The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) aims to resolve small disputes quickly and fairly. Its mission is to increase accessibility to dispute resolution. To do this, QCAT requires that parties represent themselves. The justification for this is that, in any dispute, represented parties have an advantage. Hearings where only one party has representation may lead to unfair outcomes. However, as with any rule, there are exceptions to QCAT’s requirement that parties self-represent. Certain groups automatically qualify for representation, and in some circumstances, parties can apply for leave for representation. In this article, we set out when parties can be represented at a QCAT hearing.
Do You Automatically Qualify for Representation?
Some groups have an automatic right to representation at QCAT hearings. Representation is automatically available for:
- people with impaired capacity;
- matters relating to disciplinary proceedings; and
- matters where the relevant legislation allows for representation.
Accordingly, if your matter falls into one of the above categories, you do not need to apply for leave. You receive the right to representation automatically.
Application for Leave to Be Represented at a QCAT Hearing
If your matter does not fall into one of the above categories, you may be able to apply for legal representation. QCAT will grant leave for you to receive representation only if it is in the interest of justice to do so. In determining whether this is the case, QCAT will consider if:
- the other party is a state agency;
- the proceeding is likely to involve complex questions of fact and law;
- the other party has representation;
- all of the other parties have agreed to you receiving legal representation; and
- any other relevant factors.
Accordingly, if any of the above considerations apply to you, you may apply for leave for representation.
Who Can Represent You?
If QCAT grants you leave, you can have a solicitor or, in some cases, a non-solicitor represent you. For example, in minor civil dispute cases, a mercantile agent or debt collector can represent you.
However, if a non-solicitor will be representing you, QCAT must decide they are appropriate given your circumstances. To do so, QCAT will consider whether representation by that person will jeopardise its ability to provide a just outcome. QCAT decides this on a case by case basis.
You do not need to seek leave to get legal advice. Even if you do not have representation in the hearing, you can seek legal advice from a solicitor to help you make your case. It is a good idea to seek legal advice, as a solicitor can help you with tasks such as preparing evidence and writing submissions.
QCAT is a tribunal which resolves disputes in a quick yet effective manner. Therefore, it requires parties to represent themselves in proceedings. This ensures that no party is at a natural disadvantage. However, QCAT acknowledges that, in certain circumstances, parties need representation to achieve a just outcome.
Some cases automatically qualify for representation, whereas, in others, you may apply for leave. Even if QCAT does not grant you leave, it is a good idea to seek legal advice before the hearing. Therefore, if you need assistance preparing for, or being represented at, a QCAT hearing, contact LegalVision’s litigation lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.
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