Corporate governance

This section reports on aspects of the Federal Magistrates Court's corporate governance arrangements.

The legal framework for the Court's corporate governance practices is set out in the Federal Magistrates Act 1999, the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Public Service Act 1999.

Under the Federal Magistrates Act 1999, the Chief Federal Magistrate is responsible for ensuring the orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the Federal Magistrates Court and management of the administrative affairs of the Court. In the latter role, the Chief Federal Magistrate is assisted by the Chief Executive Officer.

The Chief Executive Officer has the responsibilities and powers of an agency head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 and the responsibilities of a chief executive of an agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. The Chief Executive Officer's agency head powers under the Public Service Act apply to the Australian Public Service employees of the Court. The Financial Management and Accountability Act imposes obligations on the Chief Executive Officer to manage the affairs of the Court in a way which promotes the efficient, effective and ethical use of Commonwealth resources.

Senior executives

At 30 June 2012, the Court's principal executive group comprised:

RICHARD FOSTER PSM FAIM, ACTING CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Mr Foster PSM FAIM was appointed Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Magistrates Court on 25 November 2008. The Chief Executive Officer has the responsibilities and powers of an agency head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 and the responsibilities of a chief executive of an agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

STEVEN AGNEW, ACTING DEPUTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer is responsible for the delivery of court services and administrative functions. This includes the network of regional offices, dispute resolution services, strategic policy and communications.

GRAHAME HARRIOTT, ACTING CHIEF FINANCE OFFICER

The Acting Chief Financial Officer provides strategic leadership and management of the Court's human resources, property and contracts, finance, management accounting and procurement and risk management.

ADELE BYRNE PSM, PRINCIPAL REGISTRAR

The Court's Principal Registrar supports the judicial functioning of the Court through the provision of high-level legal and procedural advice within the Court.

Committees

The Court's corporate governance framework includes a range of committees and cross-agency mechanisms to support the effective management of the Court. This is in accordance with section 93 of the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 which provides for the Court to form advisory committees on the following aspects of the Court's business:

  • the exercise of powers under the Federal Magistrates Act 1999
  • the making of the Rules of Court, and
  • management of the administrative affairs of the Court.

Policy Advisory Committee

The Policy Advisory Committee provides advice to the Chief Federal Magistrate in relation to the Court's overall strategies and policies for the delivery of court services. Advice is also provided to the Chief Federal Magistrate and the Chief Executive Officer regarding the support and assistance required by federal magistrates to best exercise the judicial powers of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Committee met four times in 2010–11, considering administrative and financial matters. The Committee comprises:

  • Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe
  • Federal Magistrate Baumann
  • Federal Magistrate Donald
  • Federal Magistrate Emmett
  • Federal Magistrate Riethmuller
  • Federal Magistrate Burchardt
  • Federal Magistrate Cassidy
  • Federal Magistrate Kelly
  • Acting Chief Executive Officer (Richard Foster)
  • Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Steve Agnew)
  • Secretariat (Stewart Fenwick)

Working groups of federal magistrates are also established as required to provide recommendations to the Chief Federal Magistrate about specific areas of policy and practice. During the past year a working group examined the Court's listing practices and the Chief Federal Magistrate established a working group to consider access to the court by Indigenous Australians. Judicial education was also the subject of extensive discussion with stakeholders at the national level as part of a concerted effort to expand the availability of judicial education opportunities for members of the Court.

Case Management Federal Magistrates Committee

In each court region, the Chief Federal Magistrate delegates a senior federal magistrate the responsibility of assisting him and the National Coordinator of Case Management (NCoCM) in the case management for that region. The role of the Case Management Federal Magistrate (CMFM) adds to the communication throughout the Court on all aspects of workload, timeliness and court practice. CMFMs are also a local contact point for regional stakeholders. The CMFMs meet quarterly with the Chief Federal Magistrate, the NCoCM, Principal Registrar and Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer to share information about workload trends and issues in their regions and to enhance the adoption of consistent case management practices at registry, regional and national levels.

Legal Committee

The Legal Committee considers possible rule amendments and wider legal issues about the jurisdiction of the Court. The Committee refers its recommendations to the Chief Federal Magistrate for the consideration of the Court as a whole. Legislation requires that the Rules of Court be approved by all or a majority of federal magistrates. Meeting monthly, the Committee:

  • considers legislative developments before introduction to ensure the Court is prepared for such developments
  • oversees the development of Rules and practice notices and makes recommendations to the Chief Federal Magistrate about the adoption of Rules and forms
  • oversees the operation of Rules and notices to ensure their efficacy and continued suitability
  • liaises with the Family Court and the Federal Court in relation to Rules, forms and fees, where appropriate, and
  • liaises with other committees, as required, to achieve their respective objectives and to provide coordinated advice to the Chief Federal Magistrate and Chief Executive Officer.

Audit and Risk Committee

The Audit and Risk Committee is established in accordance with section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and is a senior management committee of the Court.

This Committee supports the Chief Executive Officer to ensure that the Court's financial accounts are in accordance with the Finance Minister's Orders and provide a true and accurate description of the Court's financial position. The Committee comprises an external chair and two senior managers from the Court's administration.

During 2011–12, the Committee considered a range of issues including the Court's internal audit plan, strategic risk and fraud risk treatments, and oversight of the Australian National Audit Office and internal audit report recommendations.

Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group

The Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group provides operational and policy advice to the CEO on key areas that affect the administration of the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court. Chaired by the acting CEO of the Federal Magistrates Court and CEO of the Family Court, Richard Foster, the group meets every six to eight weeks and comprises:

  • Acting Deputy CEO, Federal Magistrates Court
  • Executive Director, Client Services
  • Regional Registry Managers
  • Executive Director, Corporate
  • Executive Director, Information, Communication and Technology Services
  • Principal, Child Dispute Services
  • Executive Advisor, Client Services
  • Manager, Chief Federal Magistrate's Chambers.

Support is provided by the Executive Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer.

In 2011–12, the Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group continued to provide advice to the Chief Exectuive Officer on new policy and other initiatives. These included budget savings measures, the application of family violence amendments, social media policy and protocols, the client satisfaction survey, the resource planning model, the statement of strategic intent, the ICT work plan, the child dispute services work plan, the Family Law Courts' tablet policy and changes to case management practices.

