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The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) uses alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes to help parties to a review reach an agreement on how a case should be resolved. ADR helps an applicant talk with the AAT and the department or organisation that made the original decision to discuss options to resolve the matter. 

ADR is a quick and cost-effective way to reach an agreement on the issues of the review. The review may then be finalised without the need for a hearing, saving both parties time and costs. ADR is also an effective way for the AAT to efficiently manage its caseload. ADR processes are managed mostly by Conference Registrars who do not make decisions on applications.

The current law does not make ADR processes available in all reviews undertaken by the AAT. ADR is not currently used in reviews of migration, refugee, first tier social services and child support decisions.[1] 80 percent of applications where a conference or conciliation could be used were finalised without the Tribunal conducting a hearing.

Conferences and conciliations are the main processes used by the AAT, with conferences forming the majority. In 2017-18, the AAT conducted 8,460 conferences and 683 conciliations.

A conference is a confidential, informal meeting conducted in good faith that gives parties the chance to say why they think the decision is wrong and, where possible, come to an agreement with the department on how the case should be resolved. A conference is usually the first step in a review after the AAT accepts the application. Many cases are resolved at this stage.

Conferences are conducted by conference registrars who talk with the parties about the information they may need to provide, the possibility of agreement between the parties and the review process generally.

Conciliation is a more structured process where a conciliator assists the parties to identify the disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives and endeavour to reach an agreement. The conciliator does not make a determination but assists the parties to reach an agreement. This may be by summarising views, raising options for agreement or giving advice on the AAT’s processes including costs and other non-legal consequences.

The AAT also uses other ADR processes from time to time including mediation, case appraisal and neutral evaluation. Find out more about ADR at the AAT. 


[1] Due to legislation governing the Migration and Refugee Division and the Social Services and Child Support Division, ADR processes are not currently available in reviews of migration, refugee, first tier social services and child support decisions.