Make sure you are at the hearing venue at least 30 minutes early to pass through security and locate your hearing room. If you arrive late there may be orders made against you.
VCAT is a tribunal so we are less formal than a court, but there are still some rules to follow and things to do when you attend a hearing.
Our cases are heard by members. Some cases are heard by judicial members – our president or vice presidents – who are also judges.
What you can and cannot bring to a hearing
For safety reasons, you cannot bring into our venues:
- weapons and any other items that could be used as a weapon
- any sharp items (e.g. manicure sets, table knives, forks and scissors)
- harmful substances and chemicals
- glass bottles and any other glass objects
- tools (e.g. stanley knives, box cutters)
You will be searched and scanned by security when you enter.
Your right to a fair hearing
Both sides have a right to a fair hearing and it is the member’s job to make sure that happens. The member explains what to do as the case goes along. If you are not sure what to do, ask the member. To learn more about our fair hearing obligation, see Practice Note PNVCAT3 - Fair Hearing Obligation.
Hearings are open to the public
All our hearings are open to the public except if the member orders them closed. We only arrange for a hearing to be private in exceptional circumstances.
If you want your hearing to be held in private, or your name or the name of a witness suppressed, you must make that request in writing before the hearing or at the beginning of the hearing. Find out more about how to apply for confidentiality.
When to enter the hearing room
When your case is called move into the hearing room and make sure you are ready to present your case.
Make sure your mobile devices are on silent or switched off. For more about use of mobile devices in hearing rooms, see Photography, recording, mobile phones and electronic devices.
When the hearing starts
Stand when the VCAT member enters the room. Remain standing until invited by the member to sit.
We encourage people to resolve their disputes before reaching a final hearing. Even at the final hearing, the member may spend some time seeing if the parties can agree to resolve the matter before formally starting the proceeding.
If the parties cannot agree, the member starts the hearing.
In most hearings, the member sits at the front of the hearing room facing the parties. The long table is where the parties sit facing the member. Other people may sit at the back of the room.
Everyone must be polite. We expect everybody in the hearing to treat others in the hearing with courtesy and respect.
How to address the member
You can call a member 'Sir' or 'Madam'. If their name appears on the table in front of them you may also call them 'Ms' or 'Mr' and their family name.
The president is 'Your Honour'.
A vice president is 'Judge'.
Oath or affirmation
You and your witnesses may be asked to make a formal promise to tell the truth in the hearing by making an oath or affirmation. The member or a bench clerk will show you how to complete the oath or affirmation.
Order of proceedings
Usually a hearing proceeds in a structured way. The order in which parties present their case can be different according to the case type. In many cases, the applicant is the first to state their case, provide evidence and call witnesses.
The member may ask you and your witnesses questions especially where there is no respondent. The respondent may also ask you and your witnesses questions. This is called cross examination. The respondent will then give evidence as will the witnesses for the respondent and you may ask them questions.
Choose the relevant case type to see if the order of proceedings at your hearing is different to what is described here.
If you can't attend a hearing in person
If you cannot attend a hearing in person, you may be able to join by telephone or video conference. Please apply as early as possible so we can consider your request and make arrangements.
We are only able to grant requests when there is sufficient reason and if the member considering the request considers that the case is suitable for telephone or video conference.
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT1 - Common Procedures
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT5 - Directions Hearings and Urgent Hearings
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT2 - Expert Evidence
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT6 - Hearing Fees
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT3 - Fair Hearing Obligation
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT7 - Hearing Room Technology
- VCAT practice note - PNVCAT4 - Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)