Guidelines for Representing Yourself
Although proceedings before the Commission, Full Bench and before the President are reasonably informal, there is some formality. Also, there is politeness required. When you are representing yourself in the Commission, you are trying to persuade the Commissioner, Full Bench or the President that you are right. So you must act, dress and speak in a way that helps you with your case. Here are some tips:
- When appearing before the Commission dress as neatly as possible.
- How you act is as important as how you look. You must be respectful to everyone in the Commission. This includes the Commission members, staff, the other party involved in your case, witnesses and people in the hallways.
- The Commission has a very busy schedule, so you must be on time. If you are late, your hearing might be adjourned, or the matter might be heard in your absence. Make sure you bring all the documents you need for your hearing.
- Full Bench, the President or Members of the Commission cannot speak to you about your case except when your case is being heard and when the other party is there. The Commission staff will help you in any way they can with questions like the date when your hearing is listed or whether the Commissioner, the Full Bench or the President has decided yet on your matter. Staff cannot give you legal advice or recommendations on what you should do. Always be polite with Commission members and with Commission staff and be prepared to provide any information they request.
- When you represent yourself in the Commission, get legal advice from a lawyer or agent ahead of time to make sure you are doing the right thing. Legal advice includes deciding which option is best for you. Some lawyers or agents provide advice which is a way of helping you help yourself.
- In summary always remember the 4 p's: Professionalism, Punctuality (or being on time), Politeness and Preparation. This will go a long way toward helping you help yourself in the Commission.
- Generally speaking, your matter will be before the Full Bench, if you are appealing against the decision of a single Commissioner or an Industrial Magistrate, or, if you are a respondent or objector in certain other proceedings, such as enforcement proceedings or applications to register organisations or change their rules. This is not a complete list of the proceedings which can be brought.
If you require:-
- General Commission information.
- Commission forms and instructions to help people with various kinds of cases.
- Lists of lawyers and agents who will help with a case by providing advice. This would include, in this Commission, reference to the Legal Aid Commission and Community Legal Centres.
Please ask the Registry staff of the Commission and/or visit the Commission website.How does the Commission contact me?
You must always let the Commission know your current contact address and telephone number. The way to do this is on any application or 'Notice of Appeal' which you make or by advising in writing, quoting the number of the matter. If you change your contact address and/or telephone number during the proceedings, you must advise the Commission in writing of this. If you do not do so, you may miss important communications. If you do miss important communications, this could mean unnecessary delays for you, you may not receive the Commission's notices and the hearing may proceed without you.
The Commission has a policy in relation to interpreters. If you need an interpreter for the hearing, please contact the Commission well before the date of the hearing.
Who can Represent you?
At the hearing, you can represent yourself, or you can be represented by your union, your employer body, an industrial agent or a legal practitioner (with leave of the Commissioner, Full Bench or the President).
Notice of Hearing
You will be sent a 'Notice of Hearing' stating that you need to attend at a particular date and time at the above address. You will not receive any other notice.
What Should I Do on the Day of the Hearing?
What should I wear to the Commission?
You should dress comfortably. A minimum standard of dress is neat casual which includes appropriate footwear.
What should I take with me to court?
You should take with you:-
- Copies of all the documents filed by you or served on you during the proceedings. These should be organised so that you can find any document easily.
- Any other documents which you want to use.
- Pens and paper.
- This booklet.
Who can come to court with me?
Hearings in the Commission are open to the public, unless the Commission orders otherwise. You may bring friends and relatives with you to court for support.
What time should I get to court?
You should be ready and waiting in the courtroom at least fifteen minutes before the hearing. If you are late, you should telephone the Associate to the Commissioner or the President depending on your application/appeal. Otherwise, the proceedings may start without you.
When you arrive, you should go into the court and report to the Associate that you are there.How should I behave in court?
- If you are the appellant (or an applicant), you should be behind the right hand microphone at the bar table. The respondent should be on the left.
- You should always address the President as 'Your Honour', and address the Chief Commissioner, Senior Commissioner and other Commissioners by their titles.
- Do not speak when a member of the Commission, the Full Bench or the President is speaking.
- Stand up when you are speaking to a member of the Commission, the Full Bench, or the President or when a member of the Commission is speaking to you. Sit down at other times. Only one person should be standing at a time.
- When you are speaking, remain behind the microphone.
- If you want to show something to the Commission, say so and hold it out for the Associate to take to them. If you want to produce a document to the Full Bench you should have five (5) copies for the Associate to hand to the Full Bench members and the other party and witness/es.
- Do not interrupt the other party, unless you have a proper objection or query in which case you should rise and wait for the Full Bench to recognise you.
- No food or drink is allowed in the courtroom, nor is chewing gum permitted. Water is provided.
- Mobile telephones and pagers must be switched off.
- Commission officers can give you help if you have questions about what to do, but they cannot give you legal advice.
Hearings (which are not Appeals):
These matters are usually decided after the Commission has heard evidence from witnesses and/or received documents as evidence. If you are calling witnesses to prove your case, you will need to have them at the court on the day fixed for the hearing. You, yourself can be a witness if you wish. You should prepare your case beforehand.
It would be a good idea to prepare your address, even though you are not a lawyer. You should outline your case.
