Court employed 767 employees (excluding judicial officers, the CEO and casual employees)

The Court launched its own instructional YouTube channel

A new performance and recognition award called ASPIRE was trialled

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 2014, the Court's principal executive group comprised:

Richard Foster PSM FAIM, Chief Executive Officer

Image of the Chief Executive Officer, Richard Foster PSM FAIM.

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, Executive Director Operations

Image of the Executive Director Operations, Steven Agnew.

The Executive Director Operations 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, Chief Finance Officer

Image of the Chief Finance Officer, Grahame Harriott.

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

Image of the Principal Registrar, Adele Byrne PSM.

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 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 2013–14, considering administrative and financial matters. The committee comprises:

  • Chief Judge Pascoe (Chair)
  • Judge Baumann
  • Judge Brewster
  • Judge Coker
  • Judge Jarrett (from 1 May 2014)
  • Judge Emmett
  • Judge Riethmuller (from 1 May 2014)
  • Judge Henderson
  • Judge Burchardt
  • Judge Kelly
  • Judge Willis (from 1 May 2014)
  • Judge Whelan
  • Richard Foster (Chief Executive Officer)
  • Steve Agnew (Executive Director Operations)
  • Adele Byrne (Principal Registrar)
  • Stewart Fenwick (Secretariat)

Working groups of judges are also established as required to provide recommendations to the Chief Judge about areas of policy and practice.

Case Management Judges Committee

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has in place a structure consisting of a National Coordinator of Case Management and a number of case management judges who represent discrete geographical areas/locations. The Court, through this structure, actively monitors its case management across the nation and considers opportunities for improvement.

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 Committee meets quarterly with the Chief Judge and the National Coordinator of Case Management 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.

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 Chief Executive Officer, Richard Foster, the group meets bi-monthly and comprises:

  • Executive Director Operations, Federal Circuit Court
  • Executive Director, Corporate
  • Principal Registrar, Family Court
  • Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court
  • Principal, Child Dispute Services
  • Executive Director, Client Services
  • Regional Registry Managers
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Executive Advisor, Federal Circuit Court and Family Court
  • Director of Administration, Federal Circuit Court
  • Director, Court Services, and
  • Director, Human Services.

In 2013–14, CMAG continued to provide advice to the Chief Executive Officer on new policy and other initiatives. These included:

  • continued implementation of the Court Excellence Framework including the staff survey
  • the introduction of Live Chat between court users and the National Enquiry Centre (NEC)
  • approved the launch of the YouTube instructional videos
  • working with KPMG on the review of the federal courts
  • the Registry Services Information and Technology Services Priorities Plan
  • the updated and revised Statement of Strategic Intent, and
  • the multicultural and family violence plans.

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 2013–14, 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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access to Justice Committee

In May 2012 the Chief Judge established a committee to look at ways that the Federal Circuit Court can assist Indigenous litigants in family law and liaise with the relevant external groups. The committee is chaired by Judge Willis and comprises of judges from all around Australia representing most Federal Circuit Court locations including Judge Sexton and Judge Kemp in Sydney, Judge Harman in Parramatta, Judge Whelan in Melbourne, Judge Coates in Brisbane, Judge Harland in Darwin, Judge Terry and Judge Myers in Newcastle and Judge Kelly in Adelaide.

The term of reference for the committee is to determine how:

  • the Federal Circuit Court can improve access to justice in this Court for Indigenous litigants.

The committee has approached this task as a three step process:

  1. to gather information by directly contacting the relevant Indigenous legal services, community services and groups and institutions who represent Indigenous litigants and others who assist potential Indigenous litigants
  2. to meet regularly, collate information and recommendations, both interim and final, and
  3. to make recommendations about improving access to the Federal Circuit Court including the pathway, procedures and practice within the Court in regard to the preparation of Indigenous matters.

The committee aims to ensure the development and implementation of practical measures that will assist Indigenous litigants who file in the Federal Circuit Court. It is also focusing on and reviewing the current listing and case management processes in order to ascertain if there is a need for any modification to ensure they are responsive and relevant for Indigenous litigants.

As a result of the committee's consultations and recommendations, a sub-committee of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access to Justice Committee was formed to implement the Reconciliation Action Plan.

