Modern tribunals play an important part in society. Not that tribunals are a new idea. Their origins lie in the Roman tribune whose task was to stand between plebeian citizens and patrician magistrates.
Tribunals can be Government sponsored or private. They can be administrative or civil. Administrative tribunals are concerned with executive actions of government. Civil tribunals are concerned with resolving private disputes.
In 1975 the Australian Government established the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as a general administrative tribunal to review a broad range of government decisions. These include social security, veterans' entitlements, Commonwealth employees' compensation, taxation, migration, freedom of information, corporations, insurance, fisheries and many other areas. Other administrative tribunals established by the Commonwealth include the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the Veterans' Review Board and the Migration and Refugee Review Tribunals. The Commonwealth has also established other tribunals such as the National Native Title Tribunal and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.
There are a range of tribunals in the states which also review administrative decisions of governments. The largest is the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. That tribunal also has jurisdiction to determine a range of private disputes. The Administrative Decisions Tribunal in New South Wales also has a limited jurisdiction in relation to private disputes. Tribunals such as the New South Wales Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal are primarily concerned with resolving private disputes such as building and tenancy disputes.
It is apparent that Commonwealth tribunals are largely strict administrative tribunals while state tribunals are both administrative and civil.