Local Government Act 1989 and 2020 (review and original jurisdiction)

This page provides general information and should not be considered as legal advice. Seek legal advice if you are unsure about your legal rights. Be aware that the law can change.

Cases VCAT can hear

While the Local Government Act 2020 (LGA 2020) will repeal and re-enact much of the Local Government Act 1989 (LGA 1989), only some of the provisions of the LGA 2020 are currently in operation.

The Review and Regulation ListDefinitionA List is an area in VCAT that deals with cases of a similar nature. For example, the Residential Tenancies List decides cases between tenants and landlords, and the Civil Claims List handles disputes about buying or selling goods and services. at VCAT:

  • hears certain matters about the conduct of councillors
  • reviews (reconsiders) certain decisions made by a Councillor Conduct Panel or the Secretary to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • hears certain applications for relief from disqualification
  • hears reviews of disputes about the validity of local government elections.

If you want to apply to review a council decision about differential rating, special rates or special charges, you must apply to the Planning List.

Councillor Conduct Panel referrals, reviews and authorisations

An application to a Councillor Conduct Panel may be made by any of the following:

  • the council following a resolution to make the application
  • a councillor or group of councillors
  • the Chief Municipal Inspector (in the case of serious misconduct).

Reviews

If you are a partyDefinitionA person or organisation directly involved in a VCAT case, including a person or organisation that has brought the case before VCAT or who is defending claims made against them. (either an applicantDefinitionThe person or organisation applying to VCAT. or a respondentDefinitionThe party against whom orders or relief is sought by an applicant. ) affected by a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel, you may be able to apply to VCAT to review the Panel’s decision. However, you may not apply to review the Panel’s decision to dismiss an application for being frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance.

If you are a councillor whose interests are affected by a decision of the Secretary imposing a surcharge, you may apply to VCAT for review of the decision.

Allegations of gross misconduct

If you are a councillor against whom the Chief Municipal Inspector has alleged gross misconduct, the matter will be heard by VCAT. Applications may only be made by the Chief Municipal Inspector.

Other applications

Leave of absence where charged with offence – If you are charged with an offence referred to in section 29(2) of the LGA 1989, the Chief Municipal Inspector may apply to VCAT for an order requiring you to take leave of absence from the office of councillor until the proceedings about the charge are finally determined.

Disqualification period – If you are a person who has been convicted of an offence referred to in section 29(2) of the LGA 1989 and disqualified, you may be able to apply to VCAT for relief from the disqualification 4 years after the date of conviction.

Result of an election – The Victorian Electoral Commission, a candidate or at least 10 people who were entitled to vote in an election may apply to VCAT for review of the declared election result.

Suspension during a general election

Applications and proceedings made under Division 1B (Councillor Conduct Panels) of the LGA 1989 must be suspended during the election period for a general election.

Legislation that gives VCAT the power to hear these applications

Local Government Act 1989:

  • Section 29(4) Leave of absence after being charged with offence
  • Section 30 Relief from disqualification
  • Section 81E Allegations of gross misconduct
  • Section 81Q Review of a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel

Local Government Act 2020:

  • Section 311 Disputing the validity of an election
  • Section 321(5) Review of decision of Secretary imposing a surcharge

If you have a decision document, use it to help you complete the VCAT application form and attach a copy of the document to your application.

Time limits

Time limits vary. If you seek a review of a decision, check the decision letter carefully.

If you are applying to dispute the validity of an election result, you must apply within 14 days of the declaration of the result.

If you are an applicant or respondent seeking to review a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel you must make your application within 28 days of the panel giving a statement of its reasons.

If you are applying to review a decision of the Secretary to impose a surcharge, you must apply within 28 days or the later of:

  • the date on which the decision was made, or
  • if you have requested a statement of reasons:
    • the day on which a statement of reasons was given, or
    • the day on which you were informed that no reasons would be given.

There are no time limits for applications by the Chief Municipal Inspector for orders about gross misconduct or for orders requiring a councillor to take a leave of absence after being charged with an offence.

Which application form should I use?

Local Government Act 1989:

  • Section 29(4) – Application for order: Leave of absence for councillor after being charged with an offence under section 29(2) of the Act
  • Section 30 – Application for order: Relief from disqualification
  • Section 81Q – Application for review: Review of a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel
  • Section 81E – Application for order by the Chief Municipal Inspector: Allegations of gross misconduct

Local Government Act 2020:

  • Section 311 – Application disputing the validity of an election
  • Section 321(5) – Application for review: Review of imposition of surcharge

What can VCAT order?

For an application by the Chief Municipal Inspector after a councillor is charged with an offence under the LGA 1989, VCAT may make an order requiring the councillor to take leave of absence from the office of councillor until the proceedings relating to the charge are finally determined.

VCAT may grant an application for relief from disqualification if VCAT is satisfied that the person is a fit and proper person to seek office as a councillor having regard to:

  • the nature of the offence that gave rise to the disqualification
  • the conduct of the person since the disqualification
  • any other relevant considerations.

For an application by the Chief Municipal Inspector under section 81E of the LGA 1989 or a councillor conduct review, VCAT may make a range of orders. In gross misconduct cases, VCAT may order that the councillor is disqualified from continuing to be a councillor for a period specified by VCAT not exceeding 8 years and the office of the councillor is vacated.

For an application disputing the result of an election, VCAT has a range of powers, including:

  • declaring a person as not duly elected when they were previously declared elected
  • declaring a candidate as duly elected when they were previously not declared elected
  • declaring an election void
  • dismissing or upholding an application partly or entirely.

For a review of a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel or the Secretary, VCAT has all the powers of the original decision-maker and additional powers given to VCAT by the relevant Act of Parliament and by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998. Unless the particular Act of Parliament gives it different powers, VCAT can:

  • affirm the original decision, in which case it will stand
  • vary the decision
  • set aside the decision and substitute VCAT’s own decision
  • set aside the decision and remit (send back) the matter for reconsideration by the decision makerDefinitionA person who makes or has made a decision under legislation that gives them this authority. giving directions or recommendations
  • at any time in the proceeding invite the decision-maker to reconsider the decision.

Do I need a lawyer or professional representative?

You do not need to have legal or other professional representation to appear at VCAT. If you wish to be represented by a lawyer or a professional advocate, usually you must ask for VCAT's permission. Be aware that government bodies in most cases uses legal representation.

Find legal services that may be able to assist you.

Need help with your application?

We can explain the application process and what the form is asking you for. Contact us to get support.

We cannot give you legal advice. This means we cannot tell you what to write in your application or recommend how to get the outcome you want.

Seek legal help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.

Access and privacy

VCAT hearings and files are usually public.

VCAT has limited authority to restrict who can access cases and files but, in certain circumstances, you can apply for confidentiality.