The focus on Alternative dispute resolution is further reinforced in section 37 by changing the language from “is to consider” to “must consider”
Section 37 Alternative Dispute Resolution by the Secretary
(1) In responding to a report, the Secretary must consider the appropriateness of using alternative dispute resolution processes that are designed:
(a) to ensure intervention so as to resolve problems at an early stage, and
(b) to reduce the likelihood that a care application will need to be made under Chapter 5, and
(c) to reduce the incidence of breakdown in adolescent-parent relationships, and
(d) if an application for a care order under Chapter 5 is made, to work towards the making of consent orders that are in the best interests of the child or young person concerned.
Also insert the following
(1A) If the Secretary determines that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm, the Secretary must offer alternative dispute resolution processes to the family of the child or young person before seeking care orders from the Children‘s Court.
(1B) Subsection (1A) does not apply in relation to the family of a child or young person if the Secretary forms the opinion on reasonable grounds that their participation in alternative dispute resolution processes would not be appropriate due to exceptional circumstances.
(1C) If the Secretary becomes aware of criminal proceedings or a police investigation that may be compromised if alternative dispute resolution processes are offered under subsection (1A), the Secretary:
(a) must seek the advice of the Commissioner of Police as to the likely effect of the processes, and
(b) is not required to offer the processes if the Secretary determines that it is not appropriate to do so after taking the advice into account.
(1D) Subsection (1A) does not affect the Secretary‘s obligation under section 34 (1) and is subject to sections 35 (1) and 36.
(2) Participation in any such alternative dispute resolution is voluntary.
Note : Within this provision, models for conferencing may be developed to accommodate the unique requirements of a community (whether cultural, geographic or language), the complexities of the case, or the nature and severity of the abuse suffered by the child or young person.