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 entity head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 and the responsibilities of a chief executive of an entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Chief Executive Officer's entity 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 2016, the Court's principal executive group comprised:

Chief Executive Officer

Image of Richard Foster PSM FAIM Richard Foster PSM FAIM

The Chief Executive Officer has the responsibilities and powers of an entity head for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 and the responsibilities of a chief executive of an entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. Richard Foster was appointed Chief Executive Officer in May 2000 and retires on 30 June 2016.

Executive Director, Operations

Image of Steve AgnewSteven 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

Image of Adele Byrne PSMAdele 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

Image of Stewart FenwickDr 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

Image of Jane ReynoldsJane Reynolds (acting)

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, Corporate

Image of Adrian BrocklehurstAdrian 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.

Executive Director, Client Services

Vacant

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.

Judicial committees

The Court's corporate governance framework includes a range of committees and cross-entity 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 2015–16, considering administrative and financial matters. The committee comprises:

  • Chief Judge Pascoe, Chair
  • Judge Mead
  • Judge Baumann
  • Judge Brewster
  • Judge Coker
  • Judge Emmett
  • Judge Jarrett
  • Judge Riethmuller
  • Judge Willis
  • 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 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 case management judges 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 with other committees as required to achieve their respective objectives and provide coordinated advice to the Chief Judge and the Chief Executive Officer.

Family Violence Committee

The Family Violence Committee is a joint committee of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The committee's principal responsibility is to provide advice to the Chief Judge, the Chief Justice and the Chief Executive Officer of both courts on the issue of family violence. In discharging this responsibility, the committee reviews and updates the courts' family violence strategy and Family Violence Best Practice Principles, as well as undertaking discrete projects.

During 2015–16, members of the Family Violence Committee included:

  • Justice Ryan, Family Court, Chair
  • Justice Stevenson, Family Court
  • Justice Hannam, Family Court
  • Judge Brown, Federal Circuit Court
  • Judge Hughes, Federal Circuit Court
  • Judge Altobelli, Federal Circuit Court
  • Angela Filippello, Principal Registrar, Family Court
  • Leisha Lister, Executive Officer, Family Court, and
  • Di Lojszczyk, Family Consultant.

The committee's major project was the continued implementation of the Family Violence Plan 2014–16 which forms part of the commitment both courts have made to addressing family violence, including the measures contained in the joint Family Violence Best Practice Principles.

The Family Violence Committee also worked on issues raised by:

  • the report from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence
  • Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee Inquiry into Domestic Violence, and
  • internal review processes on the death of a child or party.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access to Justice Committee

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Access to Justice Committee continues to coordinate the implementation of the Court's Reconciliation Action Plan and the Court's engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia. This work has been with the help of the Indigenous Community consultative members working with judges and staff.

A number of events and activities occurred throughout the year to further the Court's Reconciliation Action Plan aspirations.

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 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 Court interacts with litigants, 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 meetings utilising video-link and teleconference facilities.

Collaborative committees

Joint Costs Advisory Committee

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

  • Justice Benjamin, Family Court, Chair
  • Andrew Phelan, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar, High Court
  • John Mathieson, Deputy Registrar, Federal Court
  • 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.

Senior management committees

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 Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court.

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

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

In 2015–16, 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, and
  • human resource management policies and practices.

Client Service Senior Manager's Group

The Client Service Senior Managers' Group (CSSMG) comprises registry managers and registry and judicial service managers from the Federal Circuit Court and the Family 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 by video-link, and communicated 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.

CSSMG was involved in several priority projects during 2015–16 including:

  • following the successful implementation of a 'no-cash' registry environment (effective 1 July 2015), the strategy to cease accepting cheque payments continued, with finalisation expected during 2016–17
  • assisting with the eDivorce pilot at Brisbane registry
  • promoting the use of the Portal for eFiling documents and refinement of eFiling procedures in response to the growth in eFiling
  • contributing to the development of an eLearning induction package for new chambers staff
  • assisting the courts' ongoing debt collection strategy (to reduce unpaid fees) by introducing an Event Based Fees process, which has automated the administration of fee payment for defended hearings and conciliation conferences
  • assisting with the implementation of the Family Law Amendment (Arbitration and Other Measures) Rules 2015. The new rules permit applications for arbitration, applications for orders in arbitration, issue of subpoena and applications to register an award – for court ordered arbitration, as well as voluntary arbitration.
  • assisting with the implementation of the Family Court's rule changes in relation to subpoena management, to harmonise the approach of the production of subpoenas with that of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001, thus contributing to further streamline family law procedures, and
  • continuing to refine safety planning processes in registries, and will be providing advice to the courts Family Violence Committee in due course.

