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Small claims tribunals
Small claims tribunals exist in all states and territories. Their purpose is to relieve pressure on Court systems, and provide an alternative platform for smaller disputes to be heard. Small claims tribunals are low cost, accessible, efficient and independent. Small Claims Tribunals hear a very broad range of civil matters and usually have specific divisions for different types of disputes. Common disputes heard at small claims tribunals include issues with residential tenancies, building, planning, guardianship, employment issues and consumer matters, among others. The different divisions provide claimants with specific expertise in many areas, helping to provide speedy resolution to disputes.
At small claims tribunals disputes are settles in a variety of ways. Methods vary in level of formality according to the type of dispute. A mediation, hearing or compulsory conference may take place depending on the dispute. Hearings are the most common proceeding, giving all parties the opportunity to call or give evidence, ask questions of witnesses and make their arguments. At the end of the hearing, a member of the tribunal either gives a decision, or writes a decision after the hearing and delivers the decision as soon as possible. The people involved in a dispute may at any time agree to resolve their differences without the need of a hearing. If the case does proceed to a hearing, there is still an opportunity to settle prior to delivery of the decision. Formal Legal representation is not required at hearings, although a lawyer can assist a person through the process and help them prepare for appearing before the tribunal.