Corporate governance

This section reports on aspects of the Family Court of Australia’s corporate governance arrangements.

The Chief Justice, assisted by the Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the Court.

Under the Constitution, judicial power is vested in judges who administer that power in courts. The Family Law Act defines the Court as being a Chief Justice, a Deputy Chief Justice and the judges appointed to that court. By delegation from the Chief Justice, case management judges assist in administering judicial functions in particular areas, such as case management.

The Family Court is autonomously governed, that is, the judiciary has the responsibility for the administration of the Court. To enable the effective and efficient administration of justice, the judiciary needs support to deal with its workload. Non-judicial court employees, public servants accountable to the executive government through the Chief Executive Officer, provide that support.

The Chief Executive Officer’s powers are broad, although subject to directions from the Chief Justice. The Chief Executive Officer holds the responsibilities and powers of an agency head under Commonwealth financial management and public service legislation.

Figure 6.1 shows the organisational structure of the Court.

Figure 6.1 Organisational structure of the Family Court of Australia, 30 June 2013

Figure 6.1 Organisational structure of the Family Court of Australia, 30 June 2013.

Judicial officers of the Family Court of Australia

At 30 June 2013, there were 30 judges of the Court, including the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice.

Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia

The Chief Justice is responsible for ensuring the orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the Court (s 21B Family Law Act) and for managing its administrative affairs (s 38A). The Chief Justice is assisted in judicial responsibilities by the Deputy Chief Justice (s 21B) and in administrative responsibilities by the Chief Executive Officer (s 38B). The Chief Justice’s chambers are located in the Melbourne registry.

Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO was appointed Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia on 5 July 2004. She had previously been the inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate overseeing the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Court, a position she held for four years.

Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia

The Deputy Chief Justice assists the Chief Justice in the judicial administration of the Family Court. Particular responsibilities include case management, complaints about judges, the collection and strategic assessment of statistics, pastoral care and the oversight of the Court’s committees.

In the absence of the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice performs and exercises the powers of the Chief Justice (s 24). The Deputy Chief Justice’s chambers are located in the Canberra registry.

Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks was appointed as a Family Court judge on 12 October 1994. He was appointed as Deputy Chief Justice on 25 June 2004.

Judges assigned to the Appeal Division

The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO 5 July 2004

The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks 25 June 2004

The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn 10 August 1993

The Honourable Justice Michelle May 6 February 2003

The Honourable Justice Stephen Ernest Thackray 16 November 2006
(Chief Judge Family Court of Western Australia)

The Honourable Justice Steven Strickland 14 December 2009

The Honourable Justice Ann Margaret Ainslie-Wallace 9 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Judith Ryan 27 September 2012

The Honourable Justice Peter Murphy 27 September 2012

Judges

(according to order of seniority)

Adelaide

The Honourable Justice Steven Strickland 22 November 1999

The Honourable Justice Christine Elizabeth Dawe (Case Management Judge) 3 March 1997

Brisbane

The Honourable Justice Michelle May 5 September 1995

The Honourable Justice Graham Rodney Bell 27 February 1976

The Honourable Justice Peter John Murphy 11 October 2007

The Honourable Justice Colin James Forrest 1 February 2011

The Honourable Justice Michael Patrick Kent (Case Management Judge) 12 July 2011

The Honourable Justice Jenny Deyell Hogan 14 December 2012

Canberra

The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks 11 October 1994

The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn 2 July 1990

Hobart

The Honourable Justice Robert James Charles Benjamin 19 August 2005

Melbourne

The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO 5 July 2004

The Honourable Justice Victoria Jane Bennett 30 November 2005

The Honourable Justice Paul Cronin (Case Management Judge) 20 December 2006

The Honourable Justice Kirsty Marion Macmillan 14 December 2011

The Honourable Justice Jennifer Ann Coate 31 January 2013

Newcastle

The Honourable Justice Stewart Austin 13 July 2009

The Honourable Justice Margaret Ann Cleary 8 July 2010

Parramatta

The Honourable Justice David John Collier (Case Management Judge) 19 July 1999

The Honourable Justice William Phillip Johnston 12 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Ian James Loughnan 12 July 2010

Sydney

The Honourable Justice Ann Margaret Ainslie-Wallace 9 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Janine Patricia Hazelwood Stevenson 18 May 2001

The Honourable Justice Mark Frederick Le Poer Trench 10 October 2001

The Honourable Justice Garry Allan Watts (Case Management Judge) 14 April 2005

The Honourable Justice Judith Maureen Ryan 31 July 2006

The Honourable Justice Stuart Grant Fowler AM 16 November 2007

The Honourable Justice Judith Anne Rees 15 December 2011

The Honourable Justice Murray Robert Aldridge 13 December 2012

Townsville

The Honourable Justice Peter Tree 14 December 2012

Family Court of Western Australia

Note: Judges of the Family Court of Western Australia also hold Commissions in the Family Court of Australia.

Date of Family Court commission

The Honourable Justice Stephen Ernest Thackray, Chief Judge 1 December 2004

The Honourable Justice Jane Crisford 14 December 2006

The Honourable Justice Stephen Dexter Crooks 22 October 2007

The Honourable Justice Simon Moncrieff 31 August 2009

The Honourable Justice John Walters 6 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Susan Duncanson 6 December 2012

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Note: Some judges of the Family Court hold appointments in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as Presidential Members.

The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn

The Honourable Justice Christine Elizabeth Dawe

The Honourable Justice Robert James Charles Benjamin

Appointments, retirements and resignations

Judicial officer appointments

The Honourable Justice John Walters 6 December 2012
(Family Court of Western Australia)

The Honourable Justice Susan Duncanson 6 December 2012
(Family Court of Western Australia)

The Honourable Justice Murray Robert Aldridge 13 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Peter Tree 14 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Jenny Deyell Hogan 14 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Jennifer Ann Coate 31 January 2013

Judicial officer retirements

The Honourable Justice Donna O’Reilly 31 January 2013

The Honourable Justice Ian Coleman 8 May 2013

The Honourable Justice Peter Young 9 May 2013

The Honourable Justice Linda Dessau AM 21 June 2013

The Honourable Justice Carolyn Elvina Martin passed away on 1 October 2012.