Other committees

A number of other Federal Magistrates Court committees and joint committees with other federal courts are also active in providing high level advice in specialised areas. These include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee (joint with the Family Court)
  • Family Law Courts Advisory Group (joint with the Family Court)
  • Family Violence Committee (joint with the Family Court)
  • Information Technology Judicial Reference Group
  • Harmonised Bankruptcy Rules Monitoring Committee (joint with the Federal Court and representatives of the Family Court and the profession)
  • Federal Court Costs Advisory Committee (joint with the High Court, Family Court and Federal Court)
  • National Consultative Committee (joint with the Family Court)
  • Property Management Committee (joint with the Family Court)
  • Staff Development Committee (joint with the Family Court).

Heads of Jurisdiction Consultative Committee

In late 2011, in response to a recommendation in the then draft Report of the Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General's Department by Mr Stephen Skehill (the Skehill Review), the Heads of Jurisdiction of the Federal Court (FCA), Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court agreed to establish a Consultative Committee to formalise existing unofficial arrangements and foster greater administrative cooperation between the three courts.

The Committee meets quarterly and is supported by the Chief Executive Officers of the three courts. Senior officials from the Attorney-General's Department attend the Committee's meetings as observers. Three meetings were held in the reporting year (November 2011 and February and May 2012).

In addition to including information about the Committee's activities in the courts' annual reports, the Committee provides a report to the Commonwealth Attorney-General twice in each calendar year. The first of these reports was submitted in March 2012.

Since the Committee's formation in late 2011, reviews have commenced of the courts' Information Technology systems, library services and space utilisation within Commonwealth Law Courts (CLC) buildings. Arrangements have also been made for closer cooperation in media management, a review of library holdings to avoid duplication and increased sharing of court facilities in the Brisbane and Melbourne CLC buildings.

The review of the CLC buildings has highlighted their extensive use by bodies external to the courts. This includes providing rooms and workspace to organisations assisting litigants, and court and conference rooms for public lectures, university mooting competitions and workshops for the legal profession. These activities highlight the important public function that CLC buildings serve.

National Consultative Committee

The National Consultative Committee is a key forum through which the Court consults with staff about broader issues that have a national perspective. Elected staff delegates actively present the views of staff on issues that impact staff and management at a national level and the future direction of the Court.

The Committee's area of focus includes:

  • the objectives of the Court and how these might be achieved
  • financial and human resource planning
  • information technology initiatives
  • security
  • management and review processes, including proposed changes
  • work health and safety matters
  • equal employment opportunity issues
  • accommodation and amenities, and
  • human resource management policies and practices.

Staff Development Committee

In 2011–12, the Staff Development Committee (SDC) continued to meet to discuss the developmental needs across all areas of the courts.

As a result of the staff development survey that YEAG conducted in 2009–10, the SDC provided a snapshot of how the courts have responded by using the results and comments to help inform human resources strategy. This was promoted through the courts via the Corporate Services newsletter. The survey also prompted a total overhaul of the PMDS. The new online PMDS has been widely publicised, particularly through staff newsletters. Feedback so far has been supportive of the new structure and Human Resources will monitor the success of the system over time.

After a two-year tenure the committee composition changed considerably this year with the replacement of five representatives in the areas of Information; Communication and Technology Services; Registry Management; Registrars; Family Consultants and Associates.

The Committee funded the printing of 1000 bookmarks promoting the courts' service commitments, as part of a training package on disability awareness. The committee also funded the travel component of this course which was presented by Human Resources.

The Committee is integral to the Court's approach to the continuing career development of staff, and being a key forum through which staff representatives have shared responsibility for identifying and determining development needs and opportunities.

Corporate and operational planning and associated performance reporting and review

As at 30 June 2012, the Court employed 165 employees (excluding judicial officers, the acting Chief Executive Officer and casual employees) in all states and territories across Australia.

Guidance for staff is contained in the following documents, available to all staff on the Court's intranet and website:

  • administration policies and procedural documents including guidelines, procedures and manuals from the finance, human resources and information, communication and technology areas
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • Corporate Plan and business area plans (for the National Support Office)
  • The Court Exchange, the Federal Magistrates Court's staff newsletter
  • Service Charter and Service Commitments documents
  • Statement of Strategic Intent, and
  • case management policies and manuals related to the management of family law cases.

The Court's staff and judicial officers are informed of significant changes and events through the following:

  • Chief Federal Magistrate eMessages
  • CEO eMessages—email from the Chief Executive Officer to all staff
  • Chief Executive Instructions—the official mechanism by which the Chief Executive Officer communicates and directs the Court's compliance with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997
  • Client service advices—from the Executive Director Client Services to all client service staff working in the family law registries
  • The Court Exchange—the Court's internal staff newsletter, which is issued four times per year and includes columns from the Chief Federal Magistrate, the Acting Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar. This is the primary vehicle for sharing information and celebrating the achievements and successes of court staff
  • Intranet messages—latest news available to staff on the Court's intranet
  • Connections—a social networking environment that supports staff to communicate and collaborate in the work environment, and
  • CEO visits—the CEO also regularly visits registries to talk to staff about key and emerging issues.

Risk management, fraud control and internal audit

Internal audit

The Court has, as part of its corporate governance arrangements, appropriate mechanisms to manage general business risk as well as fraud risk.

The Court's internal audit services were provided by Oakton Services Pty Ltd and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

The 2011 Internal Audit Plan was developed taking into account the risk drivers in the Risk Management Plan and after discussion with the Audit and Risk Committee and the senior management team.

Internal audits conducted during the year included:

  • asset management
  • collection of fees, and
  • project management.

The Court's Audit and Risk Committee monitored the implementation of individual audit report recommendations generated as part of the above mentioned audits, through quarterly status reports.

Risk management

The Court promotes a culture which supports the identification, analysis, assessment, treatment, monitoring and review of all strategic, operational, compliance and financial risks. This is supported by the Court's Risk Control and Compliance Framework.

The Risk Control and Compliance Framework provide policies, procedures and tools to promote effective risk management. The framework is available to all court staff on the intranet for the principal purpose of achieving better services and outcomes for judicial services, clients and staff.

The Court continued to participate in the annual Comcover benchmarking survey, which measures risk and assesses the extent of cultural change within agencies. The Court's overall result continued to improve, reflecting the Court's efforts in the area of risk management.

