Last updated 20 May 2022
The Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is empowered to hear administrative appeals against a range of decisions made under Commonwealth legislation. The AAT exists as an independent avenue of review for people aggrieved by Commonwealth government decision making.
The AAT can review decisions made by federal government departments, agencies and ministers under more than 400 Commonwealth Acts and legislative instruments.
A person affected by a decision must first check whether the AAT has jurisdiction to review the decision. This jurisdiction is generally given by the enabling Act or Regulation under which the decision was made. Time limits for review are generally short and may be strictly applied.
When undertaking merits review of decisions, the role of the AAT member is to stand in the shoes of the decision maker for a reviewable decision and reach the legally correct or preferable decision.
The AAT was established with a recommendation that members of the tribunal be chosen for their expertise in a particular field. As a result, the AAT has decision makers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds including law, medicine, defence, migration, public administration, accountancy, science and social welfare.
Where there is no right of appeal to the AAT, undertaking judicial review or making a complaint to an external complaint-handling organisation such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman may be the only means of disputing the decision or action. For further information see the following chapters:
- merits review and external complaint organisations: this chapter
- judicial review: Complaints against Government—Judicial Review.