Business Systems and Information Technology Committee

In March 2014 the Chief Judge established the Business Systems and Information Technology Committee to provide a forum for the judiciary to review the business systems and information technology utilised by the Court. This committee will ensure the Court operates as efficiently as is reasonably possible whilst providing a high level of judicial services to litigants. In addition to its judicial membership, the committee also includes associate and administration representatives.

The committee, chaired by Judge Riethmuller, was established as the Court recognised that modern information systems are causing significant changes to the operations of the Court and the ways in which the courts are interacting with litigants, the members of the profession and other organisations. The committee is tasked with:

  • identifying and considering emerging technologies and business practices that have relevance to the Court's operation
  • considering the issues confronting the Court in having two separate case management systems for different areas of its work, and
  • providing advice to the Chief Judge and court administration on both business systems and IT.

The committee has conducted a number of meetings since its establishment utilising video-link and teleconference facilities. The initiatives which have been discussed and developed at these meetings include:

  • a review of the Electronic Court File developed by the Federal Court and the impact this will have on the Federal Circuit Court, and
  • a review of Federal Circuit Court databases.

Ad hoc committees

Courts Information Committee

The Courts Information Committee was established by Chief Judge Pascoe, Chief Justice Bryant, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in 2012 to:

  • identify and describe the agreed statistical and management information needs of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court at all levels
  • establish which key stakeholders should receive what reports at what frequencies
  • review all management reports that are produced on a regular basis for their applicability, reliability, relevance and future use
  • make recommendations about the refinement of reports with a view to improving their usefulness to those who receive them, both internally and externally
  • provide guidance and support as to the level of data quality required to ensure the reports are at a desired level of accuracy, and
  • develop principles to set priorities in respect of the provision of regular reports.

The committee is comprised of a Federal Circuit Court judge, a Family Court judge, and senior administrative staff from the family law courts. The committee continued to meet regularly by telephone during the reporting period and has considerably advanced its work program.

Other committees

A number of administrative committees were also active during 2013–14 and provided high level operational and policy advice. Meeting on a regular or ad hoc basis, they included:

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

Senior management committee highlights

This section highlights the work of senior management committees during 2013–14. Appendix G has details of membership and terms of reference for the various committees.

Family Law Courts Advisory Group

The Family Law Courts Advisory Group has a critical governance role in resourcing both courts and coordinates various administrative relationships between the two courts.

The Family Law Courts Advisory Group comprises:

  • Chief Judge Pascoe (Federal Circuit Court)
  • Chief Justice Bryant (Family Court)
  • Judge Baumann (Federal Circuit Court)
  • Justice Watts (Family Court), and
  • Albin Smrdel (Attorney-General's Department).

This advisory group meets as required.

Joint Costs Advisory Committee

The Joint Costs Advisory Committee comprises representatives of the four federal courts: the High Court, the Federal Court, the Federal Circuit Court, and the Family Court . During the reporting period the committee comprised:

  • Judge of the Family Court of Australia (Justice Benjamin) (Chair)
  • Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar of the High Court of Australia (Andrew Phelan)
  • Deputy Registrar of the Federal Court of Australia (John Mathieson)
  • Principal Registrar of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Adele Byrne), and
  • Principal Registrar and Acting Principal Registrar of the Family Court of Australia, Angela Filippello and Chris Spink, who participates in the Committee as an observer.

The committee reviews and recommends variations to the quantum of costs contained in the rules made by federal courts and advises on such other matters relating to those costs as may be referred to it by a federal court. The committee tabled its 6th report on legal practitioners' costs in September 2013. The Committee recommended a 2.7 per cent increase in the scale of costs specified in the Rules of the High Court, Federal Circuit Court, Family Court and Federal Court. .

National Consultative Committee

The National Consultative Committee is a key forum for the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court to consult 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.

The Committee met once in 2013–14. 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 Family Court and the Federal Circuit 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 2013–14, the committee met monthly for the first half of the year to discuss the learning and development needs across all areas of the courts. It was decided the committee would circulate information out of session throughout the rest of the year, meeting at the beginning of the new financial year to set the year's training agenda.

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 as well as management and staff feedback.

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

National Work Health and Safety Committee

The Work Health and Safety Committee met twice during the 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.