The Court continues to further revise the courts' Business Continuity Plans (BCPs). A desktop scenario test was undertaken in the Brisbane registry in December 2011, with recommendations resulting from the test currently being incorporated into the BCPs.

The Procurement and Risk Management section continues to provide, as a standing agenda item, regular updates on risk related activities to the courts' Audit and Risk Committee.

Financial risk

The Court manages financial risk in accordance with the Risk Control and Compliance Framework. The relevant mechanisms are:

  • risk assessments for annual business plans
  • risk assessments for identified projects
  • Chief Executive Instructions (CEIs) available to all staff on the intranet
  • monthly financial reports to the CEO's Management Advisory Group, and
  • oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Fraud prevention and control

The Court's Fraud Control Plan 2010–2012 complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011. The Audit and Risk Committee continues to receive reports on the implementation status of fraud risk treatments.

The Court has in place fraud investigation, reporting and data collection procedures that meet the needs of the Court and comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

The Court continues to monitor the Fraud Control Plan 2010–2012. This document has been made available to all court staff via the intranet. The plan was developed in consultation will key stakeholders across all areas of court activities.

No instances or allegations of fraud against the Court were reported in 2011–12.

Ethical standards

The Court is committed to supporting employees to adhere to the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. Employees receive information about the Values and the Code through all staff emails, the Court intranet and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

At times, over the course of a career, a staff member may be confronted by an ethical issue on which they would like to seek advice or guidance. In that regard the Australian Public Service Commission has established the Ethics Contact Officer Network (ECONET). ECONET assists all APS employees by providing advice on public sector ethical issues.

The Court's Human Resource Manager is the Court's representative at the ECONET forum. The Ethics Contact Officer's role is to:

  • provide a point of contact for the dissemination of ongoing Commission information and advice on ethical decision making
  • provide information on the courts' internal ethical advice systems and contacts that callers to the service might, in some circumstances, be referred to
  • provide a point of contact in the courts for advice on the resolution of systemic or sensitive internal ethical issues
  • build capability within the courts for ethical decision making
  • share information, experience and good practical advice on ethical decision making, and
  • provide feedback on current and emerging ethical issues, including any data to supplement the service reporting to Parliament.

Social media policy (making public comment and participating online)

In May 2012, the Court introduced a social media policy, which is intended to clarify the responsibilities of court employees in relation to the use of social networking sites, blog sites and forums or information sites and sites allowing instant messaging. Use of social media will be monitored for compliance with the Court's policy in the same way as other internet use.

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Reports by the Auditor-General

The Auditor-General made no report specific to the Federal Magistrates Court during 2011–12.

Reports by a Parliamentary committee

The Court was not the subject of any reports by a Parliamentary committee during 2011–12.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman received 14 complaints about the Federal Magistrates Court for the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. Of these approaches, none were investigated and 15 complaints were closed within the financial year (one approach carried from the previous financial year).

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has jurisdiction only in relation to the administrative affairs of the Court and does not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints about the judicial process.

Proceedings

During 2011–12 the Federal Magistrates Court was the subject of a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986. This complaint was closed following satisfactory resolution.

Privacy Commission

The Federal Magistrates Court was not the subject of any complaints made to the Privacy Commission during 2011–12.

Senate estimate committee hearings

Senior Executive Service staff of the Court attended Senate estimate committee hearings to answer questions about the Court's activities. In 2011–12, 25 Senate estimate questions on notice were received and answered.

Whole-of-government ICT initiatives

During 2011–12, the Court participated in a number of whole-of-government ICT initiatives. The initial driver for these was the earlier independent review of the use of ICT across the Australian Government (the Gershon review, released in 2008 and its recommendations endorsed in full by the Government in November 2008). Following is a summary of related activities for the Court in 2011–12:

  • In October 2011, the Court submitted the annual ICT benchmarking report to AGIMO (Australian Government Information Management Office). The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for 2010–11 and included quantitative measures about capacity and quantities of ICT equipment.
  • The Court also reported to AGIMO on:
    • an ICT skills survey
    • progress towards the 31 December 2012 deadline for IPv6 to be enabled on the courts' internet gateway and websites, and
    • details of the courts software applications for the Government Solutions Register.
  • The Court will implement the Government Desktop Common Operating Environment (COE) Policy in the Court's (standard operating environment) SOE upgrade project in 2012–13. During 2011–12 preparations were being made for this.
  • Significant progress was made against the internal ICT Sustainability Plan, developed to address the Australian government's ICT Sustainability Plan 2010–15. Further information on progress can be found at Appendix E.
  • Whole-of-government supply contracts are mandatory across a broad number of areas. By 30 June 2012, the Court was using the Microsoft volume sourcing arrangement, desktop hardware panel, telecommunications commodities, carriage and associated services panel, and major office machines panel. This was the first year in which the major office machines panel was used by the Court.
  • As part of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, the Court is required to update its online government information and services to meet the WCAG 2.0 standard for website accessibility. During the year, the Court worked towards meeting the compliance deadlines. This included completing the conversion of a substantial amount of policy documents to HTML and commencing conversion of all other documents to ensure compliance.

In addition to the ongoing response to the Gershon Review, managed through AGIMO, the Court also responded to archive requirements regarding information quality. It undertook the National Archives of Australia check up assessment of the courts' information and records management capability, in response to the Government's digital transition policy. At 30 June 2012, the assessment results were being reviewed to identify any areas of high risk in the courts information and records management as well as opportunities for improvement.

External evaluations

Oakton Consulting Technology Financial Health Check

The financial health check commissioned by the courts during 2010–11 was tabled in support of the courts as part of the Skehill review (see Federal Courts Restructure page 5). The Oakton report confirmed that the courts have been subject to funding pressures for some time and have been actively pursuing opportunities to identify and harvest savings. Oakton recommended that the courts adopt a more systemic approach (activity based costing) to identify further opportunities for savings. The courts completed an update of their activity based costing model (Resource Planning Model) in the first quarter of 2011–12 and this confirmed that the courts resources were optimally deployed and that there were no obvious areas from which to achieve further savings without significant reductions in services to clients.

Internal evaluations

The Indigenous Working Group engaged Stephen Ralph, an independent Aboriginal consultant with extensive experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in the area of family law, to undertake a study of the views and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who had recently been involved in family law proceedings.