Hearings before the Full Bench on Appeal:
If you are appealing a decision of the Commission you must state why you say the Commissioner at first instance was in error and the appeal should be allowed if you are the appellant; or why you say the Commissioner at first instance was right and not in error as alleged by the appellant if you are the respondent.
What happens during the hearing of an appeal?
If, at any stage during the hearing, you are confused or unsure how to proceed, do not be afraid to ask the presiding Member on the Bench.
- The appellant presents his/her case.
- The respondent presents his/her case.
- The appellant replies.
- Court usually starts at 10.30 am each day and adjourns at 4.00 pm. The Full Bench may take a mid morning break and the lunch break is usually from 1.00 pm to 2.15 pm. All of these times are at the Full Bench's discretion.
When is the decision given?
The Commissioner, the Full Bench or the President may give the decision and make orders at the end of the proceedings. If so, you may request a written copy of the reasons for decision which will be sent to you after the Commissioner, the Full Bench or the President has had an opportunity to edit them.
The Commission, Full Bench or President may reserve its decision. It is usually reserved without specifying a date or time. The Associate will contact you to tell you when the decision is being given. Alternatively, she/he may post, fax or email it to you.Where can I go for advice on preparing for hearing?
The Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia
55 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Telephone: (08) 9261 6200 (Information Line)
1300 650 579 (cost of a local call)
Community Legal Centres
(For a referral to an appropriate community legal centre contact the Federal of Community Legal Centres (WA) Inc.
Telephone: (08) 9221 9322
Law Society of WA Legal Referral Service
Telephone: (08) 9221 4402
Free Legal Advice (Pro Bono) Scheme
On 1 November 2014 the Commission introduced a scheme to assist employers or employees not represented by a lawyer to have access to free legal advice in some circumstances. This is called a pro bono scheme. Thanks to the kind participation of several Perth law firms who are prepared to participate, the Commission may be able to refer an unrepresented employee or employer to a legal practitioner for free advice or assistance in relation to:
- a claim of unfair dismissal
- a claim of a benefit due under a contract of employment, or
- an appeal to the Public Service Appeal Board.
The pro bono scheme aims to provide assistance only to a unrepresented employees or employers who:
- may be socially disadvantaged (eg. language or literacy difficulties)
- have no access to a union or professional association which might otherwise be able to provide advice
- have difficulty understanding the process, or part of it, to which they are a party.
The free assistance provided includes obtaining advice, drafting documents and possibly representation.
Referral for assistance under the scheme is only at the discretion of a Commissioner or the Registrar. The Commission and the Registrar are under no obligation to refer an unrepresented litigant for assistance. Also, a referral does not guarantee that a legal practitioner will be available to accept the referral.
The Commission acknowledges the kind participation of the following firms:
- Ashurst Australia
- Clayton Utz
- DLA Piper
- Jackson McDonald
- Kott Gunning Lawyers
- Minter Ellison Lawyers
- Workwise Advisory Services
For further information, please contact the Pro Bono Scheme Coordinator on:
Phone (08) 9420 4444
How to contact the Commission
Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission
111 St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 9420 4444
Facsimile: (08) 9420 4500
A formal written statement that you have sworn or affirmed, setting out the facts of your case (your evidence).
When a summons is served, the person serving it must provide the person summonsed with sufficient money for return travel between that person's residence or employment (whichever is appropriate) and the Commission. For example, bus or train fares.
Instructions given by the President, a Commissioner or an Industrial Magistrate which you must comply with. For example, you may be directed when to file documents.
The first date that an application for final orders comes before the Commission. Orders are made about the way that your case will proceed through the Commission. For example, orders about when documents are to be filed or orders for a conciliation conference.
Documents that you have in your possession, custody or control which are relevant to your case. Possession, custody or control is a legal term which covers more than documents in your physical possession. If you have questions about this term, seek legal advice.
A process where one side provides to the other side a list of documents in their possession, custody or control which are relevant to the case. Possession, custody or control is a legal term which covers more than documents in your physical possession. If you have questions about this term, seek legal advice.
To lodge a document in the Registry of the Commission and have it stamped with the seal of the Commission.
Used where an application is set down for hearing but only to deal formally with a preliminary issue not to deal with the merit of the application. It is similar to a Directions Hearing. A preliminary issue includes such things as whether the application has been served on the other party, or whether the other party is correctly named, or it may be to discuss what dates are suitable for hearing the merit of the application or even whether the application should be dismissed because of a preliminary issue.
Notice to Produce
The other side may have served this notice on you. It requires you to bring certain documents to your hearing. You may also serve a notice to produce on the other side.
You and the other side are parties to the proceedings.
These are directions issued by the Commission about practices and procedures to be followed in cases.
Remission of the fees
You can apply for a remission of the fees. This means that you do not have to pay certain fees that the Commission charges. If you hold certain Social Security cards for can show financial hardship, you may not have to pay certain fees. You can get the form to apply for a remission of the fees at the Registry of the Commission.
To formally provide documents to the other side. You can ask at the Registry of the Commission about serving documents.
Summons to Witness
A document issued by the Commission which requires a person to come to the Commission to give evidence and/or bring documents or other things to the Commission.
Sworn or Affirmed
When you have made a solemn promise to confirm the truth of your evidence. An affidavit must be sworn or affirmed before a justice of the peace, a notary public or a lawyer with or without a commission for taking affidavits.