What it means to be a witness

Many different types of people are asked to give evidence at a public hearing, some of these people can choose to participate (such as survivors of child sexual abuse) and others are legally required to attend (such as people working in the relevant institutions).

The Royal Commission does not compel survivors of child sexual abuse to give evidence at public hearings.

If you have received a request for a witness statement and/or a summons to give evidence at a public hearing, the Royal Commission will offer you information and support before, during and after the hearing.

We can give you advice and information on:

  • where the public hearing is being held
  • how the Royal Commission runs a public or private hearing
  • what your obligations are as a witness and what is expected of you
  • the public nature of hearings and the role of the media
  • any special arrangements for a hearing
  • the hearing room and protocols
  • witness entitlements and financial support.

We can also refer you to:

  • knowmore, an agency set up by the Commonwealth Government to give free independent legal advice for people engaging with the Royal Commission
  • financial and legal support services for witnesses attending a hearing, including your case study contact person at the Royal Commission
  • counselling and other support options, both on the day of the hearing and at other times.

Giving Evidence at a public hearing

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Download witness guides

About public hearings
About public hearings
Format: A5 Brochure

Information on Royal Commission public hearings, including attending, giving evidence, procedures and hearing protocol.

Applications for Leave to Appear at a public hearing

If you have received a request for a witness statement and/or a summons to give evidence at a public hearing you may need to complete an application for Leave to Appear.

Witnesses at a public hearing would normally only apply for leave to appear if they wish to participate beyond giving evidence - for example, to cross examine other witnesses.


Practice Guideline 1 also contains helpful information on Applications for Leave to Appear.

If the Leave to Appear is granted to an individual or institution, this means they may participate at the hearing as a witness, or as a lawyer assisting a witness or an interested body.

Legal advice

You do not need to have a lawyer to give a witness statement or to be a witness in a hearing. If you do require legal advice or representation, you can choose whoever you want as your lawyer.

You can also get free legal advice and information from knowmore. Contact them on 1800 605 762 or visit www.knowmore.org.au

Legal costs

The Attorney-General's Department offers legal financial help to people who have been requested by the Royal Commission to provide a witness statement, as well as people who have been summonsed to appear as a witness at the Royal Commission. The department has advice on witness entitlements and how to apply for them.

For more information phone 1800 117 995 or email RCfinass@ag.gov.au

Witness costs

If you attend a Royal Commission hearing as a witness, you may apply for help with your related costs.

If you are called as a witness, and live more than 50 kilometers from where a public hearing is being held, financial assistance is available to help with your travel expenses.

The Royal Commission can also pay for a support person of your choice to come with you to the hearing. Travel expenses could include:

  • airfares
  • accommodations
  • meal allowance
  • taxi or train or bus fares.

Witnesses who live within 50 kilometers of where a public hearing is being held are not entitled to financial assistance for travel expenses.

All witnesses, no matter where they live who appear before the Royal Commission are entitled to a witness appearance fee of $123.90 per day.

Expert witnesses are entitled to a witness appearance fee of $1, 174.90 per day in recognition of their specialist skills and knowledge.

Please note witness appearance fees are set by the Australian Government and are subject to change.

The Royal Commission may also be able to assist with reimbursement for loss of wages, salary or fees. You can talk to the Royal Commission about this.

Counselling and support

The Royal Commission has a team of staff who can support you before, during or after the hearing. Please let us know if you would like to speak to a member of the support team. It is a confidential and free service.

The team can also refer you to other support services.