The study was to cover issues of access to justice and recommend steps towards improved service delivery. It was to help the courts develop a better understanding of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access the Family Law Courts, how they use the services provided by the courts, and their experience of litigating their family disputes.

The experiences and perceptions of Indigenous Australians who had recently litigated in the Family Law Courts were studied and compared with those of a representative sample of non-Indigenous Australians. Interviews with other stakeholders, such as legal practitioners working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were also held.

Major findings of the evaluation include:

  • From 2007–08 there has been a shift in filing trends in Indigenous matters, including a decline in the number of Indigenous applicants, an increase in Indigenous people as respondents, and an increase in matters where both parties are Indigenous.
  • Indigenous litigants were much less likely to have attended dispute resolution via a Family Relationship Centre than non-Indigenous litigants, and were more likely to have attended a legal aid conference as the first dispute resolution event.
  • Indigenous litigants were twice as likely to cite non-attendance at dispute resolution by the other party as the reason for failure to resolve the dispute.
  • Indigenous litigants rated family violence as the most important issue for them and/or the other party when ranking all of the issues involved in going to court. For the non-Indigenous group, relocation was rated as the most important issue for them and/or the other party.
  • A large majority in each group found court staff to be somewhat helpful or better in providing information and assistance. A majority in each group also reported that they had been treated with respect and sensitivity by court staff when attending court.
  • There was a higher level of dissatisfaction expressed by the non-Indigenous litigants when compared to the Indigenous litigants, but this needs to be viewed in the context of sampling differences.
  • Indigenous litigants were more balanced in their views of the Court's handling of their case and in most instances expressed relatively equal levels of satisfaction/dissatisfaction.
  • Fifty-three per cent of Indigenous participants indicated that the Court had not properly considered the cultural needs of Indigenous children. Thirty-three per cent of the group ‘strongly' disagreed with the statement that the children's cultural needs had been properly considered by the Court.
  • Less than 30 per cent of the Indigenous group believed that the Court displayed respect and understanding in response to their concerns about culture and its importance for children.
  • Indigenous litigants were critical of the family report writer on all aspects of the family report, but particularly the report writer's ability to deal with Indigenous cultural issues. Fifty-nine per cent of the Indigenous group did not believe that the report writer had done their best to understand and report upon the cultural issues affecting the children, and
  • Practitioners expressed higher levels of satisfaction and confidence with the Court's handling of the Indigenous cases than that expressed by Indigenous litigants, although they were generally less satisfied with the Court's handling of Indigenous cultural issues than they were with the overall handling of their client's case. Only 46 per cent of practitioners reported that the cultural needs of the children had been properly considered by the Court. Practitioners tended to have a negative view of family reports in these cases and were consistently critical of report writers when it came to the assessment of cultural issues.

Issues that the courts are now considering, guided by the Indigenous Working Group, include:

  • accessibility of pre-filing Family Dispute Resolution Services for Indigenous people
  • a need to ensure that reliable and accurate data exists in relation to monitoring of court usage by Indigenous people
  • improving judicial education and awareness of Indigenous cultural issues, and
  • improving the capacity of family report writers to assess Indigenous cultural issues.

The final report is expected to be published later in 2012.

Registrar workload project

Work on the registrar workload project continued during 2011–12. In October 2010, the Chief Federal Magistrate and Chief Justice had established a working group to identify, quantify and report on the work undertaken by registrars for the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court.

The Working Group is led by Stephen Andrew (Executive Director Client Services) and also includes Steve Agnew (A/Deputy CEO FMC), Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar Family Court), Adele Byrne (Principal Registrar FMC), Marianne Christmann (Regional Registry Manager NSW/ACT) and Jamie Crew, Registry Manager, Newcastle. Its terms of reference were to:

  • identify the categories of work undertaken by registrars in each registry
  • identify the key drivers of the registrars' workload
  • quantify the workload, including the allocation of registrar resources in each registry to each court and the use of that resource
  • report on the workload analysis, and
  • make appropriate recommendations on resourcing.

By 30 June 2012, the working group had completed the collection and analysis of significant data and information concerning registrars' work and workloads and had commissioned an independent evaluation of the functions associated with hearing divorce applications. Extensive consultation had also been undertaken with the judiciary, registrars, sessional registrars, registry managers and other key review stakeholders.

During the year, the group recommended to the acting Chief Executive Officer that a detailed implementation plan be developed, pending acceptance by the Chief Federal Magistrate and Chief Justice of some or all of the recommendations. The Executive Director Client Services will be responsible for the implementation of the report's recommendations and will formally report progress within six months of any final decision being made.

Management of human resources

Overview

During 2011–12, the process of consolidating the merged administration of the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court continued. It was supported by the introduction of a replacement enterprise agreement on 1 July 2011 that, like its predecessor, covered the combined courts' non-SES staff.

Following the introduction of the Government's Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework, which took effect on 31 January 2011, the courts gave notice of the commencement of bargaining with a message to all staff by the Acting Chief Executive Officer on 29 March 2011. Bargaining was commenced soon after with the Community and Public Sector Union and individual staff bargaining representatives.

Following a favourable vote by staff, the new agreement, the Federal Magistrates and Family Court Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 was approved by Fair Work Australia on 24 June 2011.

The courts' intranets were the primary vehicles for keeping staff informed of developments, with regular news and announcements about issues such as the courts' budgetary position, technological improvements, operational reviews and the progress of negotiations for the new Agreement. Management also kept employees informed through all-staff emails.

The Agreement covers all non–SES staff of the courts and delivers salary increases of three per cent from the commencement of the Agreement on 1 July 2011, together with further pay increases of three per cent on 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2013. The pay increases are offset by productivity savings to be funded from corporate efficiency/productivity savings outlined in clause 2.2 of the Agreement.

The agreement directly supports the Court's strategic objectives and complements the Court's performance planning and management arrangements and improvements at the team and individual level.

Consistent with the single enterprise agreement, the process of producing mirror images of policies, procedures and guidelines across the two courts continued throughout 2011–12.

Workforce planning

During 2011–12 the Court developed appropriate human resource strategies to ensure future capability and resourcing and to cope with staff turnover. These included, adopting an ICT workforce plan, giving the Federal Magistrates Court a clearer understanding of the capacity and capability of the Court's ICT workforce and developing a risk management strategy that strengthens succession management for critical roles and leadership positions in the Court. The strategies were communicated to managers and staff, helping to ensure that succession plans were developed at local levels.

