VCAT hearings are generally open to the public, including media. Access depends on the type of proceeding and whether orders are in place that close the hearing or prevent publication of details.
Our main hearing venue is 55 King Street, Melbourne. Human Rights and Guardianship hearings are usually held at William Cooper Justice Centre, 223 William Street, Melbourne. Hearings are also regularly held in more than 40 regional and suburban locations. Find our hearing locations.
Find a hearing to get details of a proceeding. Hearing times and hearing rooms can change at short notice, including on the day. If the hearing is at 55 King Street, check the notice board on the ground floor on the day of the hearing, or ask our Customer Service Centre staff. VCAT staff at suburban and regional venues can help if you are attending a hearing outside the Melbourne CBD.
The duration of a hearing can range from 15 minutes to multiple days, depending on the type of matter being heard and the complexity and technicality of the issues in dispute. Our Strategic Communications team can advise how many days have been scheduled for a hearing.
For information about recording or photography when covering a hearing, see Filming, photography, audio and social media.
Common proceedings and media access
Common proceedings and access arrangements include:
Directions hearing - open, unless directed otherwise. A directions hearing sets out a timetable for the proceeding and deals with preliminary matters but not with the substance of the application or complaint. Evidence is usually not taken at a directions hearing, however the member may hear from parties about issues such as how much time they need to gather documents and whether there is a reasonable chance of resolving the dispute through mediation or compulsory conference. Not all proceedings will start with a directions hearing – VCAT makes an assessment about whether a directions hearing is necessary after reviewing the initial application. Find out more about Directions hearings.
Practice day hearing - open, unless directed otherwise. Some VCAT lists, such as the Planning and Environment List, hold practice day hearings once a week to resolve preliminary or procedural issues prior to a hearing, to make procedural orders, or to set out a procedural timetable to facilitate the fair and efficient conduct of a proceeding. Numerous matters are dealt with in a single practice day hearing.
Hearing - open, unless otherwise directed. A hearing leads to a decision that is binding on all parties. The case is decided on the evidence given at the hearing and the materials filed.
Review and rehearing - open, unless otherwise directed. In some circumstances, if one of the parties did not attend the original hearing, and there is a good reason for their non-attendance, then VCAT may reinstate and rehear the matter.
Mediation - closed. Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, identify the disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives, and try to reach an agreement. Mediations are conducted by VCAT-accredited mediators, who may or may not be a VCAT member. The mediation and the outcome of a mediation are confidential. Find out more about Mediations.
Compulsory conference - closed. A compulsory conference aims to identify and clarify the nature of the issues in dispute, promote a settlement of the proceeding, identify the questions of fact and law to be decided by VCAT, and allow the VCAT member to give directions concerning the conduct of the proceeding. Compulsory conferences are always conducted by a VCAT member. The compulsory conference and its outcome are confidential. Find out more about Compulsory conferences.
Addressing a VCAT member in a hearing
When you attend, you may need to ask the member a question - for example, ask permission to use a mobile device. We explain how to address a member on the On final hearing day page.
Closed court orders
We only make closed court orders under the Open Courts Act 2013 if necessary:
- to prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice that cannot be prevented by other reasonably available means
- to protect the safety of any person
- to avoid the disclosure of confidential information or information that is the subject of a certificate under section 53 or 54 of the VCAT Act, or
- for any other reason in the interests of justice.
A copy of the closed court order will be displayed outside the hearing room. There are also provisions dealing with prohibiting or restricting publication of a report of the proceeding itself or of information derived from the proceeding. For more about this, see Suppression orders and other restrictions at Get a copy of a decision page.