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Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has the power to review administrative decisions made by Queensland government agencies in a broad and diverse range of matters. This power derives from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009. QCAT’s operations are subject to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Rules 2009 and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulation 2009.

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


Section 3 of the Act states QCAT is to be an independent tribunal that deals with matters in a way that is accessible, fair, just, economical, informal and quick. The Act aims to:

  • promote the quality and consistency of tribunal decisions;
  • enhance the quality and consistency of decisions made by decision-makers;
  • enhance the openness and accountability of public administration.

QCAT functions

The Act states the tribunal must:

  • facilitate access to its services throughout the state;
  • encourage the early and economical resolution of disputes;
  • ensure proceedings are informal and minimise costs and time;
  • ensure like cases are treated alike;
  • ensure the tribunal is accessible and responsive to its diverse users;
  • maintain specialist knowledge, expertise and experience among staff;
  • ensure appropriate use of knowledge, expertise and experience of staff;
  • encourage staff to promote a collegial approach;
  • maintain a cohesive organisational structure.

QCAT has original, review and appellate jurisdiction, which means the tribunal can hear a case for the first time, review a decision made by another entity under the Act and decide an appeal against a decision made by another entity under the Act.

It makes and reviews decisions about issues including:

  • adult guardianship;
  • anti-discrimination;
  • building disputes;
  • children and young people;
  • consumer disputes;
  • civil disputes;
  • residential tenancy disputes;
  • retail shop leases;
  • tree disputes.

Application forms for a QCAT hearing are available on the tribunal’s website. The application must be in the prescribed form, state the reasons for the application, and be made within 28 days of the decision.


A review must involve a fresh hearing on the merits. The decision-maker for the reviewable decision must help the tribunal as much as possible. This involves providing the tribunal, within 28 days, with a written statement of the reasons for the decision, and any document or thing relevant to the review.

The Act states that in all proceedings, QCAT:

  • must observe the rules of natural justice;
  • is not bound by the rules of evidence, or court practices or procedures;
  • may inform itself in any way it considers appropriate;
  • must act with as little formality and technicality, and as much speed, as possible;
  • must ensure, as far as is practicable, that it has all relevant material available to decide the review with all the relevant facts.

QCAT must also take all reasonable steps to ensure each party to a proceeding understands practices, procedures, assertions, and decisions; and that proceedings recognise and respond to cultural diversity, the needs of children and the needs of people who are physically or intellectually impaired.

Results of a review

QCAT can make an order staying (suspending) the operation of all or part of a reviewable decision having regard to the interests of any affected person, any submission made, and the public interest.

It can request the decision-maker reconsider the decision. The decision-maker then has 28 days to reconsider the decision, and may confirm it, amend it, or set it aside and substitute a new decision. If the decision-maker confirms the decision, the QCAT review must continue unless the applicant withdraws the application.

After reviewing a decision, QCAT can:

  • confirm or amend the decision;
  • set aside the decision and substitute its own decision;
  • set aside the decision and return the matter to the decision-maker for consideration, with directions the tribunal considers appropriate.

Preliminary actions in a proceeding

QCAT can make a preliminary assessment of proceedings and take action accordingly.

QCAT has several options if it considers a proceeding or part of it to be:

  • frivolous, vexatious or misconceived; or
  • lacking substance; or
  • otherwise an abuse of process.

The options include to:

  • dismiss (close indefinitely) or strike out (close with a right of reinstatement) the proceeding;
  • decide part of a proceeding or remove a party from the proceeding;
  • make a costs order against the applicant to compensate another party for reasonable costs, expenses, loss, inconvenience and embarrassment caused.

It can also take similar steps if it considers a party is acting in a way that unnecessarily disadvantages another party to the proceedings. Such actions include not complying with a tribunal order without reasonable excuse, or causing an adjournment.

QCAT also has a right to make a decision by default when a party fails to respond to an application within a stated time period. A decision by default can be an order for money claimed, plus interest and costs.

It also has a right to transfer the matter to a more appropriate forum, such as another tribunal or court.

It can also consolidate 2 or more proceedings that have the same related facts and circumstances, or rule that those proceedings remain separate but be heard and decided together in a particular sequence.

Appealing a QCAT decision

A party can appeal a QCAT decision to the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court within 28 days of the decision. The court can decide an appeal on a question of law or fact or a mix of both, but not on merits. After reviewing a decision, the court can:

  • confirm or amend the decision;
  • set aside the decision and substitute its own decision;
  • set aside the decision and return the matter to the tribunal for reconsideration, with directions the tribunal considers appropriate and with or without additional evidence;
  • make any other order it considers appropriate.

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

Sally Crosswell

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.

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