What we do
- Overview of the Tribunal
- Functions and powers
- Case management process
- Service charter and complaints
The role of the Tribunal is to provide independent merits review of administrative decisions. The Tribunal aims to provide a review mechanism that is fair, just, economical, informal and quick.
The Tribunal was established by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 and commenced operations on 1 July 1976. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Regulations 1976 set out the Tribunal's functions, powers and procedures.
Review of decisions
The Tribunal reviews a wide range of administrative decisions made by Australian Government ministers, departments and agencies, including some other tribunals. The Tribunal also reviews decisions of the Norfolk Island Government. In limited circumstances, the Tribunal can review administrative decisions made by state government and non-government bodies.
Merits review of an administrative decision involves considering afresh the facts, law and policy relating to that decision. The Tribunal considers the material before it and decides what is the correct - or, in a discretionary area, the preferable - decision. It will affirm, vary or set aside the decision under review.
The Tribunal is not always the first avenue of review of an administrative decision. In some cases, the Tribunal cannot review a decision until there has been an internal review of the primary decision. In other cases, review by the Tribunal is only available after intermediate review by a specialist tribunal - for example, an application for review of a family assistance or social security decision may be made only after review by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
Section 33 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act requires that proceedings of the Tribunal be conducted with as little formality and technicality, and with as much expedition, as the requirements of the Act and a proper consideration of the matters before the Tribunal permit. The Tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence and can inform itself in any manner it considers appropriate.
The Tribunal does not have a general power to review decisions made under Commonwealth or Norfolk Island legislation. The Tribunal can only review a decision if an Act, regulation or other legislative instrument states that the decision is subject to review by the Tribunal.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction to review decisions made under more than 400 Commonwealth Acts and legislative instruments.
The largest part of the Tribunal's workload arises from applications about decisions in the areas of family assistance and social security, taxation, veterans' affairs and workers' compensation. The Tribunal also reviews decisions in areas such as bankruptcy, child support, civil aviation, citizenship and immigration, corporations and financial services regulation, customs, freedom of information, industry assistance, mutual recognition of occupations, passports and security assessments by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
In relation to Norfolk Island, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to review decisions made under 38 enactments. The decisions subject to review are specified in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Regulations and include decisions about customs, planning and social services.
More info : Jurisdiction List.
The Tribunal exercises powers in divisions which include the General Administrative, Security Appeals, Taxation Appeals and Veterans' Appeals Divisions. The Taxation Appeals Division is known as the Small Taxation Claims Tribunal for the review of certain tax decisions, including where the amount of tax in dispute is less than $5,000.
The Tribunal's case management process is designed to deal with applications in a flexible and timely manner. It aims to promote orderly and controlled passage of matters from lodgement to resolution, equitable treatment of parties, achievement of case management targets, effective use and allocation of Tribunal resources, and public confidence in the Tribunal.
When the Tribunal receives an application that is within its jurisdiction, it notifies the decision-maker of the application. The decision-maker then has 28 days to provide the Tribunal and the applicant with a statement of reasons for the decision and all documents relevant to the review: the 'Section 37 Documents' or the 'T Documents'.
A Conference Registrar or Tribunal member holds one or more conferences with the parties - in person or by telephone - to discuss the issues in dispute, identify and consider additional material that may be obtained and explore whether the matter can be settled. The future conduct of the review will also be discussed, including whether another form of alternative dispute resolution - conciliation, mediation, case appraisal or neutral evaluation - may be appropriate. The Tribunal assists the parties to attempt to reach an agreed resolution.
If agreement cannot be reached, the Tribunal - constituted by one, two or three members - conducts a hearing and makes a decision.
Practice directions, guides, process models and guidelines
The Tribunal has developed a number of practice directions and jurisdictional guides that outline the general procedures for managing applications. These are supplemented by practice directions on specific issues.
The General Practice Direction applies to all cases in which the applicant is represented, unless another specific legislative procedure, practice direction or jurisdictional guide applies. The Tribunal has a Small Taxation Claims Tribunal Practice Direction and two jurisdictional guides: the Guide to the Social Security Jurisdiction and the Guide to the Workers' Compensation Jurisdiction.
Practice directions on specific issues include the Practice Direction relating to Section 37 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, the Freedom of Information Practice Direction, and the Listing and Adjournment Practice Direction.
The Tribunal has developed process models for each form of alternative dispute resolution that is available in the Tribunal, as well as a policy for guiding referral of applications to the different ADR processes. The Tribunal has also developed a number of guidelines relating to aspects of the review process, including the Guidelines for Constituting the Tribunal, Guidelines for Persons Giving Expert and Opinion Evidence and Guidelines for the Use of Concurrent Evidence in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Tribunal has in place a range of measures designed to assist parties access the Tribunal and participate in the review process.
Information about the Tribunal
The Tribunal offers information on its role and procedures in multiple formats and languages.
Brochures and fact sheets for self-represented applicants explain the Tribunal's role, when it can assist and the stages in a review. They are designed to be clear and easy to understand, and are available in print, including large print, on the website and in multiple languages.
A DVD, Getting Decisions Right, illustrates the Tribunal's practices and procedures for applicants.
Comprehensive information about the Tribunal and its procedures is available on the website, and is regularly updated.
Outreach Program and SMS reminders
Before the first conference, Tribunal staff contact self-represented parties, usually by telephone, to explain the Tribunal's processes and give them the opportunity to ask questions about the review process. Parties are given information about organisations that may be able to provide legal advice and assistance. As part of the Outreach program, Tribunal staff can also identify whether a party will require an interpreter or other assistance, such as for a disability or in the form of more information.
Self-represented parties who have given the Tribunal a mobile telephone number receive an SMS reminder a few days in advance of any upcoming case event.
The Tribunal hosts legal advice schemes in co-operation with legal aid organisations in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. A legal aid solicitor attends each registry on a regular basis - usually weekly or fortnightly - and provides advice and minor assistance to self-represented parties.
Further assistance, such as representation, may be provided if a person makes a successful application for legal aid.
The Tribunal advises self-represented parties of the service and makes the appointments for them. The majority of these appointments are for self-represented parties in the social security jurisdiction.
The Tribunal also refers self-represented parties to community legal centres and other legal service providers that may be able to provide advice or representation.
If a party requires an interpreter, the Tribunal engages one and meets the cost. The Tribunal's policy is to arrange interpreters who are accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) at the 'professional' level. A 'paraprofessional' interpreter may only be used for languages without an accredited professional-level interpreter.
The Tribunal has information for interpreters on its procedures and terminology.
Access by persons with disabilities
The Tribunal strives to make access easier for people with a disability by:
providing portable hearing loop systems in AAT premises
facilitating telephone contact for those with a hearing or speech impairment
making all premises wheelchair accessible
providing facilities for participation in conferences or hearings by telephone or video link
making electronic and printed material available in appropriate formats such as large print, and
ensuring the AAT website meets Australian Government accessibility guidelines and standards.
The Service Charter sets out the standards of service that people can expect when they deal with the Tribunal. The Charter also includes information on how to make a complaint about the Tribunal and its complaint-handling procedures.