Last updated 20 May 2022

Appeals tribunals that continue to operate separately from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) include the:

  • Veterans’ Review Board, which reviews decisions made by the Repatriation Commission and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission
  • Australian Competition Tribunal, which reviews determinations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

These specialist tribunals are each created by specific legislation and, in some cases, reviews of the decisions of these tribunals may be made to the AAT.

The AAT reviews decisions made in key Commonwealth administrative law areas including in relation to migration, social security, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS) and freedom of information. For further information on reviewing the decisions in the following areas, see the corresponding chapters of the Queensland Law Handbook:

The AAT website has factsheets and guidance on the application process, forms and steps in a review.

Decisions that can be reviewed

The AAT may review a decision where the Act or Regulation under which it was made states that the decision is reviewable in the tribunal (s 25 Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (Cth) (AAT Act)). A decision includes a failure to make a decision.

To determine whether a particular matter can be appealed to the AAT, an applicant may need to check the Act or Regulation under which the decision was made and confirm that the decision is reviewable in the AAT. In many cases, only particular decisions under enabling legislation will be reviewable by the AAT. The corresponding legislation may include information about earlier review options, such as internal merits review, and any time limits that apply.

The AAT’s review jurisdiction is contained in more than 400 separate pieces of legislation, covering areas such as:

  • child support
  • Commonwealth workers compensation
  • social security decisions
  • income tax
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • air navigation
  • customs and excise laws
  • defence force retirement and death benefits
  • environmental protection and biodiversity
  • freedom of information
  • health insurance
  • visas and cancellation of visas on character grounds
  • migration and refugee
  • aged care providers
  • patents and trade marks
  • national health legislation including benefits, pharmacy and optometrist approvals
  • student assistance and the Higher Education Loan Program
  • superannuation
  • bankruptcy
  • taxation
  • tax agents’ and migration agents’ registration
  • veterans’ entitlements (appeals from the Veterans’ Review Board).

This is not an exhaustive list and provides only a general guide. Not all Commonwealth administrative activities are subject to an appeal to the AAT.

A full AAT reviewable decisions list setting out reviewable decisions and the corresponding Act or legislative instrument is available on the AAT website.

The function of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in reviewing a decision

In undertaking merits review of a decision, the overriding function of the AAT is to make the correct or preferable decision. ‘Correct’ refers to the fact that a decision is correct in law, whereas ‘preferable’ refers to the decision being the decision that best reflects the relative merits of alternative decisions that were open to the decision maker.

The functions of the AAT are contained in the AAT Act and in legislation that gives merits review jurisdiction to the AAT, notably in migration law and social security law. These enabling Acts may expand the function of the AAT on review. For example, the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) provides that where the AAT determines a person is entitled to a social security payment, the AAT must also assess the rate of the payment or ask the Secretary or Chief Executive of Centrelink to do so.