Changes due to COVID-19

1. What ACAT is doing in response to COVID-19?

ACAT is following Territory and Commonwealth government advice about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

We have arrangements in place:

  • to minimise the spread of COVID-19
  • to keep the Tribunal operational (as much as possible).

2. What ACAT services will continue?

ACAT's capacity to hear and resolve cases depends on our resources. We expect there will be delays.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there will be more changes to the services we continue to provide.

(a) Current listings

Unless you are advised otherwise, current listings for conferences, mediations and hearings will continue. You need to attend by telephone or video link (see the information below at point 3).

Some cases that are currently listed for hearing will be listed for a directions hearing to determine whether the hearing can proceed, and if so, what arrangements will be put in place.

(b) New listings

The following will continue to be listed:

For all other applications, generally there will be no new listings before September 2020 (or later).

(c) Civil disputes

As part of the ACAT response to COVID-19 the majority of civil dispute applications received from 2 April are scheduled for an initial directions hearing in September 2020 (or later). The respondent is required to lodge a response 28 days before the directions hearing. Default judgment processes are not available for these applications.

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, ACAT is moving towards resuming pre-COVID-19 operations. As part of this gradual process ACAT will serve and process civil dispute applications lodged from 1 August 2020 in the same way as they were prior to the COVID-19 changes (see civil disputes). However, ACAT will continue to list conferences, directions hearings and final hearings by telephone to minimise the need for in-person attendances by parties.

(d) Rental property disputes

Residential tenancy cases will continue to be progressed and listed. There may be some delays for non-urgent cases.

The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2020 (No 2) (the declaration) started on 22 July 2020. You need to check if it applies to your rental property dispute.

For more information, see COVID-19 declaration.

(e) Review of ACT Government decisions, occupational discipline, discrimination and appeals

Directions hearings will proceed as resources allow with appropriate directions being made having regard to such factors as the urgency of the application, any legislative time frames that apply to the application, or the significance of the application.

(f) Mental health, guardianship and management of property cases

These types of cases will continue to be listed.

Please contact us to find out the arrangements that are in place.

(g) Energy and water cases

These types of cases continue to be progressed or listed.

Please contact us to find out the arrangements that are in place.

(h) Urgent cases

ACAT will be checking applications that are lodged to identify urgent cases that need to progress.

If you think your case is urgent, please lodge an application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB] at the same time as you lodge your application. Remember to tell us in the interim application why you say the case is urgent.

3. Remote hearings - attend by telephone or video link

(a) No face-to-face hearings

As a general rule, at this time ACAT is not scheduling any face-to-face conferences, mediations or hearings. Unless advised otherwise, parties, their representatives and witnesses must attend an upcoming listing by telephone or, if arrangements can be made, by video link.

(b) Tell us your telephone number

If you have an upcoming listing in your case, you need to send an email with a contact telephone number to ACAT at tribunal@act.gov.au.

This must be done as soon as possible after you receive notice of the listing and at least three days before the case is listed.

(c) Attending by video link

If you wish to attend by video link, you must contact us to ask for permission. If you are permitted to attend by video link (we use webex), read the remote hearing instructions for parties [DOC 88KB].

(d) What you must do when attending by telephone or video link

When you appear at ACAT by telephone or video link, you must:

  • be available by telephone for the duration of the preliminary conference, mediation or hearing
  • be ready to participate when ACAT calls
  • be fully prepared and in a quiet, private place
  • make sure the phone being used is fully charged with reception
  • have in front of you all documents, photographs and other material for the case
  • make sure any document or material you will refer to is numbered and ordered in a way that means the tribunal and all parties can easily identify a particular document
  • make sure that any document or material you will refer to has been provided to ACAT and all parties in compliance with any directions made
  • make sure all the documents and material you give to ACAT and all parties are ordered and numbered in the same way as the material you have, so that everyone can look at the same information as you refer to it.

(e) Presenting your documents and materials

It is essential that all your documents and materials are lodged with ACAT and given to the other party by the due date.

Given hearings, mediations and conferences will be generally be conducted remotely, it is important to read our information about how to present your documents.

Contact us if you have lodged material on a DVD or USB that will need to be played or viewed at an ACAT listing.

4. Attending ACAT in person

(a) What if I need a face-to-face hearing?

As stated above at point 3(a), the general rule is that there will be no face-to-face conferences, mediation or hearings.

If you think you need to attend ACAT in person, send an email to tribunal@act.gov.au. Tell us why you think you need to attend in person. ACAT will consider your request and advise you of the outcome.

