Preparing for proceedings

Find out how to prepare for minor civil dispute proceedings you may be required to attend.

In minor civil dispute proceedings including tenancy, minor debt, consumer/trader and dividing fence disputes, QCAT generally organises a final hearing to decide the case.

QCAT may organise various proceedings before the final hearing to assist parties to resolve a dispute. If your matter cannot be resolved or settled, QCAT will then organise a final hearing where a decision will be made.

This page contains general information to help you understand different proceedings you may be required to attend, how you will be notified and how to prepare yourself.

Types of minor civil dispute proceedings you may be asked to attend prior to the final hearing?

Depending on the type of matter you are involved in, you may be required to attend one of the following proceedings before your final hearing:

Mediation is a dispute resolution service in which a mediator assists parties to discuss their differences and find a solution that suits everyone.

The aim of mediation is to resolve the dispute in the most cost effective way. If the dispute cannot be resolved, mediation helps to identify issues and questions to be considered at the hearing

The mediator acts as an independent third party and guides the participants through a structured mediation process. QCAT engages external mediators to conduct mediations.

If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator may record the terms of the agreement in writing to be signed by the parties. The parties may request that QCAT make a formal order that contains the terms of the agreement. The QCAT process usually ends at this point if an agreement has been reached.

Compulsory conference is a dispute resolution proceeding used across a range of civil matters at QCAT prior to a hearing. Minor civil disputes are only scheduled for a compulsory conference in exceptional circumstances. This means generally, you will not be asked to attend this type of proceeding in a minor civil dispute.

Compulsory conferences can take between 60 and 180 minutes depending on your case type and are held in private. What is said or written at a conference cannot be used in later proceedings if the dispute does not settle unless the parties otherwise agree.

The aims of the compulsory conference are to:

  • identify and clarify the issues you and the other party don’t agree on
  • find a solution to the dispute without proceeding to a hearing
  • identify the questions to be decided by QCAT at the hearing
  • make orders and give directions to resolve the dispute; and
  • if the proceeding is not settled, make orders and give directions about how the case will proceed so it can be resolved

If the parties reach agreement at the compulsory conference, QCAT will record the terms of the agreement in writing and make the orders necessary to give effect to the agreement. Each party will then sign the agreement and receive a copy. The QCAT process usually ends at this point if an agreement has been reached.

If the parties do not reach agreement, QCAT will usually make further directions to progress the dispute to hearing.

An “on the papers hearing” is a hearing heard in the absence of parties. The parties do not make oral submissions and a decision is made based on the written material and submissions filed by the parties.

This type of proceeding is used for making decisions on preliminary points, applications to prepare your case, or, if directed, the final decision in the dispute between the parties.

For example, QCAT may use an on the papers hearing to make decisions about requests for legal representation or a non-publication order.

How will I be notified of an on the papers hearing?

Formal notice is not always issued for on the papers hearings. If a notice is not issued, QCAT will notify the parties via written directions if decisions will be made on the papers.

As these types of hearings are dealt with in the absence of the parties, you are not required to attend on the papers hearings. QCAT will notify you of the outcome of the on the papers hearing when a decision has been made.


When will I be notified of proceeding dates?

QCAT usually sends a written “Notice” to each party prior to the date of the proceeding. QCAT aims to send proceeding notices to parties anytime between three weeks and three months.

The notice will tell you the time, date and place of the proceeding. It will also give you comprehensive information to prepare you for your particular proceeding. You can see example copies of the different notices which may be issued to you here.

If the proceeding is listed for a teleconference or video conference, you should check your contact details on the initiating application form to confirm they are correct. If they are not correct you should email enquiriesQCAT@justice.qld.gov.au to update your details. If you do not do so, the hearing may proceed in your absence.


Do I have to attend proceedings in person?

When a matter is listed for a proceeding, parties are expected to attend QCAT in person to present their case.

However, QCAT may decided set to your case down for a teleconference or video conference themselves or on request from a party.

