You will find it really useful if you take time to prepare for the hearing. To find out how to prepare for the hearing, follow the steps in the guide on this page.
When you prepare for the hearing, you will need to put together your own statement and get statements from any witnesses.
Your statement The most important witness statement is your own.
You need to tell the story about the case in a clear and logical way. Your statement should include the names of people, places and dates relevant to your side of the story. It should include all relevant things you saw, heard, did and said.
Witness statements should not include opinions or arguments about the law.
You also need to gather other supporting evidence, which you can refer to and attach to your witness statement. Your supporting evidence could include:
Other witness statements You should ask any other person who saw or heard something that supports your claim to prepare and sign their own witness statement.
Examples of who could make a witness statement include people who:
In some cases, there will not be any other witnesses and you will only have your own witness statement.
You need to allow plenty of time to have your witness statements written, signed, copied and sent to the defendant and filed with the court at least 14 days before the hearing date (unless the court has ordered a different time).
Instructions: Instructions for preparing witness statements. Sample: Sample witness statement – debtSample: Sample witness statement – car accidents
The court will usually order that your statements and evidence need to be filed with the court, and exchanged with the defendant, at least 14 days before the hearing.
You can file the documents with the court:
You can exchange the documents with the defendant:
If you are sending documents by post, make sure the documents will be received on or before the date they are due.
You should receive witness statements and evidence from the defendant at least 14 days before the hearing date unless the court ordered a different time.
When you receive the defendant's witness statements, you should read them carefully so that you understand the defendant's case.
If you do not receive anything, you should contact the court and find out if anything has been filed. If witness statements have been filed, ask the court for a copy, or contact the defendant and ask for a copy.
If nothing has been filed, you can tell the magistrate or assessor the next time you attend court. The magistrate or assessor may adjourn (postpone) the hearing, or they can disregard some of the defendant's evidence if the defendant tries to file it late.
A subpoena is a court order to a person or organisation to bring documents to the court on a certain date, or to attend the hearing to give evidence. You cannot file a subpoena unless the court has given you permission. This is usually done at the pre-trial review.
If you have permission to file and serve a subpoena, you will need to do this at least five days before the date specified in the subpoena. It is difficult to get permission to file a subpoena in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court. You should get legal advice before you consider applying for a subpoena. For more information, see Subpoenas.
To win the case, you need to prove that the defendant owes the money claimed or that you have a right to the goods being claimed.
Write down the main points you want to say to the assessor or magistrate. You could use the following format:
Remember that the assessor or magistrate will have already read all the witness statements and evidence so you do not need to repeat everything that is in your statement.
You could practice speaking to the assessor or magistrate with one of your friends or relatives. You could also go to a local court and watch some Small Claims Division hearings.
You will need to take these things with you to the hearing:
Bring the original documents as well as the copies to the hearing.
For more information about the hearing, see Going to the hearing.
For more information on how to prepare for the hearing, you can watch the video below.
You can also read a transcript of this video (55kb).
This video is available with the audio description.