On hearing day
At a hearing all parties present their case, ask questions and provide evidence. VCAT makes a decision to resolve the dispute, for example by ordering one party to pay another party.
Is this page for you?
The notice we send you tells you what type of hearing you have. If you're attending a directions hearing, practice day hearing or preliminary hearing, the process is different.
All parties listed on the VCAT application, or who have been added to the case by an order, must come to the hearing.
If you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that aﬀects you and that can be enforced by a court.
Most hearings are open to the public. If you would like to see what happens at a hearing, you can sit and watch most VCAT hearings from the back of a hearing room.
You can check the time and location of your hearing after 4.30pm the day before.
What to bring on the day
We strongly recommend you wear a mask when you’re at VCAT. You should bring a mask anyway as the VCAT member may instruct you to wear one during all or part of the hearing.
Make sure you bring everything you need to present your case on the day. We might adjourn (postpone to a later date) the hearing if you didn't bring documents critical to the case.
Bring all documents and supporting information about your case. This could include:
- any documents sent to VCAT or the other party
- a copy of the application (if you are the applicant)
- reports from experts
- invoices, statements
- written authority to represent if you’re representing someone else or chosen by your company to represent it
- your declaration of service if you have one
- other documents relating to facts, times and the circumstances.
If you're involved in a dispute about planning, you also need to prepare a submission for your hearing.
What you can’t bring
For safety reasons, you cannot bring into our venues:
- weapons and any other items that could be used as a weapon
- any sharp items (for example, manicure sets, table knives, forks and scissors)
- harmful substances and chemicals
- glass bottles and any other glass objects
- tools (for example, stanley knives, box cutters).
You will be searched and scanned by security when you enter.
If you’re attending by phone or video
Make sure you’re ready for your phone or videoconference hearing at the allocated time or within the allocated timeframe. If you’re not available for the hearing, orders may be made against you.
Phone and videoconference hearings may be less formal, but there are still rules to follow and things to do. Our cases are heard by members. Some cases are heard by judicial members (our president or vice presidents) who are also judges.
Etiquette for phone and videoconference hearings
- Turn off or eliminate background noise and distractions. Use headphones if possible.
- It’s an offence to record any part of a VCAT proceeding without permission (Court Security Act 1980) Do not record the hearing.
- All VCAT hearings, including phone and videoconference hearings, are recorded.
- It’s important you email any documents or evidence you want to rely on in your hearing to VCAT and all other parties well before your hearing.
- Mute your phone or microphone if not speaking to avoid feedback or noise.
- To avoid disruption, parties and their legal representatives should not be in the same room if they intend to use separate devices to join their VCAT Zoom matter as this can create feedback and/or sound distortion.
If you need support to attend, for example an interpreter or accessibility assistance, contact us
If you’re attending in person
Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through the security screening (similar to security at the airport) and find your hearing room.
At the security screening, VCAT staff will ask you some COVID-related questions such as whether you:
- have any symptoms of COVID-19
- have recently been in contact with someone who has six dayCOVID-19.
Depending on your answers, you may not be allowed into VCAT. If necessary, we’ll decide whether alternative arrangements need to be made.
Once you enter:
- Check your room at Upcoming hearings or speak to a staff member for help finding your hearing room.
- Go to the hearing room and be ready to present your case.
- Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or need help setting up your devices.
Pay your hearing fee
If you need to pay a hearing fee you must do so after 4.30pm the day before your hearing to avoid your hearing being rescheduled.
For Planning and Environment cases, use the link we email you s before your hearing.
How long a hearing takes
How long a hearing takes varies. It depends on the type of dispute, the issues that come up, and the complexity of the case.
The notice, order or email we send you shows how long the hearing is expected to take. The hearing may start or finish later, so allow extra time.
What to expect at the hearing
The VCAT member runs the hearing and makes a decision at the end. The member must make sure all parties have a fair hearing.
Learn more about our fair hearing obligation.
The member explains what to do during the hearing. If at any stage you’re not sure what to do, you can ask the member.
The member may start the hearing by asking if all parties can reach an agreement (settle). If this doesn't happen, then the hearing will continue.
Parties and any witnesses may be asked to take an oath or affirmation to promise to tell the truth in the hearing.
Each party has an opportunity to:
- present the facts of their case
- provide supporting information or evidence
- call any witnesses
- ask witnesses questions (this is sometimes called 'cross-examine'), without interruption.
The member may also ask the parties and witnesses questions. The applicant usually presents their case first, then the respondent. The order of proceedings may change for some types of cases.
In the hearing room
For most hearings, the VCAT member sits at the front of the room, and the applicant and respondent sit on either side of the room, facing the member. There is also seating for other people involved in the case, for example witnesses.
