coat_logo Program
Keynote Speakers
Concurrent Speakers
Social Activities
Canberra 101
Privacy Policy
2017 Photo Gallery
2018 COAT National Conference
7 - 8 June, 2018I QT Canberra, ACT

Conference Abstracts

The program for the 2017 COAT National & COAT NSW Joint Conference includes many anticipated presenters speaking on behalf of this year's theme - "Tribunals: Enablers of Justice". All of which are set to be valuable assets to all delegate's overall career development and professional network.

We have included a list of the Conference abstracts to give you a taste of what you can look forward to at this years Conference.

Thursday - 8th June, 2017

Access to Justice In Multicultural Australia
Keynote Presentation

The Hon. Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC

Chief Justice Martin will address the concepts which underpin the notion of equal justice to all in the context of Australia's increasing cultural diversity. He will also address the work of the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity (which he Chairs), with reference to projects undertaken by the Council of particular relevance to Administrative Tribunals.

Working Across Cultures – How Do You Make It Successful? Understanding the Changing Landscape in NZ and the Competencies Organizations Now Need to Work Effectively With Ethnic Diversity
Concurrent Presentation

Anukool Sathu

The changing ethnic demographics within NZ and Australia have made it essential to have strong intercultural competency skills in almost every profession.  Cities like Auckland and Sydney are in the top 5 most culturally diverse cities in the world and globally recognised as being super diverse.  Diversity should now be at the heart of all organisations, from delivering effective services to your diverse customer base, to ensuring the diversity of internal staff is being used as an asset within organisations.
As members of an organisation that’s constantly interacting with complex issues, often in an emotive environment, it is imperative to be able to play the judicial role with ideas of culture, equity, bias in mind. This will ensure you and the organisation are able to recognise any processes and assumptions that might be resulting in erroneous decision making.
The presentation will be from a practical standpoint, showcasing examples to help build self-awareness, understanding our unconscious bias, and identifying methods to become more effective in our roles.  We will also discuss some practical steps we can take at an organisation level to become more culturally competent in our day to day work.

*It is preferable that those attending the workshop have already attended this presentation. However, there will be a short summary in the workshop repeating the principles from the presentation.

Managing Querrelant Complainants: Tricks and Traps for Members and Registry Staff
Concurrent Presentation


Increasingly common in our society is the persistent complainant who disrupts the work of complaints officers, ombudsmen, commissioners and, ultimately, tribunals and courts. In the process, they leave their own lives in chaos and show a significant potential for threats and violence. As government agencies, businesses, and professional organisations have established formal mechanisms for responding to complaints, so a small but vocal group of complainants has emerged which, by persistence and insistence, consumes disproportionate amounts of time and energy.

Of those who progress to the tribunals and courts the majority remain a ‘vexatious litigant’ rather than achieving the status of formal Vexatious Litigant.

In attempting to understand and cope with the ‘vexatious litigant’, little account has been taken of well-established literature in psychiatry.
The psychiatric discourse was historically centred on the querulous and querulous paranoia. However the experience with this group is now centred in complaint offices and Ombudsman’s Offices under the rubric of “Unreasonable complaint behaviour” and hence management is around containment of unreasonable behaviours rather than labelling individuals.

In his presentation, Dr Lester will look at recognising and managing the unreasonable behaviours of the ‘vexatious litigant’ by both exploring their psychology and providing suggestions for approaches in tribunals to contain their behaviours.

Flexibility, Informality and Dispatch – How To Strike The Balance In Tribunal Decision Making
Concurrent Presentation

The Hon. Keith Mason AC QC

Government expects Tribunals to act with despatch and respect prevailing policies. Litigants hope for favourable outcomes. Tribunal members seek to act fairly yet cope with high caseloads. Courts ultimately control the bounds of flexibility as they apply statutory and common law norms. This paper will investigate if everyone can be satisfied.

How Applying for Victims Compensation Can Lead to Further Victimisation – A Case Study in the Impact of Intergenerational Trauma on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and how Tribunals can Better Respond to Aboriginal Needs
Concurrent Presentation

Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson

For some Aboriginal women, victim compensation can mean further victimisation. The impact of intergenerational trauma on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as applicants and respondents to Tribunal proceedings needs deeper understanding, more particularly when victims, in receiving compensation, may be so pressured that they become offenders. Tribunal members have a role in responding to behaviour that results in further victimisation, while working to protect those who have already been harmed.  This presentation invites discussion about how we can find a better response to the needs of some Aboriginal women experiencing harm as a result of victim compensation outcomes.

After Conference Dinner Speaker

Fay Jackson

An exciting prelude to the presentation from our after dinner speaker Fay Jackson. Her interview with 'One Plus One' - ABC TV.

Friday - 9th June, 2017

Lost in Translation
Experience a Tribunal hearing through the ears of a non-English speaker. 
Plenary Session

The Hon Justice Melissa Perry of the Federal Court of Australia will outline the new Guidelines for working with interpreters in Court and Tribunals and explain their importance in the administration of justice and community acceptance of the decisions made by Courts and Tribunals.

Professor Sandra Hale will offer an expert’s perspective on the role and limitations of interpreter services.

This will be followed by a role play with commentary from Justice Kyrou of the Victorian Court of Appeal,offering a lively and practical discussion on the effective use of interpreters.