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 entity, 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.

The committee comprises an external chair and two senior managers from the courts' administration.

During 2015–16, 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.

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 twice in 2015–16. 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 once 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

At 30 June 2016, there were 753 ongoing and non-ongoing entity employees (excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees) in all states and territories except Western Australia.

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

  • administration policies and procedural documents including guidelines, procedures and manuals from the finance, human resources and information, communication and technology areas
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • Corporate Plan and business area plans
  • HR information bulletins
  • Service Charter and Service Commitments
  • 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.
Image of the cover of the Courts Exchange newsletter

Courts Exchange

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 2015–16, the Court's internal audit services were provided by RSM Bird Cameron and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

The 2015–16 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:

  • Fraud Control Plan
  • Strategic Risk Management Plan
  • Rehabilitation Management System and Framework, and
  • Contract Management.

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 Audit and Risk Committee.

Business continuity desktop scenarios were conducted at Hobart (including Launceston), Townsville (including Rockhampton) and Dandenong (including Melbourne) registries in October 2015.

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 CMAG and oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Fraud prevention and control

The Court's Fraud Control Plan 2016–17 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 2015–16, 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 2015–16, which is available to all court staff on 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 2015–16.

Ethical standards

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 2015–16, 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 Federal Circuit Court 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 and the Workforce and Policy Manager are the Court's representatives at the Ethics Contact Officer Network forum.

Management and accountability

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 came into effect on 15 January 2014. The Act promotes integrity and accountability in the Australian public sector by encouraging the disclosure of information about suspected wrongdoing, protecting people who make disclosures and requiring agencies to take action. A Public Interest Disclosure is, essentially, a disclosure made by a current or former public official of suspected wrongdoing in the Commonwealth public sector.

The courts are committed to complying with all applicable laws and with best practice. Corrupt practices, breaches of the law and other conduct that is disclosable under the Act are contrary to our values. If they occur, reporting them is encouraged so that they may be addressed properly. With that in mind, the courts established formal procedures under the Act, the Public Interest Disclosure Rules and the Public Interest Disclosure Standards. These procedures are published on the courts' intranets and websites.

Authorised officers appointed by the Chief Executive Officer for the courts are the Executive Director, Client Services, Regional Registry Manager Sydney, and Director, Human Resources.

Service Charter and Service Commitments

Link to the Service Charter    Link to the Service Commitments

The aim of the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court is to give clients and other users of the courts the best services they possibly can. What the courts mean by this is set out in the joint Service Charter and Service Commitments publications.

The Service Charter outlines the service level standards clients can expect from staff of the courts and how clients and other users of court services may make suggestions or complaints about services, policy, practice or procedures. An aspect of the Charter, in terms of community expectations of the courts, is that it makes clear what court staff cannot do. This is important because frequently clients or prospective clients have expectations that the courts cannot meet.

The context is that for many clients, the family courts are the only courts they will ever have anything to do with—so the processes, procedures and legal environment are completely unfamiliar and this unfamiliarity occurs at what may be one of the most stressful times of their lives because of the breakdown of family relationships. The courts appreciate this, however, must work impartially and professionally: thus the information about what people can expect but also what staff cannot do. For example, staff cannot give legal advice or tell people what words to use in their court papers or what to say in court; they cannot tell someone whether or not they should bring their case to court. Staff cannot recommend a certain lawyer to act on a client's behalf or interpret, change or enforce orders made by a judge or other judicial officer.

The Service Charter and Service Commitments publications (which summarise information about what clients of the courts can expect from client services staff, what the staff cannot do, clients rights and responsibilities and how clients can help the courts to help them) are available on www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman received 22 approaches about the Federal Circuit Court for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. All 22 approaches were closed, with two being investigated and 20 not being investigated.

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 2015–16, 28 questions on notice were received and answered by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. In addition, there were 50 departmental responses.

