The Tribunal’s jurisdiction powers and procedures are defined by the ACAT Act, other authorising laws and its Rules and Directions. You will find links to those documents on this site.
What should I wear?
Present well, shoes, neat and tidy
Tape Recorders and Cameras
Personal tape recorders and cameras are not permitted in any ACAT hearing without the specific approval of the ACAT Presidential Members. Special rules apply to representatives of the media in which you can find that information here.
Weapons of any kind are not permitted in the ACAT premises although special rules apply to police officers.
Mobile phones should be switched off in ACAT hearings unless the presiding ACAT Member permits otherwise.
Food and Drink
Food and drink must not be taken into any hearing room.
Visitors to ACAT
All visitors should comply with any directions given by the ACAT Presidential Members and registry staff.
Consider working towards a solution to your disagreement with the other party by adopting alternative dispute resolution before your hearing is listed to be heard. Conferencing, mediations, case appraisal or conciliation options are all available upon application to the Tribunal staff.
What sort of Disputes cannot be heard by ACAT?
The tribunal cannot hear any application made under a Commonwealth Law.
ACAT cannot be used for:
• disputes over parenting or the custody of children
• disputes over child support
• disputes about wills and probate
• disputes about taxes or social welfare benefits
• decisions pertaining to recruitment issues
• Civil claims in excess of $10,000
• Criminal matters
Examples of disputes that can be heard:
• if you have a disagreement with your neighbour
• an argument over a finance agreement
• if someone damages your property
• disputes with your landlord or your tenant
• tenancy issues including disputes between tenants and disputes with strata management in which the tenancy is located
• goods application
• common boundaries
• trespass and nuisance applications
• contractual disputes
• any decision made under an ACT law
• application for a mental health order
• residential issues with tenants or landlords
• discrimination matters
• issues with utility services
There is generally a $10,000 limit on civil dispute applications although there are provisions for some exceptions. In the case of Residential Tenancy disputes the limit is $25,000 and up to $50,000 with the consent of the parties. Applications cannot include claims for interest charges or lump sums in lieu of interest charges.
Tips when making an application
Keep the lines of communication open. Try and resolve disputes by talking to the other party informally before you lodge an application with the ACAT or by using mediation or counselling services. If you reach an agreement after the application is lodged let the tribunal know if you settle the matter.
• Prepare for your hearing
• Prepare a statement in writing and plan when and where to call witnesses or introduce evidence
• Keep all evidence relevant to your claim including letters, faxes, emails, bills. photos or quotes for repairs
• Make copies of your statement, legal references and evidence for your referee and the other side
• Double check that the details on your application and particularly the respondents name and address are correct
Other organisations that may be able to assist you :
Federal AAT - Link
Legal Aid - Link
Law Society - Link
Tenant Advisory Service - Link
Street Law Homeless Outreach - Link
Canberra Community Law
Merit Protection and Review Agency - Link
Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team - Link
Conflict Resolution Service - Link
Consumer Law Centre - Link
Environmental Defenders Office (ACT) - Link
Parties to an Application
The person bringing a claim to a hearing is known as the applicant while the person defending the claim is called the respondent. The Hearing will be held before the General President of the Tribunal along with nominated member/s of the tribunal as nominated by the General President.
It is the policy of the tribunal to manage all applications from the moment an application is lodged.
The tribunal will facilitate the resolution of applications in the first instance by listing applications for conference, directions, a preliminary conference under section 33 of the Act or mediation where appropriate.
The tribunal may also refer parties to other dispute resolution services at any time.
If need be the Tribunal can also set time limits for case preparation and monitor the progress of an application against these time limits as well as varying or enforcing compliance with the time limits so that applications are dealt with as quickly as is consistent with achieving justice.
What to do if you receive a Notice of Hearing
The Registrar of the Tribunal must give written notice of the time and place for the hearing of an application to the parties concerned and you will receive a Notice of Hearing. If you receive a notice and you are the respondent it would be in your best interests to make contact with the applicant and try and reach a resolution to the dispute before the hearing. If you are successful resolve the dispute you MUST inform the Tribunal.
