Australia’s first national workplace relations tribunal, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, was established more than a century ago in 1904.
Since then, the tribunal has undergone many changes in jurisdiction, name, function and structure in line with substantial legislative, social and economic changes. The tribunal has endured by successfully adapting to changes in its legislative environment and through being an independent and expert dispute resolution service.
In recent years the Commission has seen a significant shift in the composition of its work. The nature of the Commission’s work has changed—from collective to individual dispute resolution. This shift towards individual dispute resolution arises from legislative change and other workplace changes.
The changing nature of the Commission’s work has had implications for our stakeholders. Parties appearing before the Commission are no longer predominantly experienced workplace relations participants, such as unions, employers and employer organisations, who are familiar with the legislative landscape and the Commission’s processes. The majority of parties are now individual employees and employers, many of whom are self represented.
We are continuing to improve the information we provide about the legislation we administer and our procedures in order to be more accessible to people with limited knowledge of workplace relations.
The Commission operates within the broader workplace relations framework and works with other Commonwealth agencies that also have a role to play, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Registered Organisations Commission. Some, although not all, of the functions that were previously exercised by the Commission’s General Manager under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 are now exercised by the Registered Organisations Commissioner.