Alternative dispute resolution – the next generation!

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Move over traditional law moots…alternative dispute resolution is taking hold!  Guest blogger Kate Mann talks about her team’s participation in the recent School Conflict Resolution and Mediation program….

The School Conflict Resolution And Mediation (SCRAM) program is an initiative of the Western Australia Dispute Resolution Association (WADRA) and has been an ongoing competition since 2001.

Its aim is to teach a new generation about alternatives for solving disputes and encourages students to learn a new set of life skills, taught through the method of competition.

Every year, year 9 and 10 students go head to head with other WA public and private schools for the prestigious title of SCRAM school of the year, learning and implementing skills through the course of 6-9 months and hopefully later in life.

Held in the supreme court of WA, Margaret River Senior High School won the 2016 SCRAM competition finals against the title holders of 2015, Perth Collage.

Teams made up of six students (2 mediators and 4 party members), are judged by an adjudicator on their ability to act out scenarios given and their ability to follow the mediation process and apply the principles of mediation (impartially, confidentiality, time-management, respect of people, issue focused and voluntary participation) in 50 minute rounds. Throughout the 6-9 month period each school competing is given a scenario (the same as every school) to study for a week.

An adjudicator then assesses the mediation and gives them a mark for the round. This happens 3 times throughout the year and the 2 highest scoring schools at the end of the 3 rounds face off in the grand finale in Perth.

In 2015 Margaret River Senior High School competed but were unsuccessful at reaching the finals. More determined than ever, the 16 competing students of 2016 stepped up, and with the help of our coaches Marilyn Hopkins, Steven Castan and Galatee Underwood (who are professional mediators) and support from the organising teachers Patrick Marzhol and Benjamin Finch, the SCRAM students practised the scenarios for the adjudications.

These scenarios included disputes over surf boards, inclusion in school activities and other issues the mediators had to help resolve.

The training paid off, as one of the 2 Margaret River Senior High School teams made it into the grand final, while the other team placed third. This was my second and final year of participation with the SCRAM program and it would be an understatement to say that the team and I were all ecstatic that we had made it to the finals. The hardest part for everyone was deciding who was to compete. The strength of this year’s Margaret River Senior High School SCRAM group was so strong and full of amazing talent it was an impossible task to pick only 8 people to be in the team, but we decided that we all would go along no matter what. The 8 people were chosen, 2 mediators (myself and Emma Horak), 4 party members (Remy Castan, Tess Mann, Flynn Winstanley and Ellenor Sibon) and the 2 reserves (Catherine Mottershead and Kayla Tribbeck). The other 8 were our eager supporters and were very happy to come along, give us feedback and support us the whole way. Without them there, we wouldn’t have won.

After two weeks preparation and hard work, ready or not we boarded the bus and headed to Perth. Nerves and excitement were starting to settle in but they were the least of my worries as I had nearly lost my voice! After many Singalongs, laughs and occasional food stops, we made it to Perth and arrived at our accommodation, The Kangaroo Inn. At this stage I had over 8 throat soothes in desperation to regain my voice but luckily we had some time to waste. We walked down to Elizabeth Quay and went in search of an early dinner on Barrack Street before returning to prepare for the Supreme Court and the grand final. After establishing that we needed to get some smaller blazers for the school, we walked as a group to the Supreme court, and after taking a pre-mediation group photo, we walked in were greeted by a security guard and Perth Collage.  After a quick ride in the elevator, similar to The Great Glass Elevator, we reached the eighth floor and were welcomed by a SCRAM organiser and spectacular view over the Swan River.

We were given 10 minutes preparation and time to go over our scenario, which was a dispute over artwork of a poster for a school disco night. The person who designed the artwork was upset that his artwork was being judged as ‘unfit’ for the disco night. This then turned into a whole argument which was to be resolved by the mediators. Then the session commenced. Parents, coaches, supporters and the adjudicators watched over the 50 minute session in silence, and when we finished we were applauded with smiles and cheers. We all were and still are proud of what we achieved and delivered.

The most nervous and anxious part for all of us was the 15 minute wait for the results. But when they were announced, we were all overwhelmed with joy. We did it, we won. After accepting the trophy as team captain, and smiling for multiple photos, we farewelled Perth Collage and exited the court as the 2016 SCRAM champions. Full of energy and awe, with the trophy and plaques in hand, a night of celebration had commenced. The next morning we boarded the bus and with the trophy safely secured, we departed and head back to Margaret River Senior High School, where which the trophy will stay until next year’s competition. The trip full of musical singalongs, an array of emotions, food stops and memories that will never be forgotten.

Thank you to all those who supported, coached and were a part of the 2016 Margaret River Senior High School SCRAM team. We couldn’t have done it without any of you! I am very proud to have been the captain and apart of such a wonderful team and I wish the very best to next year’s team and the many teams to come. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.

Kate Mann, Team captain of the 2016 of Margaret River Senior High School SCRAM team. Special thanks to Remy and Steven Castan for their contributions to this blog.

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