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 Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013 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 Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Chief Executive Officer's agency head powers under the Public Service Act apply to the Australian Public Service employees of the Court. The Public Governance Performance 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 2015, the Court's principal executive group comprised:

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Richard Foster PSM FAIM

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 Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OPERATIONS
Steven Agnew

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.

PRINCIPAL REGISTRAR
Adele Byrne PSM

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.

DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION
Stewart Fenwick

Image of the Director of Administration, Stewart Fenwick

The Director of Administration supports the Chief Judge in his role as head of jurisdiction by ensuring that administrative services best meet the operational needs of the Court. Based in the Chambers of the Chief Judge, the Director of Administration acts as secretariat to the Policy Advisory Committee, has oversight of the national judicial operating budget, and assists with liaison both within and outside the Court. Other responsibilities include facilitating the conduct of judicial education sessions and the annual judges conference, and acting as head of the Chief Judge's Chambers.

PRINCIPAL, CHILD DISPUTE SERVICES
Jane Reynolds (acting)

Image of the acting Principal Child Dispute Services, Jane Reynolds.

The Principal, Child Dispute Services advises the Chief Judge and the Chief Executive Officer on the provision of quality child dispute services to the Court. The Principal ensures that the services delivered by the family consultants are effective and consistent with the strategic and business objectives of the Court. The Principal also has responsibility for the development of strategic external relationships that promote and position the child dispute services of the Court within the family law framework.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CLIENT SERVICES
Stephen Andrew

Image of the Executive Director Client Services, Stephen Andrew.

The Executive Director, Client Services is responsible for the delivery of client services in all family law registries. The Executive Director ensures that high quality registry services and support are provided to all judicial officers, litigants and legal practitioners, consistent with the strategic and business objectives of the Court. The Executive Director, Client Services also has responsibility for statistical services.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CORPORATE
Adrian Brocklehurst

Image of the Executive Director Corporate, Adrian Brocklehurst.

The Executive Director, Corporate provides strategic leadership and management of the Court's human resources, property and contracts, finance, management accounting and procurement and risk management. Adrian Brocklehurst was appointed Executive Director, Corporate in September 2014.

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 five times in 2014–15, considering administrative and financial matters. The committee comprises:

  • Chief Judge Pascoe (Chair)
  • Judge Baumann
  • Judge Brewster
  • Judge Coker
  • Judge Jarrett
  • Judge Emmett
  • Judge Riethmuller
  • Judge Henderson
  • Judge Kelly
  • Judge Willis
  • 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 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 to consider any workload or jurisprudential impacts
  • recommended Rules, practice notices and approved forms, and
  • legal issues impacting on the jurisdiction of the Court.

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 on key areas that affect the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

Chaired by the Chief Executive Officer, CMAG meets bi-monthly and comprises:

  • Steve Agnew (Executive Director, Operations, Federal Circuit Court)
  • Stewart Fenwick (Director of Administration, Federal Circuit Court)
  • Adele Byrne (Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court)
  • Stephen Andrew (Executive Director, Client Services)
  • Leisha Lister (Executive Advisor, Family Court)
  • Adrian Brocklehurst (Executive Director, Corporate)
  • Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar, Family Court)
  • Jane Reynolds (Acting Principal, Child Dispute Services)
  • Claire Golding (Director, Human Resources),
  • Paul Stace (Acting Chief Information Officer), and
  • Regional Registry Managers

In 2014–15, CMAG continued to provide advice to the Chief Executive Officer on new policy and other initiatives. These included:

  • continued work with the Attorney-General's Department on the review of the federal courts
  • implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence, Family Violence Screening Tool Pilot, Multicultural Plan and cultural competency training
  • financial and human resource planning
  • staff compliance training and development
  • information technology initiatives
  • human resource management policies and practices, and
  • social media communication strategy.

Client Service Senior Manager's Group

The Client Service Senior Managers' Group (CSSMG) comprises registry managers and registry and judicial service managers from the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The group aims to be innovative in the development of new ideas and seeks to identify and implement ways to continually improve service delivery across the courts by streamlining procedures, ensuring consistency in work practice, providing better information and enhancing client contact with the courts.

