Australia: Tribunals system in NSW reformed by establishment of NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

In brief - Consolidation of tribunal system to create efficiencies and better access to justice

NCAT creates a single point of access, reduces complexity and creates greater efficiency, consistency and transparency across the NSW tribunal system.

NSW Attorney General announces consolidation of tribunal system

On 26 October 2012, the NSW Attorney General, Greg Smith SC, announced consolidation plans for the state's tribunal system, intended to provide a single gateway for tribunal services and "a simple, quick and effective process for resolving disputes, supervising occupations and reviewing executive action".

This gateway is the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which commenced operations on 1 January 2014. NCAT's president, Justice Robertson Wright SC, was appointed on 16 October 2013.

Establishment of one-stop shop to replace "complex and bewildering" system

A parliamentary inquiry by the Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice between October 2011 and March 2012 reviewed the potential for consolidating NSW tribunals and recommended consolidation because the existing system was "complex and bewildering". The establishment of a new tribunal that would act as a "one-stop shop" would promote better access to justice and create efficiencies.

Following the Committee's recommendations, the NSW Parliament passed the:

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 No 2 (NSW) ("the Act") consolidates this legislation and came into effect on 1 January 2014.

NCAT provides single point of access for tribunals in NSW

There are currently around 30 individual tribunals or tribunal-like bodies operating within NSW. From 1 January 2014, over 20 of these tribunals were incorporated into NCAT. Applicants will no longer need to apply to an individual tribunal, but can take advantage of the new single point of access and apply directly to NCAT, which will allocate a matter to the appropriate tribunal.

This single point of contact will start with a new website (with the website of each individual tribunal redirected to the NCAT website from the new year) and, from the perspective of its advocates, will create greater consistency and transparency across the tribunal services system, with common processes and infrastructure and the added benefits of the efficiencies expected by the consolidation of back end services.

Is NCAT the same as the "super tribunals" in other Australian jurisdictions?

NCAT will take note from the successes and the lessons learned from the "super tribunals" in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT, yet it will differ in at least one respect. The Attorney General confirmed that a "one size fits all" approach would not be taken in NSW, with the existing specialities of individual tribunals preserved to maintain this expertise.

The tailoring of NCAT to meet the needs of its users will see the creation of four divisions, with each of the existing tribunals to be grouped by their common elements within each division.

Existing tribunals categorised into four divisions under NCAT

Each existing tribunal (which will be known as a "list" or "subdivision") will form part of one of four distinct divisions of NCAT, grouped by specialities or common elements as follows:

  • the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division which will include the Administrative Decisions Tribunal
  • Consumer and Commercial Division which will incorporate the Consumer, Trade and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT)
  • Occupational Division which will include the professional discipline of lawyers
  • Guardianship Division which will include the Guardianship Tribunal

The NCAT president, who must be a Supreme Court judge to ensure the independence of the tribunal, will be assisted by four deputy presidents (who must also be qualified lawyers of seven years or judicial officers) to head up each division. The Act also provides for senior members to be appointed to a list to bring additional experience or expertise to the running of the list.

What impact will these changes have on the CTTT?

The CTTT was established by the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal Act 2001 (NSW) (repealed) with the objective of:

  • establishing a tribunal to determine disputes within its jurisdiction
  • ensuring that the CTTT was accessible, that its proceedings were efficient and effective and that its decisions were fair
  • enabling proceedings to be determined in an informal, expeditious and inexpensive manner
  • ensuring the quality and consistency of the CTTT's decision-making

From 1 January 2014 however, the CTTT will no longer act as a stand-alone tribunal, instead forming part of NCAT. As the Consumer and Commercial Division, each of its activities will form one of the lists within this division (eg the Consumer claims list or the Residential tenancies list).

NCAT to be accessible and to resolve proceedings efficiently and fairly

The Act has not sought to change the objectives or the way in which the tribunals (including the CTTT) operate. It provides for NCAT to:

  • enable the resolution of proceedings justly, quickly, cheaply and with as little formality as possible
  • ensure that it is accessible and responsive to the needs of all of its users
  • ensure that its decisions are timely, fair, consistent and of a high quality
  • ensure that it is accountable and has processes that are open and transparent

Successful elements of CTTT operations to be rolled out across NCAT network

One significant change though sees the Consumer and Commercial Division now falling within the jurisdiction of the Department of Attorney General and Justice rather than the Department of Fair Trading, a move that means the NCAT lists will be able to use the court infrastructure (rather than the Fair Trading offices) throughout NSW to provide greater access in regional areas.

Other than that, users should not expect to see any wholesale change in the processes or operations of the CTTT, with Stuart Westgarth remaining in charge as deputy president and division head of the Consumer and Commercial Division and with many of its rules, such as those concerning the requirement to seek leave to be legally represented, included within the Act.

Applications lodged before 1 January 2014 will not have to be resubmitted and the CTTT website will automatically redirect to the new NCAT site. Many of the successful elements of the CTTT's operations, such as the high number of applications submitted online, are to be expanded across the entire network of NCAT.

Residential building work and requirement to take part in dispute resolution process

Disputes with respect to residential building work carried out by a building contractor will no longer be referred to the CTTT but will be dealt with by the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT.

The change is not anticipated to impact future applicants. The NCAT application form for home building claims is in similar form to that of the CTTT, with NCAT's jurisdiction to deal with home building claims under the Home Building Act 1989 (NSW) the same as that of the CTTT pursuant to the Civil and Administrative Legislation (Repeal and Amendment) Act 2013 (NSW), which means that the jurisdictional limit of $500,000 and the time limits in which an application must be made remain the same.

One point to note is that despite the fact that this aspect of the work carried out by the Consumer and Commercial Division now forms part of the Department of Attorney General and Justice (rather than the Department of Fair Trading), applicants at present are still required to contact NSW Fair Trading before making an application to NCAT, where they may still be required to take part in a dispute resolution process and attach to their application to NCAT proof of such an attempt to resolve the dispute.

NCAT to have internal appeal panel to provide greater access to appeal system

The previous tribunal appeal system was seen to give its users very limited opportunity for their decisions to be appealed, with appeals in many instances proceeding to the District or Supreme Courts on a matter of law or procedural fairness.

NCAT changes this with an internal appeal panel for all four divisions. The president of NCAT sits on this appeals panel along with other senior members of the divisions and it is intended to provide greater access to the appeal system within the tribunal framework, in line with NCAT's mandate of access to justice.

NCAT will also have jurisdiction to hear external appeals in some circumstances and matters such as professional discipline matters may still see the preservation of existing rights to appeal directly to the court.

How will NCAT affect the operation of tribunal proceedings in NSW?

The establishment of NCAT is not expected to mark a wholesale change in the way NSW tribunal proceedings operate, with individual tribunals expected to continue to retain many existing procedures and rules, complemented by NCAT's procedural directions on specific issues such as service of documents.

A Rules Committee will be established within NCAT (and chaired by the president) to make rules of the Tribunal and to develop practice and procedure to be followed in proceedings. The NCAT Interim Rules are not yet finalised, with this aspect of development still a work in progress.

Suzie Hutchings James Neal
CBP Lawyers

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions