Corporate governance

This section reports on aspects of the Federal Circuit Court’s corporate governance arrangements.

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

Under the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999, the Chief Judge is responsible for ensuring the orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the Federal Circuit Court and management of the administrative affairs of the Court. In the latter role, the Chief Judge 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 2013, 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 Circuit 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 and strategic policy.

Grahame Harriott
Acting Chief Finance Officer

The Chief Finance Officer has responsibility for all financial management, reporting, budgeting, cost analysis, taxation and financial processing for the Court.

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.


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 Circuit Court of Australia 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 Circuit Court of Australia 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 Judge in relation to the Court’s overall strategies and policies for the delivery of court services. Advice is also provided to the Chief Judge and the Chief Executive Officer regarding the support and assistance required by judges to best exercise the judicial powers of the Commonwealth of Australia. The committee met four times in 2012–13, considering administrative and financial matters, and comprises:

  • Chief Judge Pascoe
  • Judge Baumann
  • Judge Brewster (from July 2012)
  • Judge Donald (to June 2012)
  • Judge Coker (from July 2012)
  • Judge Emmett
  • Judge Riethmuller (to June 2012)
  • Judge Henderson (from July 2012)
  • Judge Burchardt
  • Judge Cassidy (to June 2012)
  • Judge Kelly
  • Judge Whelan (from July 2012)
  • Acting Chief Executive Officer (Richard Foster)
  • Acting Deputy CEO (Steve Agnew), and
  • Secretariat (Stewart Fenwick).

Working groups of judges are also established as required to provide recommendations to the Chief Judge about specific areas of policy and practice. During 2012–13 a number of matters were the subject of attention by working groups including Indigenous access, remuneration and terms and conditions of judges of the Court.

Case Management Judges Committee

In each court region, the Chief Judge delegates a senior judge the responsibility of assisting him and the National Coordinator of Case Management with the case management in that region. The role of the Case Management Judge also adds to the communication throughout the Court on all aspects of workload, timeliness and court practice. Case Management Judges are also local points of contact for regional stakeholders. The Case Management Judges meet quarterly with the Chief Judge, the National Coordinator of Case Management, 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 Judge for the consideration of the Court as a whole. Legislation requires that the Rules of Court be approved by all or a majority of judges. Meeting monthly, the committee considers:

  • legislative developments before introduction to ensure the Court is prepared for such developments
  • the development of Rules and practice notices and recommendations to the Chief Judge about the adoption of Rules and forms, and
  • the operation of Rules and notices to ensure their efficacy and continued suitability.

The Committee also 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 provide coordinated advice to the Chief Judge and the 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. The 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 2012–13, the Committee considered a range of issues, including the Court’s internal audit plan, strategic risk and fraud risk treatments and business continuity. It also provided 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 (CMAG) provides operational and policy advice to the Chief Executive Officer on key areas that affect the administration of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. Chaired by the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Circuit Court and Chief Executive Officer of the Family Court, Richard Foster, the group meets every six to eight weeks and comprises:

  • Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Federal Circuit Court
  • Executive Director, Client Services
  • Executive Director, Corporate
  • Principal Registrar, Family Court
  • Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court
  • Principal, Child Dispute Services
  • Regional Registry Managers
  • Executive Advisor, Client Services
  • Manager, Chief Judge’s Chambers, and
  • Executive Advisor, Federal Circuit Court and Family Court.

In 2012–13, CMAG continued to provide advice to the acting Chief Executive Officer on new policy and other initiatives. These included:

  • budget savings measures
  • the courts’ administration restructure
  • a review of eFiling procedures and practices
  • a review of the Court’s social media policy and protocols
  • the implementation of recommendations from the Client Satisfaction Survey
  • the application of the Court Excellence Framework
  • a review of the client feedback and complaints policy and procedure
  • the implementation of the new court fees schedule
  • a review of the child dispute services policy and procedures and a quality assurance framework for family consultants appointed under Regulation 7, and
  • improved practices for supporting interpreters in courtrooms.

