The Victorian Government is being urged to abolish a series of Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) fees which serve as a barrier to people facing disadvantage from pursuing justice.
The Department of Justice is currently considering the introduction of a “tiered” VCAT fee system which would charge large organisations, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations, individuals and Health Care Card holders different rates to have their cases heard.
“The Victorian Government should be commended for its proposed new VCAT fee structure, especially the removal of charges for small civil claims and residential tenancy matters for people with Commonwealth Health Care Cards,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.
“The inclusion of discount rates for not-for-profit organisation is also a positive measure.”
“However, we believe even more can be done to ensure VCAT remains an accessible and affordable for all Victorians, especially those without spare cash for lawyers, consultants and other legal expenses.”
“Money shouldn’t be a roadblock to justice.”
Specifically, VCOSS believes all VCAT fees for civil claims up to and including $100,000 should be removed. Hearing day fees on these matters should also be abolished.
“Although the proposed structure reduces hearing day fees to a maximum of $150 per day, many low-income clients will still struggle to afford this amount,” Ms King warns in VCOSS’s submission to the Victorian Government’s review of VCAT fees.
“It might not sound like much, but these amounts compound over lengthy hearings and every dollar counts when you’re getting by on a low income.”
VCOSS also advocates for more clarity around VCAT’s fee waiver system. Fee waiver applications are sometimes rejected for reasons that are unreasonable or unclear.
“VCOSS looks forward to working with VCAT and the Department of Justice to refine the fee structure, and ensure low-income Victorians are able to access justice and enforce their legal rights,” Ms King said.
(Note: This article has been amended to reflect the fact any changes to VCAT fees rests with the Victorian Government, not VCAT itself.)