Directions hearings

At a directions hearing a VCAT member decides how the case should be managed and how much time it will take.

A directions hearing isn’t held for every type of case. We send you a notice if you must come to one.

A directions hearing is not the final hearing. It’s a brief hearing, usually no more than 30 minutes.

At the directions hearing, the VCAT member may:

  • clarify and explore ways to resolve any issues that are raised
  • decide whether the case should go to mediation, compulsory conference or hearing
  • set dates for parties to send documents to VCAT and to each other
  • order physical evidence to be inspected by an expert witness
  • make a final order to confirm an agreement between the parties or decide any legal issues raised.

It’s important that you (or your representative) come so that you can have your say.

You can ask to attend a directions hearing by phone.

If you don’t come or are not represented, VCAT may still make a decision or a final order that affects you and can be enforced by a court.

How to ask for a directions hearing

VCAT can decide to hold a directions hearing or anyone involved in the case can ask for one.

You can ask for a directions hearing if you want to raise a particular issue which you think needs to be resolved before the mediation, compulsory conference or final hearing.

If a party has applied for a directions hearing the member will discuss the issues raised in the application. This can mean the directions hearing takes longer than 30 minutes. If you’ve made the application, the member will have the documents you sent (for example, your affidavit) to review.

Apply for a directions hearing using the Application for directions hearing or orders form.

What to expect at a directions hearing

The VCAT member uses the directions hearing to ask questions so they can decide how best to manage the case.

This may mean, for example:

  • you’ll be asked questions about the issues raised, so make sure you’re prepared to answer
  • the member may talk to you and the other parties about whether you can resolve the issue yourselves at or after this hearing
  • you may be asked about how many witnesses will appear for you at VCAT and what kind of evidence each witness will give
  • the member may talk to you about whether you need any expert evidence or reports.

At the directions hearing the member will not look in detail at any supporting information you have prepared to support your original application.

The VCAT member may:

  • make orders that documents and other materials be sent to VCAT and to the other parties by certain dates
  • decide if there should be a mediation or compulsory conference and set the date, time and location
  • set the date and location for the final hearing. If a hearing date is set, this will include an estimate of the number of days the hearing will take.

The member may make final orders at the directions hearing.

If you are attending a directions hearing for an equal opportunity dispute, see what a directions order might look like.

How to prepare for a directions hearing

It’s important to be prepared for the directions hearing so that what you say helps clarify the issues in the dispute as much as possible.

To get ready for a directions hearing:

  • be ready to answer questions about your application or your response to an application
  • make a list of the witnesses you want to appear for you (they don’t need to come to the directions hearing)
  • write down what you would like VCAT to do or decide
  • be ready to take notes during the directions hearing.

If you plan to use a laptop or other electronic device, check the rules for VCAT hearings at Photography, recording, mobile phones and electronic devices.

Find out more about how to prepare for a VCAT 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.

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 cannot bring someone to translate for you. If you need an interpreter you must ask us to arrange for one.

If you want a lawyer or other professional representative to speak for you at mediation

  • let the other party know in writing before the mediation, and
  • ask VCAT’s permission when the mediation starts. You will need to explain why.

We generally don’t give permission if the claim is for goods and services under $15,000.

If you are attending a directions hearing and your dispute is about legal practice, you can represent yourself or you can have a lawyer or other person come on your behalf. If you want to be represented by a lawyer or some other person at the final hearing, tell the member at the directions hearing.

Some parties have an automatic right to have a lawyer or other professional representative at VCAT.

We cannot give legal advice.

Find out about free or low-cost legal help or advice

On the day

You can check the time and location (if you're coming in person) of your directions hearing after 4.30pm the day before. See Today’s hearings.

Arrive at least 30 minutes early to allow time to get through security screening (similar to security at the airport at some venues) and find your room.

When you arrive:

  1. Check the hearing list or ask a staff member for the number of your room. You can also check your room at Today's hearings.
  2. Go to the room and be ready to present your case.
  3. Speak to a staff member if you have arranged security, disability support, an interpreter, or technology.

If you have a legal or professional representative, they can come to the directions hearing and ask permission to represent you throughout the case at the start of the directions hearing. Be prepared to represent yourself if VCAT does not give permission, as the directions hearing is likely to still go ahead.

At the directions 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
  • You don’t need to bring your own water.
  • Do not record any part of the conference without permission, for example, take photos or make audio or video recordings.

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 how to attend by video

Help and support

  • 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 paperwork at hand.

    Find out more information about what to expect on hearing day.

    If you want more information or need to tell us about an alternative number or party name, call 1300 01 8228.

    Make sure you check today’s 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.

    Find out how to join a video conference

  • At VCAT we’re using the video platform Zoom for some hearings, mediations and compulsory conferences.

    If we tell you to attend by phone and you want to change to a Zoom videoconference, contact us to ask.

    Find out how to join a videoconference

  • 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

    Support for people affected by family violence

    If you are a protected person or responding to a case and under a family violence intervention order, you can choose to bring a support person to VCAT. The support person can be anyone you choose, including a lawyer, social worker, family member or friend.

    Find out more about support for people affected by family violence at VCAT

    If you want someone to speak on your behalf, you must ask for it in writing.

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company), a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.

    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

  • If you can’t come to VCAT in person or on the scheduled date for a serious reason (for example, you have a disability, are away or unwell) you have a few options. You can: 

    Template of written authority for someone to represent you

    Use this template to give someone authority to represent you. We call this person an ‘agent’.

    I, <NAME> (or Your Company Pty Ltd, if a company),, a party in the VCAT case reference number xxxxx/20xx wish to be represented at VCAT.

    I give permission for <representative's name and occupation> (add 'employed by the company' if you're a company) to represent me.
    The agent has sufficient knowledge of the issues in dispute and has my permission to bind me to any settlement.

    Date xx/xx/xx

    Signed:______________ Name:______________ Position:______________

  • 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 good enough 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. There’s no guarantee that VCAT will agree. 

    Apply for a review and rehearing

  • We offer a range of support services including interpreters, disability, security, family violence and Koori support. 

    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.

    If you are coming to VCAT at King Street, Melbourne and you need support or information, you can visit the free services on Level 5 before the hearing:

    • Court Network volunteers offer free and independent support, information and referral services. They don’t give legal advice.
    • Victoria Legal Aid duty lawyers can help if you are unsure about your options or need advice about your claim.

    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.

    Who you can bring to VCAT

Related pages

Change a hearing date (adjournment)

A change to the date of a directions hearing, mediation, compulsory conference or hearing is called an ‘adjournment’.

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. 

Hearing room technology

VCAT offers a range of hearing room technology options to assist all Victorians to access fair and efficient justice.