Federal Circuit Court of Australia Committee for International Framework for Court Excellence

The Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court has endorsed the International Framework of Court Excellence1and has implemented processes to advance this model.

The framework promotes the independence of courts and commends self-governance. Work in the areas of leadership and court management, policy and planning, management of resources, court processes and proceedings, client needs and satisfaction, and public confidence each contribute to a high functioning and self governing court.

A judicial committee is chaired by Judge Jarrett and has Judges Scarlett, Burchardt and Baker as members. The Committee is asked to achieve the following in 2013–14:

  • develop expertise and knowledge about the breadth of the International Framework and its potential applications
  • advise the Chief Judge on the detail of the Framework and on relevant and suitable applications for the Framework for the Federal Circuit Court
  • make recommendations to Chief Judge on an implementation program for the Framework including:
    • the self assessment survey
    • the production of a summary report on the survey results, and
    • proposals for change in the Court in response to the survey results.
  • draw from the Framework implementation process and work in conjunction with the Future Directions Judicial Committee, to provide advice to the Chief Judge on priorities for the Federal Circuit Court.

Other committees

A number of administrative committees were also active during 2012–13 and provided high level operational and policy advice. Meeting on a regular or ad hoc basis, they included:

  • Audit and Risk
  • National Consultative
  • Staff Development
  • Property Management, and
  • Information and Communication.

Senior management committee highlights

This section highlights the work of senior management committees during 2012–13. Appendix G has details of membership and terms of reference for the various committees.

Heads of Jurisdiction Consultative Committee

In late 2011 the Heads of Jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court, the Federal Court and the Family 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 Officer of the three courts. A senior official from the Attorney-General’s Department attends the Committee’s meetings as an observer. Four meetings were held in 2012–13.

In addition to including information about the Committee’s activities in the courts’ annual reports, the Committee reports to the Commonwealth Attorney-General twice in each calendar year (August 2012 and March 2013).

The Committee’s main focus has been on: reviewing the courts’ library services, overseeing the resolution of accommodation issues for the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney, a review of the courts’ case management systems, and development of a strategic plan for the ongoing occupancy of Commonwealth Law Courts buildings.

In August 2012, following development of a detailed implementation plan and recommendations, the Heads of Jurisdiction formally approved an amalgamation of the courts’ library services.

The merger necessitated the transfer of Family Court library staff and associated funding to the Federal Court under Machinery of Government arrangements, effective from 3 January 2013. The transition was relatively smooth and proceeded without disruption to library users from any of the courts.

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 regarding issues that impact nationally on staff and the management and future direction of the Court.

For the first time, the National Enquiry Centre has a delegate on the committee.

The Committee met twice in 2012–13. The areas of focus continued to be:

  • 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

The Staff Development Committee is integral to the Court’s approach to the continuing career development of staff, and is a key forum through which staff representatives have shared responsibility for identifying and determining development needs and opportunities. In 2012–13, the Committee met monthly to discuss the learning and development needs across all areas of the courts.

The Committee focussed on providing tailored programs for the various working groups within the registries and chambers based on specific needs highlighted through the Performance Management and Development System and an internal staff survey.

Specific training delivered through the Committee can be found under Training, Learning and Development.

There were no changes to the Committee during 2012–13 and membership details are in Table G.2 in Appendix G.

National Work Health and Safety Committee

It was confirmed at the National Consultative Committee meeting, held in May 2013 that a new National Work Health and Safety Committee will be formed in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Management Arrangements.

The Work Health and Safety Committee will meet at least twice a year to discuss and resolve national work health safety issues in addition to:

  • developing and reviewing health and safety management arrangements, policies and practices
  • consulting with staff on health and safety issues
  • developing and refining processes to regularly audit health and safety in the Court’s registries including eliminating identifiable hazards and mitigating known risks
  • reviewing any workplace incidents or accidents to develop prevention strategies
  • making recommendations on the work health and safety impact of changes in the workplace, and
  • discussing and resolving work health and safety issues in the Court.

