Accountability, transparency and diversity – the importance of an independent tribunal appointment process

Arthur Moses SC1

1 President, Law Council of Australia

The Rule of Law demands the independence of tribunals.  Yet maintaining the appearance of independence is equally crucial to promote public trust and confidence in tribunal members and their decision-making.  In an age of transparency, this presentation will consider three contemporary challenges to the appearance of independence of modern tribunals: the character and purpose of tribunals; executive and parliamentary comment on tribunal decisions; and the absence of a transparent, diverse and merit-based appointments process.  This presentation will also investigate the compelling case for an apolitical, open and merit-based appointment system and a stand-alone Federal Judicial Commission.


Arthur Moses SC has been practising at the NSW Bar for over 25 years and, in 2008, was appointed Senior Counsel in the state of NSW. He is the immediate past President of the NSW Bar Association and has been a Director of Law Council since July 2014.

He practises in a wide range of areas including administrative law, coronial inquests, corruption inquiries, proceeds of crime litigation, military law, work health and safety prosecutions, employment and industrial law, discrimination, restraints of trade, commercial, equity and appeals in all jurisdictions.

Mr Moses regularly appears before the Supreme Court of NSW, the NSW Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia as well as appellate Courts in other states and territories. He is a Squadron Leader in the Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserve.

Working with interpreters; a practical workshop bringing some tricky issues into focus

Susan Burdon Smith1, Kim Saxton2, Rowan Hughes3

1Senior Member, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal 

2Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association

3Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)

Using the Judicial Council for Cultural Diversity National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals as a framework, this session will canvass some of the situations which challenge the capacity of Tribunals to provide a fair hearing and access to justice when the language of the Tribunal and the language of the participants is different.

Kim Saxton, from the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association and Rowan Hughes

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) will join Senior Member Burdon-Smith in developing strategies for members hearing matters where interpreters are engaged.

Participants will work their way through a scenario highlighting some of the tricky situations that have been identified by tribunal members prior to the session.


Following appointments as a legal officer in the Victorian Crown Solicitor’s Office and Departments of Corrections and Police and Emergency Services, Sue became a consultant to AusAID on PNG and Solomon Islands Law and Order Projects. At the same time Sue became a sessional member of the Residential Tenancies Small Claims Tribunals – now the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. She continued in that capacity until 2013 when she was appointed a non-sessional member, and in 2015 appointed a Senior Member. Sue is allocated to the Residential Tenancies, Civil Claims, Owners’ Corporation, Guardianship and Human Rights lists. In 2014 Sue was appointed VCAT’s first member for Diversity and Inclusion and sits on the VCAT Diversity Committee. She has been the VCAT representative on the Judicial Council of Cultural Diversity’s working party on Interpreters during the development of the National Standards on Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals.

The Justice Project – improving access for groups with particular communication needs

Leonie Campbell1

1Deputy Director of Policy, Law Council of Australia, 19 Torrens St Braddon, ACT 2602,


The Justice Project, the Law Council’s own comprehensive national inquiry into the state of access in Australia for people experiencing disadvantage, was overseen by an expert Steering Committee chaired by former High Court Chief Justice, the Hon. Robert French AC.  Looking at the justice system from the people’s point of view, it focused on justice barriers facing people with significant social and economic disadvantage, as well as identifying what is working to reduce those barriers.  The release of its final report in August 2018 followed an extensive literature review and wide-ranging consultation process.  It details constructive recommendations which provide a roadmap for future action, building the case for new, whole-of-government justice strategies secured by appropriate funding.

Communication barriers were amongst the most common difficulties experienced by diverse Justice Project groups in their dealings with the justice system.  These groups included people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recent arrivals and asylum seekers, rural, regional and remote Australians, children and young people, and older people.  This session outlines the different kinds of communications needs which the justice system must accommodate to ensure access to justice, taking into account the changing demographics of its many users.   The challenge of meeting these multiple needs effectively –which range from language and literacy needs, to disability-related supports, to appropriate use of digital technology, to culturally competent and trauma-informed responses – is not insignificant.  This session will outline the Project’s findings on these communications needs with particular relevance to courts and tribunals.


Ms Leonie Campbell is the Deputy Director of Policy at the Law Council of Australia, the national peak body for the legal profession. In this role, she currently has carriage of the Law Council’s response to federal matters including human rights and equality before the law, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, migration and elder law. Under the guidance of a Steering Committee chaired by The Hon Robert French AC, she previously led the Law Council’s Justice Project work throughout 2017-2018. This work has continued to inform the Law Council’s response on a diverse range of nationally significant matters such as juvenile detention, Indigenous incarceration, several Royal Commissions, access to justice and religious freedoms.

