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User experience

The AAT seeks to ensure that our services are accessible and of a high quality in accordance with our Service Charter. We respond to complaints and also seek feedback from our users about their experience at the AAT in a number of ways.


We strive to be accessible to our wide range of users and potential users, including people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and people with disability. We employ various measures to assist people to make an application and participate in the review process, particularly where a person is representing themselves. We have an internal Accessibility Advisory Group which provides advice on accessibility issues and acts as a point of coordination for activities aimed at improving accessibility.

Information about the AAT and assistance in relation to the review process

We offer information about our role and procedures in plain language in a variety of formats on our website. Our written materials include practice directions, guides, guidelines and fact sheets. We also have a series of videos available in English, seven community languages and in an accessible version which cover key aspects of our processes, including applying for a review, conferences and hearings.

We make a range of resources available online to help people understand how we apply the law and what information is relevant when we review a decision. These include fact sheets for some commonly reviewed decisions and an interactive tool that community workers can use to assist people who are seeking review of a decision about disability support pension. The Guide to Refugee Law in Australia on our website provides guidance on legal issues relevant to the assessment of protection visas. AAT decisions are published on the Australasian Legal Information Institute website: www.austlii.edu.au.

AAT staff respond to enquiries from parties and representatives about the review process and proactively contact self-represented parties in some types of cases to explain our processes as well as identify where a party may require an interpreter or assistance because of a disability. We make information available to parties about legal aid services, community legal centres, disability advocacy services, the small business concierge service offered by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and other people or organisations that may be able to provide advice and assistance in relation to the review process or guidance how to find such assistance.

In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, the AAT has worked with legal aid commissions and community legal centres to establish legal advice schemes. A solicitor attends the AAT and provides advice and minor assistance to self-represented parties in certain types of cases, particularly reviews of Centrelink decisions. Further assistance, such as representation, may be provided if a person meets eligibility requirements.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

We take steps to ensure our users from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are able to communicate with us effectively and seek to address cultural diversity issues in delivering our services.

Interpreting services

If a party or witness requires an interpreter for a case at the AAT, such as a conference or a hearing, we engage one and meet the cost. We generally use interpreters certified by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters at the Certified Interpreter level. If an interpreter is not available in a language at that level, we may use a Certified Provisional Interpreter or, if NAATI does not offer certification testing in the language, an interpreter recognised by NAATI.

We also use the Translating and Interpreting Service as needed for telephone calls and other interactions with users.

We have developed information for interpreters in relation to our procedures and terminology, as well as guidelines relating to the role of the interpreter. Our internal Interpreter Advisory Group provides advice on interpreter issues and acts as a point of coordination for activities aimed at improving our interpreter arrangements.

Indigenous Australians

The AAT is committed to improving access for Indigenous Australians, including by educating members and staff on how to work effectively and respectfully with Indigenous users and their communities. Members and staff have access to an eLearning module designed to improve Indigenous cultural awareness, as well as our internal guide on working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

People with disability

We aim to make access easier for people with disability by:

  • ensuring our website meets the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) web standard to Level AA
  • making ReadSpeaker, a text-to-speech software service, available on our website
  • providing hearing augmentation and hearing loop systems in Tribunal premises
  • facilitating telephone contact for people with a hearing or speech impairment
  • making all of our premises wheelchair accessible and ensuring other premises used by the AAT are accessible, and
  • providing facilities for participation in conferences and hearings by telephone or video-link.

Service Charter

Our Service Charter sets out the standards of service that people can expect when they deal with us. Information on the extent of our compliance with those standards during 2018–19 (where information is available) is in Performance against service standards, 2018–19.

The Service Charter includes information about how users can give us feedback, including how to make a complaint about the AAT. It also sets out our standards for responding to complaints. More information relating to the handling of complaints made to us during the reporting year is set out below.

Performance against service standards, 2018–19


RESULT FOR 2018–19

We will treat you with respect and courtesy

We will be polite, respectful and courteous and use language that is clear and understandable.

In our 2019 survey of users, most parties and representatives agreed that members, registrars and staff were courteous and respectful: an average of 81 per cent for parties and 91 per cent for representatives. A majority of parties and representatives also agreed that members, registrars and staff explained things clearly: an average of 76 per cent for parties and 86 per cent for representatives. These results are higher than those achieved in 2017–18.

