On hearing day

Make sure you are at the hearingDefinitionThe time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. 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

Bring all documents that support your case, including any evidence, expert reports and submissions you may have.

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 memberDefinitionA person who hears and decides cases at VCAT. Some members are specialists in particular areas of law. ’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.

Be polite

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 oathDefinitionA solemn promise made before God or a deity to tell the truth. It can be made using a religious text such as a Bible, Tanach or Koran, but does not require one. or affirmationDefinitionA solemn promise to tell the truth. . 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 applicantDefinitionThe person or organisation applying to VCAT. 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 respondentDefinitionThe party against whom orders or relief is sought by an applicant. . 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.

Read about hearing room technology options available at VCAT before completing the Application to use technology form.

Case types

Some details of the steps to follow during a VCAT case vary for different case types.
Choose a case type to see any case type specific variations.