Final hearings

A final hearing allows all parties a chance to give and hear evidence and ask questions of you and your witnesses.

An ACAT Member listens to submissions and evidence, and makes a decision, either at the end of the hearing or at a later date. You might receive a decision in writing.

Watch our video about hearings.

What to expect

There is a typical structure to ACAT hearings, though this may vary depending on jurisdiction and the presiding ACAT Member. A final hearing will often proceed in this way:

  1. The ACAT Member/s will ask the person making the claim (the applicant) to give their side of the story.
  2. During this time, the applicant may present supporting documents or witnesses.
  3. The ACAT Member may ask the applicant or any of the applicant’s witnesses questions. The other party (the respondent) will also be able to ask questions.
  4. The person responding to the claim (the respondent) will be asked to give their side of the story.
  5. During this time, the respondent may present any supporting documents or witnesses.
  6. The ACAT Member may ask the respondent or any of the respondent’s witnesses questions. The other party (the applicant) will also be able to ask questions.
  7. Both parties may be asked to set out what orders they think should be made, and why.

How to prepare

You need to prepare for an ACAT hearing.

Provide all your evidence before the hearing, within the timeframe set out in any directions. Your evidence may include a range of supporting documents, such as:

Your evidence might also include physical evidence.

Before a hearing, check:

  • you have the supporting documents and witnesses to prove your case
  • your supporting documents are relevant to your case
  • what the documents provided by the other party or parties say about the case
  • you have witnesses and witness statements organised, remembering that you may be a witness in your own case
  • you prepared an outline of any submissions you want to make at the hearing
  • you have complied with all the ACAT directions
  • if you need to ask ACAT to issue a subpoena
  • your advice and representation options.

Note: If you do not provide your supporting documents and/or evidence within the required timeframe, the ACAT Member may not consider it.

Who will be at the hearing?

Most hearings are open to the public.

The following people may be in the hearing room:

  • all the parties, including you, and any representatives
  • the ACAT Member/s (sometimes there is more than one Member)
  • an ACAT staff member, to help with the administration of the hearing
  • witnesses, when they are giving evidence
  • a support person, such as a family member or friend of a party
  • an interpreter
  • an ACAT technician, to help with the IT equipment
  • members of the public, for example law students, reporters or media representatives.

Find more information about public hearings and confidentiality.


If the case has been scheduled for more than one day, the applicant needs to pay a hearing fee.

Resolving your case

If your case goes to a final hearing, a decision will be made by the ACAT Member. There are different types of orders that may be made, depending on ACAT’s jurisdiction.

You may receive a decision on the day of the hearing, or the decision may be reserved (and given later).

Once a hearing has concluded, parties cannot provide additional documents, evidence or submissions about the case, unless we have made an order that allows this.

Find out more about:


It is important you attend the final hearing.

ACAT encourages (an sometimes requires) parties to attend a final hearing in person. If you (or a witness) want to attend a hearing by telephone, you need to seek approval from ACAT at least five days before the hearing.

If you cannot attend, you need request an adjournment. You will be told if your adjournment request is granted. Unless you hear otherwise from ACAT, you are still required to attend the directions hearing. Be aware that adjournments are granted sparingly.

Please let us know if you need assistance, such as an interpreter, hearing assistance or wheelchair access (see our accessibility information).

If you do not attend a final hearing, orders may be made against you, or your application may be dismissed.

More information

Find out more about:

To find out what to expect at a mental health hearing or a guardianship and management of property hearing, see the information about that case type.

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.