Witnesses and witness statements

A witness is a person who gives evidence at a hearingDefinitionThe time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. , either in person or in writing. They must have first-hand knowledge of the facts they are giving evidence about.

An expert witnessDefinitionA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. is a person with specialised knowledge. They give evidence relevant to the case based on their expertise. The primary duty of an expert witness is owed to VCAT -  not to their client.

At a hearing, the best way to give evidence is in person at the hearing.

Prepare questions in advance

You have the right to question the witnesses called by the other 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. so prepare a 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. of questions. After the witnesses are questioned, the applicantDefinitionThe person or organisation applying to VCAT. has an opportunity to clarify any matters raised.

When a witness cannot attend

If a witness cannot attend the hearing, they can give written evidence in an affidavit or statutory declaration. These documents must be completed truthfully, accurately and clearly. Sworn documents from a witness may not be as useful as the witness appearing in person because the other parties cannot question the person who made the document.

You may be able to summonsDefinitionA formal document issued by the tribunal which says someone must appear at VCAT on the date stated in the document. a witness to appear if that person cannot or will not attend willingly.

Witness statements

A witness statement is a document that outlines the evidence a witness will give at a hearing. At the hearing, each witness is asked to ‘swear’ or to ‘solemnly affirm’ that their witness statement is true and correct.

How to prepare a witness statement

When you prepare a witness statement, you must:

  • state your name, address and occupation at the beginning
  • set out all the evidence you intend to give at the hearing in numbered paragraphs, in date order
  • sign and date the document.

See an example of a witness statement.

Give your witness statement to VCAT and the other party

Before the hearing, you need to send a copy of your witness statement to VCAT and give a copy to the other party. If you refer to documents in the witness statement, those documents also need to be shown to the other party before the hearing and submitted as evidence at the hearing.

See more about witness statements and other types of communication with VCAT and other parties

Summons a witness

A summons is a legal document that says someone must produce documents or appear at VCAT on a certain date to give evidence.

Only summons a witness if that person is likely to be able to give evidence that is relevant to the case.

Before you apply for a summons, ask the person to provide the evidence or relevant documents. If the person refuses or is unable, you can apply to VCAT to issue a summons.

The person summonsed will be required to attend the hearing (usually by phone or video conference).

Apply for a summons

Any party to a proceeding can request a summons using the Summons to appear form. Other parties or the summonsed witness can object to the summons. We will decide if the witness must appear or produce documents.

Requesting an interstate summons

You can ask us for permission to summons someone outside Victoria. We can grant permission to serve a summons outside Victoria, by a VCAT order. The order must be signed by a judicial memberDefinitionMembers who hear and decide cases at VCAT and are also judges at a Victorian court. of VCAT - that is, our president or vice president.

Expert witnesses

An expert witness is a person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience.

VCAT may rely on the evidence from expert witnesses to form an opinion about a specialised or technical matter relevant to the case.

The expert’s opinion should be sound, complete, fair, unbiased and within the area of their expertise. The expert witness has a duty to VCAT to provide fair evidence, rather than to act as an advocate for the party who asked them to appear.

Expert witnesses must follow the procedures set out in the VCAT practice noteDefinitionA document that details VCAT procedures, instructions, rules, processes and information. There are practice notes that apply across all of VCAT and others that apply only to some types of disputes. on expert evidence: Practice Note PNVCAT2 - Expert Evidence.

If you are going to call an expert witness, you must make sure they are aware of the requirements set out in the practice note.