In addition, the Court is focused on providing an inclusive, diversity-friendly workplace and ensuring equal opportunity for all its employees. Workplace diversity assists in meeting client service obligations.

The Court also has a longstanding and ongoing commitment to ensuring that the needs of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and clients are recognised and met appropriately. It reinforces that commitment by identifying and addressing barriers to the recruitment and career development of Indigenous Australians through its recruitment policies, training and mentoring programs.

The Court facilitates access to its services for Indigenous Australians by ensuring that information about the Court is widely available across the Indigenous community in suitable formats and delivered in culturally appropriate ways. The Court also develops partnerships with a range of Indigenous stakeholder groups at the national and local registry levels. It also provides appropriate and ongoing education to judicial officers and staff on the cultural background of Indigenous Australians.

The Court recognises the significant contribution made by mature aged employees in the workplace. Accordingly, the Court encourages the use of the flexible working arrangements available under the Enterprise Agreement relating to the balance between work and private life as a means to retain mature aged employees beyond normal retirement age or to assist them in the transition to retirement.

The Court is committed to maintaining a workplace culture where all employees are treated with dignity and respect, so that everyone is able to contribute their best in the workplace. It is the responsibility of all employees to contribute to the ongoing achievement and maintenance of a workplace free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. The Court's Bullying and Harassment Policy was reviewed and strengthened during 2011–12 and the updated policy was communicated to all employees.

Retention strategies

Strategies to support the wellbeing of staff and to encourage staff retention are integral to the Court's commitment to workplace diversity. The strategies include the following options, benefits and initiatives.

Balancing work and personal life

The Court recognises the need to balance the operational needs of the Court and the personal lives of staff. Its employment arrangements provide for general and individual flexible working arrangements, including flex time, time off in lieu, part-time work, working from home opportunities, overtime, purchased leave, maternity, adoption, fostering and supporting partner's leave, salary sacrifice arrangements and paid time off work over the Christmas and New Year period.

A safe and healthy work environment

The Court provides a family-friendly and non-discriminatory work environment with strong policies against harassment and bullying. The Court and its employees are committed to measures that will assist with preventing and managing illness and injury, including psychological injuries, and assisting absent staff to return to work as soon as reasonably practical. Other healthy work environment strategies include an employee assistance program that provides free professional counselling to employees and members of their immediate families and free annual influenza vaccinations.

Workplace diversity

The Court recognises that diversity among its staff is one of its greatest assets. Valuing the distinctive characteristics in every employee, and drawing on the diversity of our backgrounds, skills, talents and views to enhance the Court's working environment and the work of the Court, underpin the current workplace diversity plan.

Rewards and recognition

Recognition of staff in the form of positive feedback and celebration of achievement is an important part of the Court's culture and business practice. The Court's reward and recognition scheme, the Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award and Australia Day Medallions recognise and reward employees for the achievement of corporate goals, providing non-cash rewards and recognition.

Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award

The Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award honours the late Janet Kitcher (a Family Court employee at the time of her death). It aims to bestow recognition on high achieving employees of the courts for their outstanding contributions to the workplace. Recipients of this award perform extraordinarily well within their role, excelling to achieve outstanding client service by demonstrating:

  • ethical standards and integrity
  • innovation and pro-activity
  • respect for people and cultures, and
  • cooperation and positive behaviours.

The winner for 2011 was Sally Mashman from the National Enquiry Centre (NEC).

Sally commenced with the Federal Magistrates Court as an Associate in January 2001 before transferring to her present role as manager of the NEC in August 2009. Sally performed to a high standard with her contribution to the courts going gone beyond that which is ordinarily required of an employee in her role. In particular, Sally has been proactive in implementing innovative work practices and is solutions focussed.

Other nominees in 2011–12 were:

  • Roland Andronicos, Sydney/Parramatta, Systems Support Officer
  • Kate Clarke, Newcastle, Judicial Associate
  • Sarah Hession, Melbourne, Associate to FM Bender
  • Kym Hopwood, Brisbane, Judicial Services Team Leader
  • Greg Johannesen, North Queensland, Registry Manager
  • Megan Junker, Brisbane, Client Service Officer
  • Teresa Kane, Brisbane, Registrar
  • Julie Kearney, Newcastle, Registrar
  • Kristen Murray, Melbourne, Senior Legal Advisor, and
  • Andrew Tavares, National Support Office, IT Help Desk analyst.

Australian Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day Medallions are awarded to a select group of Australian citizens each year, recognising excellence in contribution by employees of government organisations.

In 2012 the Court awarded medallions to the following staff:

Susan Haysom – Brisbane registry

Susan is recognised for her exemplary qualities and her dedication to the work and the ideals of the Court. She is reliable, discreet and willing to take on any task.

Susan has been with the Court for eight years. Most of that time in the role of Associate to Federal Magistrate Jarrett, and more recently as the Judicial Services Team Leader.

While in the role of Associate, Susan undertook the additional circuit commitments of the chambers with good humour and often worked long hours. A highly respected member of the team she often freely and enthusiastically provided advice and assistance to other associates and deputy associates. Susan's willingness to accept a challenge is exemplified by the fact that she acted in the role of Judicial Support Team Leader for some time and has now taken on the role of acting Registry and Judicial Services Manager.

Emma Crutchfield – Brisbane registry

Emma is recognised for her exemplary qualities and her dedication to the Court.

Emma has worked for the Court for almost eight years as an Associate to Federal Magistrate Jarrett and Federal Magistrate Demack. Emma has since commenced working in the position of Team Leader of Judicial Services in Brisbane.

Emma is generous with her knowledge and has taken on the role of trainer and mentor which has seen new members of the team transition smoothly and effectively into the work of the Court. She was responsible for overseeing the development of the many procedural guides which are now used nationally, and are of enormous benefit for those new to the systems of the Court.

Workforce turnover

During 2011–12, 25 employees and judicial officers left the Court. Of these, 12 were ongoing employees, representing an annual turnover rate of 5.26 per cent against total staff numbers at 30 June 2012 (see Table B.6 at Appendix B). This compares with ongoing staff separations of 10.34 per cent in 2010–11, and 15 per cent in 2009–10.

