Hearings in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
This factsheet sets out some rules and procedures which generally apply to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) hearings. It may be useful for people who are preparing to go to a QCAT hearing and would like some information on what to expect.
The following information refers to provisions of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Act). An enabling Act may set out requirements which override these provisions. An enabling Act is another Act which gives the Tribunal jurisdiction to hear a particular matter. For example, if the matter relates to guardianship and administration, then the enabling Act is the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld) (GAA Act).
Who will be at my hearing?
The Tribunal may comprise of 1 to 3 members depending on the nature of the case. This may include a judicial member, that is, a member who is a Supreme Court or District Court judge. The composition of the Tribunal is carefully selected by the President, taking into account the nature, importance, complexity and special knowledge required for the matter (ss 165 and 167 QCAT Act).
Interpreters and support persons
Interpreters are allowed for parties or witnesses who have trouble understanding English.
A party or a witness may also be helped by another person to help them understand the proceedings. For example, the other person may be someone with appropriate cultural or social knowledge and experience (s 44 QCAT Act).
If the hearing is to be held in private, the Tribunal will allow each party and witnesses a support person to attend the hearing if they require one (s 91 QCAT Act).
As a general rule, parties before QCAT are self-represented unless the interest of justice require otherwise (s 43(1), QCAT Act).
However, the following categories of people are allowed representation as of right:
- Persons with impaired capacity; and
- Parties in a disciplinary proceeding.
The Tribunal can also give its permission for a party to be represented (s 43 QCAT Act).
A representative must be a lawyer, unless the Tribunal otherwise agrees (s 43(4) QCAT Act).
See our factsheet Representation in QCAT for more information.
Under s 90 of the QCAT Act, hearings must be held in public. This provision does not apply to guardianship and administration matters, although those matters as a general rule are also to be held in public: see ss 101 and 105 of the GAA Act.
However, a hearing (or part of a hearing) may be held in private if the Tribunal considers it necessary in the following circumstances:
- To avoid interfering with the proper administration of justice;
- To avoid endangering the physical or mental health or safety of a person;
- To avoid offending public decency or morality;
- To avoid the publication of confidential information or information whose publication would be contrary to public interest; or
- For any another reason in the interests of justice (s 90(2) QCAT Act).
What if I don't go to my hearing?
In the event that a person, who has been given adequate notice of the hearing, fails to turn up or cannot be found after reasonable enquiries have been made, the Tribunal may hear and decide the matter in that person's absence, even if that person is a party to the matter (s 93 QCAT Act).
What rules apply to my hearing?
Subject to the QCAT Act, enabling Acts and rules, the procedure for QCAT proceedings are at the discretion of the Tribunal (s 28(1) QCAT Act).
The objects of the QCAT Act include:
- To have the Tribunal deal with matters in a way that is accessible, fair, just, economical, informal and quick (s 3(b) QCAT Act).
The functions of the Tribunal include:
- To encourage the early and economical resolution of disputes including, if appropriate, through alternative dispute resolution processes;
- To ensure proceedings are conducted in an informal way that minimises costs to parties and is as quick as is consistent with achieving justice; and
- To ensure the Tribunal is accessible and responsive to the diverse needs of people who use the Tribunal (s 4 QCAT Act).
In all proceedings, the Tribunal must:
- Act fairly and according to the substantial merits of the case;
- Observe the rules of natural justice;
- Act with as little formality and technicality and with as much speed as the requirements of the QCAT Act, an enabling act or the rules and a proper consideration of the matters before the Tribunal permit;
- Ensure so far as practicable that all relevant material is disclosed to the Tribunal to enable it to decide the proceedings with all the relevant facts;
- Take reasonable steps to ensure each party understands the practices and procedures of the Tribunal, the nature of allegations made in the proceedings and the decision of the Tribunal; and
- Ensure proceedings are responsive to cultural diversity, Aboriginal tradition and Island custom and the needs of a party who is a child or a person with impaired capacity or a physical disability (ss 28 and 29 QCAT Act).
See for example, Thackham v Dunne & Sweeney  QCATA 109.
The Tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself in any way it considers appropriate (s 28(3) QCAT Act).
The Tribunal must allow all parties a reasonable opportunity to:
- Call or give evidence;
- Examine, cross-examine and re-examine witnesses; and
- Make submissions to the Tribunal.
However, the Tribunal has a discretion to limit these rights if the Tribunal considers there is already sufficient evidence about the matter before the Tribunal.
Evidence can be given orally or in writing and may be required to be given under oath or by affidavit (s 95 QCAT Act).
You may need to compel witnesses to give evidence to support your case. For more information about witnesses, please see Witnesses in QCAT.
It is important that your conduct in the Tribunal is respectful and does not unnecessarily disadvantage another party to the proceedings. See Unmeritorious proceedings and conduct causing disadvantage in QCAT for information about the risks in conducting your matter in a way that is unfair.
The information in this resource is for general information purposes only. If you would like help with a legal problem, you may be eligible for assistance from a LawRight service or clinic.
For more information about the help available, and the process for applying for help, please contact LawRight by:
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