Contributed by StephenShaw and current to 27 July 2018

Tribunals are not part of the judiciary. They are dispute resolution bodies set up under laws passed by parliament and they are under the control of the executive branch of the government. Tribunals hear disputes and make decisions based on facts. There is a wide range of tribunals set up by both Commonwealth and State parliaments. Generally speaking tribunals are swifter, less formal and cheaper for the disputants than are the Courts.

The practice and procedure in tribunals is similar to, but more simple and casual than, the practice and procedure in courts. Tribunals are often less adversarial than courts, as tribunal members may take a more active role in exploring the facts that are in issue. The rules about what evidence can and cannot be introduced to prove some part of the disputants’ cases are usually much less strict. Some tribunals even ban lawyers from appearing on behalf of the disputants.

Decisions made by Tribunals can usually be challenged in the Courts. Courts come above tribunals in our Legal System and Courts can overrule decisions made by tribunals or send disputes back to tribunals to be reheard in line with instructions that the Courts issue. The Court’s ability to hear a challenge to a tribunal decision is known as judicial review: see further Challenging Government Decisions.

The Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) is the primary place of review for people aggrieved with government decisions. It also has power to make its own original decisions.

The SAT homepage is at:

A range of federal tribunals have been grouped together as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The AAT conducts merit reviews of decisions made by the executive branch of the Federal Government and can also review some decisions by other tribunals. The functions of the Migration Review Tribunal, the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal have all be absorbed by the AAT.

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