The Work Health and Safety Committee will comprise:

  • Human Resources Manager, Chair
  • Executive Director, Corporate Services
  • Health and Safety representative
  • First Aid Officer
  • Workplace Health Management Consultant
  • Workforce and Policy Manager
  • Registry Manager
  • National Property Manager.

The term of office for elected committee members shall be two years and may, if re-elected serve for an additional two years.

Corporate and operational planning and associated performance reporting and review

As at 30 June 2013, 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 the Code of Conduct
  • Corporate Plan and business area plans (for the National Support Office)
  • The Courts Exchange, the 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 Judge eMessage
  • CEO eMessages – an email from the Chief Executive Officer to all staff
  • Chief Executive Instructions – the official mechanism for the Chief Executive Officer to communicate and direct the Court’s compliance with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997
  • client service advices – from the Executive Director of Client Services to all client service staff working in the family law registries
  • The Courts Exchange – the Court’s internal staff newsletter, which is issued four times per year and includes columns from the Chief Judge, the Acting Chief Executive Officer and the Principal Registrar. This is the primary vehicle for sharing information and celebrating the achievements and successes of court staff
  • intranet messages – updated with the 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
  • Chief Executive Officer visits – the Chief Executive Officer 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 RSM Bird Cameron and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

The 2012–2013 Internal Audit Plan was developed taking into account the risk drivers in the Strategic Risk Management Plan and after consultation with the Audit and Risk Committee and the senior management team. The priorities for this Plan include:

  • a review of outstanding audit recommendations (previous internal audits)
  • compliance with the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011
  • leave management
  • eFiling post implementation review
  • revision of the courts’ Fraud Control Plan, and
  • Business Continuity Plan – scenario testing.

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 provides 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 Court’s Business Continuity Plans. Desktop scenario tests were undertaken in the Melbourne and Adelaide registries in May 2013, with recommendations resulting from these to be incorporated into the Business Continuity Plans.

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 made available to all staff on the intranet, and
  • monthly financial reports to the CMAG 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 with key stakeholders across all areas of court activities.

A new Fraud Control Plan has been developed to cover the requirements of the single FMA Agency, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, which was implemented from 1 July 2013.

No instances or allegations of fraud against the Court were reported in 2012–13.

Ethical standards

The Court’s Strategic Plan states that integrity, respect and responsiveness underpin its approach to business. The Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct contained in the Public Service Act 1999 apply to all employees of the Court.

In 2012–13, the Court maintained ongoing information and education activities to ensure that all staff were aware of their rights, responsibilities and obligations in relation to privacy, ethics and other factors such as environmental responsibility, data management and data quality.

The Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court together maintain the web-based Service Charter and Service Commitments publications. These outline the services clients may expect of the courts.

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

The Public Service Amendment Act 2013 made significant changes to the Public Service Act 1999. As a consequence the Public Service Regulations 1999 have been amended and the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 1999 repealed and replaced with the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013. The changes started on 1 July 2013 and with this in mind the Court began promoting the updated values and employment principles during the second half of 2012–13, with a comprehensive roll out planned for later in 2013.

The Research and Ethics Committee considers, monitors and overviews all research and evaluation proposals, both internal and external for approval. Membership of the committee is in Appendix G.

Ethics Contact Officers Network – policy and practices on the establishment and maintenance of appropriate ethical standards

Established in May 2009, the Australian Public Service Commission’s Ethics Contact Officer Network plays a key role in supporting the ongoing work of the Ethics Advisory Service. The service has responsibility for promoting the Government’s ethical agenda, which is focussed on enhancing ethics and accountability in the Commonwealth public sector.

The Human Resources Manager is the Court’s representative at the Ethics Contact Officer Network forum.

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Reports by the Auditor-General

The Auditor-General made no reports specific to the Federal Circuit Court during 2012–13.

Reports by a Parliamentary committee

On 11 February 2013, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs tabled its advisory report for the Inquiry into Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012. The Committee recommended the House pass the Bill. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee tabled its report into the Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012 on 25 February 2013. The Committee recommended that the Bill be passed without amendment. The Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012 subsequently received Royal Assent on 12 March 2013.