Lodging a Counterclaim
If as the respondent you wish to make your own claim against the applicant you should lodge a separate Claim Form. This counter claim should be related to the applicant’s claim and should contain a reference to the original claim number.
Tips when responding to an application
Do your homework. Prepare well for the hearing.
What if my first language is not English?
If you have a hearing in a Guardianship, Mental Health or Energy & Water matter, ACAT will upon your request to ACAT, arrange for an interpreter to be available. In other matters, parties should generally make their own arrangements. The Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) can be contacted on 131 450 or through their website www.immi.gov.au/tis.
What if I’m not able to attend on the day
If you cannot attend on the date fixed for a hearing you must immediately contact the ACAT Registry staff on 6207 1740. The staff may be able to arrange an alternative hearing time for you.
Failure of a party to attend a hearing or a conference
The Tribunal will endeavour to take all reasonable practical steps to contact the parties required to appear before the Tribunal. If a party fails to attend then the Tribunal may:
• order the application be set down for another time, or
• make an order that something else be done before the application continues, or
• give an adjournment, or
• proceed with the hearing in the absence of the party, or
• dismiss the application if the party is the applicant, or
• remove the party from the application if they are not the applicant or respondent
What happens at a hearing?
The hearing of an application will usually be in public unless determined otherwise by the Tribunal.
The ACAT member will normally ask the person making the claim to give his/her side of the story first. Then the other person will be asked to say how they see the situation. Any documents relating to the dispute should be presented to the tribunal members and the tribunal will ask questions of each party and of any witnesses and you too will be able to ask questions.The tribunal members will encourage both parties to discuss the dispute and may suggest ways in which it might be settled. If an agreement is not reached, the Tribunal will make a Decision. Both agreements and Decisions are binding and can be enforced in the same way as an order of the Court.
What to bring to a hearing
Generally the better prepared you are the more likelihood of successYou should bring with you a prepared statement to read from along with:
What decisions can be made
The Tribunal while observing natural justice and procedural fairness may make any order (an interim order) it considers appropriate to protect the position of the party that applied for the order.
The Tribunal may also make decisions without actually holding a hearing but a request by the Tribunal in writing will be made to each party to an application for their representations before the decision is made.
Tips for a hearing
If your matter is listed for a hearing the following tips may assist you:
How to address Tribunal Members
Part-time members of the ACAT can be addressed as "Member" or "Senior Member". A list of appointed members showing designation can be found in ‘General Information’ on the Tribunal’s website. Please check this list from time to time as changes are occasionally made.
Presidential members prefer to be addressed as "President" when they are presiding over a matter or as "Presidential Member" when not presiding on a multi-member panel. Mr Stefaniak's full title is "Appeal President" and Ms Crebbin's "General President".
It is also acceptable to address Tribunal members by title and last name (ie., Professor Spender, Mr Anforth, Ms Lennard, Ms David, Ms Crebbin etc..).
Referrals and Appeals - Appealing a Decision
The ACAT can on its own initiative, or on an application by a party, request the Appeal President to give a ruling on a question of law.
If the Tribunal has decided an application (that was not an appeal) the party to the original application may appeal the decision on a question of fact or law.
On appeal the Appeal President will allocate tribunal members not involved with the original decision to an Appeal Tribunal to review the decision that was made on the original application. The Appeal Tribunal will then, as it considers appropriate, deal with the appeal as a new application or as a review of part or all of the original decision.
Dismissing an Appeal
An appeal may be dismissed by the Appeal President if the application it is considered to be substantially the same as other appeals rejected by the Tribunal. The applicant will be given written notice by the Appeal President to which they have 21 days to respond as to why the appeal should not be dismissed.
If the Tribunal dismisses an application for appeal the applicant may appeal the original decision to the Supreme Court.
Further information may be obtained from the ACAT Registry by phoning 6207 1740.