ISSN: 1444–6707 (print version)
ISSN: 1447–5065 (online version)
© Commonwealth of Australia 2020
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Contact officer for annual report
National Communications Manager
Federal Court of Australia
An electronic version of this report is available on the Federal Circuit Court website at: ww.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/annual-report
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:
Design and typesetting: Giraffe Visual Communication Management.
Printing: Elect Printing.
Letter of transmittal
14 September 2020
The Honourable Christian Porter MP
Canberra ACT 2600
I am pleased to present the annual report on the operations of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia for the financial year ending 30 June 2020, 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 (May 2020), but adjusted to reflect the changes in structure brought about by 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 2019–20 annual report. This is due to the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 that amended a number of Acts in order to adjust the courts’ governance structures to support shared 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 21st annual report.
[Signed in hard copy]
The Honourable William Alstergren
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 2020.
Prepared according to parliamentary reporting requirements, the report outlines the goals in the Court’s Portfolio Budget Statements and Corporate Plan and relates them 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 year in review
Highlights significant issues and initiatives the Court has undertaken during the reporting year as well as developments during 2019–20.
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: Report on Court performance
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
Includes outcome and program statement, freedom of information data, information about committees, judicial activities, information required by other legislation and contact details.
Part 6: Indexes
Includes the list of requirements and alphabetical index.
Acronyms and abbreviations and a glossary of court-specific terminology are on pages iii–v.
An electronic version of this annual report is available from the Court’s website at www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/annual-report.
Acronyms and abbreviations
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Companion of the Order of Australia
- Australian Consumer Law
- Apprehended Domestic Violence Order
- Attorney-General’s Department
- Australian Human Rights Commission
- Australian Law Reform Commission
- Member of the Order of Australia
- Officer of the Order of Australia
- Australian Public Service
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission
- Australasian Legal Information Institute
- Creative Commons
- Commerce Clearing House
- Child Dispute Services
- Chief Executive Officer
- Central Migration Docket
- Continuing Professional Development
- Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
- Digital Court File
- Digital Court Program
- Enterprise Agreement
- Citation for all decisions of the Federal Circuit Court
- Freedom of Information
- Family Relationships Advice Line
- Fair Work Commission
- Intellectual Property
- Key Performance Indicator
- National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee
- National Enquiry Centre
- Medal of the Order of Australia
- Priority Property Pools under $500,000
- Public Governance, Performance and Accountability
- Queens Counsel
- Reconciliation Action Plan
- Senior Counsel
Glossary of Court-specific termsAffidavit
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.eFiling
The procedure of electronically lodging a document through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.eLodgment
The procedure of electronically lodging general federal law documents in the Federal Circuit Court.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 rem
An 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 submissions. 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 (Fees) Regulation 2012 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.Unrepresented litigant
A party to a matter who does not have legal representation and represents themselves 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.
Tables and Figures
Table 1.1: Filings and finalisations in family law and general federal law
Table 2.1: Federal Circuit Court of Australia Judges, 30 June 2020
Table 3.1: Snapshot of Court performance against targets
Table 3.2: Family law, general federal law and migration applications filed and finalised, 2019–20
Table 3.3: Family law applications filed by type, 2019–20
Table 3.4: General federal law applications filed by type, 2019–20
Table 3.5: Notice of appeals filed, finalised and pending by jurisdiction, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Table 3.6: Number of matters referred to mediation, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Table 3.7: Filings and mediation referrals to a registrar as a percentage of filings, 2019–20
Table 3.8: Mediation referral outcomes, 2019–20
Table 3.9: Federal Circuit Court complaints by category, 2019–20
Table 3.10: Federal Circuit Court judgments by jurisdictional category, 2019–20
Table A1.1: Outcome 3: Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Table A6.1: Federal Circuit Court Committees, 30 June 2020
Table A9.1: Information required by other legislation
Figure 2.1: Organisational structure of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 30 June 2020
Figure 3.1: Percentage of applications filed, 2019–20
Figure 3.2: Case management approach in family law (docket system)
Figure 3.3: Family law applications filed by type, 2019–20
Figure 3.4: Final orders applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.5: Interim orders applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.6: Issues sought in final orders applications, 2019–20
Figure 3.7: Divorce applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.8: Representation of litigants in final order applications at some stage in the proceedings, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.9: Migration applications filed and finalised, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.10: Visa categories comprising pending Federal Circuit Court migration caseload
Figure 3.11: Bankruptcy applications, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.12: Fair work applications filed and finalised, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.13: Human rights applications filed and finalised, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.14: Intellectual property applications filed and finalised, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Figure 3.15: Source of appeals and related actions filed in the Federal Court, 2015–16 to 2019–20
Our 20 year journey
The Federal Magistrates Act 1999 and the Federal Magistrates (Consequential Amendments) Act 1999 receive royal assent.
