What does the Transition from NMAS to AMDRAS mean for Lawyer-Mediators?

The national accreditation system for mediators in Australia is evolving, 1 July 2024 marks a significant milestone and another step toward emerging as a recognised profession.

Promoted by Mediator Standards Board 26 June 2024 Big Law
expand image

The National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS) has been comprehensively reviewed over several years, and following an in-depth professional drafting process, this year sees the transition from NMAS to the Australian Mediator and Dispute Resolution Accreditation Standards.

The review included independent research and extensive consultation, received hundreds of submissions and was followed by an extensive consultative drafting and review period, with support from MSB Board of Directors, Professor Peter Butt and legal advisors, Gilbert & Tobin.

On 1 July 2024, AMDRAS will begin a 12-month transition period, bringing into effect a number of changes and new opportunities that lawyer-mediators and legal professionals considering accreditation should take into account.

These changes are aimed at improving the flexibility of the mediation accreditation system while prioritising quality, consistency, and consumer protection. The board anticipates that AMDRAS will support the provision of mediation services in Australia with a more comprehensive and modern accreditation system, capable of adapting to the rapid changes and increased significance of non-determinative dispute resolution in our legal system.

Below is an outline for currently accredited mediators and those who use their services on what’s changing, some elements of national accreditation which will remain unchanged, and why.


What do Currently Accredited Mediators Need to Do?

All “Accredited Mediators NMAS” will become “Accredited Mediators AMDRAS” without the need for any action on the part of the individual mediators from 1st July 2024.

If you are an accredited mediator and your renewal of accreditation occurs during the transition period (1 July 2024 – 30 June 2025), the rules from the NMAS can still be applied.

Your Recognised Accreditation Provider (RAP), formerly RMAB, will advise you when they are ready to accept applications for accreditation under AMDRAS. This may occur prior to 30 June 2025, it will depend on the individual accreditation providers.

New Levels of Accreditation and Specialist Areas

A significant change that will be introduced by AMDRAS is the shift from one to three levels of accreditation: Accredited Mediator, Advanced Mediator and Leading Mediator.

These levels have been included in response to feedback received during the NMAS review and consultation process.

The levels of accreditation are expected to make it easier for consumers to be aware of experience levels of accredited mediators however even at the accredited mediator level it will provide a significant advantage to consumer confidence compared to someone who offers mediation services without the quality control of NMAS / AMDRAS accreditation as a mediator.

When your accreditation provider is ready to accept applications for Advanced Mediator or Leading Mediator they will advise you how to apply and what evidence of eligibility you will need to provide.

Some Name Changes to be Aware of

The Mediator Standards Board (MSB) will formally change names and become the Australian Mediator and Dispute Resolution Accreditation Standards (AMDRAS) Board.

The inclusion of “Dispute Resolution” into the name reflects the diversity of non-determinative dispute practitioners –and anticipates new Specialist Practitioner categories allowed for in the new framework.

In the context of AMDRAS, the term “dispute resolution” refers only to non-determinative dispute resolution. The AMDRAS in no way seeks to provide standards for determinative dispute resolution processes such as arbitration or litigation. Where there is a combination of determinative and non-determinative processes AMDRAS only applies to the non-determinative elements of the services.

Other terms that will change include

  • “Accredited Mediators NMAS” will become “Accredited Mediators AMDRAS”.
  • AMDRAS also introduces a Certificate of Training (COT) recognising practitioners that complete AMDRAS training without intending to become accredited and practice as a mediator. It is expected that lawyers attending mediations on behalf of clients will benefit from completing AMDRAS training, from both a practice and marketing perspective.
  • Recognised Mediator Accreditation Bodies (RMAB) will become Recognised Accreditation Providers (RAP).

Some Renewal Requirements will Change once AMDRAS comes into effect

Practice Hours will Change

Under NMAS all mediators required to undertake 25 hours of professional practice each two-year renewal cycle.

Accredited Mediators AMDRAS will be required to undertake a minimum of 20 hours of mediation practice each renewal period. Five of those hours can be preliminary conferences and preparation, and another five hours can be observing a more experienced mediator.

This is to allow for newer mediators who are finding their feet and professionals who are acting as a mediator only very occasionally to retain accreditation more easily.

A minimum of 40 practice hours will apply for renewal of the Advanced, Leading and Specialist Accreditation levels.

CPD Changes

The requirement for 25 hours of professional development over two years remains for all accredited mediator levels with some slight adjustments to the categories.

To be eligible for consideration as CPD, activities must contribute to the development or maintenance of the professional attributes required of an Accredited Mediator - AMDRAS. More details about these attributes and eligible CPD activities, visit the AMDRAS page.

It is expected that there will be an overlap between the CPD undertaken as a Lawyer and Mediator and much of your CPD undertaken as a legal practitioner will be recognised in your accredited mediator renewal.

No Change for Complaint Handling of Lawyer-Mediators’ Under AMDRAS

The requirement to have an independent complaint handling body is a key element of the consumer protection benefits provided by the mediator accreditation system in Australia. This requirement remains and has been strengthened in the AMDRAS but in no way is intended to conflict with any statutory obligations regarding complaint handling.

Legal practitioners are covered by existing Legislation and Regulations as are registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners and those working within a non-determinative dispute resolution statutory body. AMDRAS imposes no additional obligations should a complaint be raised, the legal and ethical obligations and complaint-handling process established by the practitioners’ relevant legislative provisions would apply.

Where can I find more information?

Significant guidance has been published by the Board to assist with this process and additional support will be provided as needed.

Additionally, a number of forums, events and resources are planned for recognised training providers and recognised accreditation bodies to allow for discussion and collaboration in making any adjustments to processes that may be needed.

The following are key documents lawyer-mediators can refer to for more details on AMDRAS.

  • Guidelines for transitioning to AMDRAS can be found at MSB.org.au
  • CPD requirements and Professional Attributes assist in planning continuing professional development activities in the AMDRAS. This includes Appendix 2 (CPD schedule and record sheet), Appendix 3 (Code of Ethics) and Appendix 4 (Protocols Professional Practice Domains: Professional Skills, Ethics and Responsibilities). These can be accessed here.

The Australian Mediator and Dispute Resolution Accreditation Standards Board (formerly known as Mediator Standards Board) was established in 2010 to support and promote high standards among mediators and enhance the quality of mediation services in Australia.

The AMDRAS Board oversees the development and maintenance of the Australian Mediator and Dispute Resolution Accreditation Standards (previously known as NMAS) which ensures consistency, high quality, and public protection in mediation services and training across Australia. Find out more at www.msb.org.au

Latest articles