The Act provides for the administration of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court to merge. The change took place from 1 July 2013 and formalised arrangements that have been in place for some years, including for there to be a single Chief Executive Officer for both courts. The single agency is now known as the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. It does not affect the judicial operations of either court. The courts’ administration made the necessary changes to support this in the closing months of 2012–13.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman received 13 complaints about the Federal Circuit Court for the period 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013. Of these approaches none were investigated and all 13 were closed.

During the year, the Commonwealth Ombudsman wrote to the agency head advising the Court of revised procedures for giving feedback to agencies.

Privacy Commission

The Federal Circuit Court was not the subject of any complaints made to the Privacy Commission during 2012–13.

Senate estimate committee hearings

Senior Executive Staff of the Court attended the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Budget Estimates on four occasions during the financial year. In addition, the Executive Staff prepared responses to more than 100 questions on notice about the Court’s activities.

Whole-of-government ICT initiatives

During 2012–13, 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 2012–13:

  • in September 2012, 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 2011–12 and included quantitative measures about capacity and quantities of ICT equipment
  • the Court also reported to AGIMO on a Chief Information Officer Committee survey on ICT collaboration and cloud
  • the Court worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (the lead agency) for a new internet gateway for a number of agencies, including the Family Court. The Court signed a contract with Macquarie Telecom for provision of internet gateway services under this arrangement in May 2013
  • the Court is implementing the Government Desktop Common Operating Environment Policy in the Court’s standard operating environment upgrade project. This project has commenced and is expected to be completed by September 2013
  • during the year, the Court worked with AGIMO to obtain network services under the Internet Based Network Connection Services panel. An Request for Quote was developed and released in March 2013. At 30 June 2013, negotiation with the successful panellist was about to commence, with a view to implementing the new network by December 2013
  • work continued 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 in Appendix E
  • whole-of-government supply contracts are mandatory across a broad number of areas. By 30 June 2013, the Court was using the Microsoft volume sourcing arrangement, the desktop hardware panel, the telecommunications commodities, carriage and associated services panel, the major office machines panel, and the data centre panel, and
  • 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 to meet the compliance deadlines.

External evaluations

There were no external evaluations during 2012–13.

Management of human resources


The Human Resources Section of Corporate Services Division supports all areas of the Court by managing a range of human resources, entitlements processing services and advice to the Court’s judiciary and staff.

In 2012 –13 human resources focussed on:

  • consolidation of the human resources aspects of the merged administration of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court in the preparation for the introduction of the single agency on 1 July 2013
  • recruitment services – advertising support, recruitment tips and assistance, probation, letters of offer, contracts
  • payroll, entitlements, conditions of employment
  • payroll system: support for Aurion employee self service (ESS) reporting
  • workforce capability services including planning, Performance Management and Development Scheme, learning and development, workplace wellbeing
  • workplace relations support including Enterprise Agreement and National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
  • implementing systems to support new workplace health and safety legislation, and
  • promoting employee well-being and respectful behaviours.

Enterprise Agreement

The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia 2011–2014 Enterprise Agreement (the Agreement) continued to operate during 2012–13.

The Agreement covers all non-SES staff of the courts and delivered a salary increase of three per cent from the commencement of the agreement on 1 July 2011 and another pay increase of three per cent on 1 July 2012. A final pay increase of three per cent occurred on 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 Federal Circuit Court’s strategic objectives and complements our performance planning, management arrangements and improvements at the team and individual level.

Consistent with the single enterprise agreement, and in preparation for the single agency, the process of producing mirror images of policies, procedures and guidelines across the two courts continued over the reporting period.

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.

Workforce planning

The 2012–13 financial year has seen workforce planning activities focused on ensuring the successful completion of combining the administration of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. This has involved the formalising of current arrangements and enabling additional improvements to the courts’ administrative practices and procedures.

