Community services

NCAT can review certain government or agency decisions about children services, authorised carers, adoption services and community welfare.

Community services cases are managed through NCAT's Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division.

NCAT reviews community services decisions made by a government or non-government agency under section 28 of the Community Services (Complaints, Reviews and Monitoring Act 1993.

In most cases, you will receive a letter informing you of your right to have the decision reviewed by NCAT. Not all decisions made by an agency can be reviewed.

What decisions can NCAT review?

Select from the headings below for information about the types of community services decisions NCAT can review.

Children education and care services

NCAT reviews decisions made under the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law (NSW). This includes:

  • ​suspending or cancelling a provider approval
  • service approval of child education care services
  • suspending or cancelling a supervisor certificate​.
Authorised carers

NCAT reviews decisions made under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. This includes:

  • ​granting or removing an 'authorised carer' (foster parent) for the day-to-day care and control of a child or young person
  • authorising or not authorising a person to be an 'authorised carer'
  • cancelling, suspending or imposing conditions on a person's authorisation.
Adoption services

NCAT reviews certain decisions made under the Adoption Act 2000​ (or Adoption Information Act 1990). This includes:

  • ​failure or refusal to provide adoption information or assistance​
  • the suitability of an applicant to adopt
  • accreditation of adoption service providers.
Disability services

NCAT reviews decisions under the Disability Inclusion Act 2014 about financial assistance to persons with disability.

How to apply

Download and complete an Administrative review application form (PDF, 166.9 KB) and lodge your application at any NCAT Registry Office. 


There is no fee for lodging an application to NCAT about community services decisions.

Orders NCAT can make

You will receive a letter telling you of the decision that NCAT has made.  NCAT can make various orders including:

  • affirming the agency's decision (stating that the original decision is correct)
  • reversing the decision completely or in part
  • substituting a new decision for the original decision
  • ordering the agency to reconsider the decision.

NCAT does not generally order one party to pay the costs of another party's lawyer. Learn more about award of costs at NCAT.

Steps in a review of a community services decision

Step by step guide to an administrative review of a community services decision

Step 1: Check NCAT can review the decision

The agency which made the decision will tell you if your decision can be reviewed. If you are unsure whether NCAT can review a decision, you may need to check the relevant Act.

Generally, you usually have to ask the agency to review the decision before coming to NCAT. This is called an “internal review”. You must request an internal review within 28 days of being told of the decision.

In some cases, you can apply to NCAT for a review of a decision about a childcare provider or authorised carer (foster parent) without applying for an internal review first. This is the case when:

  • a decision is exempt from an internal review; or
  • an urgent review of the decision is needed to protect your interests

Check with the relevant government department or agency if your decision is exempt from an internal review.

Step 2: Consider legal representation

You can either present your own case to NCAT or have a lawyer or non-lawyer agent represent you. You will usually need to attend the hearing to give instructions to your lawyer or agent.

  • Your lawyer or agent needs to complete a Notice of Representation and submit to NCAT in person or by post
  • Send a copy of the Notice of Representation to the agency.

A non-lawyer agent needs to ask for permission to represent you from the Tribunal Member the next time the case is listed. You should attend with the agent in case NCAT does not allow the agent to appear for you. A lawyer does not need to ask for permission from the Member.

Step 3: Apply to NCAT

You will need to provide the following information on your application:

  • Your name, address and telephone number
  • The name of the government or non-government agency that made the decision you want reviewed
  • The date the decision and the internal review decision, if any, were made
  • A copy of the original decision
  • A copy of the internal review decision, (if any, this is the letter sent to you by the agency)
  • A brief outline of why you think the decision is wrong.

Do you need a stay of the decision?
While you wait for NCAT to review the original decision, the decision still applies and the agency can implement it.  You can complete the Application for stay or interim order and lodge with your Application for review form.

Step 4: Receive a letter from NCAT and documents from the agency

You will receive a letter from NCAT telling you that your application has been received. You will be given a date to come to NCAT for a directions hearing.

You will also receive documents from the government or non-government agency that it considers are relevant to the decision.

Step 5: Attend the directions hearing

At the 'directions hearing', an NCAT Member talks to you and the government agency about how the application will be resolved. Normally directions are made for you to provide evidence and submissions that you wish to rely on at a hearing and for the other parties to provide evidence and submissions in response.

Step 6: Prepare for the hearing

Look through the documents that the agency has provided to you and decide what further information NCAT will need when hearing your case.

At the directions hearing:

  • You may have been asked to file and serve a statement or affidavit from yourself or other witnesses.
  • You must give a copy of any statements or other documents that you want to rely on to NCAT and to the other party by the deadline given to you at the directions hearing.
Step 7: Take part in the hearing

NCAT's hearings are less formal than court hearings. In most cases, the application will be heard by a single Tribunal Member.

When the Tribunal is reviewing administrative decisions, the respondent (the agency) will usually give its evidence first. After the agency has given its evidence, the applicant will present their evidence.

In these cases the Tribunal’s role is to decide whether the agency made the correct decision. 

In some cases, the Tribunal Member will be able to give you their decision at the end of the hearing. The Member will usually need time to consider the case and will give their decision at a later date. You will usually receive the decision in less than 3 months. Complex matters may take longer.

Step 8: Receive NCAT's decision

You will receive a letter telling you of the decision that NCAT has made.

The decision may also be available on the NSW Caselaw website​. You will be notified by phone before the reasons are published.

Some legislation prohibits the publication or broadcasting of the name of (or any other information that may identify) the applicant, witnesses and ch​ildren the subject of the application. For more information read our Guideline - Confidentiality, privacy and publication.

Right of appeal
If you are not satisfied with NCAT's decision may have the right of appeal to the Appeal Panel, if you can establish that the Tribunal went wrong either in the procedure it followed, or the way it applied the law to the facts of your case.

In some instances there is also a right of appeal to the NSW Supreme Court. If you are not sure of your appeal rights you should seek legal advice.​

Last updated:

21 Feb 2024

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