On 28 June 2013, the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC announced five new judicial appointments to the Family Court, effective from dates in 2013–14:

Mr David Berman SC, Adelaide registry 18 July 2013

Ms Sharon Johns, Melbourne registry 29 July 2013

Judge Garry Foster, a judge of the Federal Circuit Court, Parramatta registry 8 August 2013

Judge Christine Thornton, a judge of the County Court of Victoria, Melbourne registry 12 August 2013

Northern Territory Chief Magistrate Hilary Hannam, Parramatta registry 13 August 2013

Senior executives of the Family Court of Australia

Chief Executive Officer

Richard Foster PSM FAIM

The Chief Executive Officer is appointed to assist the Chief Justice to administer the Court. The Chief Executive Officer’s powers are broad (s 38D Family Law Act 1975), although subject to directions from the Chief Justice (s38D(3)). The Chief Executive Officer holds the responsibilities and powers of an agency head under Commonwealth financial management and public service legislation, but is appointed under similar terms as judicial officers. The CEO is supported by the staff of the National Support Office. Richard Foster was appointed CEO in May 2000.

Principal Registrar

Angela Filippello

The Principal Registrar provides high level legal and procedural advice to support the judicial functioning of the Family Court. As a senior lawyer, she discharges the statutory duties assigned to that position by the Family Law Act 1975, works closely with the Chief Justice and judges in administering the Act and related legislation, and identifies areas in need of reform. The Principal Registrar presides in Court and holds the delegated power to make orders in interim parenting cases, maintenance cases and some enforcement of financial obligations. The Principal Registrar also oversees the performance of, and provides direction to, the Court’s registrars. Angela Filippello was appointed Principal Registrar in July 1999.

Principal Child Dispute Services

Pam Hemphill

The Principal Child Dispute Services advises the Chief Justice and the Chief Executive Officer on the provision of quality child dispute services to the Court. She 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. Pam Hemphill was appointed Principal Child Dispute Services in April 2011.

Executive Director Client Services

Stephen Andrew

The Executive Director Client Services is responsible for the delivery of client services in all family law registries. The Executive Director ensures that high quality registry services and support are provided to all judicial officers, litigants and legal practitioners, consistent with the strategic and business objectives of the Family Law Courts (the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court). The Executive Director Client Services also has responsibility for statistical services. Stephen Andrew was appointed Executive Director Client Services in July 2011.

Chief Information Officer

Phil Hocking

The Chief Information Officer provides strategic vision, leadership and management of the Court’s applications, information management and infrastructure services. Phil Hocking was appointed Chief Information Officer in August 2012.

Executive Director Corporate

Grahame Harriott

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. Grahame Harriott was appointed Executive Director Corporate in November 2007.

Judicial committees reporting

Chief Justice Bryant maintains a collegiate style of governance, and the judicial officers of the Court meet annually or more often if required in plenary. The Chief Justice also convenes a monthly teleconference of all judges, in which current issues are discussed. In addition, judges participate in a number of committees that develop policies across a range of matters.

Chief Justice’s Policy Advisory Committee

At the strategic level, the Chief Justice’s Policy Advisory Committee is the peak policymaking body within the Court. The Committee’s primary role is to support the Chief Justice in the administration of the Court and to provide strategic advice and policy direction, particularly in relation to legislative, procedural and administrative changes likely to affect the Family Court and its users.

Chaired by the Chief Justice, the Committee meets quarterly and comprises:

  • Chief Justice Bryant
  • Deputy Chief Justice Faulks
  • Justice Finn
  • Justice Strickland
  • Justice Watts
  • Justice Ryan
  • Justice Cronin
  • Justice Kent
  • Chief Executive Officer (Richard Foster)
  • Principal Registrar (Angela Filippello)
  • Principal Child Dispute Services (Pam Hemphill).

A number of standing judicial committees are also active in providing high-level policy advice in specialised areas. Meeting regularly or as required, they are (in alphabetical order):

  • Access to Justice Committee (comprising the Cultural Diversity Committee, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee and the Self Represented Litigants Committee)
  • Benchbook Committee
  • Children’s Committee
  • Family Violence Committee
  • Information Technology Judicial Reference Group
  • Judicial Development Committee
  • Judicial Remuneration Committee
  • Law Reform Committee
  • Library Committee
  • Magellan Committee
  • Property Management Committee
  • Research and Ethics Committee
  • Rules Committee.

Many of these committees have been established as joint committees, comprising membership from the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The joint committees are: Benchbook Committee, Family Violence Committee, Information Technology Judicial Reference Group, Judicial Development Committee, Library Committee, Property Management Committee and Research and Ethics Committee.

The Family Court is also represented on the Joint Costs Advisory Committee.

Three ad hoc committees established in the last financial year continued to work on discrete projects. Those committees are the Courts’ Information Committee, the Indigenous Working Group and the Judicial Committee for Court Excellence.

For detailed information on the judicial committees of the Court, see Appendix 8.

Judicial committee highlights

This section summarises the work of some of the judicial committees during 2012–13.

Standing committees

Rules Committee

The Rules Committee is established under section 123 of the Family Law Act 1975, which provides that a majority of judges may make rules of court in relation to practices and procedures to be followed in the Family Court.

The Rules Committee meets quarterly to consider proposed changes to the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) with a view to improving the efficiency, accessibility and cost effectiveness of the Family Court for its clients. The Committee also undertakes detailed consideration of discrete issues as required. During 2012–13 the Committee met in person on 10 October 2012 and otherwise by telephone as required.

Justice Ryan continued to chair the Rules Committee during 2012–13. Committee members during the year were Justice Murphy, Justice Loughnan, Magistrate Moroni, Senior Registrar FitzGibbon, Registrar Kearney and Neil Wareham (legal counsel to the Family Court).

In 2012–13, the Committee worked on a number of important projects, including amendments to the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth). These amendments were secured by the Family Law (Amendment) Rules 2012 (No 2), which were made on 19 December 2012. The major changes made by the amending rules were:

  • to make rules necessary or convenient to implement amendments made by the Access to Justice (Federal Jurisdiction) Amendment Act 2012 (Cth)
  • to make further rules implementing the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth) by empowering registrars to make decisions and orders in relation to appeals with respect to specified procedural applications
  • to make rules setting out the procedure for costs applications in relation to appeal cases, and
  • to increase the scale costs by 2.7 per cent in conformity with the increase approved nationally by all superior courts.