During the reporting period, the group met on four occasions by video-link as well as communicating via the courts' Connections technology through a 'CSSMG community'. Through this community members can discuss issues, provide reports, post blogs and upload files for discussion within the group.

CSSMG was involved in several priority projects during 2014–15 including:

  • developing a strategy to move to a cashless registry environment by 1 July 2015
  • ongoing exploration of eFiling procedures to ensure that the most efficient use of the technology is being implemented in response to the growth in eFiling
  • enhancing the staff Peer Support Program, which provides practical and emotional support for court staff when there are distressing events at work
  • assisting with the implementation of the new Notice of Risk form in the Federal Circuit Court – a mandatory form for any person who files an application or response seeking parenting orders in the Federal Circuit Court on or after 12 January 2015, and
  • assisting with debt collection strategies for unpaid fees.

Audit and Risk Committee

The Audit and Risk Committee is established in accordance with section 45 of the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Chief Executive Officer must establish and maintain an audit committee for the agency, with the functions and responsibilities required by Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 Section 17. The functions must include reviewing the appropriateness of the courts' financial reporting, performance reporting, system of risk oversight and management and system of internal control for the courts. The Committee comprises an external chair and two senior managers from the courts' administration.

During 2014–15, 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.

Mr Chris Doogan retired from the Committee at the February 2015 meeting, with Mr Brian Acworth being appointed as Chair of the Committee from that point. Ms Maria Storti was appointed as a second external member of the Committee and attended her first meeting in February 2015. Mr Jamie Crew and Mr Greg Thomas also retired from the Committee at the conclusion of the June 2015 meeting. A new member will be appointed to the Committee to commence in August 2015.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access to Justice Committee

Two Indigenous community consultants were invited onto the Committee this year, an Aboriginal man Rick Welsh from Sydney and a Torres Strait Islander woman Josephine Akee. These two members have provided invaluable assistance and perspective in the Court's endeavours to achieve commitments under the Reconciliation Action Plan.

Judges and other court staff have assisted with the conduct of events through the Aboriginal Family Law Pathways Network in Sydney including roadshows and the inaugural Aboriginal Family Law Pathways Conference. In Cairns, the Committee has planned and established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Law Pathways group. All of this work has been with the help of the Indigenous Community Consultative members working with judges and staff. The Committee is working on establishing further Australian and Torres Strait Islander Family Law Pathways groups in Australia.

In early 2015 the Committee submitted its first Reconciliation Action Plan Impact Measurement Questionnaire to Reconciliation Australia. The Chair of the Committee also joined the Family Court's Chief Justice's Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity during the year.

Business Systems and Information Technology Committee

The Business Systems and Information Technology Committee was established to provide a forum for the judiciary to review the business systems and information technology utilised by the Court. 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 information technology.

The committee conducts regular meetings utilising video-link and teleconference facilities. The initiatives which have been discussed and developed at these meetings include:

  • a review of the information technology requirements of the Court, both judiciary and staff
  • a review of the Electronic Court File developed by the Federal Court and the impact this will have on the Federal Circuit Court
  • the trial of touchscreen technology and other hardware options in courtrooms for use with the Electronic Court File, and
  • addressing issues of concern in relation to internet speed and access.

Other committees

A number of administrative committees were also active during 2014–15 and provided high level operational and policy advice. Meeting on a regular or ad hoc basis, they included:

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

Senior management committee highlights

This section highlights the work of senior management committees during 2014–15. Appendix G has details of membership and terms of reference for the various committees.

Joint Costs Advisory Committee

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

  • Justice Benjamin (Judge, Family Court, Chair)
  • Andrew Phelan (Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar, of the High Court of Australia)
  • John Mathieson (Deputy Registrar, Federal Court of Australia)
  • Adele Byrne (Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court), and
  • Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar, Family Court, 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.

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.

The Committee met once in 2014–15. Its 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.

National Work Health and Safety Committee

The National 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 2015, there were 772 ongoing and non-ongoing agency employees (excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees) in all states and territories.