Staffing profile

At 30 June 2012, the Court had 165 employees (excluding judicial officers, the Acting Chief Executive Officer and casual employees) covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). This was a 2.9 per cent decrease compared with 170 employees at 30 June 2011. Tables B.1 to B.4 at Appendix B provide a breakdown of staff by location, gender, attendance, ongoing and non-ongoing employment status.

Judicial officers

At 30 June 2012, the Court had 63 federal magistrates, including the Chief Federal Magistrate (21 female and 42 male). Table B.5 at Appendix B has further detail.

Agreement making

A single Enterprise Agreement for the courts

As mentioned previously, the Federal Magistrates Court and Family Court Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 came into effect on 1 July 2011. The Agreement has a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014, however, under present arrangements it will continue to operate after that date until replaced or formally terminated.

Other agreements

Offers of AWAs to court employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy; however, at 30 June 2012, three employees had enforceable AWAs in place. Table B.8 at Appendix B sets out the AWA maximum salary ranges by classification.

In some limited cases the Court has used determinations made by the acting Agency Head under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999, to provide supplementary conditions of employment for individuals covered by the Enterprise Agreement or AWAs. At 30 June 2012, seven employees had employment arrangements governed by determination 24 instruments. See Table B.9 at Appendix B for more detail.

Relationship between agreements

Terms and conditions of employment in the Court are governed by one or more of the following industrial instruments:

  • The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14, effective from 1 July 2011, covering all non-SES employees except those on AWAs
  • AWAs, or
  • individual determinations under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

The Enterprise Agreement, like its predecessors, is a comprehensive agreement, however, for some employees, it may be supported by a s 24(1) determination that provides additional terms and conditions (for example, as a way of retaining high-value employees).

AWAs may also be supported by individual s 24(1) determinations to provide for pay increases or additional terms and conditions, including non-salary benefits.

SES remuneration

Terms and conditions for the Court's senior executive service employees are in AWAs and individual s 24(1) determinations made by the Acting Chief Executive Officer. SES salaries are benchmarked against other public sector agencies and take account of the Court's budgetary position.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits provided by the Court to employees include motor vehicles, car parking, superannuation and access to salary sacrificing arrangements, home-based computer access, membership of professional associations, mobile phones, studies assistance, leave flexibility, workplace responsibility allowances (for example, fire warden, community language), and airline club memberships.

Performance pay

During 2011–12, the Court neither entered into any performance pay arrangements nor paid performance pay to any employee.

Training and staff development

The Court recognises the value of a well-educated workforce that is able to contribute effectively to meeting its objectives. It provides staff with an extensive array of learning and development opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge for current and future roles and responsibilities. The Court achieves this by assisting employees to meet their development and career needs consistent with the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) and available resources. It also provides studies assistance including leave and support for employees undertaking relevant tertiary studies.

Financial constraints mean that the Court relies principally on in-house training and, where available, it ‘piggybacks' on training packages or courses provided by the Attorney-General's Department or the Australian Public Service Commission.

The Court's in-house training facilities include self-paced, online learning courses on a range of topics including APS and court specific induction training, work health and safety, accounting basics, project management, business communications and the Windows XP suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint).

Compulsory nationwide training sessions that were conducted on ethical behaviour, the APS Code of Conduct and APS Values in all major court registries and the National Support Office during 2010 were this year extended to the smaller and more remote locations.

To further enable the roll-out of the Court's new online PMDS training was provided to managers and supervisors about how to conduct a performance discussion including how to have difficult conversations.

During the year the Court introduced an online software system to enable webinars (web-based training seminars) and online meetings. This has been very successful and has now expanded through the Court to enable various groups to collaborate more closely across the country.

Performance Management and Development System

The Court's Enterprise Agreement endorses significant improvements in the Court's operations to be achieved through a range of corporate efficiency/productivity measures identified in 2011–12 and ongoing to 2013–14.

The aim of the Court's PMDS is to foster a high performance culture by emphasising the personal development of staff and the relationship between the Court's goals and individual skills, responsibilities and performance. The PMDS is designed to:

  • ensure that the standards of performance expected of an employee are clearly articulated
  • enable an employee and supervisor, in partnership, to focus on present and future skills development
  • enhance an employee's work performance by providing regular and structured feedback
  • ensure that the Court's employees are able to do the best job they can, and are encouraged and recognised for their contributions
  • encourage a shared commitment and understanding of corporate goals amongst all staff
  • assist managers and employees in discussing individual and team performance and enable both parties to develop and implement improvement strategies, and
  • provide a mechanism for managing performance.

The Court encourages regular ongoing discussions between employees and their managers about performance, together with two formal performance reviews each financial year. The initial performance review takes place during October and November and the final review occurs during April and May each year. Outcomes are captured in the Court's newly-implemented online performance management system.

The target in 2011–12 was for 100 per cent of employees participating in the system. This was achieved.

Employee Assistance Program

The Court's employee assistance program provides a free, confidential counselling service to the judiciary, court employees and their immediate families experiencing personal or work-related problems. The service also provides a telephone advisory service for managers.

Converge International continued to manage the program and provided generic data to the Court to guide the development of wellbeing strategies.

Peer support network

The nature of the Court's core business means that employees may be exposed to and involved in highly sensitive and stressful situations. During 2011–12, the Court continued its proactive approach to lessening the risk of stress in the workplace, with a peer support system within registries and the National Support Office being actively promoted and used.

The system provides a network of trained staff in the workplace to ensure that skilled support is available for immediate assistance should an individual experience a distressing situation or difficult event. The system is designed to complement the employee assistance program and allows support to be available immediately should an incident occur.

Peer support officers from any location can provide assistance as required, that is, there is no restriction on staff accessing officers from outside their immediate work area. All communication with trained peer support officers is strictly confidential.

Productivity gains

During 2011–12, the combination of the merged administration and working under a single Enterprise Agreement continued to produce efficiency savings for the courts through the more efficient allocation of resources, elimination of duplicated services and the rationalisation of court services. Synergies were achieved in the area of training where program delivery was made available to the staff of both courts, thus reducing cost and capturing a greater number of staff.

