Meaning of ‘court’

Lanigan v Circus Oz [2022] VSC 35

A performer took VCAT harassment proceedings against the circus.  One issue was whether VCAT was a ‘court’ for limitation of action purposes11.  VCAT had been held to be a ‘court’ for other purposes12.

McDonald J (at [35]) held it was not a ‘court’ here.  The statutory framework was different and other factors pointed to a negative finding13.  As the judge pointed out (at [33]), whether a tribunal is a ‘court’ depends on the context of the statute involved.  In our system of interpretation, the same word may well mean different things in different statutes.  iTip – the answer in each case will depend on an evidence-based analysis of context and purpose.

This principle is from Episode 82 of interpretation NOW!


11 s 3(1) of the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (VIC). 

12 Subway Systems [2014] VSCA 142 (at [73-75]) Kyrou AJA dissenting.

13 cf Sudi [2011] VSCA 266 (at [29]), ADT [2008] FCAFC 104 (at [226-228]).