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

  • administration policies and procedural documents including guidelines, procedures and manuals from the finance, human resources and information, communication and technology areas
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • Corporate Plan and business area plans (for the National Support Office)
  • Courts Exchange, the courts' staff newsletter
  • HR information bulletins
  • Service Charter and Service Commitments documents
  • Registry Services Delivery Strategy
  • Statement of Strategic Intent, and
  • case management policies and manuals related to the management of family law cases from the Chief Judge, the Principal Registrar and the Principal, Child Dispute Services.

The Court's geographically dispersed judiciary and staff are informed of significant changes and events through the following:

  • Chief Judge eMessages—emails from the Chief Judge to the judiciary and all staff
  • Chief Executive Officer eMessages—emails from the Chief Executive Officer to all staff
  • Chief Executive Instructions—the official mechanism by which the Chief Executive Officer communicates and directs the Court's compliance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth)
  • Client service advices—from the Executive Director, Client Services to all client service staff working in the registries
  • Courts Exchange—the courts' internal staff newsletter, which is issued four times per year and includes columns from the Chief Justice, Chief Judge and Chief Executive Officer. This is the primary vehicle for sharing information and celebrating the achievements and successes of court staff, and
  • Intranet messages—latest news.

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.

In 2014–15, the Court's internal audit services were provided by RSM Bird Cameron and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

The 2014–15 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:

  • records management
  • payroll and leave management
  • court fees (non-event based)
  • travel
  • IT Infrastructure (ITIL) Framework, and
  • business continuity testing.

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

The Risk Control and Compliance Framework provide policies, procedures and tools to promote effective risk management. The Framework is available to all court staff on the intranet for the principal purpose of achieving better services and outcomes for clients, judicial services 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 Business Continuity Plan with regular reviews, testing and updating of the Plan being undertaken.

The Procurement and Risk Management section continues to provide, as a standing agenda item, regular updates on risk related activities to the Court's 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
  • Accountable Authority Instructions available to all staff on the intranet, and
  • monthly financial reports to the CEO's Management Advisory Group and oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Fraud prevention and control

The Court's Fraud Control Plan 2013–15 complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.

The Court has in place fraud investigation, reporting and data collection procedures that met the needs of the Court and comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.

During 2014–15, 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, with the Plan being available to all court staff via the intranet. The Plan was developed in consultation with key stakeholders across all areas of court activities.

No incidents of fraud were noted within the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court during 2014–15.

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 2014–15, the Court maintained ongoing information and education activities to ensure that all staff are 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 Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court together maintain 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 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, 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 10 approaches about the Federal Circuit Court for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015. Of these approaches, one was investigated and was closed.

Privacy Commission

The Federal Circuit Court was subject to one complaint made to the Privacy Commission during 2014-15.

Senate estimates committee hearings

Senior Executive Service staff of the Court attend Senate estimates committee hearings to answer questions about the Court's activities. In 2014–15, six questions on notice were received and answered by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. In additions, there were 85 departmental responses.

Whole-of-government Information, Communication and Technology initiatives

During 2014–15, the courts participated in a number of whole-of-government (ICT) initiatives:

  • in early December 2014, the annual ICT benchmarking report for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court was submitted to the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). The reporting requirements were significantly reduced as the courts were redefined as a small agency. The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for the 2013–14 financial year and included some quantitative measures about staffing and quantities of ICT equipment.
  • a contract for wide area network services under the Internet Based Network Connection Services panel was signed in July 2014. The new network was implemented between December 2014 and May 2015.
  • migration of all internet gateway services to Macquarie Telecom was completed during the year. This work was undertaken as part of the Government Internet Gateway consolidation program.
  • 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 2015, the courts were 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.
  • as part of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, the courts are required to update online government information and services to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standard for website accessibility. The courts' websites www.familycourt.gov.au and www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au were upgraded in late May 2015 and are now Double A compliant.

