Guardianship and Administration

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What can be expected at the hearing?

Hearings at VCAT are conducted as informally as possible, with participants often being seated around a table.  Non-contentious hearings are usually scheduled for 45 minutes with more time allowed for complex issues.  You should remember that the jurisdiction is not adversarial and that there is no need for any of the participants to stand up in hearings.

Hearings at VCAT are public.  However, VCAT may, on application of a party or on its own initiative, direct that a hearing or any part of it be held in private.  Consider whether it is appropriate for the client to speak to the VCAT Member with no one else present and notify the member in advance if this is the case.  Also, if you think the client's attention might lapse or that they might become tired or distracted, then request that they be allowed to speak first.

Family members and other participants are often invited to participate and the VCAT Member will take an inquisitorial role, seeking contributions from those present. 

The hearing will begin with introductions by the VCAT Member, a request for those present to identify themselves and a brief explanation of the purpose of the hearing.

If evidence is given by medical practitioners and other experts via a written report, then they are not usually required to attend the hearing.  VCAT is also able to take evidence over the telephone and may even spontaneously call a doctor, such is the informal nature of the proceeding.  However, you should give VCAT advance notice that you will be relying on witnesses.

If the parties have legal representation, then there will ordinarily be an opportunity for opening and closing submissions as well as cross-examination of any witnesses.

Natural justice

VCAT is bound by the rules of natural justice (VCAT Act s 98(4)). Natural justice has been described as the right to be given a fair hearing and the opportunity to present one's case, the right to have a decision made by an unbiased or disinterested decision-maker and the right to have that decision based on logically probative evidence.  Section 97 of the VCAT Act requires VCAT to act fairly and according to the substantial merits of the case.

 

Rules of evidence

VCAT is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself on any matter as it sees fit (VCAT Act s 98(2)).