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State administrative appeals

The South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) began operation on 30 March 2015. It replaces a number of other Tribunals and Boards such as the Residential Tenancies Tribunal and the Guardianship Board.

For more information about SACAT see the website: http://www.sacat.sa.gov.au

For information on how to object to decisions about State government taxation (e.g. stamp duty, property valuation) see Complaints about taxation (State government).

SACAT legislation

Below is a brief outline of the new South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), its functions and powers as set out in legislation.

However, the key legislation for any area operating under SACAT, is the legislation of the particular area, for example for matters about Guardianship, it will be the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA). This is because procedure and processes may be different under a relevant Act (see below).

The law handbook contains this information under the various chapters about the relevant Acts, such as Housing, Guardianship, Advanced Care Directives, etc.

The Legislation which establishes and sets out the functions of SACAT is the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (SA) and the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulations 2015 (SA)) – references below are to the sections in this legislation and the regulations.

Relevant Acts are those which confer jurisdiction on SACAT (they give the power for SACAT to deal with matters under that Act) and they prevail if there is inconsistency with the SACAT legislation [s 4]. Current relevant Acts include:

Further legislation will be conferred, particularly during 2015 -2017.

Objectives [s 8]

Objects of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (SA) include:

  • Independent decision making;
  • Natural justice and procedural fairness;
  • High-quality and consistent decision making;
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Accessibility;
  • Expediency;
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR);
  • Low cost;
  • Plain language;
  • Less formal and technical; and
  • Flexibility.

SACAT membership:

  • President of the Tribunal [see ss 9-11, 30];
  • Deputy President(s) [ss 13-17];
  • Magistrates [s 18];
  • Ordinary members and senior members [ss 19-21]; and
  • Assessors [s 22].

Who sits on the Tribunal? [ss 23-26]:

  • Determined by the President.
  • Up to three members, with the most senior member presiding.
  • Decision is by the majority, but if it is equally divided then the presiding member decides.
  • Questions of law to Presidential member with ability for Presidential member to refer to the Supreme Court. Additionally, when Presidential member decides a question of law, they are able to decide the remaining questions between the parties [s 26].

Jurisdiction [ss 31- 38]:

SACAT has original and review jurisdiction:

  • Original Jurisdiction - where an Act confers it, it is the original decision maker, and where that is the case there is an internal right of review process [s 33].

  • Review Jurisdiction – power to affirm, vary or set aside the decision and substitute a or send the matter back to the decision maker for reconsideration (at any stage the Tribunal can invite the decision maker to reconsider their decision) [s 34].

    Rehearing – must give appropriate weight to decision of original decision maker, however must reach the correct, or preferable, decision [s 34(4)].

    Refer to the relevant Act as to any limitations or extensions on this power of review [ss 34(6)-(7)].

General practice and procedures:

  • SACAT hearings are generally in public [s 60] and a member of the public can apply to inspect various documents, transcripts, proceedings etc. [s 90, see Schedule 1 of the Regulations for the fees associated with the inspection of these documents].

  • SACAT can hear proceedings without a party being present [s 43(2)(f)].

  • SACAT is less formal than Court, SACAT is not bound by the rules of Evidence and acts without regard to legal technicalities and with minimal formality [ss8, 39]. However, the Tribunal has discretion to adopt relevant findings or decisions of other Courts or Tribunals [s 39(1)(b)].

  • Similar to a charge of Contempt of Court, SACAT has the power to require person to give evidence or to produce evidentiary material [s 40] failure to comply: Maximum penalty $25 000 or imprisonment of 1 year [s 40(4)]. Disrupting proceedings is also an offence. Maximum penalty $10 000 or imprisonment for 6 months [s 93A].

  • SACAT has the power to enter land and buildings relevant to a proceeding [s 41] – Obstruction of this is an offence, Maximum penalty $10 000 or imprisonment of 6 months [s 41(3)].

  • The decision maker must assist the SACAT– providing a written statement of the reasons for the decision and any document or thing that may be relevant to the Tribunal’s review of the decision [s 35].

  • SACAT can refer any questions to a special referee for decision or opinion and can adopt in whole, in part or reject that decision or opinion [s 65].

  • SACAT has the power to refer questions to experts in relevant fields [s 42].

  • SACAT has the power to dismiss vexatious, improper or frivolous proceedings [s 48], or proceedings withdrawn for want of prosecution [s 47].

  • SACAT has a strong emphasis on negotiated outcomes. SACAT has the power to order the parties to attend a compulsory Alternative dispute resolution conference or mediation [ss 50-51] and also has the ability to itself try and achieve a negotiated settlement of the matter [s 52]. Refer to the relevant Act that the matter arises under, such as Residential Tenancies, Guardianship, etc. for specific processes of Alternative dispute resolution.