The Committee consulted with the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and with other constituent bodies about the proposed rule amendments.

Following the passage of Schedule 3 of the Access to Justice (Federal Jurisdiction) Amendment Act 2012 (Cth), which implements the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General model Bill concerning vexatious proceedings, the Committee, with the assistance of its former Chair, Justice Strickland, drafted new rules as required.

During the 2012–13 the Committee proposed that a steering committee be established comprising judicial officers from the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to oversee the progress of harmonisation of the two courts’ rules. It is anticipated that this exercise will be informed by extensive consideration of the Federal Court’s rules. The Rules Committee is also engaging in further consultation regarding the issue of whether rules are required in respect of altruistic and commercial surrogacy.

Law Reform Committee

The Family Court’s Law Reform Committee considers and comments upon proposed legislation and law reform initiatives.

The Committee’s membership is Justice Strickland (Chair), Chief Justice Bryant, Deputy Chief Justice Faulks, Justice Finn, Justice Watts and Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar). The Committee met by telephone on numerous occasions throughout the 2012–13 year.

The Committee continued to identify matters for amendment in family law legislation, provided comment on draft principal and subordinate legislation (often at short notice), provided comment on law reform proposals and made submissions to Parliamentary and other inquiries on matters relevant to the Family Court. In addition, the Committee kept a ‘watching brief’ on bills introduced into federal parliament and scrutinised legislation to ascertain whether there would be any effect on the jurisdiction and powers of the Family Court.

Details of the Committee’s work during the 2012–13 financial year follows:

Proposed legislation considered and/or monitored

  • Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012
  • Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012
  • Court Security Bill 2013
  • Court Security (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013
  • Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012
  • Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2010 (No. 2)
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012
  • Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2013
  • Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 (exposure draft)
  • Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2012 (exposure draft)
  • Judges and Governors-General Legislation Amendment (Family Law) Bill 2012
  • Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012
  • Legislative Instruments Amendment (Sunsetting Measures) Bill 2012
  • Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2013
  • Marriage Amendment Bill 2012
  • Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 (No. 2)
  • Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010
  • Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012
  • Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2013
  • Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013
  • Public Interest Disclosure (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013
  • Public Service Amendment Bill 2012
  • Royal Commissions Amendment Bill 2013
  • Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013
  • Statute Law Revision Bill 2012, and
  • Telecommunications Amendment (Get a Warrant) Bill 2013.

During 2012–13 the Committee also reviewed the following Regulations:

  • Family Law Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 3)
  • Family Law Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 4)
  • Family Law (Fees) Regulation 2012
  • Acts Interpretation (Registered Relationships) Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 2)
  • Family Law Superannuation (Amendment) Regulation 2013 (No. 1)
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation (Consequential Amendments) Regulation 2013, and
  • Trans-Tasman Proceedings Legislation Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 2).

Law reform proposals commented on

  • Cooperative arrangements for complaints handling on social networking sites
  • social media and the law, and
  • whether leave to appeal should be required in appeals from interim parenting decisions.

Inquiries, consultation/issues papers and reports

  • Child Protection Legislative Reform Discussion Paper (New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services) (submission)
  • evaluation of the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 (Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department)
  • Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements (Productivity Commission)
  • Inquiry into Equal Recognition before the Law and Legal Capacity for People with Disability (Australian Law Reform Commission)
  • Inquiry into Surrogacy and Family Formation (Family Law Council) (submission)
  • Inquiry into the Impact of Federal Court Fee Increases Since 2010 on Access to Justice in Australia (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee)
  • Inquiry into the Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012 (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee) (submission)
  • Inquiry into the Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012 (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs) (oral evidence)
  • Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People With Disabilities in Australia (Senate Community Affairs Committee) (submission and oral evidence)
  • Inquiry into the Public Interest Disclosure Bill (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee) (submission and supplementary submission)
  • Project to Establish More Cohesive and Clearer Jurisdictional, Applicable Law and Choice of Court Rules Discussion Papers (Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department)
  • Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (Queensland Government) (meetings and correspondence), and
  • research on Independent Children’s Lawyers Project (Australian Institute of Family Studies) (participation via survey).

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 Justice, the Chief Judge and the CEO of both courts on family violence issues. In discharging this responsibility the Committee regularly reviews and updates the two courts’ family violence strategy and family violence best practice principles, as well as undertaking discrete projects.

The Family Violence Committee comprises Justice Ryan (Chair), Justice Collier, Justice Stevenson, Judge Brown, Judge Hughes, Judge Altobelli, Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar, Family Court), Di Loiszczyk (family consultant) and Kristen Murray (Senior Research Advisor to the Chief Justice). The Committee held two meetings by videoconference during 2012–13.

In addition to the ongoing review of the Family Violence Strategy, the major task for the Committee during the year was preparing the third edition of the Family Violence Best Practice Principles. The third edition takes account of the important amendments contained in Schedule 1 of the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth), which came into effect on 7 June 2012. The revised Principles act as a checklist of matters that judicial officers, court staff, legal professionals and litigants may wish to have regard to at each stage of the litigation process. The former Attorney-General, the Honourable Nicola Roxon MP, launched the third edition of the Principles at the 15th National Family Law Conference in Hobart in October 2012.

In June 2013, the Australian Government released its response to the Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission report Family Violence—A National Legal Response. In its response the Government said that the Family Violence Best Practice Principles “provide important guidance to decision makers when dealing with matters involving allegations of family violence and sexual abuse and explain some of the … nature, features and dynamics of family violence, including the impacts of family violence on people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and children.”

During 2012–13 the Committee also undertook work on the cross-examination of alleged victims of family violence in family law proceedings. This occurred in response to correspondence received from the former Attorney-General, the Honourable Nicola Roxon MP, in which the views of the Chief Justice and Chief Judge were sought as to whether existing statutory provisions are sufficiently protective of alleged victims of family violence who are subject to cross-examination in person by the party alleged to have perpetrated the violence.