Chaired by the Hon. Justice Melissa Perry, Federal Court of Australia, with The Hon. Justice Emilios Kyrou, Supreme Court of Victoria and Professor Sandra Hale, UNSW and Peter Souleles, NAATI Level 3 Interpreter.

Tribunals and Self-Represented Parties: Enabling Justice For All Disputants
Concurrent Presentation

Helen Shurven

One of the challenges for Tribunals is dealing with self-represented parties.  Are self-represented parties at a disadvantage compared with repeat player parties in a dispute resolution process?  Self-represented parties may not always appreciate the issues central to proceedings, or to their own case, or how those issues interact with the issues of other parties to the dispute.  Legislative requirements may be difficult to understand, and information provided by self-represented parties can either be too sparse and irrelevant, or too voluminous and repetitive to be of use in the resolution process.  This presentation will discuss how a Tribunal Member, and staff assisting a Member, may give assistance to self-represented parties to ensure they understand the process, and have opportunity to present their case, without prejudicing other parties, or creating bias in the resolution process.  Enabling justice for all participants, without subjecting them or the process to undue delay, requires a careful balance of many considerations.

Recent Developments in Tribunal Law
Concurrent Presentation

Joanna Davidson

With new decisions being handed down in all jurisdictions every day, it can be difficult to keep track of the state of play.  Ms Davidson’s talk will highlight some key Australian decisions, handed down in the last 12 months, and discuss the way in which they impact on the work of Tribunals.  

Tips for Writing Clear, Logical and Concise Decisions
Concurrent Presentation

The Hon. Justice Debra Mullins

Decision writing is facilitated by the work that is done by the decision-maker in preparation for, and during, the hearing. This session will promote the issues-based decision and emphasise the importance of isolating at the earliest possible time the issues that must be decided in the case to reach an outcome.
Working on the decision during the hearing must be constructive and assist in deciding the matter, rather than just work for the sake of doing something.
Tips will cover planning for the decision, making use of the parties and their lawyers during the hearing, ensuring all relevant issues are identified by the end of the hearing, and writing the decision in a timely way to address all relevant issues.
A number of tips for writing clear, logical and concise decisions will be discussed. This will enable participants to consider which tips suit them best.

Being Accessible, Being Fair: Working Effectively Across Cultures
Concurrent Presentation

Dr Margaret Byrne

For all tribunals and commissions, culturally diverse clients represent a growing percentage of their cases. Australia has had a long-standing commitment to annual intakes of both immigrants and refugees. As a result, the population now comprises a mix of more than 300 different ethnic groups, from well-established communities such as the Greek and Italian, to newer ones such as those from the Middle East and Africa. According to Australia’s most recent census, just over 28% of us were not born in Australia. Members are expected to deliver equitable and sensitive services in the midst of this increased cultural complexity. Access and equity, as well as fairness and trust, are legitimate expectations on the part of all those coming before a tribunal. But achieving this requires cultural insight and, above all, specific practical skills. 
The purpose of this short presentation is to highlight the cultural factors which may affect the provision of tribunal services to culturally diverse clients, as well as introduce the skills needed to manage difference well. The following five questions most frequently asked by tribunal members will be explored:  

  • What assumptions and expectations do culturally diverse clients tend to bring to their experience of a tribunal? 
  • How can a client’s cultural background influence their thinking, communication and behaviour? 
  • What challenges does this present for Tribunals?
  • What insights and practical skills help to bridge these cultural gaps?
  • What can tribunal members do to deliver a fair and equitable service? 

Communicating Effectively with People with a Cognitive Impairment
Concurrent Presentation

Melinda Smith

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which includes Article 12: Equal recognition before the law and  Article 13: Access to justice.  In its 2014 report Equal Before The Law the Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledged that “Inability to access effective justice compounds disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities” . The report identifies that access to appropriate communication is a principle that should be embedded in any equitable approach to justice. 

This session will assist Tribunal members and registry staff to better understand the needs of people with cognitive impairment and to consider what reasonable adjustments they can make to better suit a person with a cognitive impairment. The session will include an overview of some of the different types of cognitive impairment, how to identify if someone might have a cognitive impairment and some practical ideas for adapting the hearing process to better suit someone who does have a cognitive impairment.    

Communicating Effectively with People with a Cognitive Impairment - Hands on Skills for Tribunal Members and Registry Staff

Melinda Smith

People with cognitive impairment have a range communication needs that may not be easily recognised.

The workshop will build on the information and skills covered in the presentation Communicating effectively with people with a cognitive impairment at a more practical level through the use of case examples.

Some case studies will be provided and participants will be welcome to bring their own examples to work through.

Eat the Frog First Thing- How to Work Effectively

Thea O'Conoor

In this presentation Thea will show you how you can be more productive and healthy by fashioning a work ethic that is in tune with your body rhythms.
She will : 

  • Explain what science tells us about the biological laws that govern our attention and energy 
  • Describe the 24 hr, 12 hr and 1.5 hr biological rhythms we experience every day
  • Step you through a typical working day, and show how you can get more out of your day by working in tune with these rhythms
  • Offer tips for developing healthy and sustainable work habits that last. 


Add to Calendar

Conference Secretariat


For all Conference enquiries, please contact GEMS Event Management Australia on +61 2 9744 5252.