About the Court

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Federal Circuit Court) was established by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 as an independent federal court under Chapter III of the Constitution. The Court is a federal court of record and a court of law and equity.

The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court is best described in terms of three main areas:

  • family law
  • migration law, and
  • the following areas of general federal law: administrative law, admiralty law, bankruptcy, consumer law, human rights, industrial law, intellectual property and privacy.

More information about the Court’s jurisdiction is provided on page 12 of this report.

The Federal Circuit Court shares jurisdiction with the Family Court of Australia (Family Court) in respect of family law and child support and the Federal Court of Australia (Federal Court) in respect of general federal law.

The Federal Circuit Court is the largest federal court in Australia. With 68 judges and a substantial family law and migration law workload, as well as other significant general federal law jurisdictions, the Court continues to provide an essential service to the Australian community.

The Federal Circuit Court sits in all capital cities, selected major regional centres, and also circuits to a number of regional locations.


The provisions of the Act enable the Court to operate as informally as possible in the exercise of judicial power; to enable the Court to use streamlined procedures; and to encourage the use of a range of appropriate dispute resolution processes.


The purpose of Federal Circuit Court is to provide timely access to justice and resolve disputes in an efficient and cost effective manner, using appropriate dispute resolution processes.

Outcome and program

Effective 1 July 2016, the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court were amalgamated with the Federal Court into a single administrative body with a single appropriation and shared corporate services.

The Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 established the amalgamated body, known as the Federal Court of Australia. This approach preserves each Courts’ functional and judicial independence while improving their financial sustainability.

Outcome 3

The outcome of the Court is to apply and uphold the rule of law for litigants in the Federal Circuit Court through more informal and streamlined resolution of family 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.

Program 3.1

The Federal Circuit Court has a single program under which all services are provided: Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Performance criteria

Timely completion of cases:

  • 90 per cent of final order applications disposed of within 12 months.
  • 90 per cent of all other applications disposed of within six months.
  • 70 per cent of matters resolved prior to trial.

Details of the Court’s performance in 2019–20 can be found in Part 3 (Report on Court performance). The Court’s annual performance statement  can be found in the Federal Court’s 2019–20 annual report.


The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court includes family law, migration law, and the following areas of general federal law: administrative law, admiralty law, bankruptcy, consumer law (formerly trade practices), human rights, industrial, intellectual property and privacy.

1. Family law

The Federal Circuit Court exercises all aspects of jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act 1975) with the exception of adoption and applications for nullity or validity of marriage. The Court has the same jurisdiction as the Family Court in relation to child support.

This includes:

  • applications for parenting orders, including those providing for where a child lives, with whom a child spends time and communicates, and maintenance or specific issues under Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975
  • applications in relation to property and applications for spousal maintenance or maintenance under Part VII and Part VIIIAB of the Family Law Act 1975
  • applications in relation to financial agreements and superannuation
  • applications for divorce under Part VI of the Family Law Act 1975
  • applications for contraventions of orders made under the Family Law Act 1975
  • enforcement of orders made by either the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court
  • location and recovery orders as well as warrants for the apprehension or detention of a child
  • determination of parentage, under Part VII Division 12, and recovery of child bearing expenses pursuant to Part VII Division 8 of the Family Law Act 1975.

The Federal Circuit Court deals with a high volume of cases involving allegations of family violence, child abuse and other issues of risk. In many of these cases, an Independent Children’s Lawyer is appointed to ensure that the best interest of the child remains the paramount consideration.

The Child Dispute Services section of the Federal Circuit Court also provides extensive family counselling services by qualified Family Consultants, who are highly qualified and experienced psychologists or social workers. Family Consultants play an extensive role in interviewing and observing parents and children for the preparation of memorandums ordered under section 11F and family reports ordered under Section 62G of the Family Law Act 1975.

The Federal Circuit Court is also expanding its use of alternative dispute resolution in parenting and financial matters. Specific initiatives focusing on the targeted use of alternative dispute resolution and family dispute resolution include the PPP500 Pilot, which captures property disputes with an asset pool less than $500,000, and the Discrete Property List. The Court is presently developing a model for family dispute resolution to be conducted by Registrars and Family Consultants in parenting matters, with a focus on ensuring the safety of litigants and resolving disputes in the best interests of the children involved.

Jurisdiction upon transfer from the Family Court

The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction to hear any matter within the jurisdiction of the Family Court that the Family Court transfers to the Federal Circuit Court. under Section 33B of the Family Law Act 1975.

2. Migration law

Migration represents the second largest area of workload for the Court, with 6,555 filings in the 2019–20 financial year (an increase of 17 per cent since 2018–19). Migration law is a complex and specialist area of law that is often the subject of constitutional challenge. Court decisions in Migration law underpin much of general administrative law. The Migration Act 1958 is amended frequently, so the area of law is constantly evolving. Most applicants are unrepresented and require interpreters to present their matters to the Court. Under the Migration Act 1958, the Court can review some decisions, including decisions made by the Minister for Home Affairs, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Immigration Assessment Authority.

