What is usually public and what is usually private when the AAT reviews a decision
The information in this Fact Sheet relates to applications in the AAT’s General Division, Freedom of Information Division, National Disability Insurance Scheme Division, Security Division, Small Business Taxation Division, Taxation & Commercial Division and Veterans’ Appeals Division.
The guiding principle set out in the AAT's legislation is that hearings at the AAT should be in public. Information given to us should be made available to all the parties, and to the public in some circumstances. However, not every step in a review, nor all information given to us, will be public.
Steps in a review
In most cases, we use alternative dispute resolution to help the parties to a review – you and the department or organisation that made the decision you want reviewed – try to reach agreement about how the case should be resolved. Many cases are resolved at this stage. Alternative dispute resolution processes (conferences, conciliation, mediation, case appraisal and neutral evaluation) are held in private – only the parties and their representatives usually attend.
We will hold a hearing and make a decision if the parties do not reach agreement through alternative dispute resolution. We might also hold a hearing at an earlier stage of the review to consider issues such as whether to accept a late application.
AAT hearings are usually open to the public and anyone can attend. Some hearings are held in private because the law requires it. In limited circumstances, we can order that a hearing be held in private (see 'Confidentiality orders' below).
Information the AAT collects
We collect information to process applications and carry out reviews under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. Most of this information is given to us by the parties.
Who has access to the information?
The parties and their representatives can usually access all parts of the AAT file in their case. If you give us information that has not already been given to another party, we will usually give them a copy.
We might give some information we hold to other organisations or people who help us to carry out the review (e.g. an interpreter) or to a court if there is an appeal against an AAT decision.
Some information given to us is usually made available to the public and other information might become public.
What information is usually made public?
Limited information about a case is usually made available to the public on request and can be accessed using eCase Search, the AAT's online case search tool. This includes:
- the names of the parties and any representatives
- the type of application
- dates of conferences, hearings or other case events
- the types of key documents lodged by the parties, and
- the outcome of an application.
eCase Search contains information about most applications lodged in the AAT’s General Division, Freedom of Information Division, National Disability Insurance Scheme Division, Small Business Taxation Division, Taxation & Commercial Division and Veterans’ Appeals Division. Information about a case is first made available seven days after the application has been lodged.
A list of the cases that have a conference, hearing or other event is published daily on our website and in some major newspapers.
After a public hearing, the public can usually access the evidence in the case and other relevant documents lodged with the AAT. These documents are not usually made public before a hearing.
When we prepare a written statement of the reasons for our decision in a case, it is usually made public and published on the internet, including on the AustLII website. More information about the decisions we publish can be found here.
Whether or not a public hearing has been held, the public can usually access any order or decision that finalises an application.
Other information held by the AAT is not usually made publicly available, although it might be released under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
When is information kept confidential?
In some cases, the law requires that information not be given to a party or made available to the public. In limited circumstances, we can order that information be kept confidential (see 'Confidentiality orders' below).
In limited circumstances, we can order that a hearing be in private or that:
- the name or address of a party or witness, or other information that we hold, be kept confidential
- a written decision not be made public.
You can apply for a confidentiality order if you are worried that another party or the public might be able to gain access to information about you.
Please note that we will only make a confidentiality order if we are satisfied there is a good reason for doing so. We must also take into account the guiding principle that hearings at the AAT should be in public, and that evidence and documents are to be made available to all the parties, and to the public after a hearing.
To apply for a confidentiality order, write to the AAT stating what you want kept confidential and why. Please note that we will usually give a copy of your application to the other party before making a decision.
If you want more information or assistance, call us on 1800 228 333 (calls are free from landline phones, however calls from mobiles may be charged). Residents of northern NSW (postcodes 2460–2490) and the Northern Territory will be connected to the Brisbane registry.
Non-English speakers can call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask them to call the AAT.
If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, contact us through the National Relay Service. For more information visit (www.relayservice.gov.au).