Review of ACT Government decisions

ACAT has the power to review some decisions made by ACT Government decision makers. For example, ACAT can review some decisions about:

  • planning and development
  • heritage
  • tree protection
  • building and construction
  • revenue
  • licences and permits
  • dangerous dogs
  • freedom of information
  • waiver of traffic or parking fines
  • public housing allocation and rent rebates.

Not all ACT Government decisions are reviewable. ACAT’s power to review a decision is set out in legislation, known as an authorising law.

When reviewing a decision, ACAT has all the powers of the original decision maker. ACAT can:

  • confirm the decision
  • vary the decision
  • set the decision aside.

If a decision is set aside, ACAT may make a substitute decision or give the case back to the original decision maker for reconsideration in accordance with any direction or recommendation of ACAT.

ACAT decisions are binding, and have effect as if made by the original decision maker.

Before you apply

How do I know if the decision is reviewable?

The original decision maker should tell you in writing of the decision and the reasons for it. If the decision can be reviewed by ACAT, the written notice will say you can apply to ACAT. This is called a reviewable decision notice.

If your letter does not say you can apply to ACAT, then ACAT may not have the power to review the decision. If this is the case, you should immediately seek legal advice about your review rights. These are usually set out in the law under which the decision was made.

Do I need to ask for an internal review first?

Sometimes the decision will need to be internally reviewed by the original decision maker before you can make an application to ACAT.

The original decision maker must notify you if the decision is internally reviewable. You will then need to follow their processes to request an internal review. After an internal review occurs, you may then be able to apply to ACAT for a review.

How long do I have to make an application?

Different time periods apply to different types of decisions. For example, if you have made a representation about a development application, you only have 20 working days to make an application. This time cannot be extended.

For most other decisions, you must make an application for review of a decision [PDF 131KB]:

  • within 28 days of the date of the decision being made, or
  • within 28 days after the day the notice of decision is given (if the notice is given to you later than five days after the decision was made).

ACAT can only extend the time to apply for a maximum of 56 days – there must also be reasonable grounds to do this.

If you need an extension of time, complete the ‘application for extension of time to lodge the application for review’ section on the application for review of a decision [PDF 131KB].

If an application for an extension is made, ACAT will provide a copy to the respondent and ask for their views. If there are no objections, ACAT may decide to extend time in chambers (without a hearing). If the respondent objects to the extension of time (or it is not clear there are reasonable grounds to extend time), ACAT may schedule a short hearing to decide whether or not there are reasonable grounds to extend time.

Is the decision under review automatically stayed?

Lodging an application for review has no effect on the reviewable decision. The reviewable decision will still be in effect unless ACAT makes orders to ‘stay’ the effect of the decision. To request a stay, fill in the ‘interim or emergency orders sought’ section on your application for review of a decision [PDF 131KB]. You will need to set out what order you are seeking and why.

If you request a stay, ACAT will write to the respondent (who is the original decision maker) to ask if they will agree to the stay until the initial directions hearing. If there is agreement, ACAT may immediately make an order for a stay. If the respondent does not agree, ACAT will schedule a short hearing as early as possible to consider granting a stay of the decision. At the first directions hearing, ACAT will discuss with the parties whether to order a stay of the decision for a longer period.

Is there a fee to lodge an application?

There is a fee to lodge an application, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

Are there any other fees in the case?

If you want to subpoena documents or subpoena a person to attend a hearing you will need to pay a fee.

There may also be a hearing fee if your matter is scheduled for more than one day of hearing.

Find a list of ACAT fees.

Will I have to pay costs?

Generally at ACAT each party bears their own legal costs. There are some circumstances where costs may be awarded. For example, a successful party may ask for an order that the unsuccessful party pay the amount of any application or hearing fees.

Do I need a lawyer?

See our information about:

ACAT registry staff can give you procedural information, but not legal advice.

You may decide to get legal advice early, before making an application or before the first directions hearing.

