How to join a phone or videoconference

At VCAT we’re holding phone conferences or using the video platform Zoom for some hearings, mediations and compulsory conferences.

Your notice of hearing, VCAT order or email from us will tell you whether you need to join by phone or videoconference.

If we tell you to attend by phone and you want to change to a Zoom videoconference, contact us to ask.

We schedule more than one case for the same time, so allow extra time for your hearing. For example, if your hearing is scheduled for 2pm, it may not start until 3pm.

Use only one device in the room

To avoid feedback and poor audio quality, make sure parties and legal representatives are not in the same room, if you’re using separate devices.

How to join a phone conference

Your notice of hearing, VCAT order or an email from us will tell you whether:

  • you need to call us
  • we call you.

If you haven't received this advice, contact us.

If you must call VCAT

The notice of hearing, order or email advice has instructions on how to join the phone conference. This will include the phone number to connect to the VCAT Teleconference Centre and your PIN.

Dial the VCAT Teleconference Centre phone number and follow the prompts to enter your PIN, followed by the ‘hash’ or ‘pound’ (#) key on your phone keypad.

You will enter a lobby, which serves as a 'virtual waiting room'. Allow some time for everyone to join the conference call.

Wait until VCAT starts your hearing.

If VCAT will call you

To avoid delays, make sure we have your direct phone number and extension ahead of time. You can check this on the application form. If it's incorrect or missing, contact us immediately so we know the best phone number to call you on the day of your hearing.

We may call from a private number or a phone number with a (02) area code.

We'll call you within an hour of your scheduled hearing time. Once you answer our call, we'll guide you on how to participate in the phone conference.

Make it a good experience

To optimise your phone conference experience:

  • Turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions.
  • Consider using a headset, headphones or earbuds if using a mobile phone.
  • Use the mute function on your phone when you're not talking to the VCAT member.
  • Be respectful and don't talk over the VCAT member or other parties during the hearing. You will be given an opportunity to present your case and be heard.
  • Be prepared. You must send copies of any documents you plan to use as evidence to VCAT and all the parties in the case at least three business days before the hearing date. (If it’s an urgent application, send them right away.)
  • If multiple parties are joining the phone conference from the same room, use only one phone to reduce noise, echo and feedback.

What to expect in the phone conference

Phone conferences are conducted by a VCAT member. Some cases are heard by judicial members (our President or Vice Presidents) who are judges of the Supreme and County Courts.

Like physical hearings, phone conferences have rules and hearing etiquette to follow. For example, you must call the member ‘Member’. They tell you if you need to use another title, like Deputy President.

Sometimes the VCAT member may arrange for you to speak with the other parties before (and sometimes during) your phone conference.

More about hearing day

All VCAT hearings, including phone conferences, are recorded. Compulsory conferences and mediations are not recorded.

It’s an offence to record any part of a VCAT proceeding, including a VCAT phone conference matter, without permission (Court Security Act 1980).

How to request an audio CD or transcript after the hearing

Technical issues

If you called us, hang up and dial the VCAT teleconference phone number again and follow the prompts to enter your PIN.

If we called you, there may be a line issue or an issue with your phone provider. The VCAT member will try and call you back. When we call you back it may come from a private or blocked number. If you don't receive a call back within five minutes, contact us.

For interpreters

We either:

  • email the teleconference phone number and pin code to your service provider for you to call us
  • call you via your service provider.

You must join your VCAT booking 10 minutes before the scheduled time of the hearing.

Identify yourself as an interpreter when the VCAT member or VCAT staff speaks to you. Provide your name and qualification.

How to join a Zoom videoconference

Getting started on Zoom

To use Zoom you need:

  • internet access. If you don’t have internet access, contact us for details on how to join by phone.
  • a Windows or Apple computer with speakers and a microphone or a smart phone or tablet - either iOS or Android.

Check if your device supports Zoom

You don’t need a Zoom account to join. You can join using the unique Zoom link, Meeting ID and password or phone number we give you in your VCAT email or notice.

Joining the videoconference

Use the unique Zoom link, Meeting ID and password we send you.

To join:

Join with your audio and video turned on.

How to use Zoom

Make it a good experience

To optimise your Zoom experience:

  • join with your audio and video turned on
  • turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions
  • ensure that you have a stable internet connection
  • consider using a headset, headphones or earbuds
  • to reduce feedback or sound distortion, mute your phone or microphone, when you are not speaking
  • use a suitable virtual background.

How to speak

To let the member or mediator know you want to speak:

  1. Move your cursor over the bottom of the Zoom meeting window to bring up the Zoom toolbar. Click on the Participants button.

    Zoom toolbar
  2. Select Raise Hand to let the member or mediator know you want to speak.
    raise hands

If you want to speak to the member or mediator from a breakout room, click the Ask for Help button in the room you have been assigned to.

How to see everyone

You can change the video layout so you can see everyone in the videoconference.

Change the video layout

How to share documents or your screen

If the VCAT member or mediator gives you permission to share, move your cursor over the bottom of the Zoom meeting window to bring up the Zoom toolbar.

Zoom toolbar

The Share Screen or Chat buttons in the toolbar allow you to share your screen and/or documents.

Find out more about document and screen sharing

Set a background

The virtual background feature in Zoom allows you to display an image as your background during the videoconference.

