This page has information about hearings in any of the following AAT divisions:
- General Division
- Freedom of Information Division
- National Disability Insurance Scheme Division
- Security Division
- Taxation & Commercial Division
- Veterans’ Appeals Division.
What is a hearing?
A hearing is an opportunity for the parties to a review to present their case to the AAT.
You and the department, agency or other organisation that made the decision will have a chance to present information and arguments to the AAT about the decision. You will be able to tell the AAT why you think the decision is wrong. The AAT will then make a decision.
In most cases, the hearing will be conducted by one AAT Member, although there can be two or three AAT Members.
When do we have the hearing?
The AAT will hold a hearing if you and the department have not been able to resolve your case at an earlier stage of the review, such as at a conference.
We will talk to you about when your hearing will be. We will also send you a notice confirming the date, time and location.
If you have someone helping you, you need to give them the details of the hearing.
Where will the hearing be held?
Hearings are usually held in a hearing room at the AAT’s offices in capital cities. The layout of a hearing room is similar to that of a court room but it is less formal. Portable hearing loop systems are available on request.
If you live outside a capital city, we might be able to hold a hearing near where you live. The AAT might also be able to hold the hearing by telephone or videoconference. These options will usually be discussed with you at the conference stage.
Do I have to come to the hearing?
It is very important that you come to the hearing. If you cannot attend for any reason (for example, if you become ill), tell us as soon as possible so we can arrange another time. However, you must have a very good reason for the AAT to postpone a hearing.
If you don’t attend the hearing, your application may be dismissed. This means it will be brought to an end. You will have to make another application if you want the AAT to continue dealing with your case.
Who will be at the hearing?
As well as you, and anyone who is helping you, there will be:
- the AAT Member(s) who will hear and decide your case
- an AAT staff member helping with the administration of the hearing, and
- one or more representatives of the department.
There may also be:
- any witnesses that you or the department have asked to give evidence
- a support person if you bring one – for example, a friend or family member, and
- an interpreter arranged by the AAT if you need one.
Can I present my own case?
Yes – but if you want to, you can arrange for someone to help you: for example a friend, family member, lawyer or other professional person.
The AAT might also suggest that you seek assistance in presenting your case if it feels it would assist your case.
The sooner you arrange help, the more time there is for your case to be properly prepared.
How can I prepare for my hearing?
Before the day of your hearing
If you want to see what happens at a hearing, you can arrange with the AAT to sit in on the hearing of another case before the day of your hearing. Contact the AAT if you want to do this.
Make sure the papers you will bring to the AAT are in order. They include the T documents that the department sent to you, and other documents you want to give to the AAT.
If you can, write down your arguments in simple point form.
If you have any witnesses who will give evidence, you must arrange for them to be available on the day and at the time of your hearing.
On the day of your hearing
You should plan to arrive at the hearing well before the scheduled start time. AAT staff can show you the hearing room so you know where you and the other people will be sitting. They can also talk to you about what will happen during the hearing.
What happens at the hearing?
Hearings usually run in the way described here but they can vary from case to case.
When the hearing begins, there will usually be a brief discussion about what the case is about. The AAT Member(s) might talk about what they need to know to make a decision. This is what you should focus on. If you are represented by a professional person such as a lawyer, your representative will usually talk on your behalf.
The AAT Member(s) will then talk about the T documents and ask about any other documents that you and the department might want to give the AAT.
You will usually be asked to give evidence, to tell the AAT what happened. The AAT Member(s) and the representative of the department can ask you questions.
If you or the department have any witnesses, they will be asked to tell the AAT Member(s) what they know. You, the department and the AAT Member(s) can ask questions of each witness.
After all the witnesses have had their say, both you and the department will have a chance to give a brief summary of all the main arguments in your case.
Follow these general tips:
- be guided by what the AAT Member(s) asks you to do
- do not interrupt another person while they are talking. Take notes of anything that is unclear and ask questions about it later
- if you need a short break during the hearing you can ask for one.
How long does a hearing take?
Many hearings take between two and three hours, but sometimes they are shorter or longer – even a day or more.
Ask us if you want more information about how long your hearing might take.
Are hearings recorded?
Yes – an audio recording is made of all hearings at the AAT so there is an accurate record of what is said. Most recordings are made for the AAT by Merrill Corporation. Hearings in Hobart are recorded by Auscript.
To ensure the quality of the audio recording, most hearings held on AAT premises are videorecorded. The video recordings are maintained and viewed only for quality control purposes by Merrill Corporation and are not used for any other purpose. They are not an official record of the hearing and are not provided to the parties.
The AAT or a party can ask Merrill Corporation or Auscript to prepare a transcript of all or part of a hearing.
More information about this, including the costs of purchasing a transcript, can be found here.
Are hearings open to the public?
Yes – hearings are usually open to the public. After a hearing, the public can also usually access the evidence in the case and other relevant documents lodged with the AAT.
The AAT can order that a hearing be held in private if there is a good reason to do so. The AAT can also order that information be kept confidential. You can apply for an order by writing to the AAT requesting a private hearing or stating what information you want kept confidential, and explaining why.
Some decisions are made under laws that have special provisions for privacy. They require, for example, that the hearing be held in private or the identity of a person be kept confidential.
For more information, see our fact sheet – Privacy and Confidentiality at the AAT.
Our staff can also answer any questions you have about this.
When will I get a decision?
At the end of the hearing the AAT Member(s) will either:
- tell you the decision immediately, or
- tell you they need more time to think about the decision.
If more time is needed, the AAT Member(s) will usually make a decision within two months of the hearing.
We will contact you or your representative and the department and tell you when the decision will be available. If you or your representative cannot come to our office to collect the decision, we will send a copy of the decision.
Written decisions of the AAT are generally made publicly available, including on the internet. Where there is a good reason to do so, the AAT can order that a decision not be published.
How can I find out more about what will happen?
You can contact us at any stage of your review and ask us about AAT procedures.