Making an application

Steps involved

To make an application you need to:

  • fill in the application for review of a decision [PDF 131KB]
  • attach the reviewable decision notice from the original decision maker
  • lodge the form at ACAT, ensuring all details are completed in full
  • pay the fee, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

Remember to consider if you:

  • need to ask for an internal review first
  • are within the timeframe for making the application
  • need to ask ACAT for a stay of the decision
  • need to ask ACAT for an urgent order
  • want to ask for an order about fees if you are successful.

Urgent applications

If your application is urgent, or you are seeking urgent interim orders, fill in the ‘interim or emergency orders sought’ section on your application for review of a decision [PDF 131KB]. You will need to set out what orders you are seeking and why.

If you have already lodged your application, you can complete an application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB]. You will need to set out what orders you are requesting and why.

It is important that you give as many details as possible when making a request for urgent orders. You can attach an extra page to the application if you need more space.

ACAT will give a copy of your application to any other parties and seek their views. ACAT may then make immediate orders in chambers or schedule the case for a short hearing as soon as possible.

What to expect after an application is made

After your application has been lodged, ACAT will provide a copy to the respondent. Both parties will receive a letter from ACAT about next steps.

Usually, ACAT will request information from the original decision maker. We’ll request:

  • A statement of reasons that sets out the facts, evidence or other material on which findings were based, and the reasons for decision. You may already have a statement of reasons from the original decision maker.
  • All relevant documents for review of the decision (often referred to as tribunal documents or t-documents).

Other parties

ACAT may require the decision maker to notify other parties with an interest in the reviewable decision.

These people may then make an application for order to be joined as a party [PDF 116KB] to the case.

ACAT will provide a copy of this application to all the parties and ask for their views. If there are no objections and it is clear that the party is entitled to be joined, ACAT may make orders to join the person or entity to the proceedings. If there are objections or it is not clear that party is entitled to be joined, ACAT will usually consider the application to be joined at the first directions hearing.

Resolving your case

Even after an application has been lodged, it is a good idea to continue to see if an agreement can be reached.

At the first directions hearing, directions will be made to prepare the case for hearing. The directions will set out what all parties are required to do. At a directions hearing, you can expect that the ACAT may ask questions about:

  • Is the name and spelling of the applicant and respondent correct?
  • Are the details for any representative correct?
  • Is there an email address to send documents to?
  • Have parties received the ‘Tribunal Documents’ from the respondent?
  • Should a person or entity be joined to the case?
  • Are there any specific factual or legal issues to be raised early on?
  • Should a mediation or a preliminary conference be scheduled? If so, when?
  • How many witnesses will need to give evidence? Are there any expert witnesses?
  • Do any subpoenas need to be issued?
  • When should the case be scheduled for a hearing? How many days of hearing are needed? Are the parties and their witnesses available on these days?
  • Will the hearing start with a view e.g. looking at the site for a development application or looking at a protected tree? If so, when will the view happen?
  • Is anyone requesting a private hearing? Are non-disclosure or non-publication orders sought?

Often a case will be scheduled for a mediation or preliminary conference. If the case does not resolve through mediation or preliminary conference, the parties will need to prepare for a hearing. About a week prior to the hearing, ACAT may hold a final directions hearing. This is your opportunity to ask any questions about the hearing process.

The case will be heard by an ACAT Member or Members. At the end of the hearing, the ACAT Member or Members will tell the parties if they can deliver a decision immediately, or if they need to reserve the decision and give it later.

Orders ACAT can make

When making a decision on review, ACAT has all the powers of the original decision maker. The ACAT can confirm, vary or set aside the decision.  If a decision is set aside, ACAT may make a substitute decision or give the case back to the original decision maker for reconsideration in accordance with any direction or recommendation of ACAT.

Other orders can also be made under authorising laws.

ACAT decisions are binding, and have effect as if made by the original decision maker.

Appeals

If you think ACAT made an error when it decided the application, you may apply to appeal within 28 days of the decision.

More information

Find out about:

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.