free download from iTunes. In the early years of NHMS I started to work with several exceptional women, one was the unstoppable Professor Tania Sourdin, now Dean of Law at the University of Newcastle. She and I were asked to teach the Resolution Institute mediation workshops in Australia. We were later joined by my wonderful colleagues Anne Sutherland and Bradley Chenoweth, both incredibly skilled teachers and practitioners. We are very fortunate to have outstanding colleagues who teach the mediation program in NZ, Anna Quinn and Jon Everest.
- Another exceptional woman that should be mentioned is my dear friend Dr Jane Elix, who I think of often and miss greatly. Jane and I worked together for many years on as many projects as we could, as co-mediators. We mediated or facilitated large community disputes, complex multi-party negotiations, and enjoyed long drives to and from these meetings over many years.
- One of the joys of this work is the variety - no two days are ever the same. Conflict is fascinating and just when you think you have it figured - you don't. I have enjoyed all of it. In fact, it's important to remember that the ones that don't settle teach us more than the ones that do. It is some of the more unusual work that stands out for me, for instance, being asked to Facilitate a discussion group for Australian Palestinians and Australian Friends of Israel by Abe Quadan and Stewart Levitt, two men who believed in the possibility of peace. And the heartfelt work that I and my colleagues have done as Facilitators under the National Redress Scheme, helping Abuse Survivors speak to and obtain apologies from the Institutions they were in the care of as children. I am constantly reminded that, each dispute is the most important thing in the world for the person who sits at the table. We should always remember this, as it is a privilege to hear people's stories and to be a small part of their journey.
- When I commenced teaching for Resolution Institute, I also joined the organisation as a member. One of the benefits of membership is the many outstanding people that you will meet and engage with. I am constantly impressed by the innovation of our cohort, for instance those at Immediation, an Australian business that is now globally offering an online bespoke platform for mediation, or my friend and colleague Shirli Kirschner who always wows me with her insights, her tireless work ethic and her innovation, and most recently her new app Elker, for gauging anonymously the levels of conflict in workplaces. I commend all of our colleagues who research and write about our field. We are all richer for your efforts. I am also grateful for the sincerity, the empathy, the care and kindness that my colleagues bring to the important work we do. You all help to make the world a better place
Share a piece of career advice.
- The facilitative approach to mediation works incredibly well, it empowers the parties and builds respect. As Bradley says, Ask don't tell.
What do you enjoy outside your work?
- I sing in a choir. I race on a boat with my husband, and I love listening to ABC radio.
- How can we introduce restorative practices into more workplaces?