Hearings - general

SACAT will generally deal with an issue at a full hearing, conference, conciliation or mediation to resolve an issue. When your application is received, SACAT will determine from the information provided whether a conference or hearing is the appropriate step and will notify you by email, post or phone.

SACAT will act with as little formality and technicality as possible and will adopt flexible procedures depending on the nature of the case. 

A full hearing will occur when a dispute has not resolved at a conference, or has been set down for a hearing by SACAT.

What happens in a hearing?

A hearing will be conducted by a tribunal member who will ask each party to present their case, and then the tribunal member will make a decision. That decision is binding on the parties and may be enforced.

SACAT is not bound by rules of evidence. However, SACAT must apply the rules of procedural fairness that require the tribunal member to conduct an unbiased hearing and to give each party a fair opportunity to state their case.

In the hearing room

The tribunal member will sit at the front of the hearing room facing the parties. Parties sit at tables facing the member. Hearings are sound recorded so there is an accurate record of what is said. 

SACAT hearings are open to the public. However, the Tribunal may in appropriate circumstances make orders to preserve the confidentiality of proceedings and evidence. 

SACAT has at least one security guard present at all times. The guard’s role is to ensure the safety of tribunal members and people at the Tribunal. The guard may walk in and out of a hearing room at any time. If you have particular security concerns, contact SACAT. 

Read more about SACAT facilities before your session. 

Tribunal members        

Tribunal members are independent statutory officers who hear and determine SACAT applications in accordance with the law and the evidence presented by the parties.

You should address the member simply by calling them ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ or 'Dr' and then using their surname (which will be on a name plate on the member’s desk). Each of the parties and any witnesses will be addressed in the same way by the member. If your matter is being decided by the President or Deputy President, you should call them 'Justice Parker' or 'Judge Cole' (or 'Your Honour').

Presenting your case        

The tribunal member will usually explain what happens at the hearing. Each of the parties and any witnesses may be asked to make an oath or affirmation before giving evidence to the tribunal. This is a promise to tell the truth. It is a serious offence to knowingly give false evidence on oath or affirmation. Where appropriate, a party may be permitted to question any witness giving evidence to the Tribunal. The approach in guardianship, administration, mental health, consent to treatment and advance care directive cases will necessarily be flexible and will operate differently from other hearings.

The person who has made the application will usually be asked to present their case first and the other party will then be given an opportunity to respond. The member will often ask questions to clarify issues or obtain all of the information necessary so that they can make a fully informed decision.

Try to limit what you have to say to the relevant issues. You do not have to use special language. You do not have to stand up when you are speaking to the tribunal member. If you disagree with something that another party has said, do not interrupt them but wait until they have finished speaking and then ask the member for an opportunity to comment. Address your comments to the tribunal member – remember that you are there for the tribunal member to make a decision.

If you feel uncomfortable about presenting your case in a hearing, you may make a written submission and give it to the tribunal member and the other parties.

How is the decision made?        

The tribunal member will make a decision taking into account all of the relevant evidence and in accordance with the law. The tribunal member may or may not say what that decision is at the end of the hearing. In any event you will be provided with a written decision. The tribunal member will tell you whether or not the decision will be ready for you on the day of the hearing or whether it will be sent to you (by email, post or other means).

Hearing checklist

Be concise and talk only about the facts relevant to the hearing

Listen carefully to the tribunal member and do not interrupt

Be polite and respectful to the tribunal member and to the other party and any witnesses. Be objective rather than unduly emotional.

Tell the truth and be accurate. If you are giving evidence you may be asked to take an oath or affirmation. 

Ask questions if you don’t understand something or if you are unsure.