In response to correspondence received from the New South Wales Department of Public Prosecutions, the Committee also considered the issue of family law court orders preventing alleged child victims of sexual assault from receiving sexual assault counselling, particularly in the context of interim family law proceedings.

The Committee built upon work it undertook in 2010 in reviewing the courts’ Family Violence Strategy and commenced a thorough reconsideration of the Family Violence Strategy to incorporate a five year plan. This is a significant piece of work, involving an audit of policies and programs developed in other courts (nationally and internationally) to respond to family violence and a comprehensive consultation process with internal and external stakeholders. It is anticipated that this initiative will constitute the Family Violence Committee’s major project in 2013–14.

Children’s Committee

In 2011, a Committee was established by the Chief Justice of the Family Court and the Chief Federal Magistrate (now Chief Judge), consisting of the Principal Child Dispute Services, a judge of the Family Court, a judge of the Federal Circuit Court and members of the legal profession, to discuss the involvement of children in parenting cases before the family law courts. In particular, the Committee was asked to consider:

  • What, if any, further work needs to be undertaken with respect to the involvement of children in parenting cases?
  • How might the courts ascertain whether children feel their voices have been heard in proceedings that addressed their living arrangements?

The Committee determined that a survey of Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) around the country would assist the process. The survey was administered and a comprehensive report prepared during 2012–13. The survey results offer a number of insights into the way ICLs view and fulfil their role in relation to meeting with children and giving effect in family law proceedings to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Committee members presented the main findings to independent children’s lawyers in each of their respective regions.

Committee members held discussions with the ACT Children’s Commissioner, who is assisting the Committee in relation to the next phase of exploring ways to involve young people in advising the courts in improvements of their processes.

Other activities engaged in by the Committee during the year included commencing consideration of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the context of children and young people’s ‘voice’ in private family law proceedings; undertaking discussions with Sesame Street with a view to possibly developing materials for children and families who have separated (similar to those that have been developed in the United States); the preparation of draft fact sheets on the topics of the impact of high conflict on children, the impact of family violence on children and the different developmental needs of children; and a review of all materials on Family Court intranet site, with the ultimate aim of creating a specific ‘children’s corner’.

Ad hoc committees

Courts’ Information Committee

The courts’ Information Committee was established by Chief Justice Bryant, Chief Judge Pascoe and the Chief Executive Officer of the Family Court/Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Circuit Court in 2012 to:

  • identify and describe the agreed statistical and management information needs of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court at all levels
  • establish which key stakeholders should receive what reports at what frequencies
  • review all management reports that are produced regularly for their applicability, reliability, relevance and future use
  • make recommendations about the refinement of reports with a view to improving their usefulness to those who receive them, both internally and externally
  • provide guidance and support as to the level of data quality required to ensure the reports are at a desired level of accuracy, and
  • develop principles for setting priorities in respect of the provision of regular reports.

The Committee is comprised of a Family Court judge, a Federal Circuit Court judge, and senior administrative staff from the family law courts. The Committee met for the first time in June 2012, where it identified a list of priority projects. The Committee continued to meet regularly by telephone during 2012–13 and has considerably advanced its work program.

Indigenous Working Group

The Chief Justice announced the establishment of a working group to implement the recommendations from the study of Indigenous Australians’ access to and use of the Family Law Courts. See Part 2, Initiatives, for more information about this study. The Indigenous Working Group will be chaired by Justice Benjamin from the Hobart registry.

Judicial Committee for Court Excellence

The Chief Justice has endorsed the International Framework of Court Excellence2 and has put in place processes to advance implementation of this model.

The framework promotes the independence of courts and commends self governance. Work in the areas of leadership and court management; policy and planning; management of resources; court processes and proceedings; client needs and satisfaction; and public confidence each contribute to a high functioning and self governing court.

A judicial committee chaired by Justice Murphy, and including Justices Finn, Cronin, Austin and Loughnan was formed.

The Committee is asked to achieve the following in 2013–14:

  • examine the International Framework for Court Excellence and provide advice on its application to the Family Court
  • advise the Chief Justice on the framework ‘self assessment’ survey and support introduction of this survey to judges and the administration
  • prepare a summary report on the themes arising from this survey of judges and staff and make a submission to Chief Justice containing this report and advice on the findings, and
  • advise the Chief Justice on the future planning priorities for the Court.

It is expected that this process will promote judicial and administration involvement in the future planning of the Court and ensure that the Court is operating in tune with international best practice in judicial and court administration.

Collaborative committees

Heads of Jurisdiction

In late 2011 the Heads of Jurisdiction of the Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Circuit Court agreed to establish a consultative committee to formalise existing unofficial arrangements and foster greater administrative cooperation between the three courts.

The Committee meets quarterly and is supported by the Chief Executive Officers of the three courts. A senior official from the Attorney-General’s Department attends the Committee’s meetings as an observer. Four meetings were held in 2012–13.

In addition to including information about the Committee’s activities in the courts’ annual reports, the Committee reports to the Commonwealth Attorney-General twice in each calendar year (August 2012 and March 2013).

The Committee’s main focus has been on: reviewing the courts’ library services, overseeing the resolution of accommodation issues for the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney, a review of the courts’ case management systems, and development of a strategic plan for the ongoing occupancy of Commonwealth Law Courts buildings.

In August 2012, following development of a detailed implementation plan and recommendations, the Heads of Jurisdiction formally approved an amalgamation of the courts’ library services.

The merger necessitated the transfer of Family Court library staff and associated funding to the Federal Court under Machinery of Government arrangements, effective from 3 January 2013. The transition was relatively smooth and proceeded without disruption to library users from any of the courts.

Family Law Courts Advisory Group

The Family Law Courts Advisory Group has a critical governance role in resourcing both courts and coordinates various administrative relationships between the two courts.

The Group comprises:

  • Chief Justice Bryant (Family Court)
  • Chief Judge Pascoe (Federal Circuit Court)
  • Justice Watts (Family Court)
  • Judge Baumann (Federal Circuit Court)
  • Richard Foster (CEO Family Court and Acting CEO Federal Circuit Court)
  • Louise Glanville (Attorney-General’s Department).

The Group meets as required.

Family Law Forum

Chaired by the Chief Justice, the national Family Law Forum meets to discuss shared issues arising within the family law system.