As at 30 June 2012, 28, or 12 per cent*, of Federal Circuit Court staff were eligible to retire. During 2012–13 the Court developed appropriate human resource strategies to ensure future capability and resourcing and to cope with staff turnover. These included promoting a clearer understanding of the capacity and capability of the Court’s 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.

* As a percentage of total staff numbers excluding the judiciary and casuals reported for 2011–12 (165).

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. 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 2012 was Sharon McLeish, the Wellbeing Officer from the National Support Office.

Sharon joined the Court in May 2006 initially as a payroll officer and after gaining experience in judicial services and quality assurance, she transitioned into her current role as Wellbeing Officer in October 2010. In this role, Sharon has excelled. A key accomplishment has been her successful implementation and embedding of the Work Health Safety Act 2011. Sharon’s contribution to the courts is appreciated by managers and staff who value the timeliness and quality of the advice she provides, along with her compassion for the issues faced by staff members under her care.

Other nominees in 2012 were:

  • Christine Carey, National Support Office, Manager Finance
  • John Fitzgibbon, Melbourne, Senior Registrar, and
  • Phillip Cameron, Sydney, Regional Coordinating Registrar.

Australian Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day Medallions are awarded each year to recognise outstanding contributions made by employees of government organisations.

In 2013 the Court awarded medallions to the following staff:

Mary Baulch, Administrative Assistant, Melbourne registry

Mary is recognised for her loyalty, reliability and commitment to the Court.

During her eight years with the Court, Mary has demonstrated her commitment and initiative through taking on extra duties as they arise without being asked. She has been instrumental in assisting staff during a significant transition phase of the courts’ administration and undertakes a range of tasks often unnoticed.

In joint recognition with the Family Court of Australia, awards were also presented to:

Josephine Hunt, Senior Family Consultant, Melbourne registry

Josephine has been with the Court for 10 years and consistently provides professional mentoring and leadership to a large group of family consultants in Melbourne in addition to her responsibility for various portfolios including Magellan and Hague matters. As a result of her vision and energy, a Child Dispute Services team has been successfully established in Dandenong.

Brenda Field, Registry Manager, Dandenong registry

Brenda is recognised for her contribution to both the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. During her 13 years with the courts, Brenda has been a champion of providing quality service to the public and has provided beneficial advice on national projects.

Denise Healy, Communication and Media Advisor, Melbourne registry.

Denise is responsible for communicating important issues to the media and ensures a positive focus on the courts. She has established strong working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly with the media which has enabled her to get articles relating to missing children published. Denise is always at the forefront when the courts attract media attention, providing excellent support and advice.

Workforce turnover

During 2012–13, 26 employees and judicial officers left the Court. Of these, 16 were non-ongoing, eight were ongoing employees and two were holders of Public Office, representing an annual turnover rate of 11.3 per cent against total staff numbers at 30 June 2013 (see Table B.6 at Appendix B). This compares with ongoing staff separations of 11 per cent in 2011–12, and 16 per cent in 2010–11.

Staffing profile

At 30 June 2013, the Court had 166 employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees. This was a 0.6 per cent increase compared with 165 employees at 30 June 2012. 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 2013, the Court had 64 judges (23 female and 41 male), including the Chief Judge. For further information see Table B.5 at Appendix B which disaggregates the number of judges by location.

The remuneration arrangements for all judicial officers and the acting Chief Executive Officer are governed by enforceable determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Further details including relevant determinations are available at:

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 Chief Executive Officer 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 employee are in an AWA and individual s 24(1) determination 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 flexibilities, workplace responsibility allowances (for example, fire warden, community language), and airline club memberships.

Performance pay

During 2012–13, the Court neither entered into any performance pay arrangements nor paid performance pay to any employee.

Training, learning and development

The Court recognises the value of a well educated workforce. It provides staff with an extensive range of learning and development opportunities, both formally and informally. The Court also provides study assistance, including leave for study and examination attendance for employees undertaking work-related tertiary studies. Finance constraints means the Court relies predominantly on in-house training.