Additionally, as part of the single administration, the review of client services, the registrar review and improvements in records management have resulted in a number of changes being introduced to further reduce duplication and improve efficiency. A number of productivity gains also formed part of the enterprise agreement negotiations.

Work Health and Safety (WHS)

Maintaining the health and safety of staff and all those who must use the Court's premises is integral to the business and values of the Court. The Court is therefore committed to:

  • implementation and compliance of the new Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act 2011)
  • compliance by itself and its personnel with all applicable statutory and other health and safety obligations, including the Act
  • maintaining a healthy and safe workplace
  • preventing injuries by managing risk, including identifying and mitigating workplace hazards to health and safety, and
  • making good work health and safety practice part of business as usual for all managers and staff.

The Court will achieve this through:

  • actively preventing work related injury and illness via regular workplace checks and inspections
  • providing access to information, training, professional support and advice on WHS issues, via the Court's intranet, training programs, E-learning, induction and other means
  • consulting with staff and their representatives on the development and variation of health and safety management arrangements
  • advising managers and staff of their WHS responsibilities, and
  • ensuring health and safety representatives have the time and resources to reasonably perform their role.

The Court recognises that effective health and safety management reduces the social and financial costs of occupational injury and illness.

Throughout 2011–2012 the Court has:

  • rolled out to all management and staff their legislative obligations, accountability, consultative requirements, communication on leadership and legal obligations
  • provided guidance for officers (as designated under the WHS Act 2011) in exercising ‘due diligence' and ‘duty of care'
  • provided a power point presentation on induction for all managers to use with their teams, including a template for induction and education checklist
  • rolled out resources for preventing and managing bullying and harassment in the workplace to all registry and business unit managers
  • updated overseas travel guidelines and approval delegation, and
  • rolled out Comcare's resources for workplace bullying to all Harassment Contact Officers.

The Court's work health and safety employee benefits include ergonomic assessments of workstations, provision of ergonomic furniture, access to a free employee assistance program, annual influenza vaccinations, access to peer support officers, first aid officers and harassment contact officers.

Whilst the Court's local occupational health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2011–2012, none of the Court's locations reported occupational health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year.

Workers' compensation and early intervention management

The Court continued to manage its workers compensation cases proactively with only one claim being lodged during the year. This has ensured a continued savings in the Court's workers' compensation premium for 2011–12.

Table 4.1 Comcare premium rates, 2007–08 to 2012–13

 

2007–08

2008–09

2009–10

2010–11

2011–12

2012–13

Federal Magistrates Court

0.67%

0.50%

0.41%

0.41%

0.31%

0.21%

All agencies combined

1.55%

1.36%

1.25%

1.20%

1.41%

1.77%

Variance

-0.88

-0.86

-0.84

-0.79

-1.10

-1.56%

In 2011–12, there were no notifiable incidents and there were no investigations or notices issued under Part 10 of the Work Health Safety Act 2011.

Changes to disability reporting

Since 1994, the Court has reported on its performance as employer and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au

From 2010–12, departments and agencies are no longer required to report on these functions. The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by a new National Disability Strategy, which sets out a ten year national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. A high level report to track progress for people with disability at a national level will be produced by the Standing Council on Community, Housing and Disability Services to the Council of Australian Governments and will be available at www.fahcsia.gov.au

The Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy agreed by the Government in December 2009 will also include some reporting on disability matters in its regular How Australia is Faring report and, if appropriate, in strategic change indicators in agency annual reports.

The Court's recruitment, training and development, occupational health and safety, and access and equity policies take account of the Government's social inclusion agenda: the vision of a socially inclusive society in which all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society. These policies are published on the Court's intranet and are available on application to the Court's Human Resource Manager.

More detail on social inclusion matters can be found at www.socialinclusion.gov.au

Financial performance

The Federal Magistrates Court is a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Court in 2011–12 was $100.567 million, including appropriations from government ($53.481 million), other revenue ($0.135 million) other gains ($46.951 million). Other gains included notional revenue for resources provided free-of-charge from the Family Court and Federal Court (as described below), and liabilities assumed by related entities for the Federal Magistrates Pension Scheme (Invalidity).

Operating expenses for the 2011–12 financial year amounted to $104.156 million, being a $7.756 million increase from 2010–11. The movement in nominal dollars is primarily a result of a $5.496 million increase in resources provided free-of-charge from the Family Court (from $31.672 million in 2010–11 to $37.168 million in 2011–12), and an increase in employee benefits of $2.589 million (rising from $35.068 million in 2010–11 to $37.657 million in 2011–12).

Operating deficit and ongoing budgetary pressures

For 2011–12 the Court has recorded an operating deficit1 attributable to the Court of $3.591 million, compared with an operating deficit of $3.960 million reported in 2010–11.

Contributing to the operating deficit is $1.589 million in depreciation expenses (compared with $1.464 million in 2010–11), $0.593 million as a result of changes to the government bond rate, and $0.132 million in losses from the sale of assets.

The remaining $1.277 million component is the result of ongoing pressure on the Court's operating budget, noting that the Court has over recent years undertaken significant initiatives to reduce costs and generate efficiencies. The Government is working with the Court to address these ongoing pressures. In addition the Court is identifying new and innovative ways to provide better access to justice for family law litigants, in the context of limited court resources and potential better outcomes for litigants.

Service provided free-of-charge

The Federal Magistrates Court relies on infrastructure and support provided by both the Family Court and the Federal Court.

The Family Court provides resources free of charge to the Federal Magistrates Court in accordance with sections 90, 92 and 99 of the Federal Magistrates Act 1999. Resources provided free of charge include:

  • court staff, who perform work on behalf of the Federal Magistrates Court, and
  • accommodation, including access to courtrooms.

It is estimated that the cost of resources provided free of charge by the Family Court to the Federal Magistrates Court during 2011–12 was $37.168 million. Services provided by the Federal Court to the Federal Magistrates Court during 2011–12 was estimated at $8.855 million.

Administered revenue and expenses

The Court received $31.557m in 2011–12 on behalf of the Commonwealth, mainly in court fees. Administered revenue is not available to offset the Court's operating costs. The Court also receives an administered appropriation to source primary dispute resolution services such as counselling, mediation and conciliation from community-based organisations. In 2011–12 the Court incurred $0.057m for these primary dispute resolution services. Further offsetting the administered revenue collected by the Court on behalf of the Government were refunds of fees ($0.137 million) and write down and impairment of assets ($0.004 million). The resulting total comprehensive income of $31.359 million was returned to Government.