Corporate and operational planning and associated performance reporting and review

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court agency consists of dedicated judicial support staff to Family Court justices and Federal Circuit Court judges with the remainder providing shared services to both courts in roles such as registrars, family consultants, Registry Services and Corporate Services.

At 30 June 2014, the Court had 767 employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14, Common Law Agreements or Australian Workplace Agreements but excluding judicial officers and casual employees.

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 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, and
  • Connections – a social networking environment that supports staff to communicate and collaborate in the work environment.

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 2013–14 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.

Internal audits conducted during the year included:

  • credit cards
  • procurement
  • IT Disaster Recovery Planning
  • IT Security
  • a review and update of the Courts Risk Control and Compliance Framework
  • a review and update of the Courts Strategic Risk Management Plan, and
  • collection of fees.

The Court's Audit and Risk Committee monitored the implementation of individual audit report recommendations generated from those 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 was updated during the 2013–14 financial year and 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 with regular reviews and updating of the plan being undertaken.

The Court's Human Influenza Pandemic Plan was also revised and updated during the course of the 2013–14 financial year.

The Procurement and Risk Management section continues to provide, as a standing agenda item, regular updates on risk related activities to the 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 Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group and oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Fraud prevention and control

A revised and updated Fraud Control Plan was implemented on 1 July 2013 to cover the requirements of the single FMA Act agency, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The Court's Fraud Control Plan 2013–15 complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.

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 2011.

During 2013–14, the Audit and Risk Committee continued to receive reports on the implementation status of fraud risk treatments.

The Court continued to monitor the Fraud Control Plan 2013–15. 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.

One instance of fraud against the Court was reported in 2013–14 with a formal investigation undertaken in accordance with established policies and procedures.

Ethical standards

The Court's Strategic Risk 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 2013–14, 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, newsletters and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

Policy and practices on the establishment and maintenance of appropriate ethical standards, Ethics contact officers

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 focused on enhancing ethics and accountability in the Commonwealth public sector.

The Director of Human Resources is the Court's representative at the Ethics Contact Officer Network forum.

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman received five approaches about the Federal Circuit Court for the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. Of these approaches, none were investigated and five were closed. During the year, the Commonwealth Ombudsman wrote to the agency head advising of the legislative passage of the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013 which commenced on 16 January 2014 and highlighting the role of the Ombudsman within the scheme and the need for agencies to develop procedures for facilitating and dealing with public interest disclosures.

Privacy Commission

The Federal Circuit Court was the subject of two complaints made to the Privacy Commission during 2013–14.

In March 2014 the new Australian Privacy Principles (APP) commenced. The 13 APPs will have an impact on government and business entities. A copy of the Privacy Policy of the Federal Circuit Court is found under Court Forms at www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

Senate estimates committee hearings

Senior executive staff of the Court attended the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Budget Estimates on three occasions during the financial year. The executive staff prepared responses to 32 whole-of-government questions on notice.

Whole-of-government Information, Communication and Technology initiatives

During 2013–14, the Court participated in a number of whole-of-government Information and Communication Technology (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 2013–14:

  • in October 2013, the Court submitted the annual ICT benchmarking report to the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for 2012–13 and included quantitative measures about capacity and quantities of ICT equipment. This was the first year that the report included the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court as a new combined agency
  • the Court reported to AGIMO on the ICT Audit Information Collection and ICT Benchmarking Supplementation Survey in June 2014
  • the Court completed the implementation of the Government Desktop Common Operating Environment Policy in the Court's standard operating environment upgrade project in September 2013
  • the contract for network services under the Internet Based Network Connection Services panel was delayed by the change of Federal Government. A contract is expected to be signed between Department of Finance (on behalf of the Court) and Optus early in the 2014–15 financial year
  • 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 2014, 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. Work continued throughout the year to meet the compliance deadlines.