The Staff Development Committee met monthly to discuss the learning and development needs across all areas of the courts, thus taking a leading role in helping to determine how the courts’ limited staff training budgets could be most effectively used. Specific training delivered during the year and funded through the Staff Development Committee included:

  • Proof Reading and Editing – a hands-on program tailored for associates and deputy associates focused on transforming a draft into a polished document through effective editing and proof reading.
  • Resilience Training – for registry service staff including business system development officers, child care officers and team leaders. The program explored emotional intelligence and the setting of boundaries with the aim of strengthening and building resilience within their teams.
  • Defusing Explosive Situations – a half-day workshop delivered for registrars which focused on ensuring their physical safety by improving their ability to defuse the strong emotions of very difficult clients.
  • Enhance your Resilience – a half-day course focusing on improved wellbeing and resilience for coordinating registrars with a targeted focus on skills to enable them to support their teams to continue to perform at their best.
  • Family Consultant training – a range of workshops were provided to family consultants. They included a workshop on interviewing children, observational assessment methods of child-parent interactions and working with Indigenous families.
  • The Court’s in-house training facilities include self-paced, online learning courses on a range of topics, including Australian Public Service and court specific induction training, occupational health and safety, bullying and harassment and Windows XP suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint).

Performance Management and Development System

The Court’s Performance Management and Development System aims 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 system has continued to be refined. In 2012–13 the Performance Management Development System for Child Dispute Services has been significantly enhanced in order to better capture professional peer review (in addition to general performance).

Through this system, the Court encourages regular ongoing discussions between employees and their managers about performance, including 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.

Consistent with previous years, in 2012–13 all employees of the Court participated in the Performance Management Development System thereby ensuring that every pay rise was linked to a performance standard of ‘meeting requirements’ or higher.

Employee Assistance Program

The Federal Circuit Court and its employees, through the Enterprise Agreement, have undertaken a commitment to ensuring psychological and physical wellbeing.

The Court’s Employee Assistance Program is a free, confidential counseling service for all court employees and their immediate families who are experiencing personal or work-related problems. The Court’s provider also offers a dedicated Managers Assistance Program for managers to confidentially discuss issues which may arise as a result of being in a supervisory position.

Peer support network

The nature of the Court’s core business means employees may be exposed to and involved in highly sensitive and stressful situations. The Court has continued to manage the risk of stress in the workplace through its peer support system within registries and the National Support Office.

The Peer Support program provides a network of trained staff in the workplace to ensure that skilled support is available for immediate assistance should an employee experience a distressing situation or a difficult event. This program is designed to complement the Employee Assistance Program.

The program has been in place for five years and anecdotal feedback (discussions are totally confidential) indicates that it has proved most effective for staff and is well regarded. Thirty-six people from across the Court are trained to provide support through the network. Training involves two days of face-to-face training to learn a range of tried and tested counselling skills that work to create effective communication to de-escalate situations when staff are in crisis.

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

Work Health and Safety

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

  • implementation and compliance of the new Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • compliance by 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.

During 2012–13 the Court continued to work to 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 workplace health and safety issues, via the Court’s intranet, training programs, e-learning and induction
  • consulting with staff and their representatives on the development and variation of health and safety management arrangements
  • advising managers and staff of their work health and safety responsibilities
  • ensuring health and safety representatives have the time and resources to reasonably perform their role, and
  • implementation of new fatigue management guidelines.

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

Specific initiatives taken by the Court during 2012–13 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff include:

  • advising all management and staff of their legislated obligations, accountability, consultative requirements, communication and leadership responsibilities in relation to health and safety
  • providing all registry and business unit managers with resources for early intervention including roles and responsibilities
  • national recording and systems management of occupational health and safety throughout the courts, managed through the National Workplace Health and Safety Committee, and
  • the development of the Rehabilitation Management System which was implemented on 1 July 2013.

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 are all provided for the Court’s employees on an ongoing basis.

Whilst the Court’s local occupational health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2012–13, none of the Court’s locations reported occupational health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year.

In 2012–13, there was one notifiable incident in Dandenong. This notifiable incident was not a result of court practices as it was a building fault and was referred to the building manager.

