How to: Apply to the AAT for an external review

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This fact sheet was last reviewed on 10/08/2023. Please note that the law and practices relating to NDIS appeals change frequently. The fact sheet provides general information and suggestions only. The fact sheet does not provide legal advice, and might not apply to your circumstances. If you need legal advice, you can find an advocate or a lawyer to help you using the links below at ‘Getting your own advice’.


If you disagree with the outcome of an NDIS internal review decision, you can ask for an external review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Tip: You can only apply to the AAT after you receive an internal review decision from the NDIA. For information about what an internal review decision is, please see our fact sheet ‘How to: request a review of an NDIS decision I don’t agree with’.

What is the AAT?

The AAT is an independent tribunal that reviews decisions by Australian federal government agencies. For example, the AAT can review decisions made by the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink and the NDIA. 

The AAT is less formal than a court because it is meant to be accessible for people who do not have a lawyer.

When the AAT reviews your NDIS case, its job is to look at:

  • All of the information that was in front of the NDIA when they made their decision 
  • Any new information that you or the NDIA provide 

The AAT will then decide what it thinks the “correct and preferable” decision is.  Before the AAT makes a decision on your case, it might ask you to do one of more of these things:

  • Attend a case conference, which is an informal meeting with the AAT and NDIA to talk about your case
  • Participate in a conciliation, which is a meetings with the AAT and NDIA to consider options for an agreement
  • Provide additional documents
  • Attend a hearing

These things are to see whether you and the NDIA can agree on how to resolve the case, or to help the AAT make the best possible decision on your review

For more information about these processes, you can look at our other fact sheets.

Does it cost any money to apply to the AAT?

No. Making an application to the AAT is free, but you might choose to spend money to get evidence or reports to support your case, or to pay a lawyer to represent you.

When do I request an external review from the AAT?

Once you have received a letter from the NDIA with an internal review decision, there is a time limit of 28 days to apply to the AAT for an external review, so you need to act quickly.

If you apply for a review after 28 days have passed, the AAT might not agree to review your case. Then the outcome of the NDIA’s internal review will stay in place.

For more information about what you can do if you have missed the 28-day time limit, refer to our fact sheet ‘How to: Ask for more time to file at the AAT’.

Do I need a lawyer to help me apply to the AAT?

No. The AAT is set up so that people can apply on their own, even if they don’t have a lawyer or a disability advocate (a person who helps people with disability deal with governments and legal processes).

Tip: Even though you don’t need a lawyer for the AAT, people often find it is very helpful to have legal advice or support. In Housing Hub’s Experience, people have a much better chance of winning their case – and find the AAT process less stressful – when they have a lawyer or a disability advocate helping them. 

If you would like legal advice or help from a disability advocate, you can ask for help from one of the organisations listed below at ‘Where can I get advice if I need help understanding my options?’. You can contact an organisation to ask for help before or after you apply to the AAT. The sooner you contact them, the more likely they will be able to help you.

How do I lodge my AAT application?

You can lodge your AAT application by:

  • filling out and sending a paper application form,
  • sending a letter, or
  • using the online application form on the AAT website.

You can get more information about each of these ways to lodge from the AAT’s website. We suggest using the online application form.

The online application form asks you questions, including about the type of decision that was made about your NDIS plan, your contact details, and any accessibility needs that you have. 

You can ask somebody (like a support coordinator, or a trusted friend or family member) to help you fill out the form. 

It is very important that you answer the question asking for your “Reasons for the application” and give some reasons why you think the NDIS decision was wrong. 

Tip: At this stage of the process, these reasons do not need to be detailed. You will have a chance later in the process to explain to the AAT, and to the NDIA’s representatives, why you think the NDIA’s decision was wrong and what you think the AAT should decide in your favour instead.

If you’re not sure how to explain what you think was wrong about the NDIS decision, you could say something like:

“I think the NDIS decision was incorrect, and did not consider my circumstances correctly.”

What should I include with my AAT application?

After you make your application, the NDIA will give the AAT information called ‘T-documents’. Either the NDIA or the AAT will also send you a copy of these T-documents.

