Organisation

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) consists of the President and the other members who may be appointed as:

  • Deputy Presidents
  • Senior Members, or
  • Members.

We manage our workload in the following divisions:

  • Freedom of Information Division 
  • General Division
  • Migration & Refugee Division (including the Immigration Assessment Authority)
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme Division 
  • Security Division
  • Social Services & Child Support Division
  • Taxation & Commercial Division, and
  • Veterans’ Appeals Division

A Deputy President may be assigned as the Head of one or more divisions.  A Deputy President or Senior Member may be assigned as the Deputy Head of one or more divisions.

The President is responsible for the overall management of the Tribunal with the assistance of the Division Heads and the Registrar. Staff are employed under the Public Service Act 1999 to assist the AAT to carry out its functions.

View the AAT Organisational Chart (PDF)

Members of the AAT

Members of the AAT are appointed by the Governor-General on a full-time or part-time basis. Appointments may be made for a term of up to seven years. Members may be reappointed.

The President of the AAT must be a judge of the Federal Court of Australia. The AAT’s other members may be:

  • judges of the Federal Court or Family Court of Australia (part-time Deputy Presidents)
  • lawyers of at least five years’ standing, or
  • persons with relevant knowledge or skills.

The AAT’s members come from a wide range of backgrounds with expertise in areas such as accountancy, disability, law, medicine, migration, military affairs, public administration, science and social welfare.

The President and Deputy Presidents can exercise powers in any of the AAT’s divisions. Senior Members and Members may only exercise powers in the division or divisions to which they have been assigned.

The table of statutory appointments sets out a full list of the AAT’s members, their dates of appointment, location and the divisions to which Senior Members and Members are assigned.

View the Conduct Guide for AAT Members (PDF, 205 KB)

President

The Hon Justice David Thomas

Justice David Thomas was appointed as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on 27 June 2017. He was previously a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland and President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal from October 2013.

Justice Thomas was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1979. He was a partner at Morris Fletcher and Cross from 1981 (and later the national firm Minter Ellison) where he predominantly practised in the field of dispute resolution. When he retired, he was the Senior Partner in Brisbane.

Division Heads

A Division Head is responsible for directing the business of the AAT in the division and exercises functions and powers under delegation from the President.

Mr Bernard McCabe

Deputy President Bernard McCabe is Division Head of the Taxation & Commercial Division.  Mr McCabe was appointed as a Deputy President of the Tribunal and as Division Head on 25 March 2016 for a term of three years.

Mr McCabe was first appointed as a part-time member of the Tribunal in 2001 and as a full-time Senior Member in 2003. Mr McCabe was previously an Associate Professor of Law at Bond University. He was also a member of the legal committee of the Companies and Securities Advisory Committee between 1998 and 2001.

Ms Jan Redfern

Deputy President Jan Redfern PSM is Division Head of the Migration & Refugee Division. Ms Redfern was appointed as a Deputy President of the Tribunal and as Division Head on 21 March 2016 for a term of seven years.

Ms Redfern has previously served the AAT as a Senior Member from 2009 to 2014. Ms Redfern served as Principal Member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s Guardianship Division from 1 January 2015 and before that served as a legal member and then Deputy President of the NSW Guardianship Tribunal.

Prior to these appointments Ms Redfern held a number of senior executive positions with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission from 1999 to 2008.  In 2007 she was awarded a Commonwealth Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in the field of corporate and financial services regulation and enforcement.

Mr Jim Walsh

Deputy President Jim Walsh is Division Head of the Social Services & Child Support Division.  Mr Walsh was appointed as a Deputy President of the Tribunal and as Division Head on 25 March 2016 for a term of three years.

Prior to his current appointment, Mr Walsh served as an acting Deputy President of the Tribunal and acting Division Head of the Social Services & Child Support Division from July 2015. Mr Walsh was previously a Deputy Principal Member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (2012–2015) and before that a Senior Member (2010–2012) and Director (2002–2010) for the Queensland Registry.

Prior to these appointments Mr Walsh held senior positions in Centrelink and the then Department of Social Security.

Deputy Division Heads

A Deputy Division Head assists the Division Head in directing the business of the AAT in the division and exercises functions and powers under delegation from the President.

Dr Irene O’Connell is Deputy Division Head of the Migration & Refugee Division.

Staff

Registrar

The position of Registrar is a statutory office appointed by the Governor-General. The Registrar assists the President to manage the administrative affairs of the AAT and is:

  • the Accountable Authority under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, and
  • the agency head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999.

The Registrar also undertakes functions relating to the management of applications conferred by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 and other enactments.

Photo of Sian LeathemThe AAT’s Registrar is Sian Leathem who was appointed for a five-year term commencing on 7 April 2015.

Ms Leathem has over ten years’ experience in tribunal management at both state (NSW) and federal level. She led the project team responsible for merging twenty-two existing tribunals into the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and performed the role of Principal Registrar of that amalgamated tribunal.

Prior to her role at NCAT, Ms Leathem was the Registrar of the Workers Compensation Commission of NSW for five years.

Ms Leathem has relevant experience of the Commonwealth administrative review system and governance, finance, staffing and administrative arrangements, gained in her role as Assistant Registrar of the AAT over three years.

She also has a wealth of legal policy experience that she gained through various roles in the NSW Attorney General’s Department and in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In 2002 Ms Leathem was awarded the Excellence in Government Legal Service Award by the Law Society of New South Wales and in 2014 she received the Excellence in Leadership Award from the NSW Department of Justice. She was also awarded the Young Public Sector Leader Award by the Institute of Public Administration Australia in 2011.

Senior managers

The President, Division Heads and Registrar are assisted by the following persons who hold office as senior executives in the Australian Public Service.

Name Role
Elizabeth Connolly Executive Director, Registry Operations
Jacqueline Fredman Executive Director, Corporate Services
Christopher Matthies Executive Director, Strategy & Policy
Bernadette Ryan Executive Director, Review Support

District Registry staff

Staff in AAT registries provide administrative and other support in relation to the management of applications in each division. Conference Registrars conduct the majority of conferences and other ADR processes in divisions which use those processes. 

The AAT has District Registries in each of the state capital cities and in Canberra. The registry service in Hobart is co-located with the Federal Court. Applications in the Northern Territory are managed from our other registries. The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island provides basic registry services on Norfolk Island.

Principal Registry staff

Principal Registry staff advise and assist the President and the Registrar, and provide a range of services for members and staff. They are responsible for business support services, communications, financial and human resource management, corporate legal and policy services, library and other information management services and technology services.