Workers’ compensation and early intervention management

Continuing education, early intervention and strong recording mechanisms ensured claims were kept to a minimum. The Court continued to proactively manage its workers compensation cases which ensured that claims have contributed to the reduced total future costs of all such claims.

The costs of claims increased in 2012–13 for three main reasons:

  • an increase since last year in estimated costs relating to claims for injuries suffered in 2010. The high cost claims from 2010 are psychological with one resulting in full incapacity
  • there are more claims for injuries suffered in 2012 than for injuries suffered in 2011. We had 10 claims in 2012–13 all of which are physical claims from older workers, and
  • a penalty linked to a contribution to the margin to restore the Comcare scheme funding.

Proactive management has continued to be reflected in the premium rates.

Table 4.1: Comcare premium rates, 2009–10 to 2012–13







Federal Circuit Court





Merged courts 1.04%

All agencies combined












Note: The premium for 2013–14 reflects a merged premium for both the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.

In 2012–13, there were no investigations or notices issued under Part 10 of the Work Health Safety Act 2011.

Financial performance

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

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Court in 2012–13 was $102.587 million, including appropriations from government ($55.685 million), other revenue ($0.296 million) and other gains ($46.606 million). Other gains included notional revenue for resources provided free-of-charge from the Family Court and Federal Court, Department of Finance, and Australian National Audit Office (as described below), and liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges’ Pension Scheme (Invalidity).

Operating expenses for the 2012–13 financial year amounted to $104.097 million, being a $0.059 million decrease from 2011–12. The movement in nominal dollars is primarily a result of a $2.377 million decrease in supplier expenses (from $64.773 million in 2011–12 to $62.396 million in 2012–13). This was slightly offset by an increase in employee expenses of $1.825 million (from $37.657 million in 2011–12 to $39.482 million in 2012–13) and an increase in depreciation and amortisation of $0.463 million (rising from $1.589 million in 2011–12 to $2.052 million in 2012–13).

Operating result and ongoing budgetary pressures

For 2012–13, the Court has recorded an operating surplus2attributable to the Court of $1.484 million, compared with an operating deficit of $3.5913million reported in 2011–12, representing a change of $5.075 million between the two years. Excluding the impact of depreciation in 2011–12 of $1.589 million (included in the deficit due to there being no Departmental Capital Budget) this reduces the difference to $3.486m.

The remaining difference of $3.486 million is attributable to reductions in employee expenses arising from result of changes to the government bond rate ($0.183 million), changes in the asset revaluation reserve ($0.944 million), a decrease in property related expenses (rent and suppliers) as a result of changes in the funding and management of Commonwealth Law Courts and reduced expenses in leased premises ($1.326 million), a net reduction in resources received free of charge ($0.501 million), and a net reduction in expenditure of $0.532 million in order to combat ongoing pressures within the Court. There are still pressures 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 Circuit 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 Circuit Court in accordance with sections 90, 92 and 99 of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia 1999. Resources provided free of charge include:

  • court staff, who perform work on behalf of the Federal Circuit 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 Circuit Court during 2012–13 was $32.650 million. Services provided by the Federal Court to the Federal Circuit Court during 2012–13 was estimated at $8.122 million

In addition due to a change in the management and funding of Commonwealth Law Courts, the Court now receives resources free of charge from the Department of Finance. For 2012–13 it is estimated that this was to the value of $4.844 million.

Administered revenue and expenses

The Court received $38.999 million in 2012–13 on behalf of the Commonwealth, mainly in court fees. Administered revenue is not available to offset the Court’s operating costs. Offsetting the administered revenue collected by the Court on behalf of the Government were refunds of fees ($0.121 million) and write down of administered assets ($0.005 million). The Court also receives an administered appropriation to source primary dispute resolution services such as counselling, mediation and conciliation from community-based organisations. In 2012–13 the Court incurred $0.198m for these primary dispute resolution services. This resulted in a total comprehensive income of $38.675 million which was returned to government.