Whole-of-government Information, Communication and Technology initiatives

During 2015–16, the courts' participated in a number of whole-of-government (ICT) initiatives:

  • In October 2015 the annual ICT benchmarking report for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court was submitted to the Department of Finance. The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for the 2014–15 financial year and included some quantitative measures about staffing and quantities of ICT equipment.
  • Whole-of-government supply contracts are mandatory across a broad number of areas. By 30 June 2016, 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
    • the data centre panel
    • the internet based network connection services panel, and
    • Government internet gateway services.
  • ICT staff from the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are members of the GovMail and GovDesk Inter-Agency Working Group. The Department of Finance is conducting this project to confirm demand for email (GovMail) and/or desktop productivity tools (GovDesk) to be delivered via the cloud, in anticipation of a subsequent approach to market to establish an initial product offering. The working group is a key advisory body for the project, considering issues and opportunities relating to GovMail and GovDesk services, and providing advice and perspectives on strategic aspects of the project.
  • 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 are now Double A compliant.

External evaluations

Ernst & Young review of courts' funding

The Department undertook 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.

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 would 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.

Internal evaluations

There were no internal evaluations during 2015–16.

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 2015–16 Human Resources focused on:

  • preparation for the courts' Corporate Services Amalgamation Project
  • enterprise agreement negotiations
  • 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
  • workplace relations support including enterprise agreement, National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
  • implementing systems to support workplace health and safety legislation, and
  • promoting employee wellbeing and respectful behaviours.

Courts' Corporate Services Amalgamation Project

In May 2015, the Government announced that it would implement reforms under which the corporate functions of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will be merged with that 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, to take effect from 1 July 2016.

Senior Corporate Services staff participated in a steering committee and a coordinating project working group to advance the project. Following passage of the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 in March 2016, project work intensified significantly.

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 2015–16 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. 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 2015–16, 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 received information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

Workforce planning

As at 30 June 2016, 22.71 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.

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 incentives.

Australia Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day achievement 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 2016 Australia Day Awards recognise the significant contribution and outstanding service provided by employees to the Court. This year's winners were:

Roland Andronicos, Sydney registry

Roland has been with the courts for almost eight years as a systems support officer. Roland successfully delivered excellent customer service between Sydney and Parramatta registries, attending to any IT issues (small or large). In addition, Roland found time to attend rural registries across NSW assisting with IT work, which he continues to do. Throughout his time with the courts, Roland has built a strong and reputable rapport with staff at all levels. His strong work ethic and dedication to the job extends further, with Roland being involved with project management work at his home registries, as well as nationwide for such projects as PC, SOE and printer replacements.

Image of Roland Andronicos holding his Australia Day Medallion

Roland Andronicos with his Australia Day achievement medallion

Antonia Dunne, Hobart registry

Antonia has been with the courts for almost 13 years as a senior family consultant. Antonia does a significant amount of clinical work, and is determined to bring about the best possible outcomes for children and families. Antonia has a strong work ethic, performs at a very high level and is an inspiring role model. Antonia embraces challenges, acting as the Regional Coordinator for Victoria/Tasmania for several months in 2006 and her skills and support were of great assistance. In addition to her normal workload, Antonia provides assistance to others in various ways such as her involvement with a number of committees and national projects; giving presentations at external conferences; as a member of the Psychology Board of Australia; and in chairing the courts' state-wide Family Violence Consultative Committee for nine years.

Antonia Dunne (holding her Australia Day Certificate) with staff members from Hobart registry

Image: Antonia Dunne (holding her Australia Day certificate) with staff members from Hobart registry

Michelle Cooley, Launceston registry

Michelle has been with the courts for almost 16 years as an operations manager. Michelle has overseen many changes to the physical appearance of the offices, and she has managed other building issues such as a month long shut down of the lift. Michelle has managed the work diaries and appointments for new family consultants over many years, and she has been a major influence on their work lives, and made long-term friendships as a result.

Image, from left: Jennelle Shearing, Michelle Cooley and her sister Catherine Pinel at Launceston registry

Image, from left: Jennelle Shearing, Michelle Cooley and her sister Catherine Pinel at Launceston registry

Andrew Bryant, Sydney registry

Andrew has been with the courts for almost 13 years as a client service officer. Andrew has earned the title of 'Number One Helper' at the Sydney registry. He goes out of his way to help individuals and his peers in Records, has a great personality, and is sorely missed when he takes his annual leave in January. Andrew takes his job very seriously and is the pride of the courts and the Jobsupport vocational training officer who touches base with him every four weeks. Andrew always smiles while doing an excellent job and has also been asked to pull the files for the divorce list and for judges. He is very careful in executing these tasks and loves his work and the people he works with.