External evaluations

KPMG and Ernst & Young reviews of courts performance and funding

The Attorney-General's 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. As part of the response to this review, the Department undertook further work with Ernst & Young in 2014–15 to develop costing scenarios to support options for consideration by Government as part of the 2015–16 Budget process.

A key theme emerging from these two reviews and the previous Skehill and Semple reviews, has been the financial difficulties exhibited by the courts, particularly the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court.

Following consideration of the Ernst & Young review, the Australian Government announced, as part of the 2015–16 Budget, that the corporate functions of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will be merged with those of the Federal Court of Australia to form a single administrative body with a single appropriation under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 from 1 July 2016.

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. The final report was delivered in September 2014. Further details can obtained at 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 2014–15 Human Resources focussed on:

  • 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 (ESS) reporting
  • workforce capability services including planning, Performance Management and Development Scheme (PMDS), learning and development and workplace wellbeing
  • workplace relations support including Enterprise Agreement and National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
  • implementing systems to support workplace health and safety legislation, and
  • promoting employee wellbeing and respectful behaviours.

Enterprise Agreement

The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 has a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014, however it continued to operate during 2014–15 and will continue in existence until it is replaced or otherwise terminated.

The Enterprise Agreement covers all non-SES staff of the courts and delivered salary increases of three per cent for each of the three years 2011–12, 2012–13 and 2013–14. Salary increases under the Agreement are now exhausted.

In March 2014 the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy was released. Among other things, the policy provides:

2.1 improvements in pay and conditions are to be funded from within existing budgets, without the redirection of programme funding

2.2 if the total cost of a proposed agreement is not affordable within an agency's existing budget, the Ministers [the Public Service Minister and, in the Court's case, the Attorney-General] must not approve the agreement, and

3.1 agencies can only negotiate remuneration increases which are affordable, consistent with Australian Government policy, and offset by genuine productivity gains which satisfy the Australian Public Service Commissioner.

Against that background, the Chief Executive Officer advised staff that, in circumstances where the Court continued to deliver annual operating deficits and where he considered it unlikely that the Court could find the necessary productivity/savings offsets in advance of any pay rise, he could not in good faith negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement with annual pay rises.

Had he decided to negotiate such an agreement, it would have to have included reduced terms and conditions and/or a radical reduction in our staff number and service delivery in order to provide any pay rise. The Chief Executive Officer was not prepared to negotiate in that environment (noting that a pay rise for our workforce is an annual spend in $millions and difficult (if not impossible) to offset via savings). It is also noted that the courts have already over the last five years delivered savings by reduced spending in operations and by reducing staff numbers in certain areas.

Accordingly, the terms and conditions of the Enterprise Agreement carry over (with no further pay rises, unless and until there is a new negotiation under revised budgetary conditions).

The Enterprise Agreement directly supports the Court's strategic objectives and complements its 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 2014–15, 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

As at 30 June 2015, 22.79 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, 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, 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, underpins 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.

Australia Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day Medallions are awarded to a select group of Australian citizens each year. The awards recognise excellence in contribution by employees working in both government and non-government organisations, including the courts.

The Court's 2015 Australia Day Awards recognise the significant contribution and outstanding service provided by employees to the Court.

Sheridan Rooney, Melbourne Registry

Sheridan has been with the Court for seven years as a judgements coordinator.

Sheridan has been instrumental in the delivery of training tools for new judges and associates, the development of the judgment template, as well as overseeing refresher training for existing staff members. Sheridan also oversees the sanitisation of family law judgments to enable publication and dissemination of family law decisions to the general public.

Sheridan's warm and friendly approachable personality is regularly commented on by other court employees and she is always willing to provide assistance above and beyond her role. Sheridan is a highly valued member of the Court and is universally respected by her colleagues.

Image of Sheridan Rooney, Vicki Tsimbouris, Marilena Carelse, Athena Sikiotis and Pia Marrone
From left: Sheridan Rooney, Vicki Tsimbouris, Marilena Carelse, Registrar Athena Sikiotis and Pia Marrone

Bruce Waddell, Dubbo Registry

Bruce has been with the Court for 18 years and is a family consultant.

