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Minor Case Claims and Small Claims Matters

Each jurisdiction in Australia has forums for the hearing of minor case claims or small claims matters. These forums usually follow a more casual and relaxed process than higher courts which hear more complex and substantively more serious civil cases. This article outlines the processes for dealing with minor case claims and small claims matters in each state and territory.  

The relevant forums around the country as follows:

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal can hear civil small claims matters for amounts of less than $25,000. Some of the types of small claims matters relating to civil disputes that this forum can hear include those relating to:

  • A debt;
  • Damages;
  • Goods and services that have been provided;
  • Contracts including breaches of contracts;
  • Trespass;
  • The Australian Consumer Law

It should be noted that the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal cannot hear matters relating to a fair work claim.

New South Wales

In New South Wales small claims matters for amounts of less than $10,000 can be heard in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court. The New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal also has jurisdiction to hear small claims matters relating to:

  • Residential tenancies and housing and property;
  • Consumer and business matters;
  • Guardianship;
  • Review of decisions made by government agencies;
  • Anti-discrimination; and
  • Disciplinary actions relating to various professions.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) has jurisdiction to determine many minor case claims and small claims matters. It can hear civil claims for sums of up to $25,000. It can also hear disputes between landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act (1999) NT, misconduct proceedings against professionals, guardianship order applications, discrimination complaints, and development applications. The NTCAT also can review decisions made by government officers and determine whether these decisions were correct or appropriate. Such government decisions may relate to things such as decisions to grant licences or planning approvals and decisions about awarding victims of crime with compensation.


Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can hear disputes and applications for various issues. In most cases, these disputes can relate to amounts of up to $25,000. However, if the dispute involves a motor vehicle the amount in question can be up to $100,000. Some of the matters that QCAT can hear include:

  • Civil disputes
  • Disputes relating to debts 
  • Claims relating to discrimination; 
  • Disputes relating to commercial and domestic buildings; 
  • Child protection matters and adoption applications;
  • Disputes relating to the Australian Consumer Law;
  • Guardianship applications or applications relating to decision-making for adults with impaired capacity;
  • Disputes relating to motor vehicles up to $100,000;
  • Regulatory proceedings relating to various professions;
  • Disputes relating to residential tenancies.

QCAT also has the power to review administrative decisions made by statutory authorities and the power to approve various clinical research where persons with impaired capacity are involved.

South Australia

In South Australia, the forum that hears minor case claims and small claims matters is the South Australian Magistrates Court. Civil claims in this court are divided into three categories. These are:

  • Minor civil claims;
  • General civil claims; and
  • Consumer and Business Claims.

Minor civil claims in SA are those which relate to matters amounting to less than $12,000. Parties claiming under this category are not able to have legal representation in the proceedings except under some special circumstances. The disputes which come under this category of claims include minor fencing disputes and small debt claims.  

Consumer and business claims can include warranty claims in relation to used motor vehicles and landlord and tenant disputes relating to commercial and residential properties. The category of general civil claims relates to other disputes of up to $100,000.


In Tasmania, the forum which hears minor case claims and small claims matters is the Magistrates Court of Tasmania. Small claims matters for less than $5,000, claims relating to residential tenancy agreements, disputes under the Consumer Credit Code relating to amounts of less than $5,000 or claims relating to access of a neighbour’s land can be filed as minor civil claims. In minor civil claim proceeds parties must be self-represented. The Magistrates Court of Tasmania otherwise has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to disputes of up to $50,000 or more than $50,000 where consent of all the parties is obtained.


The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has the jurisdiction to hear minor case claims and small claims matters that relate to certain subject matter. Some of the subjects about which claims are brought to VCAT include residential tenancies and disputes relating to goods and services. Other small claims matters or minor case claims which do not relate to one of the areas over which VCAT has jurisdiction, such as a matter relating to a debt that has not been paid, may be required to be filed in the Victorian Magistrates Court. The Victorian Magistrates Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes where the claims for damages or compensation has a value of up to $100,000.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, the Magistrates Court hears minor case claims. Minor claims for debt or damages of up to $10,000 or residential tenancy matters for amounts of up to $10,000, can be heard using the process for minor cases. This process does not allow for parties to be legally represented.

If a minor case claim or small claims matter is for more than $10,000 then it can be brought using the general or usual process in the Magistrates Court. The Magistrates Court has jurisdiction to hear claims for debt or damages of up to $75,000 in relation to real property. It also has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to the supply of goods or services.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal. 

Kathryn Sampias

This article was written by Kathryn Sampias

Kathryn Sampias has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Kathryn was admitted to practice in 2005 and practised law for more than eight years, working both in private practice (mainly in defence litigation for professional indemnity disputes) and in the public service for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in enforcement.

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