The Disciplinary Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body that considers teacher misconduct.
What is the Disciplinary Tribunal?
The Tribunal is a disciplinary decision-making body, independent to the Teaching Council. When a matter of teacher conduct is referred to the Tribunal by the Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC), a formal process culminating in a hearing takes place.
These proceedings, including the hearings, are formal and conducted like a court. Three members of the Tribunal form a panel that will hear the case. One member is the Chairperson, who is an experienced lawyer, the other two members are experienced, registered teachers.
The (CAC) is the prosecuting body, represented by a lawyer.
The teacher can represent themselves or may have a lawyer or representative to present their case.
Hearings are held in public although the Tribunal can be asked to order that any particular names or details be suppressed if there are good reasons to do so.
Disciplinary Tribunal process begins
The Disciplinary Tribunal process starts when the CAC files either a notice of charge or a referral of conviction(s) to the Tribunal. The document sets out what the CAC says the teacher’s conduct is and why it should be dealt with by the Tribunal exercising its disciplinary powers.
The teacher involved, the initiator of the complaint or mandatory report and the teacher’s current employer will all also receive a notice of charge/referral.
Once filing has occurred, a ‘pre-hearing conference’ is organised by the Tribunal Coordinator. The pre-hearing conference will be a telephone conversation with the Tribunal Chairperson, the CAC’s lawyer, the teacher involved (or their representative) and the Tribunal Coordinator.
Before the conference, the Tribunal Coordinator will send out a ‘checklist’ of things that will be discussed at the conference. One of the goals of the conference is to agree a timetable for how the steps in the Tribunal process, including filing submissions (written arguments) and evidence from both parties and a date for the hearing.
The Chairperson may hear from the teacher or their lawyer on whether they want ‘interim’ name suppression (which will suppress the teacher’s name until the hearing) and why. A teacher may also indicate if they would like permanent name suppression – if so, the steps for making an application and providing evidence in support of that application will also be timetabled.
A formal Notice of Hearing will be sent to the parties, notifying them of the Tribunal panel members who will hear the case. Any objections to panel members can be made within five days of receiving the letter.
What happens at a hearing?
On the papers
If both parties (the teacher and CAC) agree on the facts of the case and don’t wish to speak to their case, the Tribunal can make a decision ”on the papers”. This means the parties are not required to appear before the Tribunal in person, rather the Tribunal members will consider the submissions and evidence and come to a decision.
Hearings taking place in person are open to the general public and the media, unless an order has been made that the hearing will be private.
All evidence and submissions must be provided to the Tribunal in advance – as agreed during the pre-conference hearing.
The CAC (represented by their lawyer) will begin by making an opening statement. Witnesses for the CAC will then be asked to give evidence.
A witness will usually be asked to read their written statement (filed earlier) and may be cross-examined by the teacher’s representative or the teacher, and Tribunal members. The CAC is also able to ask questions arising from the cross-examination.
After the CAC has presented its case, the teacher or the teacher’s representative makes an opening statement, and the teacher may present their evidence.
The CAC can cross-examine the teacher and the Tribunal may ask questions. Any witnesses for the teacher will then be asked to give evidence and answer questions.
Applications for permanent name suppression can be made before (preferable) or during the hearing. Such applications need to have good reasons and be supported by evidence.
Both parties may then make closing statements.
Decision and publication
The Tribunal will consider the case and write their decision. The decision will be sent to the parties and their representatives, the teacher’s current employer and the initiator of the complaint or mandatory report.
The Tribunal determines what conduct, on the balance of probabilities, took place and whether that conduct warrants the exercise of its disciplinary powers. Following a hearing, the Tribunal can decide on one or more of the following actions:
- No further action
- Censure the teacher
- Place conditions on practising certificate (or authority) – for example, supervision or professional development
- Suspend the teacher’s practising certificate (or authority) for a time or until they’ve met some speciﬁc conditions
- Annotate the online Teachers’ Register by recording a brief note against the teacher’s registration or authority to teach—this is usually done as an additional step to publicly note the censure, conditions or other disciplinary measures imposed
- Direct the Teaching Council to put speciﬁc conditions on any future practising certiﬁcate the teacher is given
- Competence review: if the Tribunal thinks there are issues with the teacher’s competence it can refer the case for a competency review
- Impairment: if the Tribunal thinks a health or other issue could be affecting the teacher’s work, if can refer the teacher to an impairment process
- Order that the teacher’s registration or authorisation be cancelled.
The Teaching Council is responsible for acting on any orders and monitoring any conditions imposed by the Disciplinary Tribunal.
As long as the teacher hasn’t been referred to the Tribunal for a conviction, the Tribunal may also:
- Impose a fine on the teacher of up to $3000
- Require any party to the hearing to pay costs to another party
- Require any party to pay a sum to the Council to cover the costs of conducting the hearing.
Tribunal decisions can be appealed to the District Court within 28 days of received the decision.
After 28 days Tribunal decisions are published on this website and may result in articles in the media.
Decisions will be published with redactions where the Tribunal has made suppression or ‘non-publication’ orders for names or details. Suppression orders may apply to cover names and identifying details of witnesses, students as well as schools and centres.