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Handling disputes and conflicts

Understanding the law involved will help your organisation have the best outcome.

Content last updated 20/02/2024

Disputes with members

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Dealing with disputes and grievances with members in incorporated associations

All not-for-profit community organisations have to deal with conflict sometimes. Healthy debate is good for your organisation, but if conflict and disputes are preventing your organisation from achieving its goals, you need to know how to handle it effectively and legally.   

This page provides information on dealing with conflict and disputes involving members of a community organisation, and covers particular requirements for incorporated associations. 

Incorporated associations must have procedures for dealing with 'grievances' under their rules (or constitution). Typically, a 'grievance' arises where there is conflict between: 

  • a member (or members) of the organisation and the rest of the organisation 
  • a member (or members) of the organisation and the committee of management, or 
  • members of the committee of management (or board) 

For example - a member might complain that the annual general meeting was not properly held, tensions may arise about the use of funds, or a committee member may dispute whether another member of the committee was validly elected.  

Our fact sheets cover: 

  • what an ‘internal dispute’ in an incorporated association is and what to do when there is an internal dispute in your organisation 
  • how mediation can help resolve a dispute 
  • how closely you need to follow your organisation’s dispute resolution procedures, and 
  • other options if your organisation is in disarray and what kinds of internal disputes can be taken to court 


Select the state or territory where your association is incorporated and download the fact sheet:


Removing or disciplining a member

For incorporated associations, disciplinary procedures can allow an association to remove, suspend or fine a member who is acting inappropriately or damaging your association’s ability to operate.  

Our fact sheets for Victoria and New South Wales cover: 

  • disciplinary action an incorporated association can take against a member 
  • the process to follow when an incorporated association removes or disciplines a member, and 
  • other options to resolve issues with members 
Removing or disciplining a member (Vic)
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Removing or disciplining a member (NSW)
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Removing a committee member from the committee

The committee of management (or board) of an incorporated association controls and manages the business and affairs of the association. Sometimes an association's ability to achieve its aims is disrupted because a committee or board member is behaving inappropriately.  

Our fact sheets for Victoria and New South Wales cover: 

  • possible action before removing a member from the committee  
  • the process to follow when an incorporated association removes a committee member from the committee  
  • what happens once a committee member is removed, and
  • other options to resolve issues with a committee member
Removing a committee member from the committee (Vic)
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Removing a committee member from the committee (NSW)
Download

Going to court about an internal dispute

For some types of internal disputes, an incorporated association may go to court to resolve the dispute as a last resort.  

Before deciding to take court action about an internal dispute, consider what is really important about the dispute. Will going to court fix the problem?

Also ask: 

  • who, if anyone, is likely to get what they want by going to court? 
  • how much has the dispute cost so far, and how much more will your association spend if it goes to court? 
  • what will the personal costs of going to court be (for example, time, impact on people's lives, relationships and stress levels)? 
  • are there other alternatives (for example, resigning or starting another organisation)? 

Caution 

Seek legal advice before making a decision about what to do. 

Our fact sheets for Victoria and New South Wales contain general information about: 

  • things to try before going to court about an internal dispute  
  • what kinds of internal disputes can be taken to court  
  • what to do if someone takes legal action against your association 
Going to court about an internal dispute (Vic)
Download
Going to court about an internal dispute (NSW)
Download

More information


The content on this webpage was last updated in February 2024 and is not legal advice. See full disclaimer and copyright notice.


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