Your final hearing at VCAT is your last chance to make your case. Prepare early so you have time to gather your evidence, present it properly, and arrange any witnesses you may need.
The below fact sheet covers:
The hearing allows all parties to make their case. You may do this by presenting evidence from you and your witnesses, as well as any supporting documents you have. Once the VCAT member has listened to both sides, they will make a decision. Sometimes you need to attend more than one hearing before the VCAT member can make a decision.
Usually, the hearing happens after you’ve been through mediation or a compulsory conference at VCAT. The preparation you did for mediation or compulsory conference will be useful for your VCAT hearing.
VCAT members and self represented litigants
VCAT members will help self-represented parties to achieve a fair hearing.
For example, the VCAT member may try to work out the true legal character of the claims made by helping parties to identify relevant legal issues.
VCAT members won’t act as your advocate. You will still need to prepare your own case for hearing.
Witnesses are a useful way of putting evidence and important information before the VCAT member. This may include:
You need to send a copy of any witness statements and expert reports to VCAT and the other parties before the hearing. For more information about preparing witness statements, please see our fact sheet on Preparing VCAT Documents.
If someone you need as a witness can’t or won’t attend willingly, you can ask VCAT to issue a “summons to appear”. This request must be made after VCAT sets a date for the hearing, but before the day of the hearing itself.
How to file a summons to appear
VCAT has a “summons to appear” form on their website.
The VCAT website also includes more information about the process on how to file and serve the form, as well as how much it costs.
In VCAT, you will usually be told at a directions hearing about when expert witness reports, and witness statements by everyday people, have to be filed. You will know in advance which experts or witnesses the other party is going to call at the hearing.
Usually, all of the applicant’s witnesses will be called first, and then the respondent’s witnesses.
Each witness will be examined in the following order:
How you question a witness will depend on whether you called the witness, or the other party did.
Remember, the VCAT member cannot consider any information that has not been provided when making their decision.
You should think carefully about the questions you would like to ask the other party’s witnesses.
The answers should either help your case or create doubt on the other party’s case. One way you can do this is to suggest a different version of events to the witness. You can say: ‘I put to you that you said X to me’ or ‘I put to you that you did X’.
Don’t ask any rude questions or argue with the other party’s witness. Instead, try to challenge the other party’s case by asking leading questions, or questions that suggest an answer.
If you have filed affidavits or witness statements by witnesses who support your case, then the other party may wish to cross-examine those witnesses.
Do not ask leading questions when examining your own witnesses.
Do ask leading questions when you cross examine the other party’s witnesses
After the other side cross-examines your witness, you will have an opportunity to ask a few more questions on topics raised during cross-examination. With these questions, you can give the witness an opportunity to explain or correct anything raised during cross-examination.
The questions you ask in re-examination should also be open (‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, or ‘why’) and cannot suggest an answer or ‘lead’ the witness.
VCAT is less formal than courts. The Tribunal won’t apply any strict rules about asking questions of witnesses.
Even so, the other party may try to formally complain about the evidence a witness has given, the questions you are asking, or something else that occurs during a hearing. This is known as an ‘objection’.
If the other party raises an ‘objection’ when you are questioning a withess, listen to the VCAT member and be guided by what they say.
The objections may be on the grounds of:
VCAT will consider both sides of the dispute, and all the evidence given. When your hearing is finished, the Tribunal will either make a decision, or put off making the decision until later.
Make sure you read the Tribunal’s order very carefully and that you understand what it means – especially if it requires you or the other party to do something within a particular period of time.
This resource was published 11/07/2017. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.