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About the Queensland Small Business Commissioner

The Queensland Small Business Commissioner (QSBC) is a statutory office holder, temporarily established under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020. The Commissioner aims to advocate, enable and empower small businesses to help drive economic growth in Queensland.

Maree Adshead is the Queensland Small Business Commissioner. Maree is an experienced advocate and small business owner having spent 10 years in the legal profession, and as partner of a tier one national law firm. She co-founded and built her own successful software start-up businesses which received multiple awards for excellence in innovation, and has also been instrumental in helping others to build theirs.

She became founding CEO of the Open Data Institute Australian Network in 2014, which was dedicated to enabling business, industry, academia and government to use public data as a strategic resource.

In 2017 Maree was appointed the inaugural Queensland Small Business Champion, establishing a trusted interface between business and government, advocating on behalf of the Queensland small business community, as well as triaging and referring disputes.

Having achieved great work for Queenslanders as Small Business Champion, Maree now leads the office of the Queensland Small Business Commissioner.

Who the QSBC helps

  • Small business owners based in Queensland.
  • Small business lease tenants and landlords based in Queensland.

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What the QSBC does

The functions of the QSBC include:

  • providing information and advisory services to small businesses in Queensland about matters relevant to them
  • assisting small businesses with informal resolution of COVID-19 small business leasing disputes. This includes providing initial information and advisory services, and pre-mediation services to connect tenants and landlords to try to identify solutions prior to progressing to mediation
  • administering a small business lease dispute mediation process (where information or pre-mediation support has not resolved the dispute), before progressing to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the courts for dispute resolution.

The Commissioner also advocates for Queensland small businesses at the state and national level, including:

  • contributing to the national small business agenda as a member of the National Small Business Commissioners network
  • acting as an interface between the Queensland and Australian Governments on matters affecting Queensland small businesses
  • advocating on behalf of small businesses to the Queensland Government.

QSBC mediation

If you have a dispute with another party, you first need to follow the steps for resolving business disputes. Once you have made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute, you may be able to seek dispute assistance from a third party.

The QSBC may provide free mediation for eligible small business tenancy disputes and affected lease disputes if you can demonstrate you have made a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute.

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Mediation is an impartial, safe space where an independent mediator facilitates a confidential discussion between the parties to explore the issues and help them to reach an agreement that both parties can accept. Most mediation conferences take about 1-3 hours.

Preparing for mediation

To help prepare for a mediation conference you should:

  • prepare a written summary that you can refer to, which briefly outlines:
    • the key facts of your dispute
    • documents, incidents or calculations that your support your position
    • what you hope to achieve from the mediation
  • collate supporting documentation that you may need to refer to in the mediation conference, including:
    • a copy of the lease
    • emails between the parties
    • financial documents for the business
  • Be prepared to listen respectfully to the other parties' perspective and allow for a meaningful negotiation.
  • Allow enough time (remembering mediation may take up to 4 hours).

If you require the assistance of an interpreter or reasonable adjustment at a mediation, you can inform the mediator before mediation.

Attending mediation

A mediation conference is typically attended by the parties themselves. You may wish to have a support person attend mediation with you; however, legal representation is not necessary or encouraged. If you wish to bring a support person, or be legally represented, you must seek approval from the mediator before the mediation conference.

During COVID-19, mediation conferences arranged by the QSBC are conducted remotely via teleconference or videoconference. It is recommended the parties log onto the teleconference or videoconference 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start, to test the connection and be ready to start on time.

The mediator will open proceedings by introducing themselves and providing a detailed outline of the process and what to expect. The mediator will explain the role of each party, and will establish the ground rules for how to behave, when to request breaks etc. Both parties must negotiate in good faith and make a genuine attempt to resolve the matter.

If you have been given a Notice of Mediation Conference, attendance by both parties is compulsory. Not participating in good faith, or failing to attend (unless you provide a reasonable excuse), can be used against you in any subsequent hearing of the matter by a tribunal or court including an adverse order of costs.

After mediation

If you successfully reach an agreement at mediation, the mediator will record the key terms of the agreement in writing. The mediator will require you to sign the agreement, and both parties will be provided with a copy.

If you are unable to reach an agreement, the QSBC is unable to provide any further dispute assistance and you should seek your own independent financial and legal advice on your options (which may include an application to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal or a court).

Following the mediation, the mediator will give the parties a Notice of Mediation Outcome. The mediator will also provide a copy will be given to the QSBC.

The office of the QSBC

The office of the QSBC supports the commissioner by providing information to and advocating for small businesses. The QSBC also provides support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME entities) to resolve commercial leasing disputes arising from the COVID-19 emergency.

Note: The Queensland Small Business Commissioner provides general information and guidance for small businesses in Queensland. We do not provide specific financial or legal advice. We cannot compel people to do certain things and cannot make rulings or decisions about disputes.

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