Maria called the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) after her neighbour added an extension to ¾ of the dividing fence. She said the extension, which increased the height of the fence by 60cm blocked light for her garden and hindered her view of the street.
Todd from next door told Maria's husband Rick what they were doing, and Rick initially agreed because he thought the neighbours were going to put up a trellis with roses.
Maria said that when Todd and Liz moved in two years ago, Liz was very friendly, but that changed, and they became "peculiar" to Maria. So when Maria had tried to talk to Liz about the fence Liz became hostile, and then Todd came out of the house and told Liz not to speak to her.
The DSCV wrote to Todd and Liz, inviting them to a mediation session with Maria and Rick. Five days later Todd called the Centre and said that his partner didn’t want to speak to the neighbours because of all the pain they had caused from malicious gossip and rumour spreading.
The DSCV’s assessment officer explained to Todd that attendance was voluntary and Liz did not have to attend if she did not want to, however mediation would provide a safe environment for them to raise uncomfortable issues that was clearly causing them distress.
Liz then spoke to the assessment officer, who explained that the mediators control the discussion to make sure everyone has a chance to put forward their point of view, and that they listen to each other. The mediators also keep a positive focus on the discussions, helping neighbours to reach an agreement on the problems they have been having. Liz agreed that her concerns could be managed within the DSCV mediation process, and decided to participate.
The assessment officer organised a mediation date at a venue not far from Todd, Liz, Rick and Maria’s street. The mediation went for over three hours and Maria was shocked to hear some of the things her neighbours believed she said about her. But she was also grateful to have an opportunity to put across her point of view, and apologise for any offence she had caused.
When it came time to talk about the fence, Todd was reluctant to pull down the extension, which he had just installed at great expense. Rick offered to reimburse him for the materials and help install a trellis as originally proposed. In the end, Todd agreed to take down the extension and give the material to Rick to use fix a shed. They also agreed to pay 50/50 for a trellis on top of the fence instead.
*Case is based on an amalgam of actual DSCV file material. Names and details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.