The forum consists of representatives from the Family Court, the Federal Circuit Court, the Family Law Council, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, National Legal Aid, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Child Support, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, family dispute resolution providers, non-government organisations and community legal centres.

The Family Law Forum met in November 2012.

Joint Costs Advisory Committee

The Joint Costs Advisory Committee comprises representatives of the four federal courts: the High Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. During 2012–13 the committee comprised:

  • Judge of the Family Court (Justice Benjamin) (Chair)
  • Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar of the High Court (Andrew Phelan)
  • Deputy Registrar of the Federal Court (John Mathieson)
  • Principal Registrar of the Federal Circuit Court (Adele Byrne)
  • Principal Registrar of the Family Court (Angela Filippello) (who participates in the Committee as an 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. The Committee tabled its fifth report on legal practitioners’ costs in September 2012, in which it recommended a 2.7 per cent increase in the scale of costs specified in the Rules of the High Court, Family Court, Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court. The Committee also resolved to write to the Law Council of Australia and to the Departments of Attorney-General and Justice, advising of the Committee’s recommendation. It also agreed to again draw attention to the Committee’s view that it is not resourced to undertake work to build an empirical basis for determining the impact of increasing cost scales on the confidence in the legal system leading to fairer costs outcomes or whether the risk of higher costs may discourage meritorious litigation and making justice accessible; and would be assisted by better information as part of a broader review of the legal services system.

Senior management committees

The senior executive of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court continued to meet annually to establish the strategic direction and priorities for the effective administration of both courts. Senior executives of both courts participate in a number of committees that provide high level operational and policy advice to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Richard Foster.

Chief Executive Officer’s Management Advisory Group

The Chief Executive Officer’s Management Advisory Group (CMAG) provides operational and policy advice on key areas that affect the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

CMAG, chaired by the CEO, meets bi-monthly and comprises:

  • Acting Deputy CEO, Federal Circuit Court
  • Executive Director, Corporate
  • Principal Registrar, Family Court
  • Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court
  • Principal, Child Dispute Services
  • Executive Director, Client Services
  • Regional Registry Managers
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Executive Advisor, Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
  • Manager, Chief Judge’s Chambers
  • Director, Client Services.

Other committees

A number of administrative committees were also active during 2012–13 and provided high level operational and policy advice. Meeting on a regular or ad hoc basis, they included:

  • Audit and Risk
  • National Consultative
  • Staff Development
  • Property Management
  • Information and Communication.

Senior management committee highlights

This section highlights the work of senior management committees during 2012–13. Appendix 8 has details of membership and terms of reference for the various committees.

Chief Executive Officer’s Management Advisory Group

In 2012–13, CMAG continued to provide advice to the CEO on new policy and other initiatives. These included:

  • budget savings measures
  • the courts’ administration restructure
  • a review of eFiling procedures and practices
  • a review of the Court’s social media policy and protocols
  • the implementation of recommendations from the client satisfaction survey
  • the application of the Court Excellence Framework
  • a review of the client feedback and complaints policy and procedure
  • the implementation of the new court fees schedule
  • a review of the child dispute services policy and procedures and a quality assurance framework for family consultants appointed under Regulation 7, and
  • improved practices for supporting interpreters in courtrooms.

Audit and Risk Committee

The Audit and Risk Committee is established in accordance with section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. It supports the Chief Executive Officer to ensure that the Court’s financial accounts are in accordance with the Finance Minister’s Orders and provide a true and accurate description of the Court’s financial position. The committee comprises an external chair and two senior managers from the Court’s administration.

During 2012–13, the Committee considered a range of issues, including the Court’s internal audit plan, strategic risk and fraud risk treatments, 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.

For the first time, the National Enquiry Centre has a delegate on the committee.

The Committee met twice in 2012–13. 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.

Staff Development Committee

The Staff Development Committee is integral to the Court’s approach to the continuing career development of staff, and is a key forum through which staff representatives have shared responsibility for identifying and determining development needs and opportunities. In 2012–13, the Committee met monthly to discuss the learning and development needs across all areas of the courts.

The Committee focussed on providing tailored programs for the various working groups within the registries and chambers based on specific needs highlighted through the Performance Management and Development System and an internal staff survey.

Specific training delivered through the Committee can be found under Training, Learning and Development.

There were no changes to the Committee during 201213 and membership details are in Table 8.17 in the appendixes.

Corporate and operational planning and associated performance reporting and review

At 30 June 2013, there were 591 ongoing and non-ongoing court employees (excluding judicial officers and the CEO) 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 (for the National Support Office)
  • Courts Exchange, the courts’ staff newsletter
  • Service Charter and Service Commitments documents
  • Statement of Strategic Intent, and
  • case management policies and manuals related to the management of family law cases from the Chief Justice, 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 Justice eMessages—emails from the Chief Justice to the judiciary and all staff
  • CEO 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 Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997
  • 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 CEO. This is the primary vehicle for sharing information and celebrating the achievements and successes of court staff
  • Intranet messages—latest news, and
  • CEO roadshows—the CEO regularly visits registries to talk to staff about key and emerging issues.

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 2012–13, the Court’s internal audit services were provided by RSM Bird Cameron and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee. This was their first year for providing such services to the Court.

The 2012–13 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:

  • a review of outstanding audit recommendations (previous internal audits)
  • compliance with the Workplace Health and Safety Act
  • leave management
  • eFiling post implementation review
  • COBIT gap analysis of IT service delivery
  • Business Continuity Plan (BCP)—scenario testing, and
  • revision of the courts’ Fraud Control Plan.

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 provides 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 Court’s Business Continuity Plans (BCPs). Desktop scenario tests were undertaken in the Melbourne and Adelaide registries in May 2013, with recommendations resulting from these to be incorporated into the BCPs.

The Procurement and Risk Management section continues to provide, as a standing agenda item, regular updates on risk related activities to the courts’ Audit and Risk Committee.

Financial risk

The Court manages financial risk in accordance with the Risk Control and Compliance Framework. The relevant mechanisms are:

  • risk assessments for annual business plans
  • risk assessments for identified projects
  • Chief Executive Instructions (CEIs) available to all staff on the intranet, and
  • monthly financial reports to the CEO’s Management Advisory Group and oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.

