Download PDF version of Tribunal hearings - Fact sheet (311 KB,PDF)
A National Board can refer a matter to a tribunal for hearing. This happens only when the allegations involve the most serious unprofessional conduct (professional misconduct), and a National Board believes suspension or cancellation of the practitioner’s registration may be warranted.
If a National Board refers a matter to a tribunal, Ahpra and the National Board encourage the practitioner to seek legal advice and representation through their professional indemnity insurer. Some practitioners also choose to contact their professional association.
Under the National Law1, a National Board must refer a matter about a registered health practitioner or student to a tribunal if the National Board reasonably believes that the practitioner has behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct*; or the practitioner’s registration was improperly obtained because the National Board was given false or misleading information. The National Board must also refer the matter to a tribunal if a panel established by the National Board requires it to do so (see also the panels information sheet).
* Professional misconduct includes one or more instances of unprofessional conduct that amounts to conduct substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered health practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience; and conduct inconsistent with the practitioner being a fit and proper person to hold registration in the profession.
There are tribunals in each state and territory (listed below) and the National Board must refer a matter to the tribunal in the state or territory where the behaviour occurred. If the behaviour occurs in more than one state or territory, the responsible tribunal is the one where the practitioner’s principal place of practice is located.
A National Board, through Ahpra, will give the notifier and the practitioner or student to whom the matter relates written notice that it has referred a matter to a tribunal.
Tribunals are independent of the National Boards and Ahpra. When a National Board has referred a matter to a tribunal, the tribunal is responsible for determining the timeframe of hearings, conducting the hearing and delivering the tribunal’s final decision. This decision is usually published on the tribunal’s website and referenced in legal information resources such as AustLII. Ahpra also publishes a link to the decision from its website.
By law, tribunal proceedings are open to the public. Any decision made to suppress identifying information about the practitioner or notifier is made by the tribunal.
A tribunal is generally made up of members of the same profession as the health practitioner whose behaviour is under review, a non-health practitioner member and a judicial officer.
Practitioners who are the subject of a tribunal hearing are usually represented by a lawyer. The National Board that referred the matter to the tribunal will also be legally represented. Ahpra and the National Boards encourage practitioners to seek legal advice and representation if a matter involving them has been referred to a tribunal.
After hearing a matter a tribunal has the power to decide:
Having made one of these decisions (other than ‘no case to answer’), the tribunal may decide to do one or more of the following:
** If the tribunal imposes a condition on the practitioner’s registration it must also decide on a review period.
After hearing a matter about a student, a tribunal may decide:
If the tribunal decides that the student has an impairment, it may decide to:
The tribunal may make any order about costs it considers appropriate. This may result in the practitioner or student being ordered to pay the National Board’s costs as well as their own costs, or the reverse.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).