Last updated 1 August 2016

Before taking one of the steps outlined above, an informal written approach to the agency concerned may be worthwhile. An informal approach is inexpensive and may sort out the issue without further expense and time. At the very least, the position of the agency concerned should be clearer after a reply from the relevant department or minister. However, as there are time limits in making an appeal or an application for review, care must be taken to ensure that the informal process does not interfere with formal time limits.

Time limits in which to make applications in relation to administrative decisions are relatively short, so it is important to find out the time limit and make the application as soon as possible. Although tribunals and courts have the power to grant extensions of time to make applications for review, this power is discretionary and will normally only be granted in exceptional circumstances. If in any doubt about the relevant time limit, consult a solicitor.

Administrative decision makers now routinely provide a statement of reasons with notification of their decisions. If the decision is subject to Commonwealth or state judicial review legislation, then the decision maker will be required to give reasons within 28 days of a request for reasons being made. If a decision maker fails to provide a statement of reasons within the required period, an application may be made to the court for an order that a statement be provided.

A statement of reasons will help a person to understand the reasons for the decision and will assist in deciding the appropriate course of review.

Complaint to the ombudsman

Complaints may also be made to the appropriate ombudsman in some circumstances (for further information see the Complaints to the Ombudsman chapter).

A letter to the local member of parliament

A complaint to the local member of parliament can also be useful, especially if no legal grounds for a challenge to an apparently unfair decision exist. It may be possible to have the action or decision altered as an act of grace. Act of grace decisions are rare.