Asset management


The Federal Circuit Court is located in shared Commonwealth owned facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Parramatta, Perth and Sydney. It also occupies privately leased facilities in Albury, Alice Springs, Cairns, Coffs Harbour, Dandenong, Darwin, Dubbo, Launceston, Lismore, Newcastle, Townsville and Wollongong, and shares the state court facility in Rockhampton.

The most significant property-related activities at various court locations in 2012–13 are detailed below:


A reconfiguration of the Adelaide ground floor staff room and adjacent meeting room was delivered in January 2013. The improved design provides more appropriate amenities for staff servicing the registry counter, in an often high pressure environment. Whilst the modest reconfiguration was low in value, it has boosted the morale of staff working within this area of the courts.


A modest refurbishment of the chambers was delivered in December 2012. The methodology behind the works was to improve the outdated chambers. This was particularly important as the works aligned with the renewal of the lease in Dandenong. The works consisted of covering the exposed brick in chambers and repainting. Whilst the works were low in value, the outcome has greatly improved the previously aged and outdated chambers.


A number of minor works were delivered in May 2013, including upgrading the public bathrooms (cosmetic only), improving the registry counter area, improving the area occupied by the associates and improving the courtroom air conditioning. The works have resulted in an improved environment for staff and for litigants attending court.


The ground floor security scanning area was reconfigured in January 2013. This has provided a significant improvement to the flow of litigants attending the registry. The improved layout has reduced congestion, and provides improved safety and security through increased visibility and capacity in monitoring access points.

Purchasing, consultants and contracts


The Court’s Procurement and Risk Management section, as a result of the Corporate Services amalgamation, assists staff in the Federal Circuit 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 Rules. The Chief Executive Instructions, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the Court’s Procurement Framework are all posted on the intranet as reference material for Federal Circuit Court staff.

The core policies and principles of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules were, as far as practicable, adhered to throughout 2012–13. The Court’s Annual Procurement Plan was published meeting mandatory reporting requirements. An appropriate market approach was made for all procurements covered by the rules.

All contracts let in 2012–13 have provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors’ premises.


During 2012–13:

  • Two new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $37,207.50 (GST inclusive), and
  • One ongoing consultancy contract was active involving total actual expenditure of $2,400.00 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2012–13 was $39,607.50 (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, prequalified tender and limited tender 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

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.

Discretionary grants

The Federal Circuit Court made no grant payments during 2012–13.

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 2012–13.

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 Federal Circuit Court:

  • 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 2012–13 financial year.

Table 4.2: Legal services expenditure, 2012–13


Total costs recovered1


Total external legal services expenditure


Total internal legal services expenditure


Total (external + internal) expenditure



Summary of external legal services expenditure

Total value of briefs to counsel (A)


Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)


Total value of professional fees paid (C)


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




Number of briefs to male counsel


Number of briefs to female counsel


Total number of briefs to counsel


Number of direct briefs to male counsel


Number of direct briefs to female counsel


Total number of direct briefs to counsel


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


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


Total value of briefs to counsel (A)3




Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)



Professional fees

Australian Government Solicitor


Office of Parliamentary Counsel


Attorney General’s Department


Total value of professional fees paid (C)


1 Do not subtract this figure from the legal services expenditure total.

2 Includes the value of direct briefs.

3 Includes all expenditure on counsel. This figure is subject to a rounding error of $0.01 resulting from the allocation of GST across items from a single invoice.

Productivity Gains

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 flow from operating under the Enterprise Agreement.

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

From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions. The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by a new National Disability Strategy, which sets out a 10 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

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


2 Equivalent to the total comprehensive income (loss) less depreciation/amortisation expenses previously funded through revenue appropriations as reported in Note 28: Net Cash Appropriation Arrangements per the Financial Statements for the period ending 30 June 2013 and including ‘Other Comprehensive Income’.

3 The Federal Circuit Court did not have a Departmental Capital Budget in 2011–12 and therefore depreciation and amortisation was included in the total comprehensive income (loss).