From left: The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO, Andrew Bryant and Chief Judge John Pascoe AC CVO

From left: Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO, Andrew Bryant and Chief Judge John Pascoe AC CVO

Rupal Patel, National Enquiry Centre

Rupal has been with the courts for almost nine years as a client service team leader. Rupal has always worked above and beyond her core duties and is prepared to help solve any issues that come up in the day-to-day running of the courts' business. She is an integral part of the National Enquiry Centre (NEC) and a fountain of knowledge which she is happy to share with anybody who requires help. She is passionately involved in training NEC staff and conducts regular meetings with new registry and chambers staff as part of their induction, with a focus on consistent practices and streamlining of procedures court-wide. She is always one step ahead of any changes to procedure and legislation, ensuring staff are ready to deal with information for litigants and lawyers.

Rupal Patel receives her Australia Day award from The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO

Rupal Patel at her Australia Day award celebration

Christine Tuff, National Support Office

Christine has been with the courts for four years as the webmaster. During 2015 Christine delivered not one, but two new websites for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, along with decommissioning the Family Law Courts website, working tirelessly to coordinate the rewrite and redistribution of the family law content it housed into the two new sites. Since launching in May 2015, the websites have greatly improved the delivery of vital information to court users. The development of the "How do I..." pages and their ease of navigation has greatly assisted self-represented litigants navigate the court processes. The pages have also improved the way the NEC delivers information to clients via phone or Live Chat. Christine always goes above and beyond, regularly working outside of core hours to ensure daily court lists and critical content is available in a timely fashion and that technical issues are analysed and resolved directly or escalated to the appropriate person in the infrastructure team. She is committed to ensuring the websites deliver top quality services for court users and staff.

Image of Australia Day Award winner Christine Tuff and her daughter Olivia

Christine Tuff with her daughter Olivia at her Australia Day award celebration

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 2015–16 follow:

20 years

  • Verity Brown – Registrar, Adelaide
  • Julie Egan – Team Leader Registry Services, Parramatta
  • Christina Herbst – Associate, Townsville
  • David William Hugall – Regional Coordinator, Child Dispute Services, Brisbane
  • Elizabeth Mary Ritchie – Client Service Officer, Melbourne
  • Cheryl Sanderson – Client Service Officer, Hobart

25 years

  • Leslye Dunn – Case Coordinator, Newcastle
  • Elizabeth Hore – Associate, Melbourne
  • Ronald Jarrett – Business Systems Development Officer, Brisbane

30 years

  • John FitzGibbon – Senior Registrar, Melbourne
  • Lynette Chin – Associate, Melbourne
  • Kenneth Kimmorley – Registrar, Parramatta

35 years

  • Ronald Bowles – Client Service Officer, Melbourne

Workforce turnover

During 2015–16, 100 employees left the Court. Of these, 33 were non-ongoing and 67 were ongoing employees, representing an annual turnover rate of 13.28 per cent against total staff numbers (753) at 30 June 2016. For further information see Table B.8 at Appendix B.

This compares with ongoing staff separations of 11.1 per cent in 2014–15, 11.5 cent in 2013–14, 10.1 per cent in 2012–13 and eight per cent in 2011–12.

Staffing profile

At 30 June 2016, the Court had 753 employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, common law contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) but excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees. This was a 2.5 per cent decrease compared with 772 employees at 30 June 2015. Appendix B provides a breakdown of staff by location, gender, attendance, ongoing and non-ongoing employment status.

Judicial officers

At 30 June 2016, the Court had 65 judges, including the Chief Judge (25 female and 40 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 2016, the Court had seven employees who identified as Indigenous (seven female), 0.9 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 2016, 12 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 Entity Head under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999, to build upon existing AWA arrangements.

At 30 June 2016, eight employees had employment arrangements governed by enforceable common law contracts and three had employment arrangements governed by determination 24 instruments. See Table B.10 at Appendix B for more detail.

Relationship between agreements

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

  • the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, 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.

Senior Executive Service 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 2015–16, 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:

Family consultant training

Seminar series

Child Dispute Services (CDS) continued to run a monthly seminar series for family consultants, judges and family lawyers. The program was enhanced over 2015–16 by including topics specifically identified by family consultants; ensuring a better balance of presenters in terms of academics and practitioners; and including a greater emphasis on internal knowledge. Topics covered included drug screening procedures, surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology, online parenting skills programs, family violence, childhood trauma, and post-separation interventions for high-conflict families.