Almost half of the Court’s migration work relates to judicial review of protection visa decisions made by merits review bodies like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Immigration Assessment Authority. A protection visa is the means by which Australia recognises and protects foreign nationals in Australia claiming to fear certain kinds of harm in their countries of origin. Another significant portion of the Court’s migration work relates to reviews of student visa refusals and cancellations, as well as skilled work visas and business visas. The Court also hears urgent applications brought to prevent deportation/removal of persons from Australia.

3. General federal law

The Federal Circuit Court deals with a wide range of matters, sharing jurisdiction with the Federal Court and, in some cases, state courts. The Court’s rules and procedures are simpler and less formal and aim to reduce the cost and number of court appearances. Where the Court has jurisdiction in a matter, it also has jurisdiction to determine associated or inseverable claims that would otherwise not be within jurisdiction.

The following is more information about the Federal Circuit Court’s jurisdiction in the various areas of general federal law.


The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction to hear applications under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. The Court can also undertake judicial review of ‘child support first reviews’ under s 44AA of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (provided that the decision does not involve a presidential member). The Federal Circuit Court also hears appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal remitted from the Federal Court.


The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction under ss 9, 27 and 28 of the Admiralty Act 1988 (Cth) and any matters referred to it by the Federal Court. The jurisdiction allows the Court to hear proceedings commenced as actions in personam on a maritime claim, or a claim for damage done to a ship. The Federal Court or a state court may remit any in rem matters to the Federal Circuit Court. The Court works in conjunction with the Federal Court and provides an alternative venue for the hearing of smaller cargo claims within the federal system. The Court’s admiralty work is undertaken by nominated judges working with skilled registrars and registry staff in each state to deal with matters in a way best suited to the particular dispute.


The Federal Circuit Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court under the Bankruptcy Act 1966, except those requiring jury trials. The Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court have developed harmonised rules for bankruptcy matters and have a joint committee to monitor the rules and if necessary, recommend and implement changes.

The Federal Circuit Court has general powers in bankruptcy pursuant to Section 30 of the Bankruptcy Act to:

  • decide all questions, whether of law or of fact, in any case of bankruptcy or any matter under Part VIIII, X or XI coming within the cognisance (power) of the Court, and
  • make orders (including declaratory orders or orders granting injunctions or other equitable remedies) as the Court considers necessary for the purpose of carrying out or giving effect to the Act.


The Court has jurisdiction for claims under the following provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (formerly the Trade Practices Act 1974):

  • Section 46 (Misuse of Market Power)
  • Section IVB (Industry Codes)
  • Part IVD (Consumer Data Right)
  • Part XI (Application of the Australian Consumer Law as a law of the Commonwealth), and
  • Schedule 2 (Australian Consumer Law).

The Court can provide injunctive relief and award damages up to $750,000. In relation to certain claims for $40,000 or less, litigants can elect to use the small claims procedure of the Court. The Court also has civil jurisdiction with respect to claims under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. There is provision in certain proceedings for a litigant to elect that an application for compensation be dealt with as a small claims proceeding.

Human rights

The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction for civil matters arising under Part IIB or IIC of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986. The Federal Circuit Court can determine federal unlawful discrimination matters under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 relating to complaints under the:

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984.


The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction concurrent with the Federal Court, for matters under the:

  • Fair Work Act 2009
  • Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009, and
  • Workplace Relations Act 1996 (in so far as it continues to apply).

This jurisdiction is exercised by the Fair Work Division of the Court.

The Fair Work Act 2009 confers small claims jurisdiction on the Court for various matters if the compensation is not more than $20,000.

The Court also has some jurisdiction in relation to certain matters under the Independent Contractors Act 2006, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016.

Intellectual property (including copyright, trade marks and design)

All IP matters filed in the Federal Circuit Court are docketed and managed through a national IP docket system that ensures streamlined management of applications. The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine civil disputes concerning copyright, designs, and trade marks as set out below.


The Court has jurisdiction to hear civil claims and matters under Parts V, VAA, IX and s 248J of the Copyright Act 1968, such as claims for injunctions and damages for breach of copyright.

Trade marks

The Court has jurisdiction for the following matters under the Trade Marks Act 1995:

  • Appeals from decisions of the Registrar of Trade Marks – ss 35, 56, 67, 83(2), 83A(8), 84A–84D and 104.
  • Infringement actions – ss 120–128 and under ss 129 and 130.
  • Revocation of registration under ss 88 and 89.
  • Decision on whether a person has used a trade mark under s 7.
  • Determining whether trade mark has become generic – ss 24, 87 and 89.
  • Amendment or cancellation of registration under ss 85 and 86.
  • Application for an order to remove a trade mark registration for non-use – s 92(3).
  • Application for rectification of register by order of court under s 181.
  • Variation of rules governing use of certification trade mark under s 182.