Peter May appointed as the Court’s first Chief Executive Officer.
The Hon Diana Bryant AO QC sworn in as Court’s first Chief Federal Magistrate by the Hon Murray Gleeson AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
First applications filed in the Court.
The Court’s first Federal Magistrates sworn in: Murray McInnis (Melbourne), Norah Hartnett (Melbourne), Christine Mead (Adelaide), Michael Baumann (Brisbane), Jim Brewster (Canberra), Warren Donald (Newcastle), Stephen Scarlett (Parramatta), Judy Ryan (Parramatta) and John Coker (Townsville).
Court receives 438 filings in its first week of operation.
First sittings conducted in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta and Townsville.
15 judicial officers. Court receives 36,435 applications in its first full year of operation. Casetrack implemented in the Court’s Newcastle, Parramatta, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne and Dandenong registries.
The Federal Magistrates Court Rules 2001 commenced.
The Court received its Migration jurisdiction.
743 divorce decrees granted. 182 applications for migration matters. 62 calls per day to the customer service phone line.
Copyright Act 1968 was amended by the Copyright Amendment (Parallel Importation) Act, allowing the Court to hear copyright matters from 13 May 2003.
18 judicial officers.
1,397 migration applications filed.
Court launches the first interactive divorce application form.
3,031 migration applications filed.
47,379 divorce applications filed.
Appointment of the Hon John Pascoe AC CVO as Court’s second Chief Federal Magistrate. Combined registry project commences.
John Mathieson appointed as Chief Executive Officer.
30 judicial officers.
2,478 migration applications filed.
Migration Litigation Reform Act 2005 came into effect. The Court now has the same migration jurisdiction that the High Court has under section 75(v) of the Constitution.
34 judicial officers. 46,512 divorce applications filed.
After two months in operation, the NEC is receiving 1,000 calls a day.
48 Federal Magistrates. Commonwealth Courts Portal development announced.
Richard Foster appointed acting Chief Executive Officer.
Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009 included miscellaneous amendments to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 to establish two divisions within the Federal Circuit Court, a Fair Work division and a general division. From 1 July 2009 proceedings in the Court must be instituted, heard and determined in one of these divisions.
Court’s 10th anniversary. 61 judicial officers. 91,678 applications filed.
Appointment of Australia’s first Indigenous Commonwealth judicial officer, Judge Matthew Myers.
Announcement that Court’s name will change to Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
Launch of first Family Violence Best Practice Principles.
The Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012 and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Act 2012 passed.
Court name changed to Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Federal Magistrates became known as Judges.
64 judicial officers.
85,599 applications filed.
Court receives the 2014 Australian Migration and Settlement Award in the area of Diversity and the Law.
Federal Circuit Court is the first Australian court to enter into a Reconciliation Action Plan.
Launch of the Court’s first Family Violence Plan.
New Notice of Risk becomes mandatory in the Court.
Retirement of John Pascoe as Chief Judge.
Appointment of the Hon William Alstergren as Chief Judge.
Judicial Wellbeing Committee established.
February to May
Callovers of more than 1,600 pending family law matters, achieving a settlement rate of 50%.
Joint Rules Harmonisation Working Group established.
Launch of the Court’s updated Reconciliation Action Plan.
Central Migration Docket implemented.
September to December
Discrete Property List launched in Brisbane, Sydney and Parramatta.
Discrete Property List launched in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Digital Court File for family law goes live.
National Arbitration List established.
Appointment of David Pringle as CEO and Principal Registrar.
National COVID-19 List established.
Court’s 20th anniversary.
68 judicial officers.
95,896 applications, which includes 85,563 family law, 6,555 migration and 3,778 general federal law.
30 circuit locations around Australia
85,563 filings in family law
Digital court file established for family law
3,778 applications filed in general federal law
6,555 applications filed in migration
518 family law applications called over in the summer campaign
45,886 divorce applications filed
73% of matters resolved before trial
29 April 2020 covid-19 list established to handle increase in urgent family law applications
2,130 hours of YouTube channel watched
38,066 YouTube views