Members of the public, including media, may observe the hearing, or request a recording or transcript of the hearing.
If you want your hearing to be closed, or you don't want anyone to know your name or the name of a witness, you must apply for confidentiality in writing before the hearing.
At the hearing, everyone must be respectful and polite:
- Maintain social distancing of at least 1.5 metres, where possible.
- Call the member ‘Member’. They will let you know if you need to use another title, like Deputy President.
- Switch your mobile phone off or to silent
- Remove hats and sunglasses
- Before the hearing, you can fill your bottle at water fountains located outside hearing rooms.
- Do not record any part of the conference without permission, for example, take photos or make audio or video recordings.
- Maintain good hand hygiene.
You may be escorted out of the venue for unacceptable behaviour.
When to expect a decision
When VCAT makes a decision, we make a written order that states what must happen. The order is legally binding. Both parties must follow what the order says.
VCAT may also give reasons for its decision, either verbally at the hearing or in writing later. If the decision is not made on the day, we try to make the decision within six weeks of the final day of the hearing. Some decisions take longer, for example if the matter is complex.
For most case types if you want reasons for the decision in writing, you must contact us within 14 days of the hearing.
For rental property cases you need to ask for written reasons before the end of the hearing day.
On hearing day - Guardians and administrators
Find out what happens at a hearing in a guardianship and powers of attorney case.
Prepare for your hearing
It’s important to prepare for your hearing day. There are documents to organise and decisions to make so you’re ready to present the best case possible.
Help and support
What happens if I miss my hearing?
What happens if you miss the hearing depends on if you’re the applicant or the respondent.
- If you’re the applicant and you don’t come to the hearing, the hearing can’t go ahead and your application may be dismissed or struck out
- If you’re a respondent and you don’t come, VCAT may make a decision that affects you and can be enforced by a court. For example, the member could make an order for costs against you.
If you have a reasonable reason for not coming, and you didn’t have someone come for you, you may be able to apply for a review and rehearing (called ‘reopening an order’).
You need to make this application within 14 days of finding out about the order. We may not agree to your request if you do not have a good reason for not attending.
My case is being heard by phone or videoconference, what is the process?
VCAT will contact you to let you know the scheduled time for the hearing.
A phone hearing or videoconference is no different to a hearing in person, so ensure you are in a quiet location and have any relevant documents.
Find out more information about what to expect on your hearing day.
Make sure you check upcoming hearings to keep up to date with your hearing time. Due to capacity issues, we may not be able to remind you when your upcoming hearing is.
How private is information about me and my case at VCAT?
The way VCAT handles your information is based on the legal principle that justice should usually be administered in public, with principles of privacy.
This means there is a balance between the information we must share and keeping your information confidential.
- We store information about people who have been involved in cases at VCAT. This can include names, addresses and phone numbers
- If you give information to us for a case we are hearing, the law generally requires it to be given to the other parties in the case (unless it's protected information).
- If you want to provide information to us in confidence you must first apply for confidentiality
- Most VCAT hearings are open to the public, including journalists
- People who are not part of the case can apply to see VCAT files
- VCAT written decisions for some case types are published on the AustLII website
- Confidentiality is a priority in guardianship cases. We decide what access to information is given, who to and on what conditions.
What support can I get on the day at VCAT?
Make sure you let us know what support you need to early as possible - when you apply to VCAT or get a notice from us.
If you’ve been in touch with us about support before you come to VCAT, see our customer service staff at the counter or meet the support person at the location you’ve agreed on before the hearing.
You can also contact us by phone, email, post or in person. Our staff can help answer questions about the VCAT process, but they can’t give you legal advice about your case or the outcome.
Can I observe a hearing when I’m not a party in the case?
Hearings via phone or video conference
To observe a hearing being held by phone or video conference, email us at least one business day before the hearing date. Give us details of the hearing you want to attend, such as the names of the parties and case number.
If the hearing is open to the public, you’ll receive instructions on how to join the phone or video conference.
Most of our hearings are open to the public. If you would like to see what happens at a hearing, you can sit and watch a VCAT hearing from the back of the hearing room. There is no fee for observing a hearing in person.
You can also request a recording or transcript of a hearing for a fee. You’ll have the option to obtain a copy after the hearing or, for a higher fee, on the same day.
If any part of a hearing is confidential or under a suppression order, you can get an edited transcript. You won’t be able to obtain a recording.
Who’s a support person?You can bring someone with you to your hearing for support. This support person could be anyone you choose, including a friend or family member. They can’t usually speak on your behalf, but they can help explain what you need (for example, ask for a break).