• Federal Court
  • VCAT
  • Supreme Court of Victoria
  • Magistrates' Court of Victoria
  • County Court of Victoria
  • COVID-19 affected person
  • VIC
  • NSW
  • Federal

Accessing Australian courts and tribunals during COVID-19 

Updated 10 August 2020

Courts and tribunals across Australia are actively changing the way they operate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes include:

  • Closing in-person services at Registries, and asking people to call or email instead.
  • Requiring people to file documents online, via email or fax.
  • Conducting hearings by telephone or video conferencing.
  • Postponing hearings that are considered ‘non-urgent.’
  • Making more procedural decisions ‘on the papers’. For more information please click here.
  • Requiring people to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing when they are inside the Courts and tribunals’ buildings. For more information, please click here.

Courts and tribunals are implementing different approaches in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend that you contact the specific registry hearing your matter for the most up-to-date information relevant to your case.

We have collated below links to the latest updates and information from some courts, tribunals and dispute resolution bodies.

Communicating your circumstances with the Judge and other parties

COVID-19 may impact your ability to participate in your court matter. This might include:

  • Interstate border closures
  • Self-isolation or quarantine requirements
  • You being unable to access documents or a qualified person to witness or certify documents due to service closures
  • You not having reliable internet connection or enough data to attend a hearing by video conference

If you are representing yourself in a case and are impacted by COVID-19, it is important to inform the Judge and other parties in your case of your circumstances.

Remember that any communication with the Judge’s chambers or registries should include the other parties in your case.

Information from Courts and Tribunals on COVID-19 

Victorian Courts and Tribunals 

 Stage 4 Restrictions

In response to Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria, physical attendance at Victorian courts and tribunals is extremely limited. Unless you have explicit permission from the court or tribunal you are trying access, you should not attend the court in person.


Supreme Court of Victoria

You cannot attend the Supreme Court of Victoria in person, unless you have the court’s permission.

There are different changes to processes and procedures depending on the type of a matter. You can call or email the Registry to discuss any Court business you may have.  

Most hearings are being conducted remotely. If you have been impacted by COVID-19 and need to attend court soon, notify the Court as soon as possible to discuss the options available to you, by emailing: prothonotary@supcourt.vic.gov.au.

Visit the Supreme Court website for the latest information. 

County Court of Victoria

You cannot attend the County Court of Victoria in person, unless you have the court’s permission. 

The County Court has released information for each of its Division, to explain operations during this time. Visit the County Court website for the latest information.  

Magistrates’ Court – Civil matters

You should not attend any Magistrates’ Court in Melbourne or Metropolitan areas in person unless the Court has given you permission to do so  

Regional Magistrates’ Court locations remain open, but you will still need to comply with public health directions such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing measures.

The Magistrates’ Court is managing civil matters remotely, via the Online Magistrates’ Court. If you have a civil matter at the Magistrates’ Court, you should be guided by Practice Directions No. 19 of 2020 issued by the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria , which is available by clicking here. This practice note will need to be read in conjunction with Practice Direction No. 20 of 2020, which outlines the Magistrates’ Court’s directions in relation to Victoria’s declared State of Disaster and is available by clicking here.   

For further information, visit the Magistrates’ Court website

The Magistrates’ Court has also released a frequently asked questions page, which is available by clicking here

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) 

VCAT locations are closed to the public.  

VCAT hearings are happening via telephone or videoconference when they can reasonably proceed. VCAT will contact parties with matters listed on or after 18 May 2020 to confirm if their hearing will proceed on the listed date. The type of technology used for the hearing will depend on the characteristics of the matter being heard, such as complexity and number of parties involved.  

If you have documents to submit for your telephone or videoconference hearing, you need to submit these as directed by VCAT, or email them to VCAT and all parties in your matter at least 48 hours before your hearing.  

If you have concerns about your ability to participate in a hearing remotely, you can contact VCAT and other parties in your matter to explain your circumstances. If VCAT finds that your matter can only proceed face-to-face, your hearing will adjourned to a future date to be determined by VCAT.  

VCAT is also deciding matters ‘on the papers’ if possible. You can find out more about decisions made ‘on the papers’ in our explainer by clicking here.

You can still lodge applications and documents by email, and speak to VCAT by phone: 1300 018228. Visit the VCAT website for further information.   

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New South Wales Courts and Tribunals 

New South Wales’ courts and tribunals have measures in place to conduct proceedings without the need for attending in person where possible. Further information is available online, including the specific arrangements for each court.

Federal Courts and Tribunals 

This information is for the following Federal courts and tribunals

  • Federal Court of Australia
  • Federal Circuit Court and Family Court
  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)
  • Fair Work Commission (FWC)
  • Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


Federal Court of Australia

The Registry is closed for in person assistance but can be contacted via phone. In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone.

To the extent possible, arrangements will be made to avoid in person attendance for hearings. The Court will contact parties to make these arrangements.

The Court understands it is difficult to have affidavits sworn or affirmed at the moment. The Court will accept unsworn affidavits for the time being, that will need to be sworn or affirmed when the situation changes. In response to COVID-19, the Court has issued: 

Visit the Federal Court website for further resources and updates.

Federal Circuit Court and Family Court

The Registry is closed for in person assistance but can be contacted via phone. In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone.

To the extent possible, arrangements will be made to avoid in person attendance for hearings. The Court will contact parties to make these arrangements.

The Court is also providing guidance on the management of specific types of cases, including bankruptcy, migration, and parenting matters.  

Visit the Federal Circuit Court website for resources and updates.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

The Victorian AAT registry is closed to all visitors until further notice. Other AAT registries remain open, but are implementing strict physical distancing and protective measures. You should try, as far as possible, to engage with the AAT without attending at the registry.  

Visit the AAT website for updates.

Fair Work Commission (FWC)

The FWC counters are closed to the public. You cannot attend the FWC offices unless you are specifically asked to. The FWC is no longer accepting applications by post or in-person. You can lodge applications online, by fax or email to your closest registry. 

The FWC is experiencing delays in processing cases. Arrangements are being made to hear matters by phone or videoconferencing. Some cases may be postponed.

Visit the FWC website for updated information about how COVID-19 impacts different case types.

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

The AHRC offices are closed to the public. The AHRC is still available by phone, or online. Phone lines are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between the hours of 11.30am to 1.30pm AEST: 1300 656 419 04 or 02 9284 9600 You can also email the AHRC on inforservice@humanrights.gov.au or lodge a complaint via their website.

Visit the AHRC website for further information.

 

 

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