Ms Campbell holds a LLB(Hons)/BA(Hons) from the University of Melbourne and a LLM (Dist.) from Australian National University. She has previously worked as a solicitor and a federal policy adviser.

The importance of story-telling and narrative in tribunal decision-making

Bernard McCabe1

1Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Sydney

Conventional wisdom has it that a tribunal member should write reasons for the losing party which explain the reasons for the loss. Recent studies of the ways in which people process facts that run counter to established narratives suggest the need for a more nuanced approach. Tribunal members must get better at explaining their reasons for decision to a variety of different audiences. That objective is particularly important in organisations like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which aim for a normative effect.

This presentation discusses recent reports and studies dealing with the challenge of explaining reasons and facts in the modern environment. It considers the difficulties associated with modern communication methods and practical improvements that should be made to enhance public confidence in tribunal decisions. The presentation focuses in particular on the need for individual tribunal members to become superior story-tellers as an antidote to ‘alternative facts’.


Deputy President Bernard McCabe is Division Head of the Taxation and Commercial and Small Business Taxation Divisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He was appointed as a Deputy President on 25 March 2016. Mr McCabe was first appointed as a part-time Member of the AAT in 2001 and later as a full-time Senior Member in 2003. He was previously an Associate Professor of Law at Bond University. He was also a member of the Legal Committee of the Companies and Securities Advisory Committee between 1998 and 2001.

Exploring the potential for online dispute resolution

Katarina Palmgren

Court Legal Advisor, Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC

In recent years we have witnessed an increased interest in online dispute resolution (ODR) amongst courts, tribunals and public justice systems around the world. The aim of integrating ODR in the public justice system is to increase access to the court system by providing a modern, simple, efficient, user-friendly and accessible online forum in which the public can resolve their disputes.

The potential of ODR when integrated in the public justice system is showcased in Canada where the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) sits as the first fully integrated online tribunal in the world. In the United Kingdom, a proposal for an ODR system fully integrated in the court system has been accepted by the government and, if implemented, will constitute the first fully integrated online court in the world. The online models developed in Canada and the United Kingdom, although not identical, have strong similarities and share the same objective, namely, to put the court user in focus and flip the traditional court model, creating a justice model that focusses on early and collaborative dispute resolution.

This presentation will examine these ODR models and some of the legal, technical and operational aspects that would need careful consideration should the decision be made to establish an online court in Australia.


Katarina Palmgren is a Court Legal Advisor at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. Prior to her role at the Magistrates’ Court, Katarina was a Senior Associate at the Supreme Court of Victoria and worked as a legal advisor to the judiciary at the International Criminal Court, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In 2017, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust awarded Katarina a fellowship to explore the use of online dispute resolution to resolve small civil disputes and how to best integrate an online court in Victoria. Katarina’s Churchill Fellowship Report was published in November 2018.

Katarina has a BA and LLB from the University of Western Australia and has undertaken Masters studies at Harvard University.

Managing Stress and Maximising Wellbeing for Decision-Makers on Tribunals, Boards and Panels

Carly Schrever1

1University of Melbourne; Judicial Wellbeing Advisor, Judicial College of Victoria, Melbourne

Decision-making is sophisticated, demanding, and at times emotionally and cognitively draining.  Like judges and magistrates, decision-makers on tribunals, boards and panels work in intense adversarial environments, under time-pressure, and often in isolation, making decisions that significantly impact people’s lives.  However, until very recently, the stress associated with the work of judges and other decision-makers has not been openly discussed, much less empirically researched. So, what is the psychological impact of judicial and quasi-judicial work?  This interactive presentation will explore the latest empirical research (undertaken by the presenter) bearing upon this important question, discuss the psychology of stress more generally, and introduce a series of evidence-based strategies for managing stress and maximising wellbeing within the complex decision-making role.


Carly Schrever is a lawyer, psychologist and award-winning empirical researcher.  Carly undertook Australia’s first empirical study measuring stress and wellbeing among judges and magistrates for her doctoral research at the University of Melbourne. She is Judicial Wellbeing Advisor to the Judicial College of Victoria and regularly presents on the topic at national and international judicial and tribunal conferences.