External evaluations

KPMG review of courts performance and funding

The Attorney-General's Department (the Department) engaged KPMG in late December 2013 to undertake a review of the performance and funding of the federal courts to support future strategic decision-making. The review process has been informed by Terms of Reference developed by the Department, the Attorney-General and the Heads of Jurisdiction of each of the courts, and further builds on previous work which considered:

  • the appropriateness, effectiveness, efficiency, integration, performance and strategic policy alignment of the Courts in the 2012 Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General's Portfolio (the Skehill Review), and
  • governance options to achieve a more integrated family law system, including structures and management processes necessary to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and integration of service delivery across the family law jurisdiction in the 2009 Future governance options for federal family law courts in Australia (the Semple Review).

A key theme emerging from the Skehill and Semple Reviews, and this review, has been the financial difficulties exhibited by the Courts, particularly the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. The Courts await the Government's consideration of the review and any decisions arising.

Productivity Commission Public Inquiry into Access to Justice arrangements

The courts participated with a range of other stakeholders in the Commission's inquiry to examine the current costs of accessing justice services and securing legal representation, and the impact of these costs on access to, and quality of justice. A draft report has been provided to Government in April 2014 and the final report is due by September 2014. Further details are available at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/access-justice

Management of human resources

Overview

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 2013–14 Human Resources focussed on:

  • the machinery of government change to formalise a single administration to support the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The administration is now known as the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
  • recruitment services: advertising support, recruitment tips and assistance, probation, letters of offer and contracts
  • payroll, entitlements and conditions of employment
  • payroll system, including support for Aurion/employee self-service reporting
  • workforce capability services including planning, Performance Management and Development Scheme, learning and development and workplace wellbeing
  • the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
  • workplace relations support including Enterprise Agreement and National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
  • systems to support new workplace health and safety legislation, and
  • employee wellbeing and respectful behaviours.

Enterprise Agreement

The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 (the Agreement) continued to operate during 2013–14.

The Agreement covers all non-SES staff of the courts and delivered a salary increase of three per cent at its commencement on 1 July 2011 and two further increases of three per cent each on 1 July 2012 and 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.

The Court is committed to supporting employees to adhere to the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. During 2013–14, employees continued to receive information about the Values and the Code through all staff emails, the intranet and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

Workforce planning

In 2013–14 workforce planning activities continued to focus on ensuring the successful completion of combining the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court. This involved the formalising of current arrangements and enabling additional improvements to the courts' administrative practices and procedures.

As at 30 June 2014, 173 (22.56 per cent) of court staff were eligible to retire. Accordingly, the Court continued to develop 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 staff numbers excluding the judiciary and casuals.

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 schemes recognise and reward employees for the achievement of corporate goals, providing non-cash rewards and recognition. This year the Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award ceased after seven years and a new award, ASPIRE, was trialled.

ASPIRE

Image of Maria Paniel from the National Support Office. Winner of the courts' first ASPIRE award.

Maria Paniel from the National Support Office. Winner of the first ASPIRE award.

The ASPIRE award (Appreciating Strong Performance and Innovation by Recognising Employees) was formulated by the Young Employees Advisory Group 2013–14. With the aim of motivating and engaging employees, the award will be given every six months within each regional group.

The pilot took place in the National Support Office, the recipient being Maria Paniel, Administration Officer. Maria received the award for her positive, can-do attitude, her enthusiasm and high level of productivity. Maria's happiness is infectious and she is described as being a pleasure to work with.

Other nominees were:

  • Claire Golding, Director, Human Resources
  • Christine Carey, Director, Finance
  • Jane Morgan, Workforce and Policy Manager
  • John Keen, Management Accountant
  • Kate Naylor, Senior Communications Officer, and
  • Neil Brett, Senior Applications Developer.

An evaluation of the ASPIRE trial in 2014–15 will determine if it is suitable to roll out nationally to all registries.

Australia Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day medallions are awarded to select members of staff each year. The awards recognise excellence in contribution by employees working in both government and non-government organisations, including the courts.

In 2014 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court awarded Australia Day achievement medallions to:

Belinda King, Melbourne registry

Belinda has been with the Court for eight years and is a Client Service Officer. Initially on the switchboard, she helped transition the service to the NEC, eventually broadening her role to be a Client Service Officer on the counter. Belinda is consistently professional, courteous and patient with all clients as well as knowledgeable with a good eye for detail. Belinda has excellent communication skills, is courteous / tactful in communication with everyone including litigants, lawyers, judges, chambers staff, registrars and consultants.

