The Mongolia Judicial Council Program

We began the course at 2.00pm on Monday 16 July with a discussion about the expectations of the group- ie the 44 Mongolian accredited Mediators and 3 Family law Judges – in relation to what they expected from the training course. In response to their expectations Mary Walker led a panel discussion where the team members addressed the needs of the group via their personal experiences with Mediation. The result was that both the team and the group recognised that Australia has a very different approach to Mediation than the current model of Mediation that was practised in Mongolia.

The difference in the goal of mediation was that in Mongolia, the mediator tries to apply the concept of reconciliation to keep the disputing parties in family law together; whereas in Australia our legislation is driven by the Rights of the Child and the Best interests of the Child which stresses the parental obligations of the disputing parties despite their separation or divorce. This difference could be as a result of the interpretation of the word ‘Mediation’ given that there is no exact word for ‘mediation’ in Mongolia and that the closest concept was the concept of reconciliation.

If that is the case, then it proves the point that Laurence Boulle was teaching throughout the course, ie, that language plays a pivotal role in our behaviour and that the interpretation of one word such as ‘mediation’ can drive us into different actions/directions.

On Tuesday, 17 July I led the group through a brief history of the findings of our needs’ analysis from 2018 and stressed the significance of maintaining the Mongolian traditional link to the land especially in relation to working with the Erdinet men. I then explained the psychological theories that underly the mediation process as per the research from my thesis and led the group through some slides to remind them of those theories. The significance of the pre-mediation conferences was then explained especially in relation to the mediator building rapport with each client to create a safe place where the parties could best discuss their issues and feel that the degree of their loss and current grief was acknowledged. This was a very different concept for the Mongolian group as it did not follow the JICA model in which they had been trained, so the Intake process of the NIS – ie the pre-mediation conference needed some comprehensive explanation.

After discussing the logistics of setting up the mediation date and time with the parties, the Welcome Board was discussed showing the Agenda of the day, followed by the Mediator’s Opening Statement using the Normative Information Session (NIS). The purpose of using the NIS was to ensure that the parties could be placed in the best frame of mind to be empathic with each other at that time. The NIS focuses on understanding and acknowledging the loss of each party and the level of grief that could impact each party’s ability to make decisions based on their best interests.

The NIS is also a reminder for the parties of all the work that has already been done in the pre-mediation conferences with each party and the mediator’s main role in going through the NIS slides is to determine the current level readiness of each party to move forward by being mindful of each party’s responses to the slides. The readiness concept was also one that required a great deal of comprehensive explanation so that it was not the outcome of the mediation process that was the focus for the mediator – ie whether a settlement occurred – but whether each party had the respective skills and willingness to empathise with the other over a particular issue.

On Wednesday 18 July Jennifer Scott and Laurence Boulle explored the sources of Conflict and Laurence considered the micro skills to better manage conflict. Laurence presented 4 principles for the mediator to recall – ie, knowledge, process, skills and attitude. The NIS focuses on maintaining the most effective attitude by using positive language and developing empathy. Helen then presented the Family Pathways program in Australia ( ie it constituted knowledge) and this was followed by the team presenting a role play of the various parts of the Mediation process which were then practised by the group. A panel discussion followed facilitated by Mary on Mediator Well-being and the day ended with Mary presenting a seminar on Ethics.

On Thursday 19 July Helen continued with a presentation on the Voice of the Child followed by a presentation by Laurence and Jen on negotiating styles and the group was given a self-reflective exercise on the DISC model. We discussed the significance of self -reflection as part of being a mediator and ended the day with another panel discussion in which we gave the group the opportunity to ask anything about which they were either confused or needed to know more. That brought us to the last day Friday 20 July where Jennifer and Laurence facilitated a discussion about the Future Mediation framework for Mongolia and we all facilitated a discussion on the take-home messages that were acquired during the course.

It was very important on behalf of the team to thank everyone involved in the course especially all the participants of the group who were such attentive learners during the day and entertained us every night with food, dancing and videos depicting their specific regional area from which they came. Their willingness to share their culture and to share their learning was inspirational and the quiet, elegant way in which they simply got things done demonstrated their amazing competence to take on any task.

It was also very important to thank Rotary for supplying all the background support for the course such as providing interpreters, providing some of the logistical support with wifi assistance etc, and providing the financial support which not only brought the team to Mongolia but also paid for the whole course including the 70 page workbook, which was translated into Mongolian. It is just this level of co-operation that the team experienced in Mongolia between Rotary and the Judicial Council that not only made such a project possible, but also assisted to strengthen their own civil society.

Finally, we expressed our sincerest gratitude to the Judicial Council and in particular to Icho, the head of the Mediation Unit in Mongolia, for her vision to strengthen Mongolian Families and thus contribute to building a more effective nation. We note that Mongolian Family Law will continue to devise its own unique methods of mediation and feel very privileged that we were able to present a version of dispute resolution that could be used as an agent of social change to suit the growing civil society of Mongolia to build a Nation of their choice .

Katherine has been Appointed as a Director at AMATI in 2020