It is best to be represented by a legal practitioner at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). However, it is understandable that not every review applicant will be able to afford representation.
In my years of experience, here are some tips for self represented applicants who may soon appear at the AAT:
1) Provide documents on time
The AAT will request you provide certain documents usually 28 days prior to the hearing. Some of the documents and or information that the AAT may request include:
a) evidence that you intend on relying on in support of your application;
b) names of any witnesses you wish to call to give oral evidence or to cross examine in form of a hearing certificate; and
c) whether you require an interpreter which is also specified in a hearing certificate.
If you provide such documents late or do not provide them at all, it will result in the Member or President not having enough time to consider the main issues in your application prior to the hearing, crucial evidence being left out in your hearing or a chance that an interpreter is not organised resulting in a delay in the hearing.
Note: A Member, President or Deputy President are the decision makers at the AAT who will consider and make a determination on your application. The President and Deputy Presidents can exercise powers in any of the AAT’s divisions. Senior Members and Members may only exercise powers in the division or divisions to which they have been assigned.
2) Answer the question
The Member will ask you specific questions relating to your application. While it is understandable that you may want to say many things related to your case, you need to answer the question rather than to talk about issues that the Member has not raised.
3) Speaking when you have not been requested to speak
As a matter of etiquette, do not speak over the Member or to other people in the room that may be accompanying you. Other people cannot answer questions on your behalf and cannot speak unless they have been asked to by the Member.
4) Bring two copies of evidence
There have been occasions where the Member has not received some of the documents that have been filed with the AAT. To avoid such a scenario, it is always best to bring a copy of the documents you wish to rely on so that you may tender such documents to the Member if he or she does not seem to have all of the evidence that you have filed with AAT.
5) Be well prepared and transparent
At the start of the hearing, you will be required to take an oath or an affirmation to tell the truth to the AAT. It is imperative that you are well prepared prior to your hearing and also important that you are transparent in your answers to the AAT. Should the Member infer from your answers that you are not being truthful or transparent, it may indicate to the AAT that your claims are not well founded or lack credibility.
Ultimately, preparation is everything when appearing at the AAT. If you are unprepared and have not filed all the evidence you wish to rely upon, it is likely that you will not give yourself the best chance for success in your merits review application.