‘T-documents’ are all of the documents the NDIA has that are relevant to your case. 

The T-documents should include:

  • all of the correspondence between you and the NDIA
  • the NDIA’s notes about you
  • all of your reports and letters from your treating medical professionals 
  • any forms you have filled out for the NDIS 

This means that you don’t have to provide these documents to the AAT yourself.

For more information about T-documents, and what you should do when you receive these, please see our fact sheet ‘How To: Understand the T-documents the NDIS files in my AAT case’.

The AAT application form asks if you want to provide any additional documents with your application. You do not have to provide any extra documents at this stage. You will have a chance to provide extra information and evidence later in the AAT process.

What happens next?

Putting in your AAT application starts the review process and the AAT will have to consider your case.

For information about how this will work, you can look at our fact sheets:

  • How To: Understand the T-documents the NDIA files in my AAT case
  • What is a Statement of Issues?
  • How To: Prepare for an AAT case conference
  • How To: Gather evidence for an AAT review about SDA


Where can I get advice if I need help understanding my options?

You may be able to get advice about your options for requesting a review and help with other questions about the NDIS from a legal service. It will depend on the type of problem you have, and where you are located.

If you need help from a lawyer, National Legal Aid has the contact details for your local Legal Aid office.

If you need help from an advocate, the AskIzzy Disability Advocacy Finder is an online tool to help you find to search for advocacy providers using your suburb or postcode.

You can also look at our other fact sheets about this, including:


Learn more

Housing Hub Training has a recorded webinar about the NDIS appeal process and the role of the AAT. Visit the website here to enrol and learn more.

People with disability and their families can email UpSkill at training@housinghub.org.au for free access to this webinar.

Who made this factsheet?

The Housing Hub and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) made this together. Since 2021, PIAC and the Housing Hub have worked together to provide advice and assistance to participants seeking SDA funding. This factsheet is part of a series about challenging NDIS decisions.

Was this article helpful?

How to: Apply to the AAT for an external review

Home


This fact sheet was last reviewed on 10/08/2023. Please note that the law and practices relating to NDIS appeals change frequently. The fact sheet provides general information and suggestions only. The fact sheet does not provide legal advice, and might not apply to your circumstances. If you need legal advice, you can find an advocate or a lawyer to help you using the links below at ‘Getting your own advice’.


If you disagree with the outcome of an NDIS internal review decision, you can ask for an external review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

Tip: You can only apply to the AAT after you receive an internal review decision from the NDIA. For information about what an internal review decision is, please see our fact sheet ‘How to: request a review of an NDIS decision I don’t agree with’.

What is the AAT?

The AAT is an independent tribunal that reviews decisions by Australian federal government agencies. For example, the AAT can review decisions made by the Australian Tax Office, Centrelink and the NDIA. 

The AAT is less formal than a court because it is meant to be accessible for people who do not have a lawyer.

When the AAT reviews your NDIS case, its job is to look at:

  • All of the information that was in front of the NDIA when they made their decision 
  • Any new information that you or the NDIA provide 

The AAT will then decide what it thinks the “correct and preferable” decision is.  Before the AAT makes a decision on your case, it might ask you to do one of more of these things:

  • Attend a case conference, which is an informal meeting with the AAT and NDIA to talk about your case
  • Participate in a conciliation, which is a meetings with the AAT and NDIA to consider options for an agreement
  • Provide additional documents
  • Attend a hearing

These things are to see whether you and the NDIA can agree on how to resolve the case, or to help the AAT make the best possible decision on your review

For more information about these processes, you can look at our other fact sheets.

Does it cost any money to apply to the AAT?

No. Making an application to the AAT is free, but you might choose to spend money to get evidence or reports to support your case, or to pay a lawyer to represent you.

When do I request an external review from the AAT?

Once you have received a letter from the NDIA with an internal review decision, there is a time limit of 28 days to apply to the AAT for an external review, so you need to act quickly.

