This page has information about steps in the review process for decisions that are reviewed 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.
Steps in a review
This flowchart outlines the steps in the review process for most cases at the AAT, from receipt of an application to resolution. Click on any step in the flow chart for an explanation of what is involved. A text description of the order of the flow chart steps is also available.
Please note that the AAT modifies the review process for particular types of cases as well as in individual cases. For example:
- in some cases, the first event might be a directions hearing rather than a conference
- alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes (conferencing, conciliation, mediation, case appraisal and neutral evaluation) are not used in some cases.
Receipt of application
When we receive a valid application, we notify the parties to the review that the application has been received. The parties are:
- the person who made the application (known as the Applicant)
- the department, agency or organisation that made the decision to be reviewed (usually known as the Respondent or the decision-maker), and
- any other person who is a party to the review.
We also provide information about what happens next.
We might hold a preliminary hearing if there are issues that must be resolved before we can start the review. Such issues include:
If it appears to us that the decision you want us to review is not a type of decision that we can review, we will write to you and ask you to tell us why you think we can review it. If you don’t respond or can’t show us that we can review the decision, the AAT can dismiss your application. Sometimes, an AAT Member might hold a hearing about whether the application should be dismissed.
If you have lodged your application outside the time limit and applied for an extension of time, we will ask the other party whether they oppose your application. If they do, an AAT Member will hold a hearing before deciding your application.
We might also hold a preliminary hearing if you or another party has made a request to us to make an order suspending the operation of the decision that is to be reviewed (a ‘stay order’). If a party opposes the application, an AAT member will hold a hearing before deciding the request.
Receipt of ‘Section 37’ or ‘T documents’
Once we have notified the decision-maker that an application for review has been received, the decision-maker has 28 days to lodge the following documents with the AAT under section 37 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (AAT Act):
- a statement of reasons for the decision you want reviewed, and
- all documents it holds that are relevant to the review.
These are known as the ‘Section 37 documents’ or ‘T documents’.
The decision-maker must also send a copy of the T documents to you and any other party to the review.
More info: Practice Direction relating to Lodgement of Documents under Sections 37 and 38AA of the AAT Act
Outreach if you are self-represented
If you are representing yourself, we will contact you, usually by telephone, to explain the review process and give you an opportunity to ask questions about it. We will also:
- give you information about any organisations that might be able to provide you with advice or assistance in relation to your case
- ask you whether you need an interpreter or any other assistance during the review process.
A conference is an informal, private meeting arranged by the AAT with the parties. It is a type of ADR process. Conferences give the AAT and the parties a chance to talk about the decision, the issues in dispute, what further information might be gathered, whether an agreement can be reached about how the case should be resolved and what will happen next. We might decide to hold more than one conference to talk about the case.
More info: Conferences
Conciliation, mediation, case appraisal and neutral evaluation
The AAT uses these other types of ADR processes to help the parties reach an agreement about how a case should be resolved or to narrow the issues in dispute.
More info: Alternative Dispute Resolution
There are a number of ways in which an application can be resolved during the review process. The Applicant might decide to withdraw the application. If the parties reach an agreement about how the case should be resolved, the AAT can make a decision in accordance with the agreement.
The AAT can hold a directions hearing at any time during the review process. Directions hearings are often held to deal with procedural matters and, in particular, to progress a matter where a party has failed to comply with legislative or AAT requirements.
A hearing is an opportunity for the parties to present information and arguments to an AAT Member or Members about the decision. The parties can call witnesses to give evidence.
AAT hearings are normally open to the public. However, the AAT can decide to hold them in private if there is good reason to do so or if this is required by legislation.
In some cases, if the parties and the AAT agree, a decision can be made ‘on the papers’ without a hearing. The AAT makes its decision based on the written evidence presented to it.
More info: Hearings
At the end of a hearing, the AAT will either give its decision immediately or it will say that the decision is reserved, which means it will send you its decision at a later date.
More info: Decisions