Clinical induction program

The Clinical Induction Program requires all newly commencing family consultants to undertake six months of meetings, research and presentations. It is designed to ensure that all clinicians within CDS are familiar with the scholarly literature in key areas relevant to their work. This program continued in 2015–16, with a total of 10 new clinicians joining CDS.

Further evolution of the core knowledge database

The Core Knowledge Database is an extensive collection of book chapters and journal articles that are deemed to be salient to the work of court clinicians. In addition to the amendments in 2015 allowing papers to be rated by users (thus, serving as an additional filtering mechanism) this year saw the inclusion of several full-text eBooks. This allowed a flexible alternative for family consultants to access comprehensive written material on key areas.

Conference presentations and attendance

In 2015–16 there was an increased focus on family consultants representing the courts at external forums and conferences. Some examples include gatherings of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and various other conferences focussing on family violence, trauma, and parent-child attachment.

Representation/publications

There were several publications outlining the work undertaken by family consultants during 2015–16, including papers in Every Child Magazine and InPSYCH. The purpose of this was to provide some general information to the wider community about the role, functions and mandate of court clinicians undertaking family assessments. In addition to more formal approaches, two videos were published on the courts' websites, designed to inform children about the process of seeing a family consultant (see page 18 for more information).

National conference

In June 2016, CDS held a national conference for family consultants, the first occasion in over eight years that such an event has been convened. Topics included family violence, parental alienation, parent-child observations, child interviewing and cross examination.

Family violence screening

One of the most significant projects of the year has been the piloting of a new approach to family violence screening by family consultants at s.11F events. A new tool was developed and tested at Brisbane and Melbourne, with extremely positive results. The intention is to embark on a national implementation of this tool in 2016–17, which will involve all parents attending an s.11F interview with a family consultant to complete a series of questions about their experience to family violence.

eLearning modules

In an effort to cater to all learning styles, the first of a series of clinical eLearning modules was developed in early 2016. This module, focussing on family violence, provides a continuing professional development opportunity for family consultants to undertake at their own pace, in their own time. The content is tailored to their specific work with the courts.

Continuing Professional Development framework for clinicians

To promote professional development and accountability for high quality practice and learning, a unified Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework for all internal family consultants has been developed. This framework requires clinical staff to develop a CPD plan at the start of the financial year, identifying learning needs and actions to address these needs over the coming year. Thereafter, they will be required to accrue a minimum number of CPD points (roughly aligned with the amount of hours they have spent training in a given area) to demonstrate that they have successfully met and benefited from CPD expectations.

Registrar training

Registrars participated in a national in-house conference which focused on developing legal skills and knowledge. The program included segments on family violence, as well as on areas of professional development. The speakers included judges, the Chief Executive Officer of Domestic Violence NSW, Women's Legal Service, a researcher from the Australian Institute of Family Studies and a senior forensic accountant. Preliminary work has commenced on the development of an online eLearning package for registrars on family violence in accordance with the courts' Family Violence Plan.

Client service and chambers training

Training in registries and via video conference was undertaken throughout the year focussing on performance management, new supervisor training, emotional awareness and behaviours as well as some team building and coaching session.

Workers' compensation and early intervention management

Consistent with the Court's continuous improvement approach, there was a decrease in the Court's workers compensation premium again this year.

The Rehabilitation Management System (RMS) 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.

As the RMS has now been in place for two years, RSM Bird was engaged to undertake a full internal audit of the system against Comcare's audit framework. All recommendations are currently being implemented, with the RMS identified as being a robust and transparent approach.

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.

Employee assistance program

The Court and its employees, through the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, have 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 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 2015–16, 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, eLearning 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 2014–2016
  • 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 2015–16 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff included:

  • developing and implementing the Court's comprehensive Work Health and Safety Management Plan
  • continued implementation and review of the Rehabilitation Management System
  • continued implementation of the Court's Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–2016
  • drafting 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
  • continued monitoring of national issues and trends through the National Work Health and Safety Committee.

Ongoing wellbeing initiatives included:

  • National Work Health and Safety Committee – meetings held twice a year
  • re-establishment of 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 and access tools and information online and support from the human resources team
  • providing regular health and safety updates through the quarterly HR Newsletter
  • employees have access to ergonomic assessments of workstations, ergonomic furniture, a free employee assistance program, annual influenza vaccinations, peer support officers, first aid officers and harassment contact officers
  • the local health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2015–16 and no locations reported health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year, and
  • re-launch of the peer support network, with nine people attending specialist counselling training.