1 Equivalent to the Total comprehensive (loss) as reported in the Statement of Comprehensive Income Financial Statements for the period ending 30 June 2012. Depreciation is included in the comprehensive (loss) due to the Court not having a Departmental Capital Budget for 2011–12 (and 2010–11).

Asset management

Property

The Federal Magistrates Court is located in shared Commonwealth-owned facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Parramatta, Sydney and Perth. The Court also occupies privately leased facilities in Albury, Cairns, Darwin, Dubbo, Launceston, Lismore, Newcastle, and Wollongong. Accommodation is provided as part of the shared services arrangement with the Family Court.

The most significant property-related activities at various court locations in 2011–12 are detailed below.

Sydney

John Maddison Tower

The Federal Magistrates Court was required to hand back two of the three floors subleased from the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice. There were eight federal magistrates in total occupying three floors. This resulted in three federal magistrates being relocated and the remaining five federal magistrates being consolidated onto one floor. An additional chamber was constructed in order to meet their requirements.

80 William Street

As a result of the reduction in space at John Maddison Tower, three federal magistrates were accommodated within Fair Work Australia's accommodation. Minor works were undertaken to accommodate the federal magistrates with chambers and courtrooms provided by Fair Work Australia. This arrangement is for two years until long term accommodation for the federal magistrates can be secured.

Lionel Bowen Building

In January 2011, the Federal Court of Australia vacated level one of the Commonwealth Law Courts, Lionel Bowen Building. The vacated space provided an opportunity to redress a shortage of courtrooms in Sydney. A project was undertaken in November 2011 delivering four much needed new courtrooms in the Sydney CBD. Whilst the fitout was funded by the Family Court, the courtrooms will be a shared resource and predominately used by the Federal Magistrates Court.

Dandenong

The Family Court entered into a new five year lease in March 2012 (while the lease is in the Family Court's name, a high proportion of matters are heard by federal magistrates in Dandenong). As a result, various works were undertaken at the registry to sustain the additional five year term. The works included the upgrade of the judicial conference room, replacement of furniture in the public waiting areas, and an upgrade of the kitchens and bathrooms throughout the building both in judicial areas and in the public areas. The works have lifted the appearance and functionality of the registry and provide improved amenities for clients, practitioners and staff.

Purchasing, consultants and contracts

Purchasing

The Family Court Procurement and Risk Management section, as a result of the Corporate Services amalgamation, assists staff in the Federal Magistrates Court undertaking procurement and manages a number of corporate contracts. The section also manages, or has significant involvement in, all complex procurement undertaken by the Court to ensure compliance with legislative obligations and the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The Chief Executive Instructions, the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and the Court's Procurement Framework are all posted on the intranet as reference material for staff.

The core policies and principles of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines were, as far as practicable, adhered to throughout 2011–12. The Court's Annual Procurement Plan was published meeting mandatory reporting requirements. An appropriate market approach was made for all procurements covered by the guidelines.

All contracts let in 2011–12 have provision for the Auditor General to access contractor's premises.

Consultants

During 2011–12:

  • one new consultancy contract was entered into involving total actual expenditure of $70,535.14 (GST inclusive), and
  • one ongoing consultancy contract was entered into involving total actual expenditure of $2000 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2011–12 was $72,535.14 (GST inclusive).

The process of engagement of all consultants is required to adhere to the procedures described in the Court's Procurement Framework and are categorised in accordance with the following:

A – skills currently unavailable within the Court

B – need for specialised or professional skills

C – need for independent research or assessment.

Depending on the particular needs, value and risks (as set out in the Court's Procurement Framework) the Court uses open tender, select tender or direct sourcing for its consultancies.

The Court is a relatively small user of consultants. As such, the Court has no specific policy by which consultants are engaged, other than within the broad frameworks above, related to skills unavailability within the Court or when there is need for specialised and/or independent research or assessment.

Information on expenditure on all court contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website at www.tenders.gov.au

Consultants and competitive tendering

No contracts were let to an organisation for the delivery of services previously performed by the Court during the reporting period.

Exempt contracts

During the reporting period no contracts or standing offers were exempt from publication on AusTender in terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Legal services expenditure

Paragraph 11.1 of the Legal Services Directions 2005 states that the Chief Executive Officer of the Court has the responsibility for ensuring that:

  • arrangements for legal services are handled efficiently and effectively, and
  • appropriate systems and procedures are in place to comply with these directions.

In accordance with paragraph 11.1 (ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2005, the Court incurred the following legal services expenditure during 2011–12.

All expenditure figures include GST.

Pursuant to paragraph 11.2 of the Legal Services Directions 2005, the Chief Executive Officer has issued a certificate to the Office of Legal Services Coordination of the Attorney-General's Department stating that the Family Court of Australia:

  • has appropriate systems and procedures in place to ensure compliance with the directions, and
  • has no record of any alleged, possible or determined breach of the directions during the 2011–12 financial year

Table 4.2 Legal services expenditure, 2011–12

Totals

Total costs recovered1

$0.00

Total external legal services expenditure

$55,849.46

Total internal legal services expenditure

$0.00

Total (external + internal) expenditure

$55,849.46

Summary of external legal services expenditure

Total value of briefs to counsel (A)

$6,589.50

Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)

$16.50

Total value of professional fees paid (C)

$49,243.46

Total external legal services expenditure (A + B + C)

$55,849.46

Counsel

Number of briefs to male counsel

0

Number of briefs to female counsel

0

Total number of briefs to counsel

0

Number of direct briefs to male counsel

1

Number of direct briefs to female counsel

1

Total number of direct briefs to counsel

2

Total value of briefs to male counsel (including direct briefs)2

$0.00

Total value of briefs to female counsel (including direct briefs)2

$6,589.50

Total value of briefs to counsel (A)3

$6,589.50

Disbursements

Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)

$16.50

Professional fees

Australian Government Solicitor

$27,002.69

Blake Dawson

$3537.77

Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing

$18,703.00

Total value of professional fees paid (C)

$49,243.46

1 Includes the value of direct briefs.

2 Includes all expenditure on counsel.

Discretionary grants

The Federal Magistrates Court made no grant payments during 2011–12.