All things not being equal: communication accessibility

Rosalie Martin1

1Chatter Matters Tasmania, Tasmania 

This experiential presentation will give its audience an embodied sense of just how weak ‘weak communication’ skills might be. It will share perspective on the privilege and agency bestowed by strong language and communication skills. It will invite reflection on the ‘other-blindness’ which communication privilege may bring with it. Having established this shared meaning, it will turn to insights for improving communication in formal, complex contexts. These insights will fall into two areas: ways of being – manner of engagement, empathy, listening; technical strategies – use of language and questions.


Rosalie (Rosie) is a criminologist, a facilitator of reflective dialogue with the Center for Courage & Renewal, and a speech pathologist with 35 years of clinical experience.

She founded the charity Chatter Matters Tasmania to support communication and positive relatedness within settings of disadvantage.

In 2017 Rosie was awarded Tasmanian Australian of the Year for the work she began at Tasmania’s Risdon Prison: the Just Sentences literacy pilot project and the Just Time parent-child attachment program.

Rosie also works in her state-wide private speech pathology practice, runs regular reflective dialogue events, and speaks at conferences and workshops on the topics of communication, connection, and their relationship to justice.

Rosie is interested in kindness in evidence-based service delivery, the attainability of #100PercentLiteracy, and in increasing understanding that warm connection is the basis of all learning, inclusion, positive progress and transformation.

Push, Pull, or Nudge – How “Nudge Theory” can offer new ways for tribunals to get the message across

Justice Ian Ross AO 1

1Fair Work Commission, Melbourne, VIC

Nudge Theory – also known as behavioural economics – combines insights from psychology, cognitive science and economics to influence people’s behaviour in predictable and constructive ways.

Nudge Theory’s potential to achieve big impacts from relatively small, inexpensive interventions has seen it utilised by public sector agencies around the world. However, while there are successful examples in the justice sector, tribunals have generally not been leaders in the application of behavioural insights.

This presentation will examine how Nudge Theory can be applied in the tribunal context, for the benefit of both the institutions and those who use their services, and will discuss the Fair Work Commission’s initiatives in this area.


On 1 March 2012 Iain was appointed Judge of the Federal Court and President of Fair Work Australia (now Fair Work Commission)

Prior to his present appointment, Iain was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the President of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  Iain was also Chair of the Council of Australasian Tribunals from June 2010 to April 2014 and the inaugural Chair of the Mediator Standards Board, a position he relinquished in October 2011.

Investigative Interviewing for Decision-Making Purposes: Clearer Communication and Fairer Outcomes

Professor Martine Powell1

1 Centre for Investigative Interviewing, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, 176 Messines Ridge Rd, Mt Gravatt QLD 4122,  

Investigative interviewing is the process of eliciting accurate and detailed information from a person about an event or situation, in order to facilitate decision-making. This presentation will provide an overview of what constitutes best-practice investigative interviewing, and how this can be achieved. It focuses on developing communication strategies which minimise miscommunication and error, and ensure that the interviewee feels heard and valued. The techniques discussed are applicable to a wide range of interviewees, including suspects, victims and witnesses. Finally, the presentation will cover considerations and strategies for interviewing vulnerable groups who have complex communication needs.


Martine Powell is a Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute and Founding Director of the Centre for Investigative Interviewing at Griffith University. She is a world-leading expert in investigative interviewing and evidence-based methods of teaching interviewing skills that will be sustained long-term in the field. Prof Powell has nearly 30 years of experience conducting research in this area, and 260 publications on investigative interviewing and related topics. She has designed, implemented and evaluated interviewer training programs for a diverse range of professional groups within Australia and internationally. Prof Powell’s research is best described as practice-based, conducted in collaboration with industry partners to inform decisions about how to improve investigative and evidential interviewing.


PULSE@Parkes, is an innovative CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science program that gives high school students the opportunity to control the famous 64m Parkes radio telescope, “The Dish” remotely in real time to observe pulsars. These rapidly spinning super dense remnants of massive stars are some of the most extreme objects in the Universe. In a session students learn about radio astronomy, interact with professional astronomers and university science students, control a major telescope then analyse their data.

In this session we’ll demonstrate the setup for PULSE@Parkes, discuss the systems involved then let participants control the Dish to observe a variety of pulsars. We will demonstrate the online data feeds and the student module then discuss future possibilities and planned developments for the program.


The COAT is intended to facilitate liaison and discussion between the heads of tribunals. It will support the development of best practice models and model procedural rules, standards of behaviour and conduct for members and increased capacity for training and support for members.

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