A directions hearing is a short court appearance where orders are made about what should happen next in a case.
When you file an application with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia you will be told a date that you have to come to court. This first court date is sometimes called a first directions hearing.
If your case has been in court at least once before, any directions hearings that follow will be called 'further directions hearings'.
At the first court date or further directions hearing, the Judge may decide your case or make orders about how your case should be run.
What happens at a directions hearings?
At the first court date or at a further directions hearing the court may:
If you need an interpreter at court you should contact the Court registry at least one week before your court date. The Court may be able to provide an interpreter for you for free.
If you need any other special arrangements, you should contact the registry at least one week before your court date.
For more information, see Interpreter policy and guidelines and Court support on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.
Decide the case
In some cases, the Judge may want to decide the case on the first court date, or the next court date after you have been to mediation. If both you and your employer are at court, and your employer filed a response to your claim, the Judge may decide that sufficient information has been provided to make a decision.
If the Judge wants to decide the case on the first court date, you may be asked to either give evidence from the witness box or to make submissions about your case. If you are asked to give evidence from the witness box you may be asked to swear or affirm that the evidence is true.
You should bring to court all the evidence you have to support your case. For example, you should bring:
emails, text messages or letters between you and your employer
a copy of your award, enterprise agreement or contract of employment
a copy of your application, your claim and your employer's response.
You should be as prepared as possible for your case to be decided at the first court date or a further directions hearing.
For more information about how to prepare for a hearing and what to do at a hearing, see:
Directions are orders made by the Court about what should happen next in a case. If the Judge dealing with your case believes that your case is not ready to be decided on the first court date, they may make further orders about:
the case if an agreement was reached at mediation
the parties filing and serving 'pleadings' (more details about their case) in the form of a Statement of claim (or 'points of claim') and a Defence
the parties filing and serving affidavit or statement evidence on each other
whether the case can be decided without a hearing
the date of any further directions hearings
the date of a hearing
whether any witnesses are required to attend for cross-examination.
A further directions hearing usually happens after your case has been to mediation. It might also happen if one party hasn't followed orders made by the Court at a previous directions hearing.
At the first court date or a further directions hearing, the Judge may ask if you and the employer want to have your case 'heard on the papers'. This means that the Judge can decide your case based on all the evidence and other documents that are filed, without the need for a hearing.
You should get legal advice about whether your case could, or should, be heard without a hearing, before you go to court.
What should I do to prepare?
You should be prepared for your case to be heard on the first court date.
You might also want to contact the employer (or their representative if they have one) and talk about what the next step should be if the case isn't decided on the first court date. If you both agree about 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.
The Judge may want you and your employer to attend mediation before the case goes any further. 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.
The mediation could be on the same day as your first court date or could be a later date. The court may also order that you attend mediation even if you already attended mediation arranged by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
For more information about mediation, see
You may already have some of the evidence you need to support your case, such as pay slips and correspondence between you and your employer, but there may be other evidence you need but don't have.
If you don't have all the documents you need to support your case and the Judge does not decide the case on the first court date, you may be able to get an order from the court telling the person who has the documents to produce (give) them to the court. This is a called a 'subpoena'. The documents you subpoena can be used as evidence to support your case.
For more information, see
Where do I go?
The first court date and any further directions hearings are held in a courtroom at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. When you file the application, the date, time and place of the first court date will be written by the Court on your application and the copies that you file. The details of court dates are also published on the Daily court lists page on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website, usually the day before.
What should I bring?
You should bring a notepad and a few pens so you can write down the orders made by the court. You should also take with you, all the court documents you have filed or been given in the case including the original and 2 copies of each document, such as:
your application and claim
the Affidavit of Service
your employer's Response
any reports from the Fair Work Ombudsman (if you have already made a complaint)
any draft short minutes of order you have agreed on with your employer
any short minutes of order from previous court appearances or directions hearings for your case.
If no one turns up to represent your employer, the Judge might want you to prove the application was served. To do this, you may need to provide the original Affidavit of Service, if you have not already filed it prior to your directions hearing. 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 your case is meant 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.
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'.