On hearing day – Guardians, administrators, supportive guardians and supportive administrators

Hearings are not based on resolving a conflict between two opposing sides. Instead, the hearing is focused on the needs of the person who has, or needs, a decision-maker or decision-making support, and on what is important to them.

All parties present their case, ask questions and provide evidence. Interested persons can also be involved. A VCAT member makes a decision.

If you are the applicant you must come to the hearing.

The person the application is about is also welcome to bring someone to support them during the hearing.

VCAT hearings are open to the public, including media, unless we order them closed (held in private) under exceptional circumstances. Because our cases involve sensitive health information or family issues, it’s normal for the member to ask each person at the hearing to explain why they are there.

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.

It’s important that you’re prepared for your hearing and bring all your documents so that you can present your best case.

You can check the time and location of your hearing after 4.30pm the day before. See Today’s hearings.

What to bring on the day

Make sure you bring everything you need to present your case on the day. If you don't bring all your documents the hearing may be adjourned (postponed to a later date).

Bring all documents and supporting information about your claim.

Who you can bring

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).

You can’t bring someone to translate for you. If you need an interpreter you must ask us for a VCAT interpreter.

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.

Find out more about how to attend by video

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. 

When you arrive:

  1. Check your room at Today’s hearings or tell a staff member at the counter that you’ve arrived for your hearing.
  2. Go to the hearing room and be ready to present your case.
  3. Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, Koori support or technology for your hearing.

If VCAT has given you permission to attend the hearing by phone, make sure you are ready at the hearing time. It’s too late to ask to attend by phone on the day of the hearing.  

How long a hearing takes

The hearing usually takes about 45-60 minutes.

The hearing may start late or take longer, 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.

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 asks questions about what’s important to the person who has, or may need, a substitute decision-maker or support (guardian, administrator, supportive guardian or administrator).

Sometimes the member arranges to speak privately with them. This is the person whose rights will be affected by the VCAT order and their views and their wishes are important.

If there’s a dispute at a hearing about the facts or the law, we may schedule another hearing for a longer time. If this happens, you should be prepared for a more formal hearing. The member may tell you what to do to prepare.

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.

Hearings for guardianship and powers of attorney cases are run with a level of formality that’s right for the type of case. In many cases this means it runs with a low level of formality.

At the hearing, everyone must be respectful and polite:

  • 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.
  • Water is provided
  • Do not record any part of the conference without permission, for example, take photos or make audio or video recordings.

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. All parties must follow what the order says. 

Sometimes there is a short break before the order is made, or it’s made after the hearing and sent to all the parties. 

If you want written reasons for the decision, you must contact us within 14 days of the hearing. 

The member can decide if they will give written reasons if your request is later than 14 days.

Find out what types of orders we can make in a case about guardians and administrators.

How we make decisions

Find out how VCAT makes decisions in cases about guardians and administrators.

  • All information you give us for your case is available to anyone who looks at the case file or attends the hearing, including media. 

    They might get information like your name, contact details and personal information. 

    By law, with some limited exceptions, we must share information that you give us for your case with other parties. This includes your documents and evidence. 

    But it’s illegal to publish or broadcast information that could identify a party in a guardianship, powers of attorney or medical treatment case, unless we make an exception. 

    You can ask us at the start of the case to keep your information confidential. We may not agree to this request.

    Find out more about how to apply for confidentiality
     

  • If you need an interpreter, contact us to arrange a professional interpreter (at no cost to you) before the hearing.

    Make sure you ask for an interpreter as early as you can.

    We connect with a large network of interpreters in 160 languages. Tell us in English what your language is when you ask for an interpreter. It’s best to ask when you apply to VCAT or as soon as possible after we’ve sent you your hearing date.

    We don’t allow a relative or friend to interpret for you at a hearing.

  • If you’re affected by family violence, we have a family violence support worker who can support you. They will work with you to make sure you are safe at the hearing and have access to justice. 

    You can call the VCAT family violence support worker on 03 9628 9856 during business hours.

    Read more about family violence support at VCAT

  • We offer support to ensure VCAT is culturally safe and inclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    We can help you with:

    • booking a Koori hearing room
    • organising a Koori Engagement Officer to attend you hearing or mediation with you
    • general information and advice about your case.

    Call our Koori Helpline to speak to a Koori Engagement Officer on 0417 516 335, Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm.
     
    Read more about Koori support at VCAT

  • Most of our hearing locations are accessible. Contact us for accessibility information about a venue.

    We can also organise support for people with disability at VCAT.

    Our disability liaison officers can support you to access our services and venues.

    Ask for a disability liaison officer to help:

    ●    Email us at disability.access@vcat.vic.gov.au
    ●    Call us on 1300 01 8228.

    Find out more about disability services at VCAT