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. Closed ACAT counter and premises

ACAT is considered an essential service. However, to prevent the spread of COVID-19,we have closed our ACAT counter. The level 4 entry to our premises is also not accessible by the public.

We have a letter box drop in the foyer of our level 4 entrance (1 Moore Street, Canberra City). You can put documents into this letterbox. ACAT checks it regularly from Monday - Friday (9:00am to 4:30pm). If you are leaving urgent documentation, please call us on (02) 62071740 to let us know (and mark the document as urgent).

If there is a conference, mediation or hearing scheduled in your case, see the information at point 4 below about 'telephone attendance or attendance by video link'.

If you think you need to attend ACAT in person (for example, to inspect documents on an ACAT file or subpoenaed material), send a written request to tribunal@act.gov.au. We will then consider this request and let you know next steps.

3. 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 may be more changes to the services we can continue to provide.

Current listings

Unless you are advised otherwise, current listings for conferences, mediations, directions hearings, return of subpoenas, interim hearings and hearings will continue. You need to attend by telephone or video link. See the information below at point 4 about 'telephone attendance or attendance by video link'.

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.

New listings

The following will continue to be listed:

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

Civil disputes

The majority of civil dispute applications received on 2 April or later will be scheduled for an initial directions hearing in October 2020 (or later). The respondent will be required to lodge a response 28 days before the directions hearing. Default judgment processes will not apply to these applications.

Current applications which are awaiting service and all new applications will be served on respondents as our resources allow.

For civil dispute applications that were served before 2 April 2020, note:

  • if a response is received that disputes the application, the case will be listed for conference as resources allow and
  • if the case does not resolve at the conference, it will be listed for hearing as soon as possible in, or some time after, October of 2020.

ACAT will continue to process admissions of liability and discontinuances.

Rental property disputes

Applications to ACAT for termination and possession orders, cases involving family or domestic violence transfer of lease applications, and applications that involve pets, rent increases and modifications will have priority.

At this stage, bond applications will continue to be referred to conference.

Other applications (such as claims for damage) will be listed for an initial directions hearing in, or some time after, October 2020.

The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Declaration 2020 (the declaration) starts on 22 April 2020. You need to check if it applies to your rental property dispute.

For more information, see rental property disputes - changes due to COVID-19.

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 timeframes that apply to the application, or the significance of the application.

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.

4. Remote hearings - telephone attendance or attendance by video link

As a general rule, ACAT is not scheduling any face-to-face hearings. Parties, their representatives and witnesses must attend upcoming conferences, mediations and hearings by telephone or, if arrangements can be made, by video link (unless advised otherwise).

A party needs to send an email with a contact telephone number to ACAT at tribunal@act.gov.au as soon as possible after they receive notice of the listing and at least three days before your matter is listed.

If you wish to attend by video link, you must contact us so that arrangements can be made. We have instructions for parties [DOC 88KB] to attend remote hearings through webex.

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 the tribunal 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.

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

Important information - If you do not attend by telephone or video link when required, the case may:

  • be dismissed, or
  • proceed in your absence.

If you think your case requires a face-to-face hearing, fill in and lodge an application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB]. Remember to tell us why the case needs a face-to-face hearing. ACAT will advise you how that interim application will be dealt with. You must attend by telephone or video link at the listed hearing, unless you are advised otherwise by ACAT.

5. When you must not attend ACAT's premises

Do not attend ACAT's premises if:

  • you are feeling unwell
  • you have been overseas in the last 14 days
  • you have COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

If you are unable to attend the telephone or video 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.

Important information - If you do not attend (by telephone or video link) and you do not ask for an adjournment, the case may:

  • be dismissed, or
  • proceed in your absence.

6. Lodging documents

You can lodge documents by post. There is also a letter box drop in the level 4 foyer (at 1 Moore Street, Canberra City).

We will accept 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.

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

7. 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.

8. Please be patient

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

9. 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 provide updates if circumstances at ACAT change.

10. Contact us

If you have any questions, please contact us by email at tribunal@act.gov.au or by phone on (02) 6207 1740.

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.