Fraud prevention and control

The Court’s Fraud Control Plan 2010–12 complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.

During 2012–13, the Audit and Risk Committee continued to receive reports on the implementation status of fraud risk treatments. It had in place fraud investigation, reporting and data collection procedures that met the needs of the Court and complied with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

The Court continued to monitor the Fraud Control Plan (2010–12), the plan being available to all court staff via the intranet. The plan was developed in consultation with key stakeholders across all areas of court activities.

A new Fraud Control Plan has been developed to cover the requirements of the single FMA Agency, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, which will implemented from 1 July 2013.

No instances or allegations of fraud against the Court were reported in 2012–13.

Fraud control certification

In accordance with guideline 2.8 of the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011, issued by the Minister for Justice and Customs, pursuant to Regulation 19 of the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997, I hereby certify that I am satisfied that:

  • The Family Court of Australia has prepared fraud assessments and has in place a fraud control plan that complies with the Guidelines.
  • Appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and process are in place.
  • Annual fraud data has been collected and reported that complies with the Guidelines.

Richard Foster, PSM 
Chief Executive Officer 
16 August 2013

Information Publication Scheme

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. An agency plan showing what information is published in accordance with the IPS requirements is accessible from agency websites.

Information about FOI and the IPS agency plan for the Family Court can be found via a link on the homepage of the Family Court’s website: www.familycourt.gov.au.

The Court received three Freedom of Information requests during 2012–13. At 30 June 2013, there were no matters outstanding before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Ethical standards

The Court’s Strategic Plan states that integrity, respect and responsiveness underpin its approach to business. The Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct contained in the Public Service Act 1999 apply to all employees of the Court.

In 2012–13, the Court maintained ongoing information and education activities to ensure that all staff were aware of their rights, responsibilities and obligations in relation to privacy, ethics and other factors such as environmental responsibility, data management and data quality.

The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court together maintain web-based Service Charter and Service Commitments publications. These outline the services clients may expect of the courts.

The Court is committed to supporting employees to adhere to the APS Values and to comply with the Code of Conduct. Employees receive information about the Values and the Code through all-staff emails, the intranet and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

The Public Service Amendment Act 2013 made significant changes to the Public Service Act 1999. As a consequence the Public Service Regulations 1999 have been amended and the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 1999 repealed and replaced with the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013. The changes start on 1 July 2013 and with this in mind the Court began promoting the updated values and employment principles during the second half of 2012–13, with a comprehensive roll out planned later in 2013.

The Court’s Research and Ethics Committee considers, monitors and overviews all research and evaluation proposals (internal and external) for approval. Membership of the committee is in Appendix 8.

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 (ECONET) 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 Human Resources Manager is the Court’s representative at the ECONET forum.

Service Charter and service commitments

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

The Court also has a Portfolio Budget Statement Key Performance Indicator specifically about complaints. This, along with the Service Charter, is a central part of the Court’s service monitoring and response mechanism.

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 courts’ 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 Law 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.

Both the Service Charter and the Service Commitments document (which summarises 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 the Family Law Courts website: www.familylawcourts.gov.au.

Feedback and service improvements

Feedback helps to drive service improvement and the courts invite feedback, including suggestions and complaints about administrative things such as the standard of client service received in a registry, a privacy matter, a security matter, a court policy, or the way correspondence has been handled.

During 2012–13 the courts pursued several initiatives aimed to strengthen these client service commitments, including:

  • developed a family law services feedback and complaints form and restructured the feedback and complaints information on the website to make it more user-friendly
  • implemented changes in response to the 2011 family law user satisfaction survey to improve our services
  • introduced a new queuing system for faster and more orderly service in the largest registries
  • simplified the document request form to assist clients seeking copies of orders or divorce certificates, and
  • introduced a new client service wiki to ensure staff have access to the most up-to-date procedural information.

Full detail about feedback and complaints is in Part 3 Report on Court Performance but in summary, in 2012–13, the Court received:

  • 68 complaints about administrative matters, including court administrative procedures and processes, staff personal conduct, privacy, security and the client feedback process
  • 53 complaints about judicial delays and 35 about judicial conduct, and
  • five compliments.

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Reports by Parliamentary Committees

On 11 February 2013, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs tabled its advisory report for the Inquiry into Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012. The Committee recommended the House pass the Bill. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee tabled its report into the Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Bill 2012 on 25 February 2013. The Committee recommended that the Bill be passed without amendment. The Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Act 2012 was subsequently passed by both Houses and received Royal Assent on 12 March 2013.

The Act provides for the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court to merge. The change takes place from 1 July 2013 and formalises arrangements that have been in place for some years, including for there to be a single Chief Executive Officer for both courts. The single agency is to be known as the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. It does not affect the judicial operations of either courts. The courts’ administration made the necessary changes to support this in the closing months of 2012–13.

Reports by the Auditor-General

The Auditor-General made no report specific to the Family Court during 2012–13.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

There were no relevant proceedings in the AAT.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman made no report specific to the Family Court during 2012–13.

Attempt to re-litigate proceedings

Proceedings were brought in the Federal Court of Australia against a Family Court registrar and a federal magistrate (as she then was) attempting to litigate in that court proceedings in the family law jurisdiction.

The Australian Government Solicitor, on the instructions of the courts’ Legal Counsel, instructed Ms E Ford of Counsel in the matter to represent the courts. The Attorney-General intervened in the case subsequently. The applicant was ultimately unsuccessful in seeking to restrain the Family Court from exercising its jurisdiction.

Purported prosecution of judicial officers

An unsuccessful litigant in the family law jurisdiction purportedly brought proceedings of a criminal nature against the judicial officers who dealt with the matter in the Family Law Courts. The Australian Government Solicitor represented the judicial officers.

Application was made for the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over the prosecutions with a view to discontinuing them. The Director of Public Prosecutions took over and discontinued the prosecutions on a number of the matters in question. However, it did not take over the prosecutions in matters where the allegations made could not amount to any offence known to law. In such a case there was nothing properly to take over.

The complainant was ordered pay moneys into court in respect of possible costs in each of the remaining offences he asserted. He failed to do so and on 9 August 2012 the balance of the charges were struck out.

