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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)


The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) has the power to review administrative decisions made by ACT government agencies in a wide range of matters. This power derives from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT’s operations are subject to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Procedures Rules 2020 and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulation 2009.

For a decision to be reviewable by ACAT, the legislation under which the original decision was made must specify that administrative review is available via ACAT.

Objects

Section 6 of the Act states ACAT is to be a tribunal that resolves matters in a way that is simple, inexpensive, accessible, quick, informal and fair, and that observes natural justice and procedural fairness. The Act aims to:

  • enhance the quality of decision making under legislation;
  • encourage and bring about compliance with decisions;
  • encourage tribunal staff to work together;
  • identify systemic problems in the operation of laws.

ACAT functions

ACAT makes and reviews decisions about issues including:

  • some disputes about unit complexes and retirement villages;
  • disciplinary action for some occupations;
  • guardianship, financial management and enduring powers of attorney;
  • civil disputes, such as disputes about contract, trespass, nuisance, consumer law and property boundaries, up to $25,000;
  • rental property disputes;
  • mental health treatment and care;
  • injury or death in a motor accident;
  • discrimination;
  • complaints about water and energy services;

Applications for review

Application forms for a ACAT hearing are available on the tribunal’s website. An application can be made by an individual, company, government agency or occupational regulatory authority. The application must comply with the rules, be in the prescribed form, state the reasons for the application, and be made within 28 days of the decision to be reviewed.

ACAT can make a preliminary assessment of an application and make directions accordingly.

It has several options if it considers an application or part of it to be:

  • frivolous, vexatious or misconceived; or
  • lacking substance; or
  • otherwise an abuse of process; or
  • made by a person who has been dealt with by a court or tribunal as frivolous or vexatious.

The options include to:

  • refuse to hear the application or part of it;
  • dismiss the application or part of it;
  • direct the applicant not to make another application within a stated period or without the leave (permission) of the tribunal.

ACAT also has the power to require parties to an application to attend a preliminary conference, or refer the matter to an accredited mediator for mediation.

Reviews

An applicant can request reasons for a decision from the decision-maker, and these must be provided within 28 days, unless there is a valid reason for non-disclosure. The reasons are provided to the tribunal.

A review must involve a fresh hearing on the merits, and ACAT is not bound by the rules of evidence, or court practices or procedures. The review hearing must be held in public unless there are privacy or public order concerns. If there are such concerns, ACAT can order the hearing be held in private and specify who can attend, and prohibit publication of the hearing or evidence given at it.

ACAT can, however, choose to decide an application without holding a hearing, by giving notice to the parties and requiring submissions within 21 days of the notice (or a shorter period if necessary). It can choose not to hold a hearing if a hearing would not be in the public interest and it has enough information to make an informed decision on the application.

Parties must pay their own costs unless the tribunal orders one party to pay the other party’s costs because it caused unreasonable delay or obstruction, or contravened a tribunal order.

Results of a review

After reviewing a decision, ACAT can:

  • confirm the decision;
  • vary the decision;
  • set aside the decision and:
    • substitute its own decision;
    • return the decision to the decision-maker for reconsideration, with directions or recommendations.

Within 14 days of a tribunal decision, if a party requests a statement of reasons, this must be supplied.

A party can appeal a ACAT decision to the Supreme Court. The court can decide an appeal on a question of law or fact or a mix of both, but not on merits.

If one party does not comply with an ACAT order, the other party can apply to the Magistrates Court (not ACAT) to have the order enforced.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal

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