The conference process is an opportunity for people involved in a dispute (called parties) to meet face to face, where possible, and discuss the issues in dispute with a view to reaching agreement. The process might require more than one meeting and additional information to be provided.
You will be assisted in a conference by a Tribunal Member (TM) or Deputy Registrar (DR) to help explore options for reaching agreement. The Tribunal has two Deputy Registrars employed specifically for their skills and experience in helping parties reach agreement.
The TM/DR will guide you through the process. Most often you will sit around a table and informally talk about the dispute. If you need an interpreter, SACAT will provide one (to request an interpreter, contact SACAT, or include your request in your application).
You should lodge any relevant documents or materials with SACAT before the conference. When you attend the conference, make sure you bring the lodged documents as well as any additional documents.
The conference is a face-to-face meeting of the parties with the assistance of the TM/DR. Wherever possible, it is important that you attend the conference in person.
If you live outside the metropolitan area or in the country you may attend by telephone or video, in some circumstances.
If there special reasons why you are unable to attend in person then you need to obtain SACAT’s permission prior to the conference to attend by phone. Contact SACAT for information on how to apply.
Conferences are about people talking to each other, so written submissions don't work. You may be assisted by an advocate in some circumstances. Support persons may also be allowed to accompany you to the conference.
The TM/DR will tell you about the level of formality of the conference, what is expected of participants' behaviour and involvement, and about their role.
The TM/DR is likely to ask questions to clarify the issues in dispute and to identify any issues on which you agree. The TM/DR may speak to each party privately about possible options for resolution of the dispute.
The Tribunal Member/Deputy Registrar
The role of the TM/DR is to guide you in your discussions about the dispute.
The TM/DR is not an advisor or advocate for any of the parties. The TM/DR will not impose a decision on you. Whether an agreement is reached is within your power and control. The TM/DR has the power to terminate the conference if an agreement has not been reached within a reasonable time. If that happens then it is likely that the dispute will be referred to a hearing.
Parties must act in good faith
SACAT requires that all parties involved in the conference act in good faith and make a genuine effort to participate and resolve the dispute.
Any party who obstructs or delays the process, fails to attend a conference or fails to comply with a Rule or Order of SACAT may have a decision made against them.
Conferences will generally be conducted in private, with anything said and done not being able to be relied on or referred to in subsequent proceedings, except with the consent of all parties.
An agreement must be consistent with the law and one that all parties can live with. Any agreement reached is binding on the parties and will be recorded by SACAT. An Order will be made by SACAT that reflects the agreement reached.
The conference might resolve the dispute completely or resolve some of the issues in dispute.
If the dispute is not completely resolved, the dispute will be referred to a hearing. A different Tribunal Member will conduct the hearing. The hearing will most often be on a different day, but in some cases, on the same day. Generally, the hearing will not take into account anything said at the conference.
Contact SACAT for further information, including:
- if you have any questions about the SACAT conference process
- for assistance in arranging an interpreter to attend the conference with you
- to discuss whether you can bring an advocate or support person.
- if you are unable to attend a conference in person