Conflict Resolution Service CEO says social justice, community values drive role

Genevieve Jacobs and Karyn Starmer 27 February 2020
Mel Haley, CEO of the Conflict Resolution Service

Conflict Resolution Service CEO Mel Haley. The CRS is helping re-route people away from the courts. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

Deep local roots and strong convictions about the value of community have fuelled Mel Haley’s career in the social services sector, values she now brings to her role as the Conflict Resolution Service CEO at a critically important time.

The Service is at the forefront of the Territory’s moves towards restorative justice, re-routing people away from the courts and towards a conflict resolution process that reaches mutually beneficial outcomes and reduces the risk of trauma along the way.

“I had a good, grounded upbringing, with my mother who worked in social policy and brother who works for the Australian Federal Police. I was brought up with a strong sense of community responsibility, work ethics and values, all of which I have passed on to my two teenage boys.

“I’ve always believed that you get out what you put in.”

CRS has been operating for 30 years, offering mediation services for families, community and workplaces. Providing conflict coaching, facilitation, restorative conferencing and mediation training. The organisation is at a turning point, stepping up to be a thought leader in the community on alternative dispute resolution methods.

“My mediation qualification was the most useful training of all the study and courses I have undertaken, I think it should be mandatory in all schools and workplaces”, Mel says.

“Workplace disputes have a long-term effect on the employees involved. Moving an issue does not resolve the problems. Neighbourhood disputes are also a major issue in the Canberra community. A large part of our service works with separating families to mediate care arrangements of children or property and asset division. We also have a large division that works with families and young people at risk of homelessness due to family conflict.”

After an early start in childcare and a Bachelors degree in teaching, Mel has spent her career in the not-for-profit community sector, investing in professional development via an advance diploma in business management. Leadership and management roles gave her a new perspective on how to achieve the social justice goals that have always motivated her.

“I believe in early intervention and prevention,” Mel says. “Unfortunately, generational cycles of trauma are a reality. You can pour lots of money at a problem but you have to start at the beginning if you want to make a real change.”

Mel brings with her to the CEO’s role considerable skills in change management, allied with years of experience in the social and welfare sectors.

When she began at CRS a year and a half ago, the organisation’s future looked uncertain. Decisions were pending on whether to close, merge or move forward.

“I quickly realised that we have a very knowledgeable and highly skilled team here at CRS, we just needed a new way to operate”, she says.

“In the immediate future, we need to maintain our solid business model and ensure sustainability, while not losing sight of the fact that we are a not-for-profit organisation and it is important that everyone can access our services.

“CRS has been operating for 30 years, our task now is to work out what the next 30 years will look like.”

To learn more about conflict resolution through mediation services, visit the Conflict Resolution Service.

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