ISSN: 1444–6707 (print version)

ISSN: 1447–5065 (online version)

© Commonwealth of Australia 2017

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Alternative formats

An electronic version of this report is available on the Federal Circuit Court website at:

The online version contains links to the 2016–17 Attorney-General's Portfolio Budget Statements.


This report reflects the efforts of many people. Special thanks go to the Court staff involved in contributing and coordinating material, as well as the following specialist contractors:

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Letter of transmittal

Image of the letter of transmittal, full text is listed below

12 September 2017

Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC
Parliament House

Dear Attorney,

Federal Circuit Court of Australia 2016-17 Annual Report

I have pleasure in submitting the Annual Report of the Federal Circuit Court Court of Australia for the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, in accordance with Section 117 of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999.

This report has been prepared in accordance with the Department of Finance’s Resource Management Guide No. 135: annual reports for non-Corporate Commonwealth Entities, but adjusted to reflect the changes in structure brought about by the commencement of the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016.

A report on the provision of corporate services and the financial statements are included as part of the Federal Court of Australia’s 2016–17 annual report. This is due to the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 which amended a number of Acts in order to adjust the courts’ governance structures to support shared corporate services and bring the courts into a single administrative entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and a single statutory agency under the Public Service Act 1999.

This is the Court’s 18th annual report.

Yours sincerely

[Signed in the hard copy]

John Pascoe AC CVO
Chief Judge

Reader's guide

The purpose of this report is to inform the Attorney-General, the Parliament, court clients and the general public about the performance of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in the financial year ending 30 June 2017.

Prepared according to parliamentary reporting requirements, the report outlines the goals in the Court’s Portfolio Budget Statements and Corporate Plan and relates to the results achieved during the year to those goals. It provides information on the Court’s performance in relation to its stated outcome:

Apply and uphold the rule of law for litigants in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia through more informal and streamlined resolution of family law and general federal law matters according to law, through the encouragement of appropriate dispute resolution processes and through the effective management of the administrative affairs of the Court.

PART 1: The Chief Judge’s overview highlighting significant issues and initiatives the Court has undertaken during the reporting year as well as developments during 2016–17.

PART 2: Overview of the Court provides information about the Court, including its role, functions, organisational structure, appointments and retirements and court service locations.

PART 3: The work of the Court in 2016–17 reports on how the Court performed during the period against the outcome and related program.

PART 4: Management and accountability provides information on corporate governance and judicial and collaborative committees.

PART 5: Appendices include the staffing profile, freedom of information data, information about committees and judicial activities and contact details.

The following references will assist readers to locate information in the annual report:

Table of contents
Alphabetical index

An electronic version of this annual report is available from the Federal Circuit Court website (

Acronyms and abbreviations

Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Australian Association of Women Judges
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
Australian Financial Security Authority
Association of International Family Judges
Australasian Institute for Judicial Administration 
Member of the Order of Australia
Australian National Audit Office
Officer of the Order of Australia
Australian Public Service
Australasian Legal Information Institute
Australian Workplace Agreement
Business Systems Development Officer
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
Commerce Clearing House
Commonwealth Courts Portal
Child Dispute Services
Chief Executive Officer
Continuing Learning Education
Commonwealth Law Courts
Court Network
Court Ordered Mediation Program
Client Services Senior Managers Group
Department of Human Services
Early Intervention Unit
Executive Level of the Australian Public Service
environmental management system
ecologically sustainable development
Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management
Federal Court of Australia
Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Citation for all decisions of the Court
Family Court of Australia
Family Law Practitioners Association
Family Law Pathways Network
Family Law Settlement Service
freedom of information
goods and services tax
Human Resources
Immigration Assessment Authority
International Association for Court Administration
Independent Children's Lawyers
information and communications technology
Key Performance Indicator
Law Association for Asia and the Pacific
Migration Review Tribunal
National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee
National Enquiry Centre
National Legal Aid
Portfolio Budget Statements
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
Performance Management and Development System
Queensland Law Society
Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House
Reconciliation Action Plan
Refugee Review Tribunal
Senior Executive Service of the Australian Public Service
Senior Family Consultant
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Glossary of court-specific terms

Affidavit—a written statement by a party or witness. An affidavit is the main way of presenting the facts of a case to the Court.

Appeal—an application to a higher court to review a decision of a lower court or tribunal.

Appellant—a person who files an appeal with a court.

Applicant—the individual, organisation or corporation who/which applies to the Court to commence legal proceedings against another person or persons. Also known as ‘plaintiff’ in admiralty and corporations matters and in some other courts.

Application—the document that starts most proceedings in the Court.

Case—the matter before the Court.

Circuit—a place the Court regularly visits in rural and regional Australia.

Dispute resolution—procedures and services to help resolve disputes before or during a court hearing without the need for a judicial decision. It may include mediation, conciliation or counselling.

Docket system—a system by which each case is allocated to a particular judge who generally manages the matter from commencement to disposition.

eLodgment—the procedure of electronically lodging general federal law documents in the Federal Circuit Court.

eFiling—the procedure of electronically lodging a document through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.

Filing—the process of the Court accepting a document or documents lodged by a party to a proceeding.

In personam—an action or right against a specific person.

In reman action against certain property.

Judgment—the final order or set of orders made by the Court after a hearing, often accompanied by reasons which set out the facts and law applied in the case. A judgment is said to be ‘reserved’ when the Court postpones the delivery of the judgment to a later date to allow the presiding judicial officer time to consider the evidence and submission. A judgment is said to be ‘ex tempore’ when the presiding judicial officer gives the judgment orally at the hearing or very shortly thereafter.

Jurisdiction—the extent of legal authority or power of the Court to apply the law.

Litigants—individuals, organisations or companies who/which are the parties to a proceeding before the Court.

Orders—a court order is a document that sets out what the parties must do. Orders can be urgent, interim (temporary) or final. Courts usually have wide-ranging powers to make orders to enforce judgments.

Parties—People involved in a court case. Applicants, respondents and defendants are generally called ‘parties’.

Pro bono—Legal work performed without charge for litigants who cannot afford the cost of a lawyer and are not eligible for legal aid. Pro bono legal work is done at a substantially reduced rate or in some circumstances, at no cost.

Proceeding—the regular and orderly progression of a matter including all acts and events between the time of commencement and judgment.

Registrar—a court lawyer who has been delegated power to perform certain tasks on behalf of a judge; e.g. grant divorces, sign consent orders and determine the next step in a case.

Regulations—the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation 2012 and the Family Law Regulations 1984 which prescribe the filing and other fees that must be paid for proceedings in the Court.

Respondent—a party to court proceedings against whom relief is claimed.

Rules—rules made by the judges that set out the procedures for conducting a proceeding in the Court. The rules of the Federal Circuit Court are the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 and the Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016.

Self-represented litigant—a party to a matter who does not have legal representation and represents themself before the Court.

Supplementary document—any document lodged against an existing cause of action that does not attract a fee and does not require follow up action by court staff once lodged.