Compulsory conferences

Compulsory conferences are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of a memberDefinitionA person who hears and decides cases at VCAT. Some members are specialists in particular areas of law. or mediator.

The member or mediator does not make a decision in the case. Their role is to help you and 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. to agree on a fair resolution instead of VCAT deciding the case for you at a hearingDefinitionThe time and place at which VCAT hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. .

You must attend

All parties listed on the VCAT application, or who have been added to the proceeding by an order, must attend the compulsory conferenceDefinitionCompulsory conferences are confidential meetings where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of a VCAT member. . If another person attends on your behalf they should have extensive knowledge of the case and bring full written authority from you to settle on your behalf.

Prepare for your compulsory conference

Read the notice or orders you receive from VCAT carefully.

In some cases, VCAT's orders or notice may instruct you to prepare a position paper and give a copy to the other parties before the compulsory conference. Your position paper should explain the details of the dispute, what you are claiming or saying in response to the claim, and how you think the dispute could be resolved. Even if you are not asked to prepare a position paper, you should be ready to say these things to the member or mediator at the compulsory conference. Consider the other party's point of view and come to the compulsory conference with an open mind.

What to bring to the compulsory conference

Bring all documents that support your claim. Learn more about preparing evidence. Be prepared to take notes.

What not to bring to the compulsory conference

For safety reasons, you cannot bring:

  • 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.

Authority to settle at a compulsory conference

The parties who attend a compulsory conference must have personal knowledge of the issues in dispute. They must also have the authority to settle. If you are representing a company, club, government body, group or another person, you must bring written authority signed by an authorised person to enter into a binding agreement on behalf of that party.

Who can come with you

You can bring someone along to your compulsory conference for support. This support personDefinitionIn cases about medical treatment and advance care directives, this is someone who represents another person’s interests about medical treatment. They support a person to make, communicate and help bring about the person’s medical treatment decisions. could be anyone you choose, including a friend or family member. They cannot speak on your behalf.

At the compulsory conference

We schedule compulsory conferences for either a half-day or full day. The time set for your compulsory conference appears on the notice or orders. The notice also tells you how early you must arrive before your hearing. Plan to arrive on time and to be at VCAT for all of the scheduled time.

At a compulsory conference, everyone must be respectful and communicate politely.

The member or mediator explains the process and manages the discussions. They will:

  • ask each party or their representative to give a summary of how they see the dispute
  • assist the parties to identify the key issues in dispute
  • talk to the parties in private if necessary, to clarify issues and discuss settlement options confidentially.

The member or mediator may suggest forms of settlement and discuss the likely outcomes of the case if it goes to a hearing. You are not bound by the views of the member or mediator, which are not orders. The views of the member or mediator are not recorded, and are not told to the member who hears the case if it goes to final hearing.

At the end of the discussion, if you have reached a settlement, we will make orders to confirm it. If you have not reached a settlement, we will set a date for a directions hearingDefinitionA directions hearing is a hearing where a VCAT member decides how a case should be managed and how much time it will take. or final hearing.

Representation at a compulsory conference

Many people choose to represent themselves at VCAT. The member or mediator usually decides who is present in the compulsory conference room and the extent to which they participate. We encourage you to participate directly in the compulsory conference, even if you are represented, because you have personal knowledge of the issues in dispute. In some cases, VCAT must first approve having someone represent you. Learn more about Professional representation at VCAT.

Confidentiality at compulsory conferences

Conversations at compulsory conferences are confidential and cannot be used later at a hearing. Parties may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, which means you cannot disclose to outsiders, including the media, what was said or done in the compulsory conference or any confidential documents produced.

Compulsory conferences at VCAT cannot be recorded and the notes of the member or mediator are destroyed. They are not kept on file.

Private sessions

During the compulsory conference the member or mediator may meet with the parties separately in private sessions. What is discussed in private sessions remains between you and the member or mediator unless you agree that they can inform the other side.

Change the date of a compulsory conference

A change to the date of a compulsory conference is called an adjournmentDefinitionA change to the date of a directions hearing, mediation, compulsory conference or hearing is called an adjournment. . If you need to change the date, you must seek our permission as early as possible. Learn more about changing a hearing date.

If you resolve your dispute before a compulsory conference

If you reach an agreement with the other party before the compulsory conference, let us know immediately by telephone and confirm it in writing. Alternatively, the applicantDefinitionThe person or organisation applying to VCAT. may decide to withdraw their application before the compulsory conference. Learn more about how to withdraw a case.

If no settlement is reached at a compulsory conference

If you cannot reach agreement at the compulsory conference, the case is usually listed for a directions or final hearing on a later date. We may make orders for the hearing, including setting a timetable that outlines what you need to do by certain dates before the hearing.

A different VCAT member will hear the case at a final hearing and will not know about your confidential discussions at the compulsory conference.

What to do if you miss your compulsory conference

If one of the parties does not attend the compulsory conference, we may make an order against them without them being present.

We may:

  • make an order against the absent party
  • strike out the application made by the absent party
  • remove the absent party as a party in the proceeding
  • make an order for costs against the absent party.

Accessibility and support at VCAT

We can arrange assistance for people to attend compulsory conferences including interpreters, security, family violence support, hearing and speech assistance, audiovisual equipment, wheelchair access and other accessibility assistance. Learn more about accessibility at VCAT or support services at VCAT.