The Court has jurisdiction for the following matters under the Designs Act 2003:

  • Appeals from decisions of the Registrar of Designs – ss 28(5), 67(4), 68(6), 50(6), 52(7) and 54(4).
  • Ability to make a determination of the entitled person during proceedings before the Court under s 53.
  • Infringement actions under ss 71–76.
  • Applications for relief from unjustified threats under ss 77–81.
  • Application for compulsory licences under ss 90–92.
  • Revocation of registration under s 93.
  • For Crown use provisions, provide a determination of the term of use of a design under s 98.
  • Application for a declaration by a court of any Crown use under s 101.
  • Application for the cessation of Crown use of a design under s 102.
  • Rectification of register under s 120D.


The Federal Circuit Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court to enforce determinations of the Privacy Commissioner and private sector adjudicators under the Privacy Act 1988.

Jurisdiction upon transfer from the Federal Court

The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction to hear any matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court that the Federal Court transfers to the Federal Circuit Court.

Organisational structure

Figure 2.1: Organisational structure of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 30 June 2020

Judicial officers

Judges are appointed by the Governor-General by commission in accordance with Chapter III of the Australian Constitution. A judge is appointed for a term expiring when they reach the age of 70 years.

Section 8 of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999 provides that the Court consists of a Chief Judge and such other judges as appointed.

At 30 June 2020, 68 judges held appointment to the Court (including the Chief Judge).

The remuneration arrangements for all judicial officers and the Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar are governed by enforceable determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal (further details including relevant determinations are available at www.remtribunal.gov.au ).

Table 2.1 lists the Federal Circuit Court judges as at 30 June 2020, and their location and appointment date.

Table 2.1: Federal Circuit Court of Australia Judges, 30 June 2020



Appointment date


William Alstergren


13 October 2017



Appointment date

Rolf Driver


31 July 2000

Stewart Brown


5 November 2001

Shenagh Barnes


5 November 2001

Michael Jarrett


2 February 2004

Sylvia Emmett AM


5 July 2004

Grant Riethmuller


19 July 2004

Nick Nicholls


23 August 2004

Kevin Lapthorn


29 August 2005

Kate Hughes


30 January 2006

Heather Riley


3 July 2006

Philip Burchardt


10 July 2006

John O’Sullivan


10 July 2006

Antoni Lucev


14 August 2006

Robert Cameron


3 October 2006

Tom Altobelli


13 November 2006

Stephen Coates


27 November 2006

Leanne Spelleken


11 December 2006

Charlotte Kelly


12 March 2007

Janet Terry


10 April 2007

Warwick Neville


2 July 2007

Dale Kemp


4 July 2007

Paul Howard


9 July 2007

Susan Purdon-Sully


15 October 2007

Margaret Cassidy


5 November 2007

Evelyn Bender


15 September 2008

Anne Demack


22 September 2008

Terry McGuire


6 October 2008

David Dunkley


13 October 2008

Barbara Baker


27 October 2008

Geoffrey Monahan


3 November 2008

Peter Cole OAM


24 November 2008

Josephine Willis AM


27 January 2009

Joseph Harman


7 June 2010

Leanne Turner


7 June 2010

Matthew Myers AM


23 January 2012

Ron Curtain


23 January 2012

Alexandra Harland


15 April 2013

Nicholas Manousaridis


1 July 2013

Joanne Stewart


2 September 2013

Alexander Street


1 January 2015

Salvatore Vasta


1 January 2015

Ian Newbrun


4 February 2015

Tony Young


31 July 2015

Steven Middleton


9 November 2015

Timothy Heffernan


23 November 2015

Philip Dowdy


7 December 2015

Elizabeth Boyle


29 February 2016

Alister McNab


18 May 2016

Brana Obradovic


30 May 2016

Amanda Tonkin


1 January 2017

Anthony Kelly


6 February 2017

Patrizia Mercuri


25 September 2017

Jane Costigan


8 October 2017

Gregory Egan


18 December 2017

Christopher Kendall


29 January 2018

Caroline Kirton


29 January 2018

Julia Baird


20 February 2018

Terry Betts


30 May 2018

Bruce Smith


12 June 2018

Karl Blake


30 January 2019

Douglas Humphreys OAM


11 March 2019

Monica Neville


11 March 2019

Alice Carter


14 March 2019

Anna Boymal


18 March 2019

Anthony Dillon Morley


19 March 2019

Guy Andrew


25 March 2019

Penelope Kari


25 March 2019

Judicial appointments and retirements


There were no appointments in 2019–20.


There was one retirement in 2019–20:

Photo of Judge Small

Judge Judith Small

Retired on 20 April 2020.

Court service locations

Australian Capital Territory


Circuits to: Wagga Wagga.

New South Wales

Parramatta, Newcastle, Sydney

Circuits to: Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth, Wauchope and Wollongong.

Northern Territory


Circuits to: Alice Springs.


Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton

Circuits to: Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Ipswich, Lismore, Mackay, Maroochydore, Southport and Toowoomba.

South Australia


Circuits to: Broken Hill and Mt Gambier.


Hobart, Launceston

Circuits to: Burnie.

Western Australia




Circuits to: Albury, Ballarat, Bendigo, Dandenong, Geelong, Mildura, Morwell, Shepparton and Warrnambool.