Of the 188 complaints finalised in 2018–19, four involved adverse findings in relation to issues of this kind.

We will make ourselves accessible

Staff will answer telephone queries from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm on working days. You can contact us on 1800 228 333 from anywhere in Australia.

Staff were available to answer telephone queries from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm on each working day throughout the year. Our national 1800 telephone number was available throughout the year.

All correspondence will include our contact details.

All AAT correspondence includes relevant contact details for the Tribunal, including the name of a person to contact.

Wheelchair access and portable hearing loop systems are available at each registry.

All AAT premises were wheelchair accessible. Hearing augmentation and hearing loop systems were available at each of our registries.

Hearings will be held in capital cities and in regional centres (where possible).

We held hearings in all capital cities and four regional locations.

We conduct many hearings by phone or videoconference.

We conducted the following number of case events by telephone or video-link:

conferences – 7,328

other alternative dispute resolution processes – 42

directions hearings – 2,973

interlocutory hearings – 683

hearings – 9,216 (1,066 in the Migration and Refugee Division, 8,093 in the Social Services and Child Support Division and 57 in other divisions).

If you need an interpreter we will provide one free of charge.

We arranged for an interpreter to participate in any alternative dispute resolution process, directions hearing or hearing where needed. Interpreters were provided free of charge.

We have information about our procedures available from our offices and on our website.

Our website contains information about our procedures in written and audiovisual formats. AAT staff assist applicants to access this information, including providing the information in printed form. Staff also provide verbal information about AAT processes.

In our 2019 survey of users, parties and representatives provided average positive ratings of 71 per cent and 83 per cent in relation to the quality of our information products, including our website. These results are consistent with those achieved in 2017–18.

We will deal with you fairly

You or your representative will have a reasonable opportunity to present your case.

We provide parties with an opportunity to present their case in various ways depending on the type of decision we are reviewing. Parties may provide information and submissions at any time during the review as well as in response to specific requests from the Tribunal. If an application proceeds to a formal determination, we generally hold a hearing at which parties may give evidence and make submissions before the Tribunal makes a decision in a case.

In our 2019 survey of users, 71 per cent of parties agreed that registrars gave them a chance to explain their case at a conference. In relation to hearings, 78 per cent of parties and 84 per cent of representatives agreed that the member gave the parties a chance to present their case. These results are higher than those achieved in 2017–18.

We will give you the reasons for making the decision in your case. These may be given orally or in writing.

Reasons for the Tribunal’s decision in a review were given to parties either orally at the hearing or in writing.

We will operate in an efficient manner

We will acknowledge receipt of applications.

The average time for acknowledging receipt of applications during the reporting year was two days.

We will respond to enquiries within a reasonable time.

Of the 188 complaints finalised in 2018–19, one involved adverse findings in relation to this issue.

Complaints to the AAT

Complaints may be made to us orally or in writing. When issues or concerns are raised by people directly with members and staff, we encourage them to address the matters at the time of the interaction where possible. In circumstances where issues cannot be readily resolved, people are advised that they may make a written complaint, including by way of our online feedback form.

We aim to provide a final response to a written complaint within 20 working days. If more time is required because of the complexity of the complaint or the need to consult with other people before providing a response, we advise the complainant of progress in handling the complaint.

We treat all complaints seriously and conduct investigations in an impartial manner as quickly as possible having regard to the principles of procedural fairness. Possible responses to complaints include the provision of information or an explanation, an apology, a change to practice and procedure, or consideration of additional training and development for AAT personnel.

During 2018–19, the AAT received 208 complaints, a decrease of seven per cent compared with the previous reporting year. Complaints made to the AAT, 2017–18 to 2018–19 shows the number of complaints made to the AAT in the last two years and the number of complaints received for every 1,000 applications we finalised.

Complaints made to the AAT, 2017–18 to 2018–19



Complaints made



Applications finalised



Complaints per 1,000 applications finalised



Issues raised in complaints to the AAT, 2018–19 shows the subject matter of the complaints received in the reporting year.