Unless you are told otherwise, at the listed time and date you must attend ACAT by telephone or if permitted, by video link.

If ACAT permits your attendance in person for a conference, mediation or hearing, you need to fill in a declaration form [DOC 29KB] and provide it to the front counter staff on your arrival at ACAT.

(b) Order of the ACAT President

People who attend ACAT must comply with ACAT's conditions of entry and the order of the ACAT President [DOC 29KB]. The order of the ACAT President was made in response to COVID-19. It sets out when people are not permitted to enter ACAT and when they may be requested to leave. There is more information about this at points 4(c) and 5 below.

(c) Social distancing

When attending ACAT, you must:

  • strictly comply with social distancing rules (stay 1.5 m away from other persons) and
  • leave ACAT as soon as you have completed your business.

5. When you must not attend ACAT's premises

Do not attend ACAT's premises if:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are still under quarantine.
  • You reside with persons who:
    • has been diagnosed with COVID-19; and
    • who is still under quarantine.
  • You are awaiting a COVID-19 test result, or you reside with persons who are awaiting a COVID-19 test result.
  • Within the preceding 14 days, you have been in close contact with persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are awaiting a COVID-19 test result.
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You have undertaken travel overseas or you have been to a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days.
  • You have no immediate business at ACAT’s premises, with the exception of:
    • one support person who can accompany a party or witness; and
    • other persons only with the express permission of ACAT.

For more information, see the order of the ACAT President [DOC 29KB].

6. Adjournments

If you are unable to attend a conference, mediation or hearing scheduled in your case, you must request an adjournment (for example, if you are unwell or for some other reason cannot attend).

An adjournment request is when you ask that the conference, mediation or hearing happens later than the scheduled date or time. Make sure:

  • your adjournment request is in writing
  • you include the reason for your request
  • you attach any documents in support
  • you provide a copy to each other party.

Send your adjournment request to tribunal@act.gov.au. ACAT will let you know whether the adjournment has been granted. Unless you hear otherwise, you are still required to attend the conference, mediation or hearing.

7. Non-attendance

If you do not attend (by telephone, or if you are given permission by video link or in person) and you do not ask for an adjournment, the case may:

  • be dismissed, or
  • proceed in your absence.

8. Lodging documents

We encourage lodgments by email, sent to tribunal@act.gov.au. Note:

  • if you email us a document that is more than 40 pages, we may ask you to mail or deliver hard copies to us.
  • if a fee applies to the document you are lodging, our registry staff will tell you the fee payment options.

For civil dispute applications, you may be able to use our online form.

You can also:

However, please note that we have a letter box drop in the foyer of our level 4 entrance at 1 Moore Street, Canberra City. You can put documents into this letterbox. ACAT checks it regularly from Monday - Friday from 9:00am to 4:30pm. If you are leaving urgent documentation, please alert our front counter staff or call us on (02) 6207 1740 to let us know (and mark the document as urgent).

Note, some documents lodged with ACAT may take longer to process than usual due to the impact of COVID-19 on ACAT operations.

9. Hearing ‘on the papers’

It may be appropriate for some ACAT cases to be decided on the papers, which means they are decided without a hearing. This involves the ACAT Member considering the documents that are lodged by all the parties and then making a decision about the case.

If you would like your case to be heard ‘on the papers’, please send us a request (this can be done by email sent to tribunal@act.gov.au). In some cases, the ACAT Member will consider that a hearing on the papers may be appropriate. In those cases, ACAT will send a notice to the parties asking for their views.

Note, ACAT will ask all parties in the case for their views before deciding whether to allow a hearing on the papers.

10. Please be patient

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect how quickly we can deal with cases. We appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

11. Updates

If the need arises, we will continue to adjust the way we operate to ensure compliance with the advice of Territory and Commonwealth government.

We will update the website if circumstances at ACAT change.

12. Contact us

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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.

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

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’.

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.

Defined benefitsare the following benefits (see section 33 of the MAI Act):

  1. income replacement benefits;
  2. treatment and care benefits;
  3. quality of life benefits;
  4. death benefits;
  5. funeral benefits.

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.

MAI ActMotor Accident Injuries Act 2019 (ACT).

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.

Relevant insurerfor a motor accident, means the insurer under the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2019 (see section 34) of the motor vehicle considered to be at fault for the motor accident in the ACT.

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.

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

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

Significant occupational impact (SOI)Significant impact on an injured person’s ability to undertake employment.

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.