Bruce is a dedicated and passionate family consultant, operating as both the sole family consultant and also the only full-time employee at Dubbo Registry. His key strength is his determination to bring about the best possible outcomes for children and families.

Bruce's consistently high standard of work provides not only an excellent example to others, but has also served to create long-term team harmony at the remote Dubbo Registry. Bruce is a highly reliable, capable family consultant who performs above and beyond his required work duties in a consistently professional manner.

Also, in 2015, the Court, in joint recognition with the Family Court of Australia, awarded Australia Day achievement medallions to the following people:

Image of the Chief Judge Pascoe AO CVO and Bruce Waddell
Chief Judge Pascoe AO CVO of the Federal Circuit Court and Bruce Waddell

Athena Sikiotis, Melbourne Registry

Athena has been with the courts for 28 years and is a registrar.

Athena has distinguished herself in the course of her multiple responsibilities including docket registrar, trainer, union delegate and other associated tasks. In each role she demonstrates commitment, diligence, professionalism, integrity and many other attributes.

Athena is knowledgeable and consistently provides accurate and sound advice. She is an active listener and sympathetic of clients with special needs, easily approachable and displays professionalism and drive at all times when undertaking her different roles which she embraces with dedication.

Image of Athena Sikiotis.
Athena Sikiotis

Akasha Atkinson and Trent Litster, Canberra National Support Office

Akasha has been with the courts for six years and is the Director, Property and Trent has been with the courts for eight years and is the Property Project Manager.

Both Akasha and Trent have provided an outstanding level of service in the area of property management for the courts. Consistently providing high quality advice and workable solutions and always maintaining a high level of professionalism in their dealings with the judiciary.

Akasha and Trent have worked tirelessly to ensure that the best outcomes possible are provided under difficult circumstances including limited budgets, the strict demands of designing space for judicial operations and, above all, with a very limited range of suitable properties.

Image of Akasha Atkinson, Chief Justice Bryant, Trent Litster and Chief Judge Pascoe.
From left: Akasha Atkinson, Chief Justice Bryant AO of the Family Court, Trent Lister and Chief Judge Pascoe AO CVO of the Federal Circuit Court

Ron Jarrett, Brisbane Registry

Ron has been with the courts for 24 years and is a business system development officer (BSDO).

Ron is a genuine role model and leader within the BSDO team who exemplifies dedication in the traditional model of the public service and often exceeds the defined limits of his role.

Ron applies his technical and exemplary analytical skills to his role and for this is well respected by staff and judiciary alike. Ron is the embodiment of continuous improvement and is attuned to applying and communicating his considered opinions in a cool and calm manner. Ron is not one to be satisfied with the status quo when there are glaring opportunities for the Court to improve its practices and procedures and links these opportunities to ultimately benefit the public.

Image of Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO and Ron Jarrett.
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO of the Family Court and Ron Jarrett

Nadia and Michael Hristovaki, Sydney Registry Cleaners

Nadia and Michael have been cleaning contractors for the courts' Sydney Registry for 21 years.

Nadia and Michael are responsible for cleaning the entire Sydney Registry, from the basement including the garage, up to Level 12, inside and out as well as the elevators. They clean around 78 bathrooms, numerous kitchens, floors and bins.

Image of Nadia and Michael Hristovaki.
Nadia and Michael Hristovaki

Years of service awards

Years of service awards are presented to employees who have been in court administration for more than 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Recipients in 2014–15 follow.

20 years

  • Peter Cimbaljevic (Client Service Officer, Brisbane)
  • Pauline Schaeffer-Steel (Client Service Officer, Brisbane)
  • Paula Spain (Client Service Officer, Melbourne)
  • Beverley Mendies, (Client Service Officer, Newcastle)

25 years

  • Nandira Ram (Client Service Officer, Melbourne)
  • Georgina Barber (Client Service Officer, Newcastle)
  • Susan Tran (Collector of Public Monies, Sydney)

30 years

  • Mark Conroy (Client Service Officer, Newcastle)
  • Diane Lojszczyk (Family Consultant, Newcastle)

Workforce turnover

During 2014–15, 86 employees left the Court (45 were non-ongoing, 41 were ongoing employees), representing an annual turnover rate of 11.1 per cent against total staff numbers (772) at 30 June 2015. (see Table B.8 at Appendix B).