Greg Kift, Sydney registry

As the Business Systems Development Officer Manager, Greg has a rare mix of management styles that allow him to connect with anyone and understand instantly what needs to be done in order to achieve results. His team is consistently inspired by his tenacity and desire to improve business systems in the courts. His passion for reducing paper use (and even electricity) means he's constantly looking for ways to get our systems working smarter and to minimise environmental and monetary cost. His management of projects to train staff in Windows 7 have meant the courts can progress their technological options in court systems.

Jaimol Poovakkulathuchacko, Parramatta registry

Jaimol has been with the Court for 15 years. She is a Senior Client Service Officer, operating as a Team Leader two days per week (job sharing with another Team Leader). Jaimol is a quiet achiever, in that she has never sought accolades nor recognition for her leadership. She is a highly effective and respected client service leader in the registry and is well known and respected in other registries. Jaimol combines her knowledge, skills and experience to willingly mentor team members and provide positive encouragement to all.

Neil Brett, National Support Office

Commencing with the Court in 1998, Neil became a Lotus Notes applications development specialist before moving on to Casetrack development and taking a Senior Applications Developer role in 2003. Never one to shy away from a technical challenge Neil was often involved in the more complex and intricate aspects of the workings of Casetrack. Most recently his focus has been on Commonwealth Courts Portal development. He has had a major contribution to the growth of the Portal's functionality, useability and acceptance. The Portal is at the leading edge of IT applications in courts around the world.

Image of Neil Brett with his Australia Day achievement medallion.

Neil Brett with his Australia Day achievement medallion.

Years of service awards

Years of service awards are presented to employees who have been with the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court for more than 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Recipients in 2013–14 include:

20 years

  • Lee-Anne McMurray (Brisbane)
  • Judith Meryl Coxon (Dandenong)
  • Liz Picking (Melbourne)
  • Ineke Stierman (Hobart)
  • Lily A Cheng (Parramatta)
  • Susana Srsa (Sydney)
  • Christ Anthonisz (Brisbane)
  • Heather Priest (Adelaide)
  • Marianne Christopoulos (Adelaide)
  • Sylvia Martin (Sydney)
  • Beth Den Hartog (Dandenong)
  • Darren Watkins (Adelaide)
  • Michael Philip Bills (Adelaide)
  • Tracey Anne Morris (Townsville)
  • Pia Marrone (Melbourne)
  • Russell McMahon (Adelaide)

25 years

  • Beheshteh Gharakhan (Sydney)
  • Tammy Weiss (Dandenong)
  • Nagarajah Muralitharan (Parramatta)
  • Kristine Claffey (Newcastle)
  • Maria Hawken (Dandenong)
  • Kwok Tung Wong (Melbourne)
  • Angela Filippello (Brisbane)
  • Rosario Abellar (Sydney)
  • Donna Bowen (Sydney)
  • Louise Deane (Sydney)

30 years

  • Carol MacPherson (Lismore)

Workforce turnover

During 2013–14, 88 employees left the agency (47 were non-ongoing, 41 were ongoing employees), being an annual turnover rate of 11.5 per cent against total employee numbers (767) at 30 June 2014. (see Table B.7 at Appendix B).

Staffing profile

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court agency consists of dedicated judicial support staff to Family Court justices and Federal Circuit Court judges with the remainder providing shared services to both courts in roles such as registrars, family consultants, registry services and corporate services.

At 30 June 2014, the Court had 767 employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14, Common Law Agreements or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) but excluding judicial officers and casual employees. 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 2014, the Court had 65 judges, including the Chief Judge (24 female and 41 male). 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 Chief Executive Officer are governed by enforceable determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Further details including relevant determinations are available at: www.remtribunal.gov.au

Agreement making

Enterprise Agreement

The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 continued to operate during 2013–14. 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. See Table B.8 at Appendix B for more detail.

Other agreements

Offers of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) to court agency employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy, however, at 30 June 2014, 27 employees had enforceable AWAs in place.

In some limited cases, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has used individual flexibility arrangements, common law contracts and determination 24 instruments pursuant to the Public Service Act 1999 to build upon existing AWA arrangements. See Table B.9 at Appendix B for more detail.

Relationship between agreements

Terms and conditions of employment in the agency 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
  • individual determinations under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999, and
  • individual common law contracts.

