How to get ready for your hearing
Learn how to prepare for your hearing and what to bring.
When you come to a VCAT hearing and give evidence at VCAT you need to support what you say with originals of documents.
You must bring these documents with you on the day – you can’t give us new evidence after we make a decision.
Bring copies of your documents for the member (the person who hears and decides cases) and the other people at the hearing. Both sides have a right to a fair hearing so you must show all your evidence to the other people involved in the case. Depending on the type of case, the documents you need could be:
- affidavits, statutory declarations and witness statements
- condition reports, contracts, leases, bond receipts and rental records
- quotes, invoices and receipts
- expert reports
- business diaries and financial records
- letters and notes of conversations or meetings
- photographs and videos
- plans and drawings
- timesheets and job records
- reports from doctors
- reports from social workers and case managers.
If the dispute is about a product, bring it if it’s a manageable size. You can’t print documents at VCAT but you can make photocopies for a small fee.
We strongly recommend you bring a mask if you need to come to one of our venues. If you're attending a hearing, you may be instructed to wear a mask during part or all of the hearing.
When you present your case at VCAT you can include evidence from experts to support your side of the story.
An expert report is a written report from an expert that a party uses as evidence in a VCAT case.
The expert must provide an impartial opinion based on their area of expertise. They must make an oath that their report is written to the best of their knowledge and expertise.
Any party in a VCAT case can organise and submit an expert report as evidence. For example:
- a person involved in a dispute about house renovations may ask a building consultant to provide an expert report
- in a planning case, a party (including objectors) may ask for a report from an aborist or heritage architect
The expert is generally expected to come to the hearing to explain key elements of the report. It allows the member and the parties to ask questions about the report. We tell you if we don’t expect the expert to attend, or you can ask us whether they need to come to VCAT.
An affidavit is a written statement where you say or ‘swear an oath’ that something is true.
If we ask you to give us an affidavit, you can write it by yourself but it must be signed in front of a witness who is an 'authorised person'. This can be done in person, by electronic signature or by audiovisual link.
Authorised affidavit takers include justices of the peace, bail justices, some police officers, lawyers and members or registrars at VCAT. You can find a complete list on the Department of Justice and Community Safety website.
A statutory declaration is a written statement that you sign and declare to be true.
If we ask you to give us a statutory declaration, you can write it by yourself but it must be signed in front of a witness who is an 'authorised person'. This can be done in person, by electronic signature or by audiovisual link.
Authorised witnesses include justices of the peace, police officers, medical practitioners, bank managers and registrars at VCAT. You can find a complete list on the Department of Justice and Community Safety website.
VCAT may direct you to submit a tribunal book if your Planning and Environment case involves many parties and expert witnesses.
A tribunal book contains documents which parties intend to rely on. You can submit one even if there is no VCAT order requiring it.
One party – usually the applicant – should co-ordinate the preparation of the tribunal book. Provide it as an electronic copy.
A tribunal book should:
- be a a single PDF document that is text-searchable or unlocked
- include documents all parties will rely on throughout the case, including (but not limited to):
- an index of its contents
- copies of the applications
- documents that set out the grounds or issues in dispute between the parties
- documents that set out any agreed chronology or statement of facts
- the application for the permit or statutory approval, if relevant
- the decision under review, if relevant
- documents referred to under Practice Note - PNPE2 - Information from decision-makers (eg. an officer report or assessment)
- other documents a party will rely on as a submission, evidence in chief or in cross examination (eg. plans, witness statements, joint expert reports, exhibits and other documentary evidence)
- any background documents any party will refer to or rely on at the hearing
- copies of all statutory provisions, authorities and case law that will be referred to in submissions
- copies of submissions you must provide before the hearing, where possible
- avoid superseded documents and unnecessary duplication of documents
- have stamped page numbers that correspond with the electronic display showing page numbers
- have documents grouped where convenient. Groupings must have clear divisions, and all pages indexed and numbered sequentially.
Call them ‘Member’ at the hearing. They will let you know if they want you to refer to them in any other way.
The VCAT member is not an advocate for either party and should not be addressed as such. They act as impartial decision-makers, and are responsible for hearing evidence, considering arguments, and making decisions based on the law and the facts of the case.