Staffing profile

At 30 June 2015, the Court had 772 employees covered by the Enterprise Agreement, common law contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) but excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees. This was a 0.6 per cent increase compared with 767 employees at 30 June 2014. Appendix B provides a breakdown of staff by location, gender, attendance, ongoing and non-ongoing employment status.

Judicial officers

At 30 June 2015, the Court had 61 judges, including the Chief Judge (23 female and 38 male). For further information see Table B.7 Appendix B which shows 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

Indigenous employment

At 30 June 2015, the Court had 10 employees who identified as indigenous (one male and nine female), 1.3 per cent of total employee numbers.

The Australian Public Service Commissioner wrote to the Chief Executive Officer seeking support to improve the representation of indigenous employees in the Commonwealth public sector.

Agreement making

A single Enterprise Agreement for the courts

As mentioned previously, the courts' Enterprise Agreement came into effect on 1 July 2011, and, although it has passed its nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014, under present arrangements, it will continue to operate until it is replaced or otherwise terminated.

Other agreements

Offers of AWAs to court employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy; however, at 30 June 2015, 27 employees had enforceable AWAs in place. Table B.11 at Appendix B sets out the AWA minimum and maximum salary ranges by classification. In some limited cases the Court has used common law contracts or individual flexibility arrangements to provide supplementary conditions of employment for individuals covered by the Enterprise Agreement and determinations made by the Agency Head under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999, to build upon existing AWA arrangements.

At 30 June 2015, 10 employees had employment arrangements governed by enforceable common law contracts and two had employment arrangements governed by determination 24 instruments. See Table B.10 at Appendix B for more detail.

Relationship between agreements

  • The Enterprise Agreement, covering all non-SES employees except those on AWAs
  • AWAs
  • individual determinations under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999, or
  • 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 agreement, 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 employees (SES) are in common law contracts, AWAs and individuals 24(1) determinations made by the Chief Executive Officer. SES salaries are benchmarked against other public sector agencies and take account of the Court's budgetary position and the Government's workplace bargaining policy.

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, first aid, fire warden, community language), and
  • airline club memberships.

Performance pay

During 2014–15, the Court neither entered into any performance pay arrangements nor paid performance pay to any employee.

Training, learning and development

There have been a number of training initiatives run throughout the year. These include:

Registrar training

The focus on registrar professional development this year has been on the development of skills in the identification of risk of family violence and abuse cases with a view to developing a series of diagnostic questions to assist registrars in delivery of case assessment conferences and conciliation conferences. Training is also being provided to coordinating registrars through attendance at leadership expansion programs delivered through Australian Public Service Commission to support them in enhancing their skills in the management of professional staff and in service delivery.

Team leader training

Following the Team Leader Development Program conducted last year, two project groups were created to develop and implement business improvements. These groups, facilitated by Human Resources, are ongoing.

Peer Support Officer Training

The Peer Support Officer Network was originally introduced in 2007 following the Integrated Client Support Training that was rolled out across the country.

In 2014 Human Resources conducted a review into the Peer Support Program within the Court. The review incorporated targeted discussions and a tailored survey aimed at identifying employee perceptions of the program to date, viability of the program, opportunities for improvement and peer support officer training and support needs.

Following wide consultation, it was agreed that the program was to be refreshed and re-launched.

The Peer Support Program was set up to provide a network of trained staff in the workplace to ensure that skilled support is available for immediate assistance should an individual experience a distressing situation or difficult event. This program is designed to complement the existing Employee Assistance Program, and allows support to be available immediately should an incident occur.

Following a rigorous recruitment process, nine participants undertook a two-day workshop called the Accidental Counsellor which was conducted by Lifeline. The course focused on the importance of communication and resilience in a workplace, and specifically how to communicate with people experiencing crisis within a court context. The trainers were provided with a solid foundation for Crisis Intervention, Mental Health Awareness, Suicide Awareness, Self-Care and Stress Management.