Issues raised in complaints to the AAT, 2018–19



Conduct of members


Procedural issues


Tribunal decisions






Conduct of staff


Fee refund


Conduct of alternative dispute resolution processes


Publication of Tribunal decisions






We provided a response to 188 complaints in 2018–19, responding to 158 of those complaints within 20 working days. Due to a technical error related to our online feedback form, 25 complaints were not responded to within 20 working days. The average number of days from complaint to final response was 12 working days.

We formed the view that we could have acted more appropriately in 29 complaints. These complaints raised issues concerning administrative error, alternative dispute resolution processes, how members and staff communicated with users, privacy, procedural issues and timeliness. We offered an apology in each case and raised the matters with the relevant areas and personnel.

Feedback from parties and representatives

In addition to the information we obtain through complaints, we ask our users for feedback in a variety of ways. We use this information to better understand their experience at the AAT, and to identify and implement ways to improve our services.

User feedback survey

Our most recent online user feedback survey was conducted by an independent research organisation over a period of four weeks in May and June 2019. Invitations were sent by email and SMS to individuals and organisations who were parties to an application finalised by the AAT between 1 December 2018 and 31 March 2019, as well as to representatives of parties involved in cases finalised in the same period. We received responses from 1,010 parties and 510 representatives involved in applications across the AAT’s divisions.

Overall, the AAT’s services continued to be rated positively by both parties and representatives, and generally at higher levels than in the 2018 survey. As in earlier surveys, representatives mostly provided more strongly positive ratings than parties. Responses given by parties who did not receive a favourable outcome were generally lower, and sometimes significantly lower, than those who received a favourable outcome, leading to lower overall ratings.

When asked about their experience of applying for a review, 79 per cent of parties and 94 per cent of representatives agreed the process was easy, a four percentage point improvement for parties compared with the 2018 results. In relation to the information we make available about the AAT and our processes, our new website released in February 2019 received markedly better ratings from both parties and representatives, including in relation to how easy it was to find information and how easy the information was to understand. Our letters, fact sheets, videos and other written information products were also considered helpful overall by 75 per cent of parties and 92 per cent of representatives, a slight improvement on the 2018 results.

Parties and representatives responded positively to questions about their interactions with AAT members, conference registrars and other staff, including how courteous and respectful they were and how clearly they explained things, with results generally higher than in the 2018 survey. Staff received average favourable responses of 78 per cent from parties and 87 per cent from representatives with particular improvement recorded in relation to how knowledgeable staff were considered to be about AAT processes. Questions relating to conferences and the conduct of conference registrars elicited average favourable responses of 72 per cent from parties and 86 per cent from representatives. For hearings and the conduct of members, the results were 81 per cent for parties and 85 per cent for representatives. Higher proportions of both parties and representatives agreed that the level of formality of conferences and hearings was appropriate and that parties were given a chance to explain their case. In relation to decisions, more parties and representatives agreed in 2019 that the AAT’s reasons were clear and explained in a way that was easy to understand with a six percentage point improvement recorded for parties compared with the 2018 result.

In relation to the review process overall, 68 per cent of parties and 79 per cent of representatives considered the process was conducted to a high standard, an improvement on the 2018 results, particularly for parties. Similar to 2018, 80 per cent of representatives agreed the review process was fair and 81 per cent agreed the AAT was independent from the decision-maker. The ratings given by parties in relation to these matters continued to be lower in this year’s survey at 59 per cent and 69 per cent respectively with responses correlating strongly to the outcome of their review. The results were, however, six percentage points higher this year than the previous year. Small improvements were also recorded in relation to the proportion of parties who considered they had a good understanding of the review process, that they were able to present their case and that the AAT listened to them and they felt respected. In relation to timeliness, there was some variation in the results for different divisions but, overall, 60 per cent of parties and only 52 per cent of representatives agreed the review was completed in a reasonable time. These results reflect the challenges the AAT faces in finalising applications in a timely manner in some divisions.

The AAT is examining the results of the survey in detail, as well as the comments and suggestions made by participants, to identify areas for further investigation and inform future service improvements.

Other feedback mechanisms

Parties and representatives who use our online services, including when applying for a review, are invited to respond to a brief survey about their experience. Users are also able to opt in to being contacted at a later time to provide input to the design of new and enhanced services. For example, during the reporting year, we commenced research with selected representatives to inform the development of our future online portal for users.