EDR schemes cannot adequately service Indigenous Australians under their current modes of operation according to this article.
External Dispute Resolution (EDR) schemes play an important role in resolving consumer disputes about telecommunication, financial and utility (energy, gas and water) services. Disputes with providers of these services can be serious, often involving disputed debts of many thousands of dollars, eventually impacting on access to credit
for homes and cars. This essay argues that EDR schemes cannot adequately service Indigenous Australians under their current modes of operation. In considering intercultural conflict concepts such as cultural fluency, recent research has argued that the established model of traditional or Western mediation is limited in its effectiveness in dealing with conflict amongst Indigenous people or between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Given that EDR schemes are also underpinned by the same Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) theories that underpin mediation processes, this paper considers the implications of this research for EDR schemes. It will argue that “outreach programs” alone are not sufficient to improve access and outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Finally, some proposals for EDR Schemes will be presented to facilitate improved outcomes, arguing that the primary focus for “capacity building” should be within the organisations themselves.