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 use the Court's premises is integral to the values and business of the Court. The Court is committed to:

  • a continuous improvement approach to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
  • providing and maintaining a healthy and safe workplace
  • preventing injuries by managing risk, including identifying and mitigating workplace hazards to health and safety
  • developing strategies aimed at preventing work-related injury and illness
  • promoting awareness and understanding of work health and safety within the Court
  • fostering a cooperative relationship between the Court and its workers which provides for constructive consultation on health, wellbeing, safety and welfare at work, and
  • monitoring and evaluating work health and safety performance to assess the effectiveness of the measures taken.

During 2014–15 the Court continued to work to achieve this through:

  • promoting the importance of health, safety and wellbeing through encouraging discussions at team meetings
  • 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 ongoing review of the Work Health and Safety Management Plan, the Rehabilitation Management System and the Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16
  • advising managers and staff of their health and safety responsibilities, and
  • ensuring health and safety representatives have the time and resources to reasonably perform their roles.

The Court recognises that effective health and safety management reduces the social and financial costs of work-related injury and illness. Specific initiatives taken by the Court during 2014–15 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff included:

  • developing and implementing the Court's Work Health and Safety Management Plan
  • continued implementation and review of the Rehabilitation Management System
  • developing and implementing the Court's Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16.
  • drafting of Work Health and Safety Risk Assessment Guidelines
  • developing Due Diligence training for staff of the Court
  • reviewing reporting processes which included the implementation of a new Hazard Notification and Report Form
  • 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
  • monitoring of national issues and trends through the National Work Health and Safety Committee.

Ongoing wellbeing initiatives included:

  • reconvening of the National Work Health and Safety Committee, with meetings held twice a year
  • re-establishing the Health and Safety Representative Network and the First Aid Officer Network. Meetings are held twice a year providing members with the opportunity to network. Members can also access tools and information online as well as obtain support from the human resources team
  • providing regular health and safety updates through the quarterly HR Newsletter
  • 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 health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2014–15. No locations reported health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year, and
  • re-launching of the peer support network with nine people attending specialist counselling training.

Workers' compensation and early intervention management

Consistent with the Court's continuous improvement approach, there has been a decrease in the Court's workers compensation premium for a third consecutive year.

The Rehabilitation Management System outlines the Court's approach to wellbeing and rehabilitation, through identifying suitable approaches for effectively managing the incidence and severity of work-related injury/illness and to assist employees to return to work following an absence. The RMS has been in place for two years and its implementation is further supported through activities identified in the Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16. The Court continues to proactively manage its workers compensation cases and early intervention, which has further contributed to reducing the total future costs of all claims.

Financial performance

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court is a prescribed agency under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in 2014–15 was $190.418 million, including appropriations from Government ($148.683 million), other revenue ($1.968 million), and other gains ($39.767 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 ($18.889 million), registry, migration and library services received from the Federal Court ($9.865 million), liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges Pension Scheme ($10.918 million), and Australian National Audit Office audit fees ($0.095 million).

Operating expenditure for the 2014–15 financial year amounted to $205.756 million. Figure 4.1 provides a breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the courts for 2014–15. Of the total amount, 32 per cent is directly attributable to the Federal Circuit Court, and 13 per cent is directly attributable to the first instance jurisdiction of the Family Court, and 4 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 30 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 4.2.

Operating result

For 2014–15 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court recorded an underlying loss of $4.735 million.

Figure 4.1: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure ($205.756 million), 2014–15 ($million)

This figure shows the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure for 2014–15.

Table 4.1: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure

Family Court direct expenditure Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed as 1st Instance judicial officers within the Family Court 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 appellate direct expenditure Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary assigned to the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court 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 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 property costs directly attributable to the Federal Circuit Court, and registry and migration services provided free of charge in federal law matters to the Federal Circuit Court from the Federal Court.
Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration – employee and supplier expenses Employee and supplier expenses incurred on by registry and corporate services incurred in supporting both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court. 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 registry 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 ($62.240 million), 2014–15 ($million)

This figure shows the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Administration expenditure for 2014–15.