If you apply for a review after 28 days have passed, the AAT might not agree to review your case. Then the outcome of the NDIA’s internal review will stay in place.

For more information about what you can do if you have missed the 28-day time limit, refer to our fact sheet ‘How to: Ask for more time to file at the AAT’.

Do I need a lawyer to help me apply to the AAT?

No. The AAT is set up so that people can apply on their own, even if they don’t have a lawyer or a disability advocate (a person who helps people with disability deal with governments and legal processes).

Tip: Even though you don’t need a lawyer for the AAT, people often find it is very helpful to have legal advice or support. In Housing Hub’s Experience, people have a much better chance of winning their case – and find the AAT process less stressful – when they have a lawyer or a disability advocate helping them. 

If you would like legal advice or help from a disability advocate, you can ask for help from one of the organisations listed below at ‘Where can I get advice if I need help understanding my options?’. You can contact an organisation to ask for help before or after you apply to the AAT. The sooner you contact them, the more likely they will be able to help you.

How do I lodge my AAT application?

You can lodge your AAT application by:

  • filling out and sending a paper application form,
  • sending a letter, or
  • using the online application form on the AAT website.

You can get more information about each of these ways to lodge from the AAT’s website. We suggest using the online application form.

The online application form asks you questions, including about the type of decision that was made about your NDIS plan, your contact details, and any accessibility needs that you have. 

You can ask somebody (like a support coordinator, or a trusted friend or family member) to help you fill out the form. 

It is very important that you answer the question asking for your “Reasons for the application” and give some reasons why you think the NDIS decision was wrong. 

Tip: At this stage of the process, these reasons do not need to be detailed. You will have a chance later in the process to explain to the AAT, and to the NDIA’s representatives, why you think the NDIA’s decision was wrong and what you think the AAT should decide in your favour instead.

If you’re not sure how to explain what you think was wrong about the NDIS decision, you could say something like:

“I think the NDIS decision was incorrect, and did not consider my circumstances correctly.”

What should I include with my AAT application?

After you make your application, the NDIA will give the AAT information called ‘T-documents’. Either the NDIA or the AAT will also send you a copy of these T-documents.

‘T-documents’ are all of the documents the NDIA has that are relevant to your case. 

The T-documents should include:

  • all of the correspondence between you and the NDIA
  • the NDIA’s notes about you
  • all of your reports and letters from your treating medical professionals 
  • any forms you have filled out for the NDIS 

This means that you don’t have to provide these documents to the AAT yourself.

For more information about T-documents, and what you should do when you receive these, please see our fact sheet ‘How To: Understand the T-documents the NDIS files in my AAT case’.

The AAT application form asks if you want to provide any additional documents with your application. You do not have to provide any extra documents at this stage. You will have a chance to provide extra information and evidence later in the AAT process.

What happens next?

Putting in your AAT application starts the review process and the AAT will have to consider your case.

For information about how this will work, you can look at our fact sheets:

  • How To: Understand the T-documents the NDIA files in my AAT case
  • What is a Statement of Issues?
  • How To: Prepare for an AAT case conference
  • How To: Gather evidence for an AAT review about SDA


Where can I get advice if I need help understanding my options?

You may be able to get advice about your options for requesting a review and help with other questions about the NDIS from a legal service. It will depend on the type of problem you have, and where you are located.

If you need help from a lawyer, National Legal Aid has the contact details for your local Legal Aid office.

If you need help from an advocate, the AskIzzy Disability Advocacy Finder is an online tool to help you find to search for advocacy providers using your suburb or postcode.

You can also look at our other fact sheets about this, including:


Learn more

Housing Hub Training has a recorded webinar about the NDIS appeal process and the role of the AAT. Visit the website here to enrol and learn more.

People with disability and their families can email UpSkill at training@housinghub.org.au for free access to this webinar.

Who made this factsheet?

The Housing Hub and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) made this together. Since 2021, PIAC and the Housing Hub have worked together to provide advice and assistance to participants seeking SDA funding. This factsheet is part of a series about challenging NDIS decisions.

Was this article helpful?