The Enterprise Agreement, like its predecessors, is a comprehensive agreement. However for some employees, it may be supported by either an individual flexibility arrangement, a s 24(1) determination or a common law contract 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 or common law contracts 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 AWAs and individual s 24(1) determination made by the 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
  • access to salary sacrificing arrangements
  • computers, including 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

The Court's industrial instruments do not include provision for performance based pay to employees. No employees received performance pay during 2013–14.

Training, learning and development

There have been a number of training initiatives run via the Staff Development Committee. These include:

Family consultant training

Dyadic peer consultation

Peer consultation is a framework being introduced within Child Dispute Services (CDS) during 2014. Clinicians can select a peer to engage with in monthly sessions, and use this forum as an opportunity to explore and critically reflect on their practice. In order for this system to be implemented, all participating staff require training in how to facilitate the reflective process for their colleagues. A leading expert in peer reflective practice, Dr Daphne Hewson, was commissioned to develop and deliver three training sessions (each two days duration) to run in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Indigenous cultural competence

Given the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing the family law system, it was identified that CDS should have a staff member at each registry trained in conducting culturally sensitive assessments. As such, Aboriginal Forensic Psychologist, Mr Stephen Ralph, was commissioned to develop and deliver two training sessions which were held in Sydney in February 2014 and Townsville in May 2014. All staff located at these registries were required to attend, with a representative from nearby registries also attending. As a result of this training initiative, there is now a staff member in each region (and most sub-registries) who is trained in how to approach assessments with Aboriginal litigants.

Registrar training

In order to build the skills and knowledge of registrars using Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, training has been arranged for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in the use of Microsoft Office 2010. Education at the registry level is continuing and a national plan has been developed for 2014–15.

Team leader training

Human Resources, through the Staff Development Committee, conducted a Team Leader Development Program, specifically for registry and judicial support team leaders. The training included:

  • above the line behaviour – a workshop based on the best-selling book The Oz Principle which focuses on developing a workplace culture based on accountability
  • DISC and Workplace Motivators and Emotional Intelligence Framework
  • performance management
  • individual debrief session and action plans for implementation of learning from the program back into the registry, and
  • ideas to revolutionise our workplace and how we do business.

Quarterly follow ups by teleconference will continue.

Employee Assistance Program

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

The Court's Employee Assistance Program, provided by Converge International, is a free, confidential counselling service for all court employees and their immediate families who are experiencing personal or work-related problems.

Converge also provide a dedicated Managers Assistance Program for managers to confidentially discuss issues which may arise as a result of being in a supervisory position.

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:

  • a continuous improvement approach to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 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 2013–14 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
  • the 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 2013–14 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff included:

  • 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, and
  • national recording and systems management of work health and safety throughout the courts, managed through the National Workplace Health and Safety Committee.

Ongoing wellbeing initiatives included:

  • 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 were all provided for the Court's employees on an ongoing basis.
  • the Court's local work health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2013–14. None of the Court's locations reported work health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year.

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 has contributed to reducing the total future costs of all such claims.

The costs of claims have decreased in 2013–14, however careful attention will need to be given to the number of claims for psychological injury and duration of time off work.

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

The Rehabilitation Management System, which outlines the framework, has now been implemented for effectively managing early intervention and claims processes and is aiding effectively in managing the incidence and severity of compensable and non-compensable injury and illness. The courts aim is to assist employees to return to work as soon as possible.

Table 4.1: Comcare premium rates, 2010–11 to 2014–15

 

2010–11

2011–12

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

Latest premium rates

1.25%

1.12%

1.18%

0.88%

1.11%

All agencies combined premium rates

1.20%

1.41%

1.77%

1.81%

2.12%

Financial performance

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

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in 2013–14 was $212.961 million, including appropriations from Government ($172.113 million), other revenue ($1.884 million), and other gains ($38.964 million). Other gains reflects notional revenue to pay for services received free of charge, comprised of Commonwealth Law Courts rent from the Department of Finance ($18.734 million), registry, migration and library services received from the Federal Court ($9.771 million), liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges Pension Scheme ($10.358 million), and Australian National Audit Office audit fees ($0.101 million).