Financial Management

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court is a non-corporate commonwealth entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in 2015–16 was $194.318 million, including appropriations from Government ($152.502 million), other revenue ($1.781 million), and other gains ($40.035 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 ($19.074 million), registry, migration and library services received from the Federal Court ($9.861 million), and liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges' Pension Scheme ($11.100 million).

Operating expenditure for the 2015–16 financial year amounted to $206.113 million. Figure 4.1 provides a breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the courts for 2015–16. Of the total amount: the 31 per cent is directly attributable to the Federal Circuit Court; and 13 per cent directly attributable to the first instance jurisdiction of the Family Court; and five 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 20 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 4.2.

Operating result

For 2015–16 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court recorded a loss of $11.662 million after changes in asset revaluation and including Depreciation and Amortisation expenses.

Figure 4.1: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure ($206.113 million), 2015–16

Donut chart - Figure 4.1: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure ($206.113 million), 2015–16
Table 4.1: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure
Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure
Family Court of Australia direct expenditure Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed as First 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 of Australia 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 registry and library services from the Federal Court of Australia, 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 ($63.699 million), 2015–16

Donut chart - Figure 4.2: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration expenditure ($63.699 million), 2015–16
Table 4.2: Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Administration expenditure
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 of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia 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, Marshal (including all guarding costs) and the Communications team.
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.

Administered revenue

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court received $60.010 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 ($0.243 million), and write down and impairment of assets for bad and doubtful debts ($0.800 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 2015–16 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court incurred $0.525 million for these primary dispute resolution services. This resulted in a total comprehensive income of $58.442 million which was returned to government.

Events after the reporting period

In accordance 2015–16 Budget decision by the Australian Government, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will cease to operate as a Government entity. Although the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia will remain independent Chapter III courts under Australian Constitution, the Government entity under which they operated will be merged with that of the Federal Court of Australia from 1 July 2016.

Purchasing, Consultants and Contracts

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 2015–16. 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 2015–16 had provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors' premises.

Consultants

During 2015–16:

  • two new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $73,700 (GST inclusive), and
  • four ongoing consultancy contracts were active involving total actual expenditure of $351,121 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2015–16 was $424,821 (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 Suit e 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 2015–16.

Productivity gains

The creation of a single entity in 2013, 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.

Compliance reporting

There were no significant issues reported under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 that relates to non-compliance with the finance law in relation to the entity.

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

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 and Sydney. 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

Melbourne

An upgrade to the subpoena viewing room was completed in 2016. The project addressed the layout and functionality of the space. The new layout provides additional space to view subpoena documents and increases security within the area.

Cairns

Works were completed in February 2016 to improve the acoustic performance of the level three interview rooms and the child dispute assessment area (a total four rooms). The outcome of the project reduces the risk of confidential conversations being overheard.

Townsville

A reconfiguration of the witness box and bar table of courtroom one was completed in February 2016. The project provides additional distance from the witness box to the bar table which results in a less confrontational environment for witnesses.

Newcastle

The lessor undertook significant base building works in 2016, which resulted in improved services within the registry. In line with this, a range of works was undertaken by the Court to improve the amenity of the registry. This included increasing the seating capacity in the public waiting areas, creating an improved subpoena viewing room, painting common areas and re-carpeting. The project also focused on increasing storage within the building which included the installation of additional compactus. The project has refreshed the registry and improved amenities for staff, litigants, and lawyers.

Sydney

The Court worked in collaboration with the Department of Finance, who funded the works, on a major project to improve the Child Dispute Services area of the Lionel Bowen Building. The fitout included refurbishing the reception area, childcare room, observation and meeting rooms. The works have resulted in a space that is welcoming for families and especially for children who are required to attend the Curt building.

William Street

The fitout of level 13 was completed in October 2015. This was the final stage in a three-year project to relocate judges from John Maddison Towers at the expiry of the lease. The fitout includes two additional chambers, two courtrooms, and a conference room. In addition, an additional chambers was fitted out on level eight, which resulted in increased judicial capacity at this location.

Correction of errors in 2014–15 Annual Report

The Court has no matters to report.