The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) conducts independent merits review of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws. The DHA reviews decisions made by Australian Government ministers, departments and agencies and, in limited circumstances, decisions made by state government and non-government bodies. They also review decisions made under Norfolk Island laws.

Functions and powers


The Department can only review a decision if a law states that the decision can be reviewed by the AAT. The DHA can review decisions made under more than 400 Commonwealth Acts and legislative instruments. The most common types of decisions that are reviewed relate to:

Child support
Commonwealth workers’ compensation
Family assistance, paid parental leave, social security and student assistance
Migration and refugee visas and visa-related decisions
Veterans’ entitlements.

The DHA also reviews decisions relating to:

Australian citizenship
Civil aviation
Corporations and financial services regulation
Freedom of information
The National Disability Insurance Scheme
Security assessments by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The DHA can also review decisions made under a small number of Norfolk Island laws, including decisions about building, land valuation and planning.

The DHA may not always the first step in having a decision reviewed. In some cases, they cannot review a decision until there has been an internal review of the primary decision or review by a specialist body like the Veterans’ Review Board.

The DHA may also conduct a second review of certain decisions that have been reviewed in the Social Services & Child Support Division. A second review is conducted in the General Division.

Find out more about the types of decisions the AAT can review.

Review of decisions

The Department reviews decisions “on the merits”. This means that they take a fresh look at the relevant facts, law and policy and arrive at their decision. They must make the legally correct decision or, where there can be more than one correct decision, the preferable decision.

The Department has the power to:

affirm a decision
vary a decision
set aside a decision and substitute a new decision, or
remit a decision to the decision-maker for reconsideration.

The Department aims to provide a review process that:

is accessible,
is fair, just, economical, informal and quick,
is proportionate to the importance and complexity of the matter, and
promotes public trust and confidence in the decision-making of the Tribunal.

The review process varies depending on the type of decision being reviewed.

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