Arguing your case
The Judge will ask the applicant (you), to present your case first as you made the claim and started the case. You should:
- give a summary of your case
- point out evidence that supports your case
- tell the court which witnesses you will call
- point out any parts of the respondent's affidavits and evidence that you disagree with or dispute or any places where there are inconsistencies or contradictions.
You can speak from prepared notes. This can be helpful if you are nervous or are concerned you might forget to mention something.
For more information, see Step by step guide: Preparing for the hearing.
How is evidence given in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia?
In the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia evidence can be given orally or by affidavit. Usually, the affidavit has already been filed. On the day of the hearing, the witness will be asked to swear or affirm that the contents of their affidavit are true. They will then be questioned by the other party (called 'cross examination').
What if I have documents or recordings I want to use as evidence?
If you have documents or recordings, and you want to use them as evidence, they can be made part of your affidavit. This can be done by either 'annexing' or 'exhibiting' them to the affidavit. For more information on how to do this, see
How do I give evidence?
You will usually have to stand next to the witness box and make an 'oath' or 'affirmation'. Both are promises to tell the truth and the Judge won't be more likely to believe you if you use one over the other. An oath has religious meaning and an affirmation does not. The court officer will read the oath or affirmation and you should respond 'I do'.
You should have already filed an affidavit, which tells the Court your version of what has happened and why you believe your employer broke laws about general protections by dismissing you.
On the day of the hearing, you will be asked to swear or affirm that the contents of your affidavit are true. You can only give evidence about what you saw or what was said to you directly. The Judge may ask you questions or ask you to explain some things in more detail. The Judge may also ask you to move on to another point if they feel you have said enough about a certain issue or you are speaking about something that is not relevant to the case.
What happens after I give my evidence?
After you have given your evidence, the respondent or their lawyer will ask you some questions. This is called 'cross-examination'. You should:
- listen carefully and think about each question before you answer
- ask that a question be repeated if you don't understand it
- admit if you don't know the answer to a question
- speak loudly, clearly and slowly
- give exact details, for example if someone swore tell the court the words that were used
- try not to get angry, even if the respondent's lawyer seems to be rude or aggressive
- ask for a break if you get upset.
If there are any issues you want to clear up that are raised in cross-examination you can give further evidence. This is called 're-examination'.
Are my witnesses allowed to be in court?
Your witnesses should wait outside the courtroom until it is their turn to give evidence. A court officer will bring them into the courtroom and take them to the witness box where they will make an oath or affirmation.
How do I ask my witnesses questions?
You should first ask the witness to tell the Court their name, address and occupation. You should have already filed an affidavit of your witness. You can ask your witness if their affidavit is true and correct. You may be able to ask them questions that are relevant to your case and why you were dismissed. Your questions should allow the witness to give their evidence in their own words. The respondent may object if you try to lead the witness to give a certain answer.
Once you have finished asking each of your witnesses questions, the respondent will have a chance to cross-examine them. After the cross-examination, you will have a chance to ask the witnesses any further questions. This is called 're-examination'. You should only re-examine your witness if you want to clear up issues raised in the cross-examination.
If your witness is part way through their evidence and there is a break, you should not talk to your witness about the case during the break.
The respondent's evidence
After you and your witnesses have given their evidence, the respondent and the respondent's witnesses may give their evidence. After each of the respondent's witnesses have given evidence, you can cross-examine them.
When asking the respondent's witnesses questions, you should:
- use direct questions that require a yes or no answer, if you can. Try to avoid asking the respondent's witnesses questions that allow them a full explanation.
- if you think the witness is lying, say something like "I put it to you that you sacked me because I had been away from work sick", or "I put it to you that you told my manager to sack me because I had asked to be paid the overtime I was entitled to in the award."
It is important that you don't interrupt witnesses when it is their turn to speak. If they are not answering your questions you can ask the Judge to direct them to do so. You can also make some notes of anything you want to comment on or clarify, and put it to them when they finish answering.
Don't speak rudely or abusively about the respondent or the witnesses. Stick to the facts and the evidence and be calm and polite.
For more information about what happens after arguing your case, see Step by step guide: Presenting your case at the hearing.
After both sides have presented their evidence, you will usually both be given a final chance to talk. This is called "final submissions."
Final submissions can cover:
- a summary of your evidence
- the problems and weaknesses of the employer's evidence
- what you say about how the law applies to your case
- what orders you are asking the Court to make.
For answers to commonly asked questions, see
Going to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia - Frequently Asked Questions.