You can apply for permission to attend by telephone or video. You must apply as soon as possible after being notified that you are required to attend a QCAT proceeding.

Learn more about applying to attend a proceeding by telephone or video and the process here.


What if I cannot attend or want to make another application before the proceeding?

If you are unable to attend a proceeding, you must let QCAT know as soon as possible before the scheduled date. Please contact QCAT at the location where your proceeding is being held as outlined in your notice.

If you are unable to attend a proceeding QCAT may continue with the proceeding and make decisions in your absence.

You can apply to adjourn your proceeding to a later date as a last resort. However, you should make all attempts to attend each proceeding scheduled by QCAT.

If you want to make other applications such as requesting further material from third parties, notices to attend or non-publication orders, you need to make these as soon as possible before the scheduled proceeding date also.

Learn more about applying for adjournments, making other applications and the process here.


How should I prepare for all QCAT proceedings?

To ensure you are prepared and organised, before attending any QCAT proceeding you should:

Consider all documentation associated with the application which has been lodged at QCAT.

Ensure you arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time outlined in your notice if attending proceedings in person. Find your name or case number on the electronic listing board or list displayed in the registry. Go to the room which has been set aside for your case.

QCAT will notify you if your matter will proceed by telephone or video.

QCAT uses a private telephone number when calling out. Please ensure you are available and ready to take the call at least 15 minutes before the start time outlined in your notice.

Some proceedings take longer than others. If you have not been contacted within 30 minutes of the scheduled time, please contact QCAT Brisbane on 1300 753 228 or your local Magistrates Court where your matter is listed.

If you do not answer when called, you may not be contacted again, and the matter may proceed in your absence.

You can also learn more about how teleconference and video conference proceedings are conducted on the day here.

QCAT proceedings are based on respect and courtesy. This helps proceedings to progress quickly and efficiently for all parties.

During proceedings, it is important that you listen closely to the instructions of the QCAT decision-maker and you should follow the instructions provided at all times. Do not interrupt the QCAT decision-maker or other parties. If you disagree with information provided by the other party, make a note and correct them when it is your turn to speak.

The QCAT decision-maker will call you by your title and family name (eg ‘Mr Smith’ or ‘Ms Brown’).

Depending on the nature of your matter, the QCAT decision-maker may be a judicial member (a supreme or district court judge), member, adjudicator or magistrate. The following table provides a summary and examples of how to address a QCAT decision-maker.

Member

Guideline

Example

Judge

Refer to the judge as "Your Honour"

"Yes, your Honour"

Senior Member

Refer to the member as "Senior Member"

"Yes, Senior Member"

Member (including ordinary members and judicial members)

Refer to the member as "Member" followed by their surname

"Yes, Member Smith"

Adjudicator

Refer to the adjudicator as Mr/Ms/Mrs

"Yes, Mr Jones"

If you have any practical needs or support services that we can assist with, please contact QCAT as soon as possible before your proceeding so appropriate arrangements can be made.  For example, you may wish to tell QCAT if you:

  • require a break for a medical reason or to attend to an infant
  • have any other special needs due to a disability
  • require an interpreter
  • need space to accommodate wheelchair access or other mobility aids
  • require a hearing loop
  • need special arrangements to feel safe in a hearing (eg if there are domestic and family violence issues)

How should I prepare for the final hearing?

If the matter has not been resolved, QCAT will organise a final hearing. You should consider the above steps in preparing for all proceedings. Additionally, there are extra steps you need to consider in preparing for the final hearing such as:

Make sure your evidence and witnesses are organised

You must ensure you have prepared your evidence and other documents for the hearing day.

You must also ensure you bring to the hearing your copies of all statements and documents relevant to the dispute.

Make sure that you have filed your list of witnesses and each statement before the hearing.

QCAT must act fairly. It is not fair for a party to be surprised by what a witness might say at the hearing and have no opportunity to investigate. If you want to call witnesses and you have not filed their statement, the QCAT decision-maker may refuse to hear their evidence. If the decision-maker does accept the evidence, the hearing might be adjourned (postponed) to a later date at your cost.

