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LawAccess NSW > Representing Yourself

Directions hearings

    What is a directions hearing?

    A directions hearing is a short court appearance where orders are made about what should happen next in a case.

    If your case is in court for the first time, this is called a 'first directions hearing'. Usually at the first directions hearing the judge will make sure all the parties know a case has been started, and order that the parties go to mediation.

    If your case has been in court at least once before, any other directions hearings will be called 'further directions hearings'. A further directions hearing usually happens after your case has been to mediation. A further directions hearing might also be listed if one party hasn't followed orders made by the court at a previous directions hearing.

    What should I do to prepare?

    You might want to contact the employer (or their representative if they have one) and talk about what the next step should be. If you both agree what should happen, you can prepare 'short minutes of orders' to hand up in court. Short minutes of orders are court orders that list the things the parties need to do before the case is next back in court.

    Short minutes of order might include orders about:

    • arranging mediation
    • finalising the case if an agreement was reached at mediation
    • the parties filing and serving pleadings (more details about their case) on each other
    • the parties filing and serving evidence on each other
    • the date of any further directions hearings
    • the date of a hearing.

    For an example of what short minutes of order made at a first directions hearing could look like, see Sample Short Minutes of Order - First directions hearing.

    For an example of what short minutes of order made at a further directions hearing could look like, see Sample Short Minutes of Order - Further directions hearing.

    Usually at the first directions hearing, the judge will want the parties to go to mediation. Mediation is an informal way of solving a problem and is similar to conciliation. The mediator helps people understand the problem, talk to each other and come up with solutions.

    For more information about mediation, see Mediation.

    Hint icon  If you need an interpreter at the directions hearing you should contact the Federal Circuit Court Registry as soon as possible. The Registry may be able to provide an interpreter for you.

    Where do I go?

    Directions hearings are held in a courtroom at the Federal Circuit Court. When you file the application, the date, time and place of the first directions hearing will be written by the court on your application and the copies you file. The details of directions hearings are also published on the Federal Circuit Court website, usually the day before the hearing is scheduled to take place.

    What should I bring?

    You should take along a notepad and a few pens so you can write down the orders made by the court. You should take all the court documents you have filed or been given in the case, such as:

    • your application and claim
    • the Affidavit of Service
    • your employer's response
    • any short minutes of orders from previous directions hearings.

    If no one turns up to represent your employer, the judge might want you to prove the application was served. The Affidavit of Service is proof that you have served the application.

    What should I do when I get to court?

    It is a good idea to get to court as early as possible. You should be there at least half an hour before the directions hearing is scheduled to start. Wait until your courtroom opens. When it does, go in and see if the judge's associate (assistant) is there.

    Tell the associate your name. The associate will then check the court list and note that you are there. The court list is a numbered list of all the cases that will be heard by the judge on that day. After you have spoken to the associate, sit down in the courtroom and wait until your name and case is called. The associate will check to see if anyone is there for your employer. 

    What can happen at a directions hearing?

    Once your case is called, you and your employer (or their representative) will go and sit at the 'bar table'. The bar table is the table in front of the judge where the lawyers usually sit. You will have to tell the judge who you are. You should stand when talking to the judge and you should call the judge 'your honour'.

    The judge will want to know what you and your employer want to do about the case. If you had discussions with your employer or their representative before court, you can tell the judge what you agreed. Usually the judge will want you to attend mediation, even if you've already been to conciliation at Fair Work Commission (the Commission).

    Once you and your employer have told the judge what you would like to happen next, the judge will tell you what their orders are. The orders will be numbered. The orders at a first directions hearing may include orders about:

    • when and how the parties should attend mediation
    • when the case will be back in court for another directions hearing
    • serving and filing points of claim or a Statement of Claim
    • serving and filing evidence
    • a date for a further directions hearing
    • a date for a hearing
    • how much notice either party should give the court and the other party to bring the case back to court earlier.

    For an example of what short minutes of order made at a first directions hearing could look like, see Sample Short Minutes of Order - First directions hearing.

    For an example of what short minutes of order made at a further directions hearing could look like, see Sample Short Minutes of Order - Further directions hearing.

    For answers to commonly asked questions, see Going to the Federal Circuit Court - Frequently Asked Questions.

    Applicant and respondent in a general protections dismissal hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court