The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) is a tribunal created by virtue of Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act (2009).
It is a statutory body tasked to hear original cases, conduct review on administrative matters and decisions rendered by the departments and agencies of the Queensland Government, and adjudicate civil law disputes when required.
QCAT began its operations on 1 December 2009. As a result, many existing tribunals were dissolved to give way to a more comprehensive body that has jurisdiction to hear many different cases. QCAT has 3 distinct jurisdictions:
- Original jurisdiction. QCAT may hear and make decisions on a range of matters raised for the first time, which may include minor civil disputes and small claims not exceeding $25,000 in value.
- Review jurisdiction. Review decisions made by Queensland Government agencies including decisions issued by the Supreme Court, the District Court and the Magistrates Court as well as other statutory bodies including the Gaming Commission and Information Commissioner. QCAT does not exercise review jurisdiction over areas covered by other tribunals such as:
- The Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Mental Health Court;
- Bodies making decisions about development or planning and environment issues including the Planning and Environment Court, the Land Court and the Building and Development Tribunals; and
- Industrial dispute bodies including the Industrial Court, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and the review functions of the Public Service Commission.
- Appeal jurisdictions. The tribunal can review on appeal the decision made by an agency or another tribunal.
Special features of QCAT
- The structure is unique. QCAT chaired by the Office of the President (who must be a Supreme Court Judge) and the Deputy President (who must be a District Court Judge). The tribunal is comprised of members (appointed for 2-year term), adjudicators and the registry.
- QCAT is an independent tribunal. It is expected of the tribunal to act in a way that is fair, just, accessible, quick and inexpensive.
- QCAT proceedings are confidential. Matters heard before QCAT are confidential in nature, but the proceedings and the conduct of hearings are open to the public except in cases of guardianship and administrative matters where proceedings cannot be held open to the public.
- QCAT may order that all parties involved in a dispute will attend mediation or compulsory conference. During mediation or compulsory conference, the party will either be directed to attend in person or to be represented by a person with authority to settle the dispute.
Generally, matters decided by the tribunal can be published, subject only to some limitations when the tribunal deems it proper to issue non-publication order.
Orders of the tribunal must be done in a way that will avoid injustice to a person, avoid endangering the physical, mental health or safety of a person, avoid offending public decency or morality and avoid the publication of confidential information or information that may not be in the interests of the public.
Can an individual file a claim at QCAT?
Yes, QCAT applications must be filed at the registry of the Tribunal that has jurisdiction over your case or the Tribunal located in Brisbane (Level 9, Bank of Queensland Centre, 259 Queen Street, Brisbane). All magistrates’ Courts in Queensland with the exception of Brisbane Magistrates Courts are now open to receive and hear QCAT applications.
The applicant must ensure that they completed the application form appropriately and paid the corresponding application or appeal fee. However, the fees may be waived under special circumstances, which must be approved by the Tribunal. It is also required to provide a stamped self-addressed envelope along with your application.
The applicant must appear personally at QCAT, this means no lawyer. However, the party may be represented pursuant to Section 43(2) of the QCAT Act under the following conditions:
- When the party is a child;
- When party is a person with impaired capacity;
- When the proceeding relates to disciplinary action;
- When required by law or when QCAT rules otherwise and order that a person may be represented; or
- The party has been given leave by the Tribunal to be represented.
The divisions of QCAT
QCAT has three (3) divisions, which include:
- Human Rights Division. This division provides services to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals. These include children, adults with impaired capacity and people alleging discrimination, harassment, vilification and victimisation.
- Civil, Administrative and Disciplinary Division. This division deals with more comprehensive and broader issues not included in the other two divisions. The majority of matters managed by the division include building disputes, and occupational regulations and general administrative reviews.
- Minor Civil Disputes Division. This division deals with minor civil disputes which include small claims not exceeding $25,000:
QCAT and the Courts
QCAT and the Courts work hand on hand to ensure that justice is served. If it is necessary to ensure fair proceedings, matters started in QCAT may be transferred to an appropriate court. In the same way, courts can also transfer appropriate matters to QCAT.
Moreover, QCAT decisions may be enforced through the Supreme, District or Magistrates Courts.