The feature may not work on all devices. It works best with a green screen and standard lighting, to allow Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background.

If you can’t use a virtual background, try and seat yourself in a room with wall with a solid colour or an uncluttered space with standard lighting.

Find out how to upload a virtual background to your device

What to expect during the videoconference

Who’s in the videoconference

Zoom videoconferences are conducted by a mediator or VCAT member. Some cases are heard by judicial members (our President or Vice Presidents) who are judges of the Supreme and County Courts.

The member or mediator has ‘hosting rights’ that allow them to manage all aspects of the videoconference. This includes:

  • permission for parties to send chat messages, share their screen and/or share documents
  • the option to move parties in and out of the waiting room or breakout rooms.

All parties, excluding the VCAT member or mediator, are participants.

If you’re not a party in a VCAT case but want to attend the videoconference, contact us to ask for permission.

If you’re from the media and want to attend, contact VCAT Communications for permission.

All steps are taken to prevent unauthorised access to Zoom.

What happens after you join

  1. You are automatically placed into the Zoom ‘waiting room’. The waiting room is a ‘virtual lobby’ that all parties enter when they first join.
  2. You need to wait for the VCAT clerk to give you access to enter the ‘virtual hearing room’.

When you have access to the virtual hearing room:

  1. The VCAT clerk tests your microphone and video and confirms your name and role in the case.
  2. The VCAT clerk conducts this process with all parties, including legal representatives, interpreters and witnesses.
  3. When all checks and testing are complete, the videoconference is formally announced and starts in front of the VCAT member or mediator.

What happens in the virtual hearing room

Videoconferences are like ‘face to face’ matters. There are still rules and hearing etiquette to follow. For example, you must call the member ‘Member’. They tell you if you need to use another title, like Deputy President.

Read more about hearing day

Recordings

All VCAT hearings, including Zoom videoconference, are audio recorded only.

Compulsory conferences and mediations are not recorded.

It’s an offence to record any part of a VCAT proceeding without permission (Court Security Act 1980).

How to request an audio CD or transcript after the hearing

Breakout rooms

The member or mediator may use the breakout room function to separate parties into smaller groups for private discussions, away from the virtual hearing room.

This often happens in compulsory conferences and mediations.

The member or mediator:

  • manages the breakout rooms
  • can move parties in between rooms
  • can join the room themselves if needed
  • can broadcast a message to all parties.

Parties can’t speak or send messages to other parties in separate rooms. Breakout room conversations are not recorded.

If you have technical issues

If you can’t join

  1. Check that your audio and video are turned on. Move your cursor over the bottom of the Zoom meeting window to bring up the Zoom toolbar.
    check audio video
  2. Test your computer or device audio before you join.
  3. Test your video.
  4. Check that all other programs that use the camera on your device are closed eg. MS Teams, Skype.
  5. Check your device settings.
  6. Restart your computer.
  7. Uninstall the Zoom client and reinstall the latest version from the Zoom download centre.
  8. Contact us for assistance.

If you lose your connection

  1. Check your internet connection.
  2. If you are using Wi Fi, try switching to ethernet connection instead (if available).
  3. Try to re-join using your link or Meeting ID and Password.
  4. Restart your computer and re-join using your link or Meeting ID and Password.
  5. If none of the above steps work, contact us for assistance.
  6. To assist us to reconnect you with your matter, advise the VCAT operator that you have been disconnected from your Zoom matter. Provide your VCAT reference number and name.

If you lose your audio and/or video

  1. Check that your audio and video are turned on. Move your cursor over the bottom of the Zoom meeting window to bring up the Zoom toolbar.

    check audio video

  2. Check that all other programs that use the camera on your device are closed eg. MS Teams, Skype.
  3. Check your internet connection.
  4. If you are using Wi Fi, try switching to ethernet connection instead (if available).
  5. Check your device settings.
  6. If none of the above steps work, contact us for assistance.
  7. To assist us to reconnect you with your matter, advise the VCAT operator that you are having technical issues in your Zoom matter. Provide your VCAT reference number and name.

For interpreters

  • We email the Zoom link, Meeting ID and password to your service provider.
  • Contact your provider if you don’t have these details.
  • You must join your VCAT booking 20 minutes before the commencement time.
  • You can join the videoconference using the Zoom Desktop Client, Zoom Mobile App or your web browser.
  • Join with your audio and video turned on.

Download the Zoom Desktop client or Zoom Mobile App

Find out how to join using your web browser

For legal representatives

When you join, update your name and title to be displayed on screen. Denote who you are appearing on behalf of by including the party abbreviation and number (if multiple parties). Approved abbreviations include:

  • (A) (A1) (A2) Applicant/s
  • (R) (R1) (R2) Respondent/s
  • (IP) Interested Person - Guardianship matter
  • (O) Objector
  • (PRP or RP) Proposed Represented Person or Represented Person - Guardianship matter
  • (T) Tenant
  • (L) Landlord

For example:

  • Mr Black – Barrister (A)
  • Ms Smith – Solicitor (R2)
  • Mr Green - QC (RP)
  • Miss White - Agent (L)
  • Mrs Brown – Barrister (R3)

To avoid feedback and audio distortion, legal representatives and their parties should not be in the same room, if they are using multiple devices.

Learn more about Zoom