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Independent Office for School Dispute Resolution

This office helps resolve escalated complex disputes involving students and their Victorian government school.

This office was established by and reports to the Minister for Education. 

It helps people reach a workable solution to ongoing issues between a school and a family. If no resolution is possible, a recommendation can be made to the department about what further solutions or steps may be helpful. These recommendations are not findings of fault or blame. They are ways to resolve the current issue and may include ideas for system improvements that will have longer-term benefits. 

Alternative dispute resolution

The office uses an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) approach. In this context ADR means not applying court-style standards and decision-making process. A legal process:

  • applies strict standards based on rights, rules, and evidence
  • focuses mainly on the past and who was wrong.

Legal forums are often costly, lengthy, distressing, and damaging to relationships.

An ADR approach assists people to find a practical solution to a dispute, looking for ways to improve the situation going forward. The issues creating conflict are identified and discussed so that everyone’s point of view is understood. With the right process assistance, everyone can:

  • work towards sustainable resolutions
  • keep ongoing relationships healthy
  • keep the education system working effectively for the student.

Conflict Coaching Initiative

We now offer "Conflict Coaching" to stakeholders dealing with difficult conflicts with parents. It provides confidential support, strategies, and coaching based on their experience. Conflict Coaching is a quick and informal way for principals to access best practices and respond effectively to challenging situations. The IO aims to resolve issues sooner, prevent escalation, and minimize resources needed for positive outcomes.

Learn more about the Conflict Coaching Initiative.

Chair and deputy chairs

The independent office is overseen by an independent chair and has two deputy chairs. They are experts in alternative dispute resolution.

Frank Handy – Chair

Frank has extensive experience and qualifications in alternative dispute resolution. He has over 25 years of experience in Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and other countries, resolving disputes, consulting for organisations, and educating people about conflict management, with a wide variety of private and government organisations.

Jo-Anne Mazzeo – Deputy Chair

Jo-Anne is an alternative dispute resolution lawyer with a particular interest in mental health and disability law and diverse experience across similar review panels, boards and tribunals. She has significant experience working with children and vulnerable cohorts and has a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws and other Qualifications in mediation, leadership, investigations and training and assessment. She is currently the Principal Legal Officer for the Disability Services Commissioner, the Deputy Chair of the Patient Review Panel and a Senior Lecturer at Monash University.

Tony Fell – Deputy Chair

Tony is a lawyer, mediator, restorative justice practitioner and workplace investigator with extensive practice in workplace conflict in a wide variety of industries as well as private and government organisations. Amongst his diverse working portfolio, Tony has been appointed as a Restorative Justice facilitator by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) in the Northern Territory for First Nations people who are a part of the stolen generations, by the Commonwealth Ombudsman as a part of the Defence Abuse & Restorative Engagement program and is a part of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing’s Positive Workplaces Panel. Tony loves helping people maximise their potential and has always had a passion for the education sector.