A Guide to Navigating the AAT Appeal Process

After months, or often years of waiting on a decision from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), receiving a refusal notice can be a stressful experience. Whilst the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) may offer a pathway to appeal a negative outcome, approaching the AAT process itself can be complex and daunting. With the right guidance and understanding, you can effectively appeal the DHA’s decision for a more favourable outcome. 


Understanding the AAT 

Before delving into the appeal process, it is essential to understand the role and jurisdiction of the AAT. The AAT is an independent body that reviews decisions made by the DHA, with a sole function of making administrative decisions. The decision makers have been appointed by the Government and are called Members. The AAT Member’s role is to review your case and give you the opportunity to present your arguments and evidence, in a fairly informal setting.  


Initiating the Review Process 

The first step in seeking review by the AAT is lodging an application within the prescribed time frame. Depending on the type of application refused, the prescribed time frame can differ. It is crucial to act promptly as there are strict time limits for lodging appeals. Once the time limit is missed, your opportunity to appeal is lost. The specific process for lodging an application can vary depending on the type of decision being challenged and the relevant legislation, it is important you submit your application correctly to validly appeal the decision. 


Preparing Your Appeal Application 

Once your application is lodged, you will need to prepare your supporting documents and submissions. This involves gathering relevant documents, evidence, and supporting materials to substantiate your claims. In some cases, it may even require preparing witnesses for your hearing. It is essential to thoroughly review the reasons for the original decision and ensure it is sufficiently addressed in the appeal application. Seeking legal representation can be invaluable at this stage, as they can provide guidance on strategy, evidence collection, and legal arguments. 


Attending the Hearing 

In some cases, the AAT may decide your application based on documents and submissions alone. However, the AAT will often schedule a hearing to consider the matter further. This provides you with an opportunity to respond to questions from the AAT Member about your submissions. In cases where a subjective criteria is under review, or your general character or credibility are being assessed, the presiding Member may prefer to meet you face-to-face. Preparation is key to success at the hearing, so ensure that you are well-versed in the facts of your case, familiar with relevant legislative criteria, and are confident in articulating your position. 


During your hearing, you will be seated opposite the AAT Member making the decision in your case. If required, you have the option to request an interpreter to be present which is organised by the AAT to assist with communication between you and AAT Member. You are also welcome to be accompanied by your legal representative, a support person, and any witnesses you have requested to give evidence. 

If the AAT Member is not satisfied with the supporting evidence and oral evidence provided, they may request further submissions or documents to be provided after the hearing within a specified timeframe. 


Receiving the Tribunal’s Decision 

Following the hearing, the AAT will consider all the evidence and submissions presented to make a decision. This decision will be communicated to you in writing, outlining the AAT’s findings and reasons for its determination. The most common outcomes are:  

  • Affirm the decision – the AAT agrees with the DHA’s original outcome  
  • Set aside the decision – in this case the AAT may substitute a new decision to replace the DHA’s previous decision 
  • Remit the decision – the AAT has made a positive decision and sends it back to the DHA to finalise the application  

The AAT can only set aside decisions for certain types of applications. The benefit of this is the DHA is not required to further assess the application. If your application is remitted, the DHA is then required to further process the application and may assess other aspects of the application which were not considered in the original decision. Once satisfied that the remaining criteria has been met, a final decision is made by the DHA.   


Navigating the AAT process can be complex and challenging, but with the right guidance and preparation, you can effectively appeal your application.  

If you have received an adverse decision from the DHA and are considering seeking a review with the AAT, we recommend seeking legal advice from experienced practitioners who can provide tailored support throughout the process.  

By understanding the steps involved and taking proactive measures to prepare your case, you can maximize your chances of achieving a favourable outcome. 


The blog published by Rostron Carlyle Rojas Lawyers is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the author. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult RCR on any legal queries concerning a specific situation. 

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