What you can expect
In each of the cases before it, SAET aims to reach a fair and just outcome as quickly as possible, using appropriate hearings or alternative dispute resolution procedures.
A dispute before SAET is resolved through agreement at a conference, conciliation or mediation, or through a decision at a hearing.
The most common stages that your matter may go through include:
- Initial directions hearing
- Conciliation conference
- Settlement conference
- Hearing and determination
- Referral to an Independent Medical Adviser
If you have lodged a matter with SAET, the SAET member will begin examining the case.
To ensure the matter can proceed fairly and quickly, the SAET member may:
- identify, clarify and narrow the issues in dispute
- review any provided evidence
- identify any issues impacting upon the parties’ ability to negotiate
- consider strategies and develop a plan for gathering information
- deal with actual or anticipated developments that may impact on the dispute
- attempt to resolve the dispute or some of the issues in dispute
- refer a medical question to an independent medical adviser
- file an index to a book of documents for use by the Tribunal and the parties
- file and serve a book of documents.
The process may lead the SAET member to ask you or other involved parties to:
- Give more information, or clarify evidence provided about the factual or legal basis of your case, to help resolve the dispute
- Identify the amount or type of compensation you seek
- Provide a list of documents that may be relevant
- Comply with disclosure obligations.
Initial directions hearing
An initial directions hearing is the first step in ensuring all necessary information has been gathered to enable a conciliation conference to take place.
The initial directions hearing may be conducted in person or by telephone. During the hearing the SAET member will consider:
- the issues in dispute
- the grounds of the application for review
- the evidence on which the parties intend to rely
- whether further evidence is needed to have an effective compulsory conference
- who is likely to be required to attend a compulsory conference
- any other relevant detail.
You or your representative are expected to address these factors at the initial directions hearing.
You should also have completed all the actions or inquiries necessary for a conciliation conference before the initial directions hearing.
Following the initial directions hearing, the SAET member will schedule a date for a compulsory conciliation conference.
The aim of the conciliation process is to reach an agreement between the parties to the dispute.
The conciliation process is an alternative dispute resolution model that enables the parties to find options for resolving the matter.
An agreement reached at the conference will be formally recorded. If your matter is not settled in the conciliation process, it will be referred to a hearing for determination.
At the conference, the SAET member assigned to your case will begin by briefly explaining how the conference will proceed and set out the ground rules to ensure all parties can have their say.
The member may talk with people privately. Anything said in these conversations remains confidential.
You should attend the conference in person. If you are represented by a solicitor, he or she should also attend. You are expected to actively participate and may be asked to:
- identify, clarify and narrow the issues in dispute
- detail the preparatory work undertaken for the compulsory conference, including whether actions or steps requested by the SAET member have been undertaken
- meet with the SAET member and produce evidentiary material, either at the compulsory conference or at some other time or place
- answer questions
- attend a compulsory conference when the other party may not be present
- disclose any offers of settlement that have been made to the other party.
The SAET member will ask questions to clarify the dispute and will make all reasonable efforts to bring the parties to agreement.
The SAET member may adjourn the conference from time to time, but the conciliation stage will usually come to an end six weeks after the first compulsory conference.
If your matter is not settled through conciliation it will be referred to a hearing for determination.
The member will begin preparation for the next stage of a hearing and determination and may give further direction to expedite resolution of the matter.
After the compulsory conference, the member will provide you and other parties with:
- a summary of the nature of the dispute and each party’s position
- an assessment of the merits of each party’s case
- recommendations to resolve any matter in dispute.
What do I need to do to prepare for a conciliation conference?
You should carefully examine the documents that have been provided to you by the compensating authority. If there are any documents you think are relevant to your case and have not been included, you should tell the SAET member. If the member agrees that the documents are relevant, SAET will act to secure them.
You can represent yourself at a conciliation conference, or you can be represented by a lawyer or another representative (subject to the requirements of the legislation relevant to your dispute). You may also have a friend or family member attend with you.
You should be prepared to speak openly about why you are disputing the decision that brought you to SAET, and you should be prepared to listen to what others have to say about it.
You should also consider and be prepared to discuss the outcomes you would like from conciliation.
Mediation and settlement conferences
SAET may at any time refer a matter for mediation.
Mediation aims to resolve your matter by a settlement, or if a settlement is not achievable, to further refine or narrow the issues in dispute.
The mediator must have been approved by the President of SAET to act as a mediator, and may or may not be a SAET member.
Hearing and determination
The first step in hearing and determination may be a pre-hearing conference. A pre-hearing conference will usually take place before a nominated Presidential member within three weeks of the end of conciliation.
Some types of application do not have a pre-hearing conference but if your case is of this nature you will receive direct information from SAET explaining the process for your case.
In relevant cases SAET will you send a notice of the date, time and place of the pre-hearing conference.
A party’s representative, not the party themselves, will attend pre-hearing conferences. The file principal, or a representative with a detailed knowledge of the matter, is required to attend a pre-hearing conference.
At the pre-hearing conference, the SAET member will direct you and the other parties to achieve a fair and expeditious resolution of your matter.
The direction may include orders that relevant documents be exchanged or filed, or that the parties participate in a settlement conference.
The Presidential member may also set down a date for hearing, usually within about four months of the pre-hearing conference. SAET hearings proceed in a similar way to other court matters, with witnesses giving their evidence and being cross-examined by the opposing party.
For less complex matters a one-day hearing will be scheduled first, for the SAET member to hear all non-expert evidence.
On that day, you and other non-expert witnesses will give evidence on oath.
If the matter must proceed after that – for example, to hear evidence from expert witnesses such as doctors – the SAET member will outline what further day or days will be required and who will give evidence.
After all evidence and arguments are presented, the SAET member will adjourn the hearing to consider his or her decision, which is usually published, with reasons, within about three months.