The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (also known as “VCAT”) provides legally binding dispute resolution but aims to be more accessible, affordable and efficient than the traditional courts. It is divided into 3 divisions: the Human Rights division, the Administrative division and the Civil division. Each division hears a variety of different matters. VCAT does not deal with accidental claims, debt recovery, fencing depute or accidents. Common disputes heard in VCAT include: tenancy disputes, building disputes, small civil claims, consumer complaints and guardianship applications.
The first step to commencing action in VCAT is to file an application within the correct division. Once this is done, VCAT will usually arrange a compulsory mediation where the dispute will be reviewed, and the parties will have a chance to resolve the matter between themselves. If mediation is not successful, the dispute will proceed to a hearing before a VCAT Member (a VCAT Member is not a court judge but they make the decisions in VCAT which are legally enforceable). At the hearing the parties have the opportunity to give evidence, question witnesses and submit any important documents related to the case. The VCAT Member will then make a decision on the day, or in case of the complex matter, theu will provide the decision afterwards in wring.
Some parties get the automatic right to appear with solicitors (such as the Council, credit providers, insurers, child and government departments) while others need to have permission from VCAT prior to the hearing.
Once VCAT has made an order it is legally binding on the parties.