Children’s Court: new arrangements for dispute resolution procedures in care and protection matters

[18-4000] Bulletin Number 2011/0021

Last reviewed: May 2023

Following recommendations of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services, a new model of alternative dispute resolution commenced operation in the Children’s Court from 7 February 2011.

Further information about the background to the changes, details on how the new model will operate generally and information about a trial of external mediation operating through Bidura Children’s Court is explained in a podcast that can be accessed by following the link below:


Essentially, Children’s Registrars will now conduct dispute resolution conferences (DRCs) under s 65 Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 in lieu of preliminary conferences.  DRCs will be conducted under a conciliation model in accordance with Practice Note 3 that was issued by the President of the Children’s Court on 7 February 2011, see [6-1000].

Children’s Registrars are now based at Parramatta, Broadmeadow, Campbelltown and Port Kembla Children’s Courts and Lismore and Wagga Wagga Local Courts.

Referrals to a DRC will be made by a Magistrate, although in some cases a Children’s Registrar will direct a DRC at courts where the Children’s Registrar conducts a regular call-over.  Magistrates have been provided specific listing dates at locations where the Children’s Registrars are based and at some other locations where there is a high demand for this service. At all other locations a date for a DRC will be arranged by the Conference Co-ordinators located at Parramatta Children’s Court. It is anticipated that in the ordinary course a DRC will be conducted not less than 2 weeks after referral and within 4 weeks of referral.

The following instructions apply to registry staff once a direction for a DRC is made:

At all courts (except Parramatta Children’s Court) registry staff should complete Form K — Dispute Resolution Conference Booking Form [not reproduced] and send the form to the DRC Conference Co-ordinators by:


facsimile to (02) 8688 1478 or


by email to

The Form K must indicate the date allocated by the Court for the DRC at courts where listing dates have been provided. Where the date of the DRC is to be arranged by the Conference Co-ordinators the Court is asked to nominate three dates that are available to the parties and their legal representatives.

The DRC Conference Co-ordinators will arrange for a Children’s Registrar to be allocated the matter and will confirm the date of listing with the parties and the Registrar of the Court where the matter is listed. Information to assist parties to prepare for a DRC will then be sent to all the parties by the conference co-ordinators.

In cases where the Magistrate is of the view that an urgent DRC should be arranged registry staff should contact the Conference Co-ordinators by telephone to enquire whether an urgent conference can be arranged. The conference co-ordinators can be contacted on:


(02) 8688 1471 or


(02) 8688 1469

The Children’s Registrar allocated the matter will contact the registry where the matter is listed to obtain access to the file. At locations where the Children’s Registrar attends on a regular weekly or fortnightly basis the Children’s Registrar will arrange to view the file at the registry. At other locations the Children’s Registrar will request that relevant portions of the file be photocopied and sent or scanned and emailed to the Children’s Registrar. Registry staff are to assist with such requests as adequate time for both the Children’s Registrar and the parties to prepare for a conference is seen as essential to the success of this new model.

The Children’s Registrar will then contact the parties approximately 1 week prior to the listing of the conference to check on the preparedness of the parties for the conference and to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to conduct the conference.

Enquiries concerning arrangements for the conduct of DRCs should be directed to the Conference Co-ordinators on the above phone numbers or the Senior Children’s Registrar on (02) 8688 1465.