Privacy at VCAT
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 (the VCAT Act), Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Rules 2018 (VCAT Rules) and Open Courts Act 2013 govern our obligation to administer open justice and set out what we can do with information we receive in the course of carrying out our functions.
The VCAT Act balances the principle that justice should usually be administered in public, with principles of privacy. There are guidelines we need to follow about the information we must share and the information we can keep private.
How we store information
We store all information provided to us relating to a case. This includes all documents, emails, letters, requests and complaints. We generally store this information in our register, and in physical or electronic files for individual cases.
The information we get from people involved in a case can include:
- phone numbers
- other personal information, including financial and medical information.
Our files can hold:
- the original application to VCAT
- VCAT orders
- correspondence between the parties and VCAT
- expert reports, for example medical reports
- documents provided to VCAT by the parties.
Generally, we keep final orders for 15 years, and other information for five years after the case is finalised.
How we share information between parties in a case
If you give us information for a case we’re hearing, we’re obliged by law to share it with other parties in the case.
This includes copying in all parties involved in a case to emails, so each party can see they have received the same information.
If you want to give information to us in confidence you must first apply for confidentiality.
Information the public can access
All hearings are open to the public, including journalists, unless VCAT makes a closed court order. This means that any member of the public can observe your hearing and hear information and evidence you give during your hearing.
All hearings are recorded, and a copy of the recording may be given to any person upon request unless there's a closed court order or suppression order in place.
All proceeding files can be inspected by anyone unless exceptions apply. These exceptions are under section 146 of the VCAT Act and include if:
- the proceeding is subject to a closed court order or suppression order
- the VCAT Act, VCAT Rules or we direct otherwise.
We can also:
- publish decisions on public platforms (the final VCAT orders which decide a case)
- repeat anything said or done at a public hearing
- allow the public and journalists to search the register and proceeding files.
If there are written reasons about a decision, you can view the decision on the Australasian Legal Information Institute website.
If any person searches the internet using a person's name recorded in the decision, they may find the decision. In guardianship cases, the names of the person the application is about and names of any of their family members are made anonymous before the decision is published.
If a case has attracted high levels of media or public interest, we publish these as ‘high profile decisions’ on our website.
When the public can see a party’s home address
Some orders allow a reader to discover a party’s home address. If the place where you live is the address of a dispute, a member of the public may see your home address.
This can happen when you’re involved in a dispute about:
- a rental property
- a home renovation or building
- local government rates for a particular address.
Apply to keep your information confidential
You can apply to VCAT to keep your information confidential.
You must apply before we make any orders.
You can apply in three ways:
- ask for confidentiality in your application
- email us and ask for your address or other information to be withheld on VCAT orders
- fill out the Application for directions hearings or orders form and email or post it to us.
When we restrict access to information
Our ability to protect information is limited by the law and principles of open justice.
Depending on the circumstances, we can protect information in any type of case. It’s particularly important to protect information in cases involving:
- intellectual disability or mental illness
- medical treatment
- victims of crime
- people who have experienced personal or family violence
- freedom of information or privacy matters.
We can restrict this information when:
- a file is covered by law under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (VCAT Act - Schedule 1, Clause 30)
- we make an order under section 144 of the VCAT Act (orders on the register)
- we make an order under section 146 of the VCAT Act restricting access to the file
- there is a suppression (non-publication) order on the file you want to view
- files are about guardianship matters or reviews of decisions from government and other authorities.
A VCAT member will decide if you can access these files.
If you’re a party involved into a case, you can ask VCAT for access to a file that’s been restricted. We may not agree to your request. You can’t ask to view a file covered by Freedom of Information laws.
We can generally have a file ready to view within 48 hours. Allow up to 10 business days for archived files to arrive from our off-site storage facility.
Apply for confidentiality
Most VCAT files, hearings and decisions are open to the public and media. If you want information to stay private, you must apply for confidentiality.
Recordings and transcripts of VCAT hearings
You can request an audio CD or a written transcript of the hearing.
View a VCAT file
When you’re not a party to a case, you can apply and pay to view most VCAT files.