What happens at a hearing?


When this Fact Sheet refers to “You” it means the applicant, and includes his or her nominee, representative or support person. When it refers to “We” or “Us” it means the AAT.

What is a hearing?

A hearing is an opportunity for you and the National Disability Insurance Agency to present information and arguments about your case to the AAT. We will then make a decision.

In most cases, the hearing will be conducted by one AAT Member, but there can be two or three AAT Members. The Members have knowledge or experience relevant to reviewing National Disability Insurance Scheme decisions.

Your AAT Contact Officer will contact you between 7 and 14 days before the hearing to confirm the date, time and place of the hearing and discuss what will happen.

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What is a fast-track hearing?

You may ask for a fast-track hearing at a case conference if you believe you have all the relevant information necessary for a decision to be made about your application and you do not wish to attend a conciliation.

For information about when we may give you a fast-track hearing, see our fact sheet Review of National Disability Insurance Scheme Decisions: What is a fast-track hearing?

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Who will be at the hearing?

As well as you, and anyone who is helping you, there will be:

  • the AAT Member or Members who will decide your case
  • an AAT staff member helping at the hearing; and
  • a representative from the National Disability Insurance Agency.

There might also be:

  • anyone who you or the Agency has asked to come and give evidence
  • an interpreter arranged by the AAT if you need one; and
  • a technician operating the recording equipment.

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How can I prepare for the hearing?

Your case plan will set out what you must do to prepare for the hearing. You must do everything that your case plan requires you to do and be ready to proceed on the day of the hearing. If your case plan says that a family member, carer or other witness will be giving evidence, you must make sure they will be available on the day and at the time of the hearing.

We do not expect it will be necessary to call witnesses in many cases. However, if you need to call an expert witness, there are special rules that apply. For more information about this, see the Guidelines for Persons Giving Expert or Opinion Evidence on our website.

You must give us any further documents or evidence you want us to consider no later than 14 days before the hearing. We will only allow you to submit documents after this time if there are very good reasons.

If you want to, you can send us a written summary of your position before the hearing. You should do this no later than 7 days before the hearing.

If you send us any additional material, or a summary of your position, you must also send a copy to the National Disability Insurance Agency. If you need help to send documents to the Agency, your AAT Contact Officer can help you.

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What will the National Disability Insurance Agency do to prepare for the hearing?

The National Disability Insurance Agency must do all of the things that the case plan requires them to do before the hearing and be ready to proceed on the day of the hearing. They must also:

  • send you and us any further documents or evidence at least 14 days before the hearing. We will only allow the Agency to submit documents after this time if there are very good reasons.
  • send you and us a copy of a summary of their position no later than 7 days before the hearing
  • send you and us a list of any cases they will refer to during the hearing at least 2 days before the hearing
  • make sure any witnesses who will give evidence at the hearing are going to be available on the day and at the time of the hearing.

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Can I ask for the hearing to be postponed?

Ordinarily, we will only allow a hearing to be postponed to another day if there are very good reasons to do so. (This is called an adjournment.)

If you need to ask for an adjournment, you should do so at the earliest possible opportunity. You should put your request in writing and explain why you want an adjournment. If you want an adjournment for medical reasons, you should include a letter or medical certificate from your treating doctor or health professional explaining why an adjournment is necessary.

An AAT Member will decide whether to grant the adjournment. He or she may ask you or the National Disability Insurance Agency to provide more information before deciding whether to grant an adjournment. If we grant an adjournment, we will relist your hearing as soon as possible.

If you do not attend a hearing and you do not have a good reason, your application may be dismissed.

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What happens at the hearing?

At the hearing, the AAT Member will ask you about your application and what decision you want. The Member will ask the National Disability Insurance Agency to do the same.

The Member will consider all of the information that you and the Agency present. Generally, this will mean the documents you and the Agency have provided about your case.

You and the Agency have the right to call witnesses but often that will be unnecessary. The Member will usually only hear from other persons such as family members, carers, doctors or other experts if you or the Agency want and ask for that.

In exceptional cases, the Member might decide that he or she needs to hear from a person who has not been called as a witness by you or the Agency. That will not happen without you and the Agency being consulted.

If there are expert witnesses, such as specialist doctors, we will expect them to give their evidence at the same time. For more information about this, see the Guidelines for the Use of Concurrent Evidence in the AAT on our website.

The Member will control the procedure in the hearing, which will be as informal as possible. We will not allow the formalities that usually apply in courts. The rules of evidence that apply in courts do not apply in the AAT.

The Member will consider all the evidence that is relevant to the issues to be determined unless there is a legal reason why it cannot be considered. The Member has a duty to be fair to both you and the Agency.

An audio recording is made of all hearings so that there is an accurate record of what is said at the hearing. Most hearings held on AAT premises are also videorecorded by Merrill Corporation who record most hearings for the AAT. The video recordings are maintained and viewed only for quality control purposes. They are not an official record of the hearing and are not provided to the parties or to any third party.

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How long does a hearing take?

Many hearings take 2 to 3 hours but they can be longer or shorter. It depends on how many people the AAT Member decides to hear from, how many documents are presented, and whether there are any unusual or complex issues in your case.

The AAT Member will make sure you can have a break when you need it.

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When will I get a decision?

The AAT Member will tell you the decision at the end of the hearing if that is possible. If a decision cannot be made immediately, the Member will prepare a written decision and send it to you as soon as possible. Even if your case involves novel or complex issues, we will give you our decision no later than 60 days after the hearing.

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Are hearings public?

AAT hearings are usually open to the public. The AAT Member can order that the hearing be held in private if there is a good reason to do so. The Member can also order that information be kept confidential.

Written decisions are generally made publicly available, including on the internet. If there is a good reason to do so, the AAT Member can order that a decision not be published.

For more information about privacy and confidentiality in the AAT, see our fact sheet Privacy and Confidentiality at the AAT on our website.

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Contact us if you need more information or have any questions

Contact us by mail, phone, fax or email.

Version: July 2014