  • Legal representation is generally allowed (refer to relevant Acts as to occasions where this may not be allowed); parties can also represent themselves or can seek leave of SACAT to be represented by other non-legal representation [s 56].

  • Proceedings can be electronically heard (video link etc.) [s 67], and will be recorded by video or audio or other recording [see further s 90(2)(d) and reg 10].

  • SACAT has the power to cure irregularities affecting proceedings and fix mistakes in decisions [ss 83-84].

  • Generally, parties pay own costs (unless specified as otherwise in relevant Acts), and costs can be ordered against a party however must be a good reason [s 57]. [See further on Costs and other orders ss 57-58, 62, reg 11].

  • A person who contravenes or fails to comply with an order of SACAT (other than a monetary order) is guilty of an offence. Maximum penalty $50 000 or imprisonment for 2 years [s 89(2)]. Monetary orders can be recovered in the appropriate court (Magistrates or District Court) [s 89(1), see also reg 9].

Appeals and Reviews [see ss 70 – 73 and also the relevant Act]

The commencement of an appeal or review under these sections does not affect the operation of the reviewed or appealed decision, unless there is an order by the reviewing Court or Tribunal staying the decision [s 73(1)-(2)].

Internal reviews

An internal review of a decision made by the Tribunal in its original jurisdiction [ s 70(1)(a)] or constituted by a registrar or other staff member of the Tribunal [s 70(1)(b)]:

  • must be made within one month of the decision; however if it is just and reasonable to do so this time limit can be extended [s 70(2)]
  • when the decision was made by the Tribunal constituted by a registrar or other staff member of the Tribunal, is only allowed by leave of a Presidential member of the Tribunal [s 70(1a)].

The Tribunal can review the decision on the evidence before it in the first instance alone or allow further evidence [s 70(4)].

The reviewing Tribunal may vary, affirm, set aside (and substitute or return the matter to the original Tribunal with relevant recommendations), and order any ancillary or consequential orders it considers appropriate [s 70(6)-(7)].

Note that a decision made at an internal review is a decision made as part of the Tribunal's original jurisdiction, not its review jurisdiction [s 32(2)].

Appeals:

Appeals against a decision of the Tribunal lie in the Supreme Court, to a single Judge or, where the Tribunal included a Presidential member, to the Full Court of the Supreme Court [s 71(1)]. However the Rules of the Supreme Court may provide that a matter go to a single Judge or the Full Court [s 71(1a)].

Unless a relevant Act says otherwise, an appeal may only be made with the permission of the Supreme Court [s 71(2)].

Refer to the relevant Act as to any limitations or extensions on this power of review [ss 34(6)-(7)]. For example, a relevant Act may provide that certain matters may not be taken on appeal to the Supreme Court.

Appeals must be made within one month of the decision; however if it is just and reasonable to do so this time limit can be extended [s 71(3)].

The Court may vary, affirm, set aside (and substitute or return the matter to the Tribunal with relevant recommendations or directions), and order any ancillary or consequential orders it considers appropriate [s 71(4)].

Questions of Law can be reserved for determination by the Full Court of the Supreme Court [s 72].

The commencement of an appeal or review under these sections does not affect the operation of the reviewed or appealed decision, unless there is an order by the reviewing Court or Tribunal staying the decision [s 73(1)-(2)].

Decisions should be fairly immediate, with more complex cases or less pressing matters, taking more time. They should also be straight forward, in line with the objects of the Act.

Always check the relevant Act for additional rights, limitations and other procedures around reviews and appeals.

Fees

  • Set out in Schedule 1 of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Regulations 2015 (SA)[see also reg 14].

  • Many fees do not apply to matters in the Community Services Stream if the applicant is the person who is the subject of the proceedings) [see regulation 14(3)-(4)].

  • Application for commencement of SACAT proceedings in other streams is $71.50 (as of 1 July 2017). See the SACAT website for other fees: http://www.sacat.sa.gov.au/bringing-a-case/fees-and-charges

  • However there is a process for applying for fee waiver or refund of, or postponement of a fee, or part of a fee, on the basis of financial hardship or where SACAT finds it fair and appropriate to do so [reg 14(7)-(8)].

Location and contact details:

Initially SACAT will be in two locations:

Adelaide CBD: Level 4, 100 Pirie Street Adelaide 5000; and

Collinswood: Level 8, 85 North East Road, Collinswood

Telephone: 1800 723 767

See more: http://www.sacat.sa.gov.au/contacting-us

State administrative appeals  :  Last Revised: Thu Jul 27th 2017
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.