Conferences

Watch our video about conferences.

What to expect

A conference is an informal meeting between parties with a conference convenor. It is held at ACAT.  It usually takes about one hour.

When you attend ACAT for the conference, you will need to:

  • check in at the ACAT counter and wait for your case to be called
  • then go into a conference room with a conference convenor, as well as the other party or parties.

At a conference, you and the other party or parties will get a chance to explain your side of the case. You get to talk about the issues that are in dispute.

The aim is to come to an agreement about how the case should be resolved.

An ACAT Member or Registrar will be the convenor. The convenor will:

  • guide and assist discussion and ask you and the other party or parties questions
  • seek to identify and limit what is in dispute
  • assist parties to work towards an agreed outcome.

Conferences are not recorded by ACAT. Evidence of any words spoken at a conference cannot be used at a subsequent hearing of the case.

A convenor cannot make the decision for you. It is an opportunity for you and the other party or parties to see if you can agree on an outcome.

How to prepare

Before a conference, you need to:

  • read the documents you have been provided and bring any paperwork to the conference
  • consider whether you want to bring a support person – it is important your support person is not someone who may need to give evidence if your case goes to a hearing
  • get legal advice or representation early (if needed) – legal representatives can attend a conference with you
  • consider whether you need to authorise someone to appear on your behalf, for example, a family member or friend. If so, you must fill in a general power of attorney form [DOC 52KB] or [PDF 241KB].
  • if you are representing a corporation, fill in the authority to act for a corporation form [PDF 57KB]
  • let us know if you need assistance to attend the conference, including an interpreter, hearing loop or wheelchair access
  • let ACAT know if you need assistance to attend the conference, such as an interpreter, hearing assistance or wheelchair access (find out more about accessibility)
  • allow plenty of time for travel and car parking on the day of the conference.

Outcomes

If you reach an agreement, the convenor can make ACAT orders on the day of the conference that reflect the terms of your agreement.

If no agreement is reached, the matter will be scheduled for a hearing (which will be heard by a different ACAT Member on a future date). The convenor will then make directions, telling you and the other party or parties what you need to do before the hearing, including the types of evidence you may need to provide.

For some types of disputes, you will need to be prepared to proceed to a hearing on the same day as the conference. This is called a Conference and Immediate Determination. Check the notice we have sent you - it will tell you if your case has been scheduled for a Conference and Immediate Determination.

Adjournments

It is very important that you attend the conference. If you cannot do so, you must request an adjournment. You will be notified if an adjournment is granted. Unless you hear otherwise from ACAT, you are still required to attend the conference.

If you wish to attend by telephone, you need to ask ACAT for approval at least five days before your conference date.

Non-attendance

If you do not attend a conference or cannot be reached on the telephone number you provided, this may result in orders made against you, or your application may be dismissed.

More information

Find out about:

Watch our video about the conference process.

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.