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
On 24 October 2020, the Local Government Act 2020 (LGA 2020) repealed and re-enacted aspects of the Local Government Act 1989 (LGA 1989) dealt with in VCAT's Review and Regulation List.
Most new applications will be heard under the LGA 2020, however any decision made or existing cases heard under the LGA 1989 will continue to be dealt with under that Act.
The Review and Regulation List at VCAT:
- hears matters about allegations of gross misconduct by councillors
- reviews (reconsiders) certain decisions made by a Councillor Conduct Panel or the Secretary to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
- reviews disputes about the validity of local government elections.
You can also apply to review a council decision about differential rating under the Land Valuation List, and about special rates or special charges under the Planning List.
Review of a Council Conduct Panel's decision
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).
If you are a party (either an applicant or a respondent) 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.
VCAT cases will be suspended during the election period of a general election.
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.
Gross misconduct means behaviour which demonstrates a councillor is not of good character or is otherwise not a fit and proper person to hold the office of councillor. Gross misconduct includes behaviour involving sexual harassment of an egregious (serious) nature.
VCAT cases will be suspended during the election period of a general election.
If you are a councillor whose interests are affected by a decision of the Secretary imposing a surcharge, you may apply to VCAT for a review of the decision. The Secretary can impose surcharges for various matters, including expenses paid in breach of the LGA 2020, and deficiencies and losses caused by a councillor's improper actions.
Standing down where charged with offence
If you are charged with a serious offence as described in section 34(2)(k), (l) or (m) of the LGA 2020, the Chief Municipal Inspector may apply to VCAT for an order requiring you to stand down from the office of councillor until the proceedings about the charge are finally determined. Offences include any offence punishable on conviction by a term of imprisonment of 2 years or more.
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.
Legislation that gives VCAT the power to hear these applications
Local Government Act 2020:
- Section 170(1) – Review of a decision of a Councillor Conduct Panel
- Section 171(1) – Allegations of gross misconduct
- Section 229(1) – Standing down after being charged with offence
- 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.
Documents you need to apply
For review applications, you need to provide a copy of the statement of reasons of the Councillor Conduct Panel or the decision letter from the Secretary.
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.
Time limits vary for other applications.
Review of a Councillor Conduct Panel's decision
You must apply within 28 days of the panel giving a statement of its reasons.
Review a decision of the Secretary to impose a surcharge
You must apply within 28 days of 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.
Dispute the validity of an election result
You must apply within 14 days of the declaration of the result.
Putting the original decision on hold
In most cases, applying for a review does not put the original decision on hold and that decision stands until VCAT makes its decision.
If you want the original decision put on hold, you must ask for this by ticking the ‘stay’ box on the application form and briefly explaining why you are seeking a stay.
VCAT will ask the decision-maker if they agree to any stay. If the decision-maker does not agree, VCAT may hold a preliminary hearing before deciding whether to grant a stay.
Who will hear my case and what can VCAT order?
Applications for review of a Councillor Conduct Panel's decision or about a councillor's gross misconduct will be heard by a senior member or presidential member of VCAT. Other applications may be heard by any member of VCAT.
Where a councillor is charged with a serious offence, and the Chief Municipal Inspector applies, VCAT may make an order requiring the councillor to stand down from their position until the case is determined.
On review of a Councillor Conduct Panel's or the Secretary's decision imposing a surcharge, 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 maker giving directions or recommendations
- at any time throughout the case, invite the decision-maker to reconsider the decision.
In gross misconduct cases brought by the Chief Municipal Inspector, VCAT may order that a councillor is disqualified from continuing to be a councillor for up to 8 years, and that the office of the councillor is vacated.
For an application disputing the result of an election, VCAT’s powers include:
- declaring a person as not duly elected
- declaring a candidate as duly elected
- declaring an election void
- imposing a financial penalty
- ordering a recount of the whole or any part of the ballot, where justified and the Victorian Electoral Commission has been notified.
If a council applies for review a Councillor Conduct Panel's decision, the council must pay any costs for applying, unless VCAT orders otherwise. In other cases, VCAT may only award costs if it is fair to do so.
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.
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 the regulatory body in most cases uses legal representation.
Find legal services that may be able to assist you.
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.