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Corporate governance

The AAT’s governance framework comprises arrangements and practices that enable us to set our direction and manage our operations to achieve our purpose in an effective, ethical and accountable way. Key elements of the framework include our management structures, committees, business planning, risk management and our instructions, policies and procedures.

Senior management and committees

Under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, the President is responsible for ensuring the expeditious and efficient discharge of the AAT’s business and for managing the administrative affairs of the Tribunal. Division Heads assist the President by directing business in their divisions.

The Registrar assists the President in managing the AAT’s administrative affairs and is:

  • the Accountable Authority for the AAT under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, and
  • the Agency Head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999.

APS Senior Executive Service employees support the President, Division Heads and the Registrar to manage the Tribunal’s operations.

The names of the AAT’s senior leaders in 2018–19 and their areas of responsibility are detailed in Staff of the AAT.

The President and the Registrar were supported in carrying out their roles during the reporting period by a number of committees. The key committees were as follows:

  • the Senior Leadership Group, comprising the President, Division Heads, Registrar and SES staff, met regularly throughout the year to review and provide advice on significant and complex matters relating to the management of the Tribunal, including caseload, finances, planning, risk and other significant whole‑of‑AAT issues
  • the Tribunal Executive Group, comprising the Registrar and SES staff, met regularly to review and provide advice on corporate and operational management issues
  • the Audit and Risk Committee, comprising an independent chair, two other independent members and two AAT representatives, provide independent advice and assurance to the Registrar on a range of aspects of governance including audit, financial management, risk management and other compliance obligations.

Several other committees provided forums for consulting with staff during the year, including:

  • the National Consultative Committee, the peak staff consultative body, comprising management representatives and at least one staff representative from each state and territory in which the AAT is located
  • the District Registrars’ Management Group and Principal Registry Management Group, which involve senior managers in the operational and corporate areas respectively.

Business planning

In 2018–19 the AAT developed and published a corporate plan as required by section 35 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. The Corporate Plan 2018–19 described our purpose, the environment in which we operate, and how we planned to measure our performance and achieve our goals. The Annual Performance Statement, an assessment of our performance against the measures in the plan, is in Chapter 3 Our performance.

Our Strategic Plan 2015–20, developed in 2015–16 and reviewed in 2017–18, sets out four high‑level strategies for achieving our vision and mission:

  • create an integrated, national Tribunal
  • improve how we work and maximise our use of technology
  • engage with stakeholders and build public trust and confidence, and
  • build capacity and make the best use of our resources.

These strategies informed operational plans and priorities developed for the year. Some of our key achievements in 2018–19 are noted in Chapter 1 The year in review.

Risk management

The AAT’s Risk Management Framework sets out our approach to identifying and managing strategic and operational risks as an integral part of our activities. Our whole-of-AAT Risk Register was revised during 2018–19, particularly our strategic risks, and reviewed by the Audit and Risk Committee.

In addition to external audit by the Australian National Audit Office, we have an internal audit program to provide assurance in relation to our control environment and other aspects of our operations as well as to identify opportunities for improvement. The program is reviewed annually.

During 2018–19, our internal auditors undertook a number of reviews, including in relation to: our arrangements for whole-of-AAT planning, performance measurement and risk management; aspects of our human resources management, including recruitment and leave management; our processes for dealing with application fees; and some of our information technology projects. Management responded to issues identified through external and internal audit activities, and the Audit and Risk Committee monitored implementations of agreed recommendations.

We continue to review and improve our approach to managing risk, integrating risk management into our organisational decision-making and our day-to-day processes.

No instances of significant non-compliance with finance law were reported to the Minister for Finance under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act in relation to the reporting year.

Our Business Continuity Management Committee and Protective Security Committee met regularly during 2018–19. We carried out a number of security audits on our systems and procedures. We also undertook a range of awareness-raising activities, including focused training for relevant staff on dealing with security scenarios and expanding available online training modules.

Fraud control

The AAT is committed to preventing, detecting and dealing with fraud in relation to our operations. Our fraud control framework is linked to our Risk Management Framework and includes our Fraud Control Plan, Fraud Risk Assessment and Fraud Risk Register, and a summary guide for employees on recognising and reporting fraud. The Fraud Control Plan and potential for fraud was reviewed by the Audit and Risk Committee during the reporting year. Fraud control awareness forms part of the induction program for new employees and a new online fraud awareness training module was introduced in 2018–19, which all staff were required to complete.


I, Sian Leathem, certify that the AAT:

  • has prepared fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans
  • has in place appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidents of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific needs of the AAT, and
  • has taken all reasonable measures to deal appropriately with fraud relating to the AAT.

Signature of AAT Registrar Sian Leathem dated 25 September 2019.

Maintaining ethical standards

We promote and encourage the maintenance of appropriate standards of ethical behaviour for members and staff.

The AAT’s Conduct Guide for AAT Members provides guidance for members on appropriate conduct and behaviour in relation to their professional duties and in their private conduct as it affects those duties. In 2018–19 professional development sessions on ‘The Role of a Member’ were developed and conducted, exploring a range of scenarios and challenges that members may encounter. The sessions have also been made available as online learning modules.

In relation to staff, the AAT enterprise agreement includes a commitment by management and staff to work in accordance with the APS Values, Code of Conduct and Employment Principles. Information relating to the APS ethical framework forms part of our induction process and ongoing awareness-raising activities are undertaken in relation to the framework and its application in different areas of activity.

Rules and standards relevant to ethical conduct are incorporated into our policies, guidelines and instructions.