Hearings in the community stream

Hearings for guardianship, administration, consent to medical treatment and Advanced Care Directives

 

SACAT has the flexibility to consider the most appropriate way of dealing with your matter in guardianship and administration, consent to medical treatment and advance care directives cases. When your application is received, SACAT will determine from the information provided whether a conference, conciliation, mediation or hearing is the appropriate way of dealing with your matter and will notify you by email, post or phone. 

A full hearing will occur when a dispute has not resolved at a conference or other more informal process, or where it has been decided at the outset that a hearing is the best way of dealing with the issue.

What happens in a hearing?

A hearing will be conducted by a tribunal member who will ask each party to present their case, and then the tribunal member after considering all that information will make a decision. That decision is binding on the parties.

SACAT is not a court and so the tribunal member is not bound by rules of evidence. However, SACAT must apply the rules of procedural fairness that require the tribunal member to conduct an unbiased hearing and to give each party a fair opportunity to state their case.

In the hearing room

The tribunal member will sit at the front of the hearing room facing the parties. Parties are seated in chairs facing the member. Arrangements can be made to accommodate wheelchair or walker access. If a party in the hearing (particularly the person who the application is about) has special needs regarding position in the hearing room, please bring this to the attention of the tribunal member.

Hearings are sound recorded so there is an accurate record of what is said. 

SACAT hearings are open to the public. However, the Tribunal may in appropriate circumstances make orders to preserve the confidentiality of proceedings and evidence. 

SACAT has at least one security guard present at the Adelaide CBD and Collinswood hearing rooms at all times. The guard’s role is to ensure the safety of tribunal members and people attending at the Tribunal. The guard may walk in and out of a hearing room at any time. If you have particular security concerns, contact SACAT. 

Read more about SACAT facilities before your session. 

Tribunal members        

Tribunal members are independent statutory officers who hear and determine SACAT applications in accordance with the law and the evidence presented by the parties.

Usually you would address the member simply by calling them ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ or 'Dr' and then using their surname (which will be on a name plate on the member’s desk). Each of the parties and any witnesses will be addressed in the same way by the member. If your matter is being decided by the President or Deputy President, you should call them 'Justice Parker' or 'Judge Cole' (or 'Your Honour').

SACAT members will be sensitive to the circumstances of the people using the Tribunal or participating in any conference or hearing. Where appropriate the member will suggest more informal ways of speaking and addressing the people in the room whilst maintaining the necessary respect for people and the process and ensuring procedural fairness.

Presenting your case        

The tribunal member will usually explain what happens at the hearing. The main objectives of the Tribunal are to be flexible, adjust its procedures to best fit the circumstances of a particular case and act with as little formality and technicality as possible.  The Tribunal can inform itself as it thinks fit.  Each of the parties and any witnesses will be asked to contribute to the hearing.

Many cases relating to guardianship, administration, consent to medical treatment and advanced care directives may involve people who are frail, aged or have mental incapacity or a mental illness. Tribunal members will consider the special needs of the people involved in the matter and will adapt the communication, processes and procedures to best fit the circumstances.

From time to time the Tribunal may decide in the circumstances  that the parties and witnesses will make an oath or affirmation before giving evidence to the tribunal. This is a promise to tell the truth. It is a serious offence to knowingly give false evidence on oath or affirmation. Where appropriate, a party may be permitted to question any witness giving evidence to the Tribunal. 

The person who has made the application will usually be asked to talk first and the other party will then be given an opportunity to respond. The tribunal member may also speak with other persons who have a proper interest in the matter or invite them to make a statement. Sometimes this can happen via telephone or video link. The member will try to ascertain the wishes of the person who is the subject of the application. The member will often ask questions to clarify issues or obtain all of the information necessary so that they can make a fully informed decision.

Sometimes during a hearing a member may decide they wish to talk to the person who the application is about in private. The member has authority to do this and will ask others to leave the hearing room.

Try to limit what you have to say to the relevant issues. You do not have to use special language. You do not have to stand up when you are speaking to the tribunal member. If you disagree with something that another party has said, do not interrupt them but wait until they have finished speaking and then ask the member for an opportunity to comment. Address your comments to the tribunal member – remember that you are there for the tribunal member to make a decision.

If you feel uncomfortable about presenting your case in a hearing, you may make a written submission and give it to the tribunal member and the other parties.

How is the decision made?        

The tribunal member will make a decision taking into account all of the relevant evidence and in accordance with the law. The member will endeavour to make a decision about a case at the conclusion of the hearing. In that event, SACAT will usually provide the parties with oral reasons for the decision and provide written findings and orders. The tribunal member will tell you whether or not the written orders will be ready for you on the day of the hearing or whether it will be sent to you (by email, post or other means).

Sometimes however, especially if a case is complex it may not be possible for the Tribunal to make a decision at the conclusion of the hearing. In that event, SACAT will reserve its decision and advise the parties of the outcome as soon as a decision can be made. Any party who has a right to an internal review of a SACAT decision or a person who has a proper interest in the matter, can request SACAT to provide written reasons for the decision it made.

 

Hearing checklist

Be concise and talk only about the facts relevant to the hearing

Listen carefully to the tribunal member and do not interrupt

Be polite and respectful to the tribunal member and to the other party and any witnesses. Be objective rather than unduly emotional.

Tell the truth and be accurate. If you are giving evidence you may be asked to take an oath or affirmation. 

Ask questions if you don’t understand something or if you are unsure.