Following the merger of the two separate prescribed FMA agencies from 1 July 2013, the courts were required to re-appropriate $19.429 million in revenue recognised in prior financial years in both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. In accordance with the Finance Ministers Orders these amounts have been recognised as revenue in 2013–14 (with appropriations receivable opening balances reduced accordingly). But for this treatment, the appropriations from Government would have been $152.684 million in 2013–14.

Operating expenditure for the 2013–14 financial year amounted to $205.380 million. Figure 4.1 provides a breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the courts for 2013–14. Of the total amount, 31 per cent is directly attributable to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and 13 per cent is directly attributable to the first instance jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia, and four per cent directly attributable to the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court. Depreciation and amortisation, asset movements and bad debts, and property and other notional expenses not directly attributable to either jurisdiction comprise 21 per cent of the expenditure. The remaining 31 per cent of expenditure relates to services shared between the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court for registry and corporate services (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration). A breakdown of the costs directly attributed to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration is shown in Figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure ($205.380 million), 2013–14 ($million)

This figure shows the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure in 2013–14.

Table 4.2: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure

Family Court of Australia direct expenditure

Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed as 1st Instance judicial officers within the Family Court of Australia and includes judicial salary (and entitlements, such as long leave and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for circuits, judicial calendaring/relief), and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters).

Family Court of Australia appellate direct expenditure

Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary assigned to the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia and include judicial salary (and entitlements, such as long leave and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for Full Court, judicial calendaring/relief), and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters).

Federal Circuit Court direct expenditure

Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed to exercise Federal and Family Law jurisdiction within the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and include judicial salary (and entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave, superannuation, and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for circuits, judicial calendaring/relief), and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters). Includes registry and migration services provided free of charge in federal law matters to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia from the Federal Court of Australia.

Family Court and Federal Circuit Court admin: employee and supplier expenses

Employee and supplier expenses incurred on by registry and corporate services incurred in supporting both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Details shown in Figure 4.2.

Property and library services received free of charge

Expenses which the courts recognise but do not require any appropriation revenue from government. Includes, services provided free of charge from the Department of Finance for courtrooms and chambers within Commonwealth Law Courts, and library services from the Federal Court, and audit services from the Australian National Audit Office.

Shared Property Expenses

Rent and property operating cost the courts incur for leased and Commonwealth Law Court premises. These are property costs for which the court received appropriation revenue funding.

Depreciation and Amortisation

Expenses which the courts recognise but do not require any appropriation revenue from government. Appropriation funding for depreciation and amortisation ceased 30 June 2010 with the move to 'net cash' funding and was replaced with a Departmental Capital Budget to fund the replacement of court assets.

Figure 4.2: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration expenditure ($62.649 million), 2013–14 ($million)

This figure shows the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration expenditure in 2013–14.

Table 4.3: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Administration expenditure

Corporate services

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to finance, human resources, property services, contract services.

Information Technology Services

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the provision of technology services to the courts.

Corporate costs

Corporate costs of are the employee entitlements expenses (long service leave, annual leave, superannuation) incurred by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court support staff, along with fringe benefit expenses incurred by the Court's judiciary and SES for Fringe Benefit Tax liabilities for the provision of motor vehicles and other fringe benefits.

Principal, Child Dispute Services

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the courts' Principal, Child Dispute Services.

CEO and support

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the Office of the Chief Executive Officer.

Registry services – client service

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to client service staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Registry services – registrars

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to registrar staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Registry services – family consultant

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to family consultant staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Registry services – administration

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to administration staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Registry services – Indigenous Family Liaison Officers

Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to Indigenous Family Liaison Officer staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Operating result and ongoing budgetary pressures

For 2013–14 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has recorded an underlying surplus of $18.784 million. This includes the recognition of $19.429 million as revenue for the previously unspent appropriation balances for the then separate prescribed agencies as at 30 June 2013 which was required to be reappropriated as part of the 2013–14 Portfolio Additional Estimates. Excluding the impact of this adjustment the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has an underlying deficit of $0.645 million1.

