Attending a conference

The first step in the appeal is the conference. This will be scheduled between two and four weeks after the appeal is lodged, unless the matter is urgent. The initial conference will be listed for one hour. The conference will be convened and presided over by the Court.

The conference is an opportunity for the ‘parties’ (the person who lodged the appeal/application, the authority whose decision was appealed against and anyone who has been joined as a party) to get together and talk freely on a confidential “without prejudice” basis to explore whether, and how, the dispute may be resolved. If the matter cannot be agreed, the parties are expected to identify for hearing purposes the matters that remain in dispute.

The following information will guide you through the conference process:

The Court will send all parties a notice giving the time, date and location of the conference.

Prior to the conference the authority is required to lodge with the Court (in electronic format and hard copy) and provide to each party a “book of documents”. This book of documents should include the following (where available):

  1. A statement of the issues in dispute
  2. The Decision Notification Form and reasons for decision
  3. The applicable Code policy including Zoning maps
  4. The application documents (including the application pathway; all plans and reports accompanying the proposal and any amended plans)
  5. All representations received in respect of the proposal
  6. All reports, including agency referral reports and delegate’s reports, that were considered in the application process
  7. The relevant extract from the minutes of any meeting at which the application was considered

The book of documents should be forwarded to the Court and the parties within five business days of notification of a conference.

The book of document is required to be bound, indexed, page numbered, tabbed and if any plans are relevant, included in A3 size in colour.

Conferences are usually held in a conference room in the Sir Samuel Way Building, Victoria Square.

Where it is more convenient, the conference may be held in a country town – usually in the Court house, council chambers or town hall of the town closest to the subject of the dispute. The Court decides where and how a conference is held.  However, if you think a country conference or attendance by video link or telephone would be appropriate, please contact the Court.  Such a request needs to be in writing and made at least two clear business days prior to the listing date.  Permission is not granted as of right.

It is important however for the parties to understand that at conference the Court can only accept a lawful compromise, the Court does not make a decision during the conference process; its purpose is for the parties to explore whether a settlement can be reached. The Court will only make a determination on an appeal at a formal hearing.

You must attend the conference or have someone attend it on your behalf.  If you don’t your appeal may be dismissed or ‘struck out’.

It is preferable that you attend in person so that you can fully participate in the discussions.

You may choose to be represented by a lawyer or other professional representative. You may also bring:

  • other people (eg. a family member or friend) for moral support or to talk on your behalf (where the Court permits) and
  • experts that support your appeal (eg. a builder, architect or town planner).

The authority against whose decision you are appealing (and any other parties) will also send a representative (or perhaps more than one representative).  They are also entitled to bring a lawyer and other people (eg. experts)

A conference usually takes about one hour.  It can be much shorter, particularly if it becomes clear that no agreement is possible. In other cases the conference may resume on a number of occasions to enable an agreement.

During the conference process you may wish to consider alternate proposals. These may include possible alterations or amendments to the plans. Any proposals discussed or tabled by you or the Council at the conference stage for the purpose of reaching a settlement cannot be discussed when proceeding to a hearing.

You can expect that laws that are relevant to your dispute may be discussed at the conference.  It is sensible to be prepared.  For example, you may want to look at the law (or legislation) that is relevant to your appeal/application.  You also need to look at other material that is relevant to your dispute.  For example, you should review the Planning and Design Code policy applicable to your site and proposal. (For more information on the Planning and Design Code go to and be ready to talk about how it supports your case.

There are a number of useful sites that will enable you to do some of this research and preparation online.

You will need to bring all plans and documents relevant to your case.  It is useful to have copies of those documents to give to the presiding member and to the other parties.

You should take along a pen and paper or a computer so that you can take notes. You cannot record a conference by audio or video means.

The Commissioner’s or Judge’s judicial assistant will meet you outside the conference room before the conference starts.  This person will take your name and contact details, and you can ask them any other queries you have before going into the conference room.  After all the parties have arrived the judicial assistant will welcome you in to the conference room and indicate where you should sit. The Court requests that you turn off all mobile devices whilst in conference to facilitate the discussions without interruptions.

See Court behaviour for further information.

Conferences are informal.  There is no set procedure although Court protocols apply.  The presiding member will undertake introductions and explain the conference process to the parties.

The presiding member cannot make the parties agree.  The presiding member can only assist in helping the parties reach an agreement themselves. Sometimes the presiding member will suggest a compromise.  Sometimes a party will make a suggestion.   Sometimes a party will have a change of heart.  However it happens, the majority of matters end in an agreement of some kind.

No formal record is kept of what is said at the conference.  This is to ensure that the discussions remain confidential.

If an agreement is reached at the conference, the parties are required to prepare consent draft orders. Once the order is made the agreement is binding on all the parties.

If no agreement can be reached or if the Court determines that no purpose is served by further discussions at another listed conference, the conference will be closed and the appeal will proceed to the next step – a directions hearing.

Even if a conference doesn’t result in an agreement it is often useful because it helps the parties (and the Court) clarify what remains in dispute.  It also often narrows the issues.

If agreement is not reached, the presiding member may discuss some of the practicalities of the hearing. The presiding member will set a date for a directions hearing and this will be listed on the CourtSA portal.

Prior to the Directions Hearing you should consider:

  • when the hearing should be held and how long it is likely to take
  • where it should be held (in a country location rather than in Adelaide)
  • whether a view on site is necessary
  • if lay witnesses will be heard
  • if expert witnesses will be heard
  • what special arrangements (if any) are going to be necessary for the hearing
  • what other steps (if any) the parties need to take before the hearing
  • what document/s are required to be filed before the hearing