The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has become a very busy place in both the city and regional areas of Victoria. If goods were always ‘fit for purpose’, residential tenants always paid on time and town planning was not disputed, the VCAT we know today would be redundant. Sadly, this is not the case.
Unit 3/4 VCE students would be well served by a visit to a VCAT centre over their school break. Spend a morning there in one of their hearing chambers. Observe how the member resolves disputes. I believe VCAT is one area where students often have limited understanding and knowledge.
Whilst their biggest area these days is cases concerning residential tenancy disputes, my own case of a yachting tender that was poorly made always raises a smile. Faulty workmanship and a failure to repair or replace my goods sent me to a tribunal. The dispute was resolved quickly and cheaply. The atmosphere was informal although the member was not impressed that the manufacturer of my goods did not want to resolve the dispute through mediation. I went away with my refund for the goods and satisfaction the manufacturer was reprimanded by the member for not replacing my dingy.
Tribunals like the courts employ alternative dispute resolution methods. Many students fail to understand this. The best way to use applied learning is to leave your text book at home and pay a visit to VCAT over the holidays. You never know, the case you may see may be an exam question this year.
Good luck in your VCE studies in Law in 2016.
Peter F Hughes