Table 4.2: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court 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 and Federal Circuit Court.
Registry services – registrars Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to registrar staff providing front line support to both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.
Registry services – family consultant Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to family consultant staff providing front line support to both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.
Registry services – administration Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to administration staff providing front line support to both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.
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 and Federal Circuit Court.

Administered revenue

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court received $58.120 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 ($0.270 million), and write down and impairment of assets ($0.382 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. In 2014–15 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court incurred $0.291 million for these primary dispute resolution services. This resulted in a total comprehensive income of $57.177 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.

Assets and Property Management

Asset Management

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

Projects

Dandenong

An upgrade to the subpoena viewing room was completed in November 2014. The project addressed security concerns and issues with lack of space by increasing the area available to clients and increasing visibility to staff.

Darwin

The courts moved to the Supreme Court building in June 2015, co-locating with the Department of Attorney-General and Justice (Northern Territory) after extensive negotiations. The co-location endorses the Federal Government expectation to achieve accommodation efficiencies (as per the Commonwealth Property Management Framework), and in "sharing" accommodation, where practicable.

The fit out for the new location included a registry, two chambers and a courtroom. The co-location arrangement provides a central and primary location for practitioners and litigants accessing court services in Darwin.

National compactus replacement

File storage is an ongoing issue across the courts. The compactus units, especially at the Commonwealth Law Courts, are outdated and inefficient. A program to replace the compactus units nationally commenced in 2013–14, with Sydney and Brisbane both replaced. In 2014–15 the Melbourne compactus was replaced and an additional compactus was installed in Parramatta.

Parramatta

Additional bathroom facilities were installed on level three. The additional facilities were required to ensure that sufficient amenities were available for National Enquiry Centre staff located on this level, and litigants attending court.

Sydney

The courts have leased an additional floor at 80 William Street, in order to replace existing accommodation due to be vacated in October 2015, at the instruction of the lessor. The planning and design phase on the new accommodation is now complete and works will commence in July 2015. The additional floor will provide suitable accommodation in one location for all judges undertaking general federal law in Sydney, and provide a long-term space for the Court to administer justice effectively.

A high-speed roller door has been replaced in the Lionel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts building in Sydney to improve security for judges entering the carpark.

Townsville

Additional supplementary courtroom air conditioning was provided to address ongoing issues and improve amenity for judges, staff, and litigants using the Court.

Wollongong

The Wollongong Registry client service and registry counter areas were upgraded to increase facilities and amenities for litigants, legal practitioners and staff, and to address safety concerns. The project delivered a safe room for clients, a significantly expanded subpoena room, an additional interview room, a dedicated child and family waiting area and updated registry counters and associated staff work area.

Newcastle

Works are planned to improve various areas within the registry. The first stage delivered is the replacement of furniture. The furniture replacement also addresses the lack of seating within the public waiting areas.

Correction of errors in the 2013–14 Annual Report

The court has no matters to report.

Purchasing, consultants and contracts

Purchasing

The 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 Court to ensure compliance with legislative obligations and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. The Accountable Authority 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 2014–15. 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 2014–15 had provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors' premises.

Consultants

During 2014–15:

  • six new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $200,574 (GST inclusive), and
  • five ongoing consultancy contract was active involving total actual expenditure of $173,988 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2014–15 was $374,562 (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 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 www.tenders.gov.au

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.

Procurement initiatives to support small business

The Court supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website www.finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts/

The Court recognises the importance of ensuring that SMEs are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury's website: www.treasury.gov.au. In doing so, the Court utilises some of the following initiatives or practices:

  • the Commonwealth Contracting Suite for low-risk procurements valued under $200,000; and
  • electronic systems or other processes used to facilitate on-time payment performance, including the use of payment cards.

Grant programs

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court made no grant payments during 2014–15.

Productivity gains

The creation of the new agency with all court staff 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.

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. See www.dss.gov.au