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Who can I contact to discuss reporting on cases and issues relating to the Federal Circuit Court?

Journalists who have questions relating to the Court are encouraged to contact the Court’s Media and Public Affairs Manager regarding their enquiry.

Denise Healy, National Media and Public Affairs Manager
Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia

Telephone: (03) 8600 4357 or 0409 743 695

Can journalists attend a court hearing, even if it relates to family law?

Yes, all family law proceedings are held in open court except in very limited circumstances. As a matter of courtesy, the media should identify themselves to the court officer on duty.

What is the Court’s protocol on the use of electronic devices in the courtroom?

On Court premises:

Audio and video recording and transmissions and the use of cameras, mobile phones, tablets or other equipment to take photographs is prohibited on Court premises without express approval.

During a hearing:

  • The use of mobile phones or other devices such as tablets or laptops must not cause a disturbance.
  • Recording of the hearing, including for the purpose of making any transcript, is strictly prohibited.
  • Any direction made by the Court concerning the use of any communication or recording device must be complied with.

Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the deletion of any unauthorised photographs or recordings and confiscation of the device whilst on Court premises.

For more information please see Rule 1.19 of The Family Law Rules 2014, (applied by Schedule 3 Part 1 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 and Section 17 of the Court Security Act 2013 (Cth)).

Note: in family law proceedings Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that it is an offence to publish any material which would identify a party in family law proceedings.

What is correct court etiquette for the media?

Normal court etiquette applies. When entering or leaving a courtroom, bow to the judicial officer on the bench. If the judicial officer arrives after you or leaves first, stand as he or she enters or leaves the room.

How should the names and titles of judges be reported?

When publishing the title and name of a judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in the media, the appropriate reference should be as follows:

Example for the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia:

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge William Alstergren

And when reported further in the article:

Chief Judge Alstergren said….

Example for a judge of the Federal Circuit Court, other than the Chief Judge

Federal Circuit Court judge John Smith

And when reported further in the article:

Judge Smith said….

Can journalists obtain copies of judgments?

Federal Circuit Court judgments are published on legal databases, such as Austlii. You can search judgments on the Austlii website from the judgments section.

Family law judgments that are published online have been anonymised by the Court to prevent the identification of the parties and witnesses. Even if a journalist has received a judgment that has not been anonymised, the identification of the parties and witnesses cannot be published. See s121 of the Family Law Act.

Can journalists interview judges?

Judges cannot make public comment on their cases, either current or concluded. From time to time however, the Chief Judge may participate in media interviews regarding the general work of the Court and other related issues. Journalists should contact the Court’s Media and Public Affairs Manager with interview requests.

What are publication orders?

Publication orders lift publishing restrictions in family law cases and allow media outlets to publicise certain details of a case.

Publication orders are made by a judicial officer and are generally only made at the request of a parent who is seeking public assistance to locate their child.

Publication orders vary from case to case, but usually set out:

  • what the media can report regarding a missing child and the person they are presumed to be with,
  • photographs and interviews are permitted to be published, and
  • what can be reported when the child is found.

Can the media have copies of publication orders?

Yes, unless the publication order states otherwise.

What can the media report about missing children?

The media can report information and publish photos as set out in the publication order and/or in any official court media release. For more information about a specific case or general information about what can be reported, contact the Court’s media and public affairs manager.

Please note that court staff, including the Media and Public Affairs Manager, cannot provide legal advice. They can only provide guidance in relation to publication orders.

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