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Video conferencing makes it easier for small businesses to resolve disputes

Media release: 18 January 2019

The Victorian Small Business Commissioner Judy O’Connell has launched new video conferencing facilities to provide all Victorian small businesses with greater access to dispute resolution services.

The Victorian Small Business Commission launched its first video conference mediation this week, with one of the mediation parties located in Brisbane, while the mediator, legal representative and the applicant sat in a VSBC conference room.

A recent survey by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman found 22% of small businesses have had a dispute in the last five years, which for Victoria extrapolates to 132,000 small businesses.

In the last financial year, the VSBC received 1,700 dispute applications; 520 of which went to mediation, with a success rate of 80%.   The VSBC dispute resolution service is available for any small business that has a commercial dispute with another business or government agency, and have it mediated for $195 per party.

“There are a lot of small business owners who are currently not using our services and we are hoping video conferencing facilities will allow more small business to attend a mediation session without having to leave their home or office,” said Ms O’Connell.

“Video conferencing will not replace face-to-face mediation however it will offer an alternative to small business owners where the time and cost of travelling to the mediation is too high. Using this technology will enhance our dispute resolution services”.

Mediator Jonathan Kaplan said “the mediation technology worked well, and it is more effective than a telephone conference, as it is important for all the parties to be able to see one another”.

The VSBC is an independent government agency which advocates on issues that affect small business, educates small business about their rights and responsibilities, and helps them to avoid or resolve any disputes.

The VSBC can be contacted by calling 13 VSBC (13 8722) or by visiting

To arrange an interview with the Victorian Small Business Commissioner, contact: 
Cate Hamill, Victorian Small Business Commission, or 03 9651 9114

Creating a Mentally Healthy Small Business

Starting, growing and sustaining a small business can be a rewarding experience. However, it’s not always an easy journey. Running a business is a bit like riding a rollercoaster; it’s full of highs and lows.  It’s important to know how to cope when inevitable challenges arise.

At first it may not be obvious how the pressure of running a business will affect a person’s mental health.  Understanding this can help a business owner identify early on when additional assistance is needed to keep functioning at an optimum level.

What do we mean by mental health?

The term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood.  It is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia and others.  But according to the World Health Organisation, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

What is mental health in the workplace?

When we talk about mental health in the workplace, we are looking at how the business environment affects us – either positively or negatively – as well as the effect our mental health has on our ability to do our jobs.

Thinking about creating a mentally healthy workplace is just as important as thinking about your approach to marketing or finance.  What will you do to ensure you and your team develop a level of resilience that you can draw upon when needed?  Taking a proactive approach to mental health in your workplace is a great investment for everyone who is involved in the business and everyone has a role to play, both in looking after their own mental health and creating a mentally health workplace.

There are two key areas you can address to ensure you have a mentally healthy workplace. They are:

The business owner – your  mental health:

Many small businesses in Victoria are owned by sole-operators who work alone in the business. Alternatively, micro businesses have small, almost family-like teams. In both cases, it’s important that the business owner is aware of their own mental health needs – the business needs them at the helm!

Be proactive about your mental health

There are a number of things you can do to care for your mental health. This may include:

Mental health red flags

It’s important to know the mental health indicators that may require attention. These include:

Steps you can take:

Mental health challenges in business are quite common, and help is available. With good support it’s possible to overcome them and continue to operate your small business. Here are some steps you can take:

Creating a mentally health workspace for others:

Normalising mental health in the workplace helps to reduce stigma and creates a space where it’s safe to talk about, and address mental health challenges. People often work closely together in small business so it’s important to create a workplace that respects individual experiences. Ways to do that include:

How the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) can help you:

Commercial and business disputes can be mentally, emotionally and financially draining to both you and your business.

If your business is in a dispute or if you feel that you may be heading towards one, contact the VSBC and talk to one of our staff (13 VSBC / 13 8722).

We can help you by advising you on your dispute, offering preliminary assistance and providing mediation, saving both parties the time, emotion and distraction of Tribunal and Court proceedings.

The process is simple: we invite both parties to discuss the issues they have and engage them in trying to resolve the dispute. If a confidential mediation is required, the VSBC will arrange a date and venue and will provide an experienced, independent mediator to facilitate an open discussion with the aim of achieving a resolution satisfactory to both parties.

Help is available:

Listed below are a few of the services available to help both you and your team:

Heads Up: This site has lots of resources and information about mental health in Australian workplaces.  In particular, look for the section for small business owners.

Business In MindBusiness In Mind is an online resource specifically designed to support business owners who may be experiencing mental health challenges.

Beyond Blue beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

Mates in Construction: An industry specific mental health service provider that supports businesses in the construction sector. (Ph: 1300 642 111)

National Centre for Farmer Health: This site provides a wide variety of health, wellbeing and safety information, including a ‘support page’ for farmers experiencing tough times. (Ph: 03 5551 8533)

The Ripple Effect: A resource for rural communities that addresses suicide in rural areas.(Ph: 03 5551 8587)

Sane provides online information, support and connection for every Australian affected by complex mental illness through its website, peer-to-peer forums and helpline. SANE also has a range of factsheets on managing mental health in the workplace. (Ph: 1800 18 7263)

Australian Tax Office: The ATO recognises that owning and growing a small business can be difficult at times, and they have developed a web page with information to help support small business owners.  The ATO also recognises that some people may feel nervous about making contact; however, they are able to assist you in a variety of ways.  The website is well worth a visit.

 Worksafe Victoria: WorkSafe Victoria provides information to Victorian businesses about their legal obligations for providing a safe workplace. You can access a range of information about workplace mental health and safety, including work-related stress and workplace bullying. (Ph: 1800 136 089)

Victorian workplace mental wellbeing collaboration: Tools and resources, including case studies to support workplaces in promoting positive mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Personal stories and case studies:

Freelance book keeper Troy Schoenfisch tells us how he keeps mentally healthy at work. Watch the video.

Sandy Cooper is a workplace trainer for small businesses, here she explains what it is like to be her own boss. Watch the video.

Small business owner Richenda Vermeulen shares her experience about creating a mentally healthy workplace for herself and her staff. Watch the video.

Download a pdf of this information here.

Download the Small Business Mental Health Strategic Plan to identify and implement workplace practices that support you on your small business journey here.