Administered revenue

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court received $55.138 million on behalf of the Commonwealth for court fees and fines. Administered revenue is not available to offset the courts' operating costs. Offsetting the administered revenue collected by the courts on behalf of the Commonwealth were refunds of fees ($0.283 million), and write down and impairment of assets ($0.632 million). The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court also receive an administered appropriation to source primary dispute resolution services such as counselling, mediation and conciliation from community-based organisations for litigants in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. In 2013–14 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court incurred $0.189 million for these primary dispute resolution services. This resulted in a total comprehensive income of $54.034 million which was returned to Government.

Events after the reporting period

There were no subsequent events that had the potential to significantly affect the ongoing structure and financial activities of the Courts.

Asset and property management

Property

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

The most significant property-related activities at various court locations in 2013–14 are detailed below:

Cairns

A modest upgrade of courtroom two was undertaken in June 2014, consisting of a repaint and recovering of the seats. Whilst the works were limited, it has uplifted the feel and presentation of the courtroom.

Canberra

Due to a shortage of chambers in Canberra, works were undertaken to convert two offices into chambers and an office for associates. Extensive additional storage was also installed outside chambers to alleviate storage issues for the judge and associate in the adjacent chambers.

Dandenong

The upgrade of the bathroom in the child observation area was delivered in April 2014. This is the last stage (previous works were undertaken in 2011–12) to upgrade the child care area to provide a space that is fit for purpose and welcoming for children attending court or for a family assessment.

Lismore

A minor project was completed in May 2014 to improve the public waiting area. Works were minimal, with a repaint and new furniture, however, the refurbishment created a vast improvement to the waiting area for litigants attending court.

Sydney – 80 William Street

The complete fitout of two floors was undertaken during the course of the year. These works were a joint venture with the Fair Work Commission however, the Federal Circuit Court has sole use. This has resulted in the delivery of six additional courtrooms and chambers and has addressed a critical shortage of accommodation in the Sydney central business district. The project also endorses the Government's policy of gaining accommodation efficiencies specifically in sharing accommodation.

New accommodation

Darwin

Extensive negotiations occurred across the year with the Department of Attorney General and Justice (NT) to co-locate within the Supreme Court building. An agreement was reached and Heads of Agreement signed by both jurisdictions in April 2014. Fitout works are scheduled for 2014–15. The move will make the Northern Territory the only jurisdiction in the country to combine the Supreme Court, Federal Court, Federal Circuit Court and Family Court, in one building. The move is also consistent with the Government's policy of gaining accommodation efficiencies specifically in sharing accommodation.

Alice Springs

The lessor gave the courts notice to vacate in April 2014. As a result, the courts negotiated to sub-lease a vacant courthouse with the Department of Attorney-General and Justice (NT). The building, known as the Westpoint building, will be used for circuits and family assessments. The move is also consistent with the Government's policy of gaining accommodation efficiencies specifically in sharing accommodation.

Purchasing, consultants and contracts

Purchasing

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court's Procurement and Risk Management section assists staff undertaking procurement and manages a number of corporate contracts. The section also manages, or has significant involvement in, all complex procurement undertaken by the courts 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 on the intranet as reference material for court staff.

The core policies and principles of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules were, as far as practicable, adhered to throughout 2013–14. The 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 2013–14 had provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors' premises.

Consultants

During 2013–14:

  • six new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $158,275 (GST inclusive), and
  • one ongoing consultancy contract was active involving total actual expenditure of $25,845 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2013–14 was $184,120 (GST inclusive).

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

A – skills currently unavailable within the courts

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 courts use open tender, prequalified tender and limited tender for its consultancies.

The courts are a relatively small user of consultants. As such the courts have no specific policy by which consultants are engaged, other than within the broad frameworks above, related to skills unavailability within the courts 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 www.tenders.gov.au.

No contracts were let to an organisation for the delivery of services previously performed by the courts 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.

Grant programs

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court made no grant payments during 2013–14.

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, Commonwealth departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator 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 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a ten year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the Strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring.

The first of these reports will be available in late 2014, and will be available at www.dss.gov.au

1 Equivalent to the total comprehensive income less depreciation/amortisation expenses previously funded through revenue appropriations as reported in note 30: net cash appropriation arrangements per the Financial Statements for the period ending 30 June 2014 and including 'other comprehensive income'.