Give the witness a copy of their statement or affidavit you filed before the hearing. Ask the witness to confirm it is their statement and if the information is true and correct.

Let your witness know that the other party and the QCAT decision-maker may ask the witness questions. This is called cross-examination. After cross-examination, you can question your witness again to clarify any points.

If a witness cannot attend the hearing in person, you can ask QCAT for permission for the witness to appear via telephone or video.

If a witness refuses to attend a hearing or produce documents at the hearing, QCAT can issue a written notice requiring the witness to attend to give evidence or produce documents. You must apply to QCAT for this notice.

Only QCAT can order a person to attend a hearing or to produce documents at the hearing by issuing a notice to attend. QCAT charges a fee for this service and you must make this application as early as possible before the final hearing. When you apply you also cannot assume QCAT will automatically grant the application.

Learn more about applying for witnesses to attend by telephone or requiring a witness to attend a proceeding here.

If you asked QCAT to give written notice directing a witness to attend the final hearing, you may be required to pay the witness an ‘allowance’ for appearing. Further information on witness allowances can be found here.

Understand what happens on the day of the hearing

A QCAT Hearing Support Officer (HSO) will announce the matter name (the names of the parties involved) and take your name. Please let the HSO know if you have any witnesses. Witnesses should sit outside until they are called to give evidence.

Tell the HSO if you have any special needs or if you require the use of electronic equipment to present evidence. The HSO will advise you when the hearing room is open and escort each party into the hearing room.

While HSOs may give procedural advice about the presentation of evidence, the decision about what evidence may be received and how it is received is a matter for the QCAT decision-maker hearing the dispute.

A QCAT decision-maker, depending on the matter, may be a judicial member (a supreme or district court judge), member, adjudicator or magistrate.

Please switch off your mobile phone before you enter the hearing room and take a seat at the ‘bar table’, usually the long table closest to the door.

Arrange your files and documents for easy access.

Depending on your case, there may be one, two or three QCAT decision-makers hearing your case. When the hearing begins the HSO will announce the arrival of the QCAT decision-maker by saying ‘Silence, all stand. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is now in session’.

Please stand until the QCAT decision-maker invites you to sit down. The QCAT decision-maker will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will proceed.

The QCAT decision-maker will ask all parties to identify themselves to ensure names are read correctly into the record of proceedings.

Both parties have a chance to tell the QCAT decision-maker about the case and their witnesses. The applicant usually goes first. Tell the QCAT decision-maker if any witnesses have to leave early or can only give evidence at a particular time.

The QCAT decision-maker may also ask the parties to confirm which documents they have filed and are relying on to prove their case and the issues to be decided by the tribunal.

During the final hearing you should ensure you follow all instructions made by the QCAT decision-maker. This may include instructions on the order of witnesses to be called and crossed-examined during the proceeding, submissions to be made by parties, break times and other matters as instructed by the QCAT decision-maker.

Following the instructions and hearing protocols of the QCAT decision-maker helps the hearing proceed efficiently and effectively.

After evidence has been put forward by both parties, the QCAT decision-maker will ask for closing submissions. This is the opportunity for each party to summarise the evidence and to submit why the member should decide in their favour. The respondent will usually give closing submissions first with the applicant following after this.

Sometimes, the QCAT decision-maker asks the parties to file and serve written submissions after the hearing. This is not an opportunity to submit new evidence. In written submissions, a party can summarise the evidence that was presented during the hearing and explain why their case is stronger than the other side’s case.

The QCAT decision-maker will then make a decision based on the law and the evidence. If the QCAT decision-maker decides another hearing is required, you may get the new hearing date before you leave. If not, you will be advised as soon as possible. QCAT may announce its decision at the hearing. If the QCAT decision-maker needs more time to consider your case, it may announce the decision later (this is known as a reserved decision)

The HSO announces closure of the hearing by saying 'Silence, all stand. The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal is closed'. Ensure you stand until the QCAT decision-maker leaves the hearing room.

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