Appealing from a decision of the AAT

This section contains specific information about how to appeal under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 from a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ('AAT').

This site provides contact details of organisations that may be able to provide free or low cost legal advice or assistance to a person does not have a lawyer.

The Court's power to hear appeals from the AAT

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 provides that a party to a proceeding before the AAT may appeal to the Federal Court on a question of law from any decision of the AAT in that proceeding.

Questions of law might include:

  • whether the AAT denied procedural fairness to a party; or
  • whether the AAT incorrectly interpreted a statute relevant to the proceeding.

Who hears appeals from the AAT?

Usually an appeal from the AAT will be heard by a single Judge of the Federal Court.

In certain circumstances the appeal will be heard by a Full Court of the Federal Court, for example:

  • where at least one of the members of the AAT that gave the decision was a Judge (see section 20(2) of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth)); or
  • where at least one of the members of the AAT that gave the decision was a presidential member (but not a judge) and the Chief Justice of the Federal Court considers it appropriate for the appeal to be heard and determined by a Full Court pursuant to section 44(3) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

The Federal Court may also transfer an appeal from the Federal Court to the Federal Circuit Court.

What are the chances of success?

For an appeal from a decision of the AAT to succeed the applicant must convince the Judge hearing the appeal that the AAT made an error of law and that the error contributed to the decision that is being appealed.

Errors of law might include:

  • denying procedural fairness to a party; or
  • incorrectly interpreting a statute relevant to the proceeding.

However, even when an error of law is demonstrated, the Judge may dismiss the appeal if he or she considers that the AAT arrived at a decision that was clearly correct on the material before it.

The Judge hearing an appeal from a decision of the AAT:

  • does not consider any new evidence or information that was not presented in the original case (except in special circumstances);
  • does not call witnesses to give evidence;
  • does read all the relevant documents filed by the parties in the original case;
  • does listen to legal argument from both parties to the appeal.

What if someone is appealing against a decision given in favour of another party?

If a person or corporation has been served with a Notice of Appeal that party will be known as the respondent in the appeal proceeding. The respondent then needs to notify the Court of their address for service by filing a Form 10 (doc).

If a respondent wants to appeal part of the AAT decision or to have part of the AAT decision varied, the respondent must fill out a Form 76 (doc), Notice of Cross-appeal from a tribunal.

Legal advice

Drafting a Notice of Appeal or Cross Appeal is very difficult. It is therefore strongly recommended that a Notice of Appeal be prepared with legal assistance.

This site provides contact details of organisations that may be able to provide free or low cost legal advice or assistance to a person does not have a lawyer.

Court staff cannot provide legal advice.

A party who loses an appeal from a decision of the AAT will usually be ordered to pay the other party's legal costs.

Appeal books - settling/approving the appeal book index

The procedure relating to the content of appeal books and the preparation for hearing is set out in Practice Note App2 and rules 33.23 to 33.28 of the Federal Court Rules 2011. A party requiring the Judicial Registrar's assistance to settle the index to Part A of the appeal book or Part B of the appeal book must, within 7 days after the notice of appeal has been served, write to the Judicial Registrar to request assistance (rule 33.24). Example Appeal Book Indexes (rtf) are available on this website for the assistance of parties.

Relevant forms

Form under the Federal Court Rules 2011
Form 76 Notice of cross-appeal from a tribunal
Form 10 Notice of address for service
Form 70 Originating application for review of a migration decision
Form 75 Notice of appeal from a tribunal
Form 67 Application for an extension of time

All other forms are available on the Forms section of this website.

Interpreters for hearings

If you need an interpreter to understand what is being said at a court hearing, you will need to arrange for any interpreter that you or your witnesses may require.

If you can not afford to pay for an interpreter, the registry may be able to arrange an interpreter for you. If you want the Court to arrange an interpreter you must contact the registry at least one week before the hearing. If you do not contact the registry within one week of the hearing, the Registry may not be able to arrange an interpreter in time and the hearing may be delayed.

You can also call 131 450 and speak to the registry through a telephone interpreter.

Interpreters to communicate with Registry

If you need an interpreter to communicate with Registry staff you can call 131 450 (the Translating & Interpreting Service) and speak to an interpreter. Ask them to set up a three-way conversation between you, an interpreter and your nearest Federal Court of Australia Registry. If you live in Western Australia, you may directly contact the Registry staff, who will arrange a telephone interpreter for you.

It is your responsibility to arrange and pay for the cost of a translator to translate documents sent to you by the Court or the respondent.