Action in defamation

A person who, because he was not admitted to practice as a lawyer, had no automatic right of audience before the courts has taken proceedings in defamation against an officer of the Court and the Commonwealth. The matter is proceeding and the Commonwealth’s and officer’s interests are being represented by the Australian Government Solicitor.

Whole-of-government ICT initiatives

During 2012–13, the Court participated in a number of whole-of-government ICT initiatives. The initial driver for these was the earlier independent review of the use of ICT across the Australian Government (the Gershon review, released in 2008 and its recommendations endorsed in full by the Government in November 2008). Following is a summary of related activities for the Court in 2012–13:

  • In September 2012, the Court submitted the annual ICT benchmarking report to AGIMO (Australian Government Information Management Office). The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for 2011–12 and included quantitative measures about capacity and quantities of ICT equipment.
  • The Court also reported to AGIMO on a Chief Information Officer Committee survey on ICT collaboration and cloud.
  • The Court worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (the lead agency) for a new internet gateway for a number of agencies, including the Family Court. The Court signed a contract with Macquarie Telecom for provision of internet gateway services under this arrangement in May 2013.
  • The Court is implementing the Government Desktop Common Operating Environment Policy in the Court’s standard operating environment (SOE) upgrade project. This project has commenced deployment of the SOE and at 30 June 2013, it was expected to be completed by September 2013.
  • During the year, the Court worked with AGIMO to obtain network services under the Internet Based Network Connection Services panel. An RFQ was developed and released in March 2013. At 30 June 2013, negotiation with the successful panellist was about to commence, with a view to implementing the new network by December 2013.
  • Work continued against the internal ICT Sustainability Plan, developed to address the Australian Government’s ICT Sustainability Plan 2010–15. Further information on progress can be found in Appendix 6.
  • Whole-of-government supply contracts are mandatory across a broad number of areas. By 30 June 2013, the Court was using the Microsoft volume sourcing arrangement, the desktop hardware panel, the telecommunications commodities, carriage and associated services panel, the major office machines panel, and the data centre panel.
  • As part of the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy, the Court is required to update its online government information and services to meet the WCAG 2.0 standard for website accessibility. During the year, it was working to meet the compliance deadlines.

Senate estimate committee hearings

Senior Executive Service staff of the Court attend Senate estimate committee hearings to answer questions about the Court’s activities. In 2012–13, 10 Senate estimate questions on notice were received and answered by the Family Court. Overall, there were 123 questions on notice for the Attorney-General’s Department’s portfolio of agencies and the Department itself.

External evaluations

There were no external evaluations during 2012–13.

Internal evaluations

A study of Indigenous Australians access to and usage of the Family Law Courts

See Initiatives of the Court in Part 2 for a detailed update on this work.

Registrar workload project

Work on the registrar workload project continued during 2012–13. A number of the recommendations made as a result of the review were agreed by the Chief Justice and Chief Judge and were implemented over the first half of the financial year. These included:

  • the development of a registrar workload report, which is produced quarterly and is used in conjunction with other management information
  • the reclassification of the sessional registrar positions, and
  • the transition to using in-house resources exclusively to conduct divorce proceedings from 1 January 2013.

The Executive Director Client Services, the Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Federal Circuit Court), the Principal Registrar, Regional Registry Managers and Regional Coordinating Registrars are continually discussing workload pressures and challenges including the development of potential strategies to address these issues.

Management of human resources

Overview

The Human Resources (HR) 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 2012–13 HR focussed on:

  • consolidation of the HR aspects of the merged administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court in preparation for the introduction of the single agency on 1 July 2013
  • recruitment services: advertising support, recruitment tips and assistance, probation, letters of offer, contracts
  • payroll, entitlements, conditions of employment
  • payroll system: support for Aurion/employee self service (ESS), reporting
  • workforce capability services including planning, Performance Management and Development Scheme (PMDS), learning and development, workplace wellbeing
  • workplace relations support including Enterprise Agreement and National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
  • implementing systems to support new workplace health and safety legislation, and
  • promoting employee wellbeing and respectful behaviours.

Enterprise Agreement

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia 2011–2014 Enterprise Agreement continued to operate during 2012–13.

The Agreement covers all non-SES staff of the courts and delivered a salary increase of three per cent at its commencement on 1 July 2011 and two further increases of three per cent each on 1 July 2012 and on 1 July 2013. The pay increases are offset by productivity savings to be funded from corporate efficiency/productivity savings outlined in clause 2.2 of the Agreement.

The Agreement directly supports the Family Court’s strategic objectives and complements its performance planning, management arrangements and improvements at the team and individual level.

Consistent with the single enterprise agreement, and in preparation for the single agency, the process of producing mirror images of policies, procedures and guidelines across the two courts continued during 2012–13.

The Court is committed to supporting employees to adhere to the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. During 2012–13, employees continued to receive information about the Values and the Code through all staff emails, the Court intranet and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.

Workforce planning, retention and turnover

Workforce planning

In 2012–13 workforce planning activities focused on ensuring the successful completion of combining the administration of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court. This involved the formalising of current arrangements and enabling additional improvements to the Courts’ administrative practices and procedures.

As at 30 June 2012, 159 (26.5 per cent*) of Family Court staff were eligible to retire. Accordingly, during 2012–13 the Court developed 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 as reported in the 2011–12 Annual Report (601).

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, overtime, purchased leave, maternity, adoption, fostering and supporting partner’s leave, salary sacrifice arrangements and paid time off work over the Christmas and New Year period.

A safe and healthy work environment

The Court provides a family-friendly and non-discriminatory work environment with strong policies against harassment and bullying. The Court and its employees are committed to measures that will assist with preventing and managing illness and injury, psychological injuries, and assisting absent staff to return to work as soon as reasonably practical. Other healthy work environment strategies include an employee assistance program that provides free professional counselling to employees and members of their immediate families and free annual influenza vaccinations.

Workplace diversity

The Court recognises that diversity among its staff is one of its greatest assets. Valuing the distinctive characteristics in every employee, and drawing on the diversity of our backgrounds, skills, talents and views to enhance the Court’s working environment and the work of the Court, underpin 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 scheme, the Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award, Australia Day Medallions and the Years of Service awards recognise and reward employees for the achievement of corporate goals, providing non-cash rewards and recognition.

Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award

The Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award honours the late Janet Kitcher (a Family Court employee at the time of her death). It aims to bestow recognition on high achieving employees of the courts for their outstanding contributions to the workplace. Recipients of this award perform extraordinarily well within their role, excelling to achieve outstanding client service by demonstrating:

  • ethical standards and integrity
  • innovation and pro-activity
  • respect for people and cultures, and
  • cooperation and positive behaviours.

The winner for 2012 was Sharon McLeish, Wellbeing Officer, National Support Office.

Sharon joined the Court in May 2006, initially as a payroll officer. After gaining experience in judicial services and quality assurance, in October 2010, she moved into her current role as Wellbeing Officer. In that role she has excelled. A key accomplishment has been her successful implementation and embedding of the Work Health Safety Act 2011. It provided her with a significant challenge. Not only did she need to understand the new legislation and its revised levels of compliance, but also she was also responsible for communicating the new Act to all staff and delivering training to ensure understanding, buy-in and long-term compliance by all court employees. Sharon’s contribution to the courts is appreciated by managers and staff who value the timeliness and quality of the advice she provides, along with her compassion for the issues faced by staff members under her care.

In addition, one of the clear outcomes of Sharon’s contribution to the courts is reflected in the Comcare premiums which have dropped significantly for 2012–13, saving the courts $74,258.

Other nominees in 2012 were:

  • Christine Carey, NSO, Manager Finance
  • John FitzGibbon, Melbourne, Senior Registrar, and
  • Phillip Cameron, Sydney, Regional Coordinating Registrar.

Australian Day achievement medallions

The Australia Day Medallions are awarded each year, to recognise outstanding contributions made by employees of public service organisations.

In 2013 the Court awarded an Australia Day achievement medallion to:

Simon Kelso, Director, Court Services, National Support Office: Simon was recognised for his exemplary performance in the 11 years that he has worked with the Family Court. He has contributed to a number of significant and important strategic tasks. Most recently, he has provided invaluable advice to the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Client Services during a period of significant change. This included tasks such as representing the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court in the Department of Finance and Administration’s review of the Attorney-General’s Portfolio and developing a submission to report on the critical fiscal position of the courts.

In joint recognition with the Federal Circuit Court, awards were also presented to:

Josephine Hunt, Senior Family Consultant, Melbourne registry: Josephine has been with the Court for 10 years and has consistently provided professional mentoring and leadership to a large group of family consultants in Melbourne, in addition to her responsibility for various portfolios, including Magellan and Hague matters. Josephine has led various projects, one being the development, implementation and leadership of the newly established Child Dispute Services team in Dandenong. Josephine’s vision and energy assisted greatly in getting the job done.

Brenda Field, Registry Manager, Dandenong registry: Brenda was recognised for her contribution to both courts. During her 13 years with the courts, Brenda has been a champion of quality service to the public and puts forward this value in everything she does. Brenda has been repeatedly selected for advice on national projects and has been found reliable, thorough and exceptionally pleasant to work with. Brenda is the registry manager representative on the courts’ Staff Development Committee.

Denise Healy, Media and Public Affairs Manager, National Support Office: Denise is responsible for communicating important issues to the media and ensures a positive focus on the courts. She has established strong working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly with the media, which has enable her to get articles relating to missing children published. Denise is always at the forefront when the courts attract media attention, providing excellent support and advice. On occasion she assists the Federal Court.

Years of service awards

Years of service awards are presented to employees who have been with the Court for more than 20, 25, 30 and, this year, 35 years.

Recipients in 2012–13 follow.

20 years

  • Mary Flynn (Parramatta)
  • Jennifer Paxton (Adelaide)
  • Marc Keith Wiliams (Adelaide)
  • Geoff Noonan (Melbourne)
  • Marion Roze Wright (Sydney)
  • Angela Patterson (Melbourne)
  • Jeanette Bondini (Sydney)

25 years

  • Athena Sikiotis (Melbourne)
  • Bill Skoufis (Melbourne)

35 years

  • Lucy Elizabeth Sroka (Brisbane)

Workforce turnover

During 2012–13, 63 employees and judicial officers left the Court. Of these, 19 were non-ongoing, 40 were ongoing employees and four were holders of Public Office, representing an annual turnover rate of 10.1 per cent against total staff numbers at 30 June 2013 (see Table 8.9 at Appendix 3). This compares with ongoing staff separations of eight per cent in 2011–12, nine per cent in 2010–11, and eight per cent in both 2009–10 and 2008–09.

Staffing profile

At 30 June 2013, the Court had 591 employees covered by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) but excluding judicial officers, the Chief Executive Officer and casual employees. This was a 2.28 per cent decrease compared with 601 employees at 30 June 2012. Tables 8.3 to 8.7 at Appendix 3 provide a breakdown of staff by location, gender, attendance, ongoing and non-ongoing employment status.

Judicial officers

At 30 June 2013, the Court had 31 judges, including the Chief Justice (14 female and 17 male). For further information see Table 8.8 at Appendix 3 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.

Agreement making

A single Enterprise Agreement for the courts

As mentioned previously, the courts’ Agreement came into effect on 1 July 2011. The Agreement has a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014, however, under present arrangements it will continue to operate after that date until replaced or formally terminated.

Other agreements

Offers of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) to Court employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy; however, at 30 June 2013, 28 employees had enforceable AWAs in place. Table 8.12 at Appendix 3 sets out the AWA minimum and maximum salary ranges by classification.

In some limited cases the Court has used common law contracts to provide supplementary conditions of employment for individuals covered by the Enterprise Agreement and determinations made by the Agency Head under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999, to build upon existing AWA arrangements. At 30 June 2013, 18 employees had employment arrangements governed by enforceable common law contracts and 49 had employment arrangements governed by determination 24 instruments. See Table 8.11 at Appendix 3 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 Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, effective from 1 July 2011, 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 a s 24(1) determination or a common law contract that provides additional terms and conditions (for example, as a way of retaining high-value employees).

AWAs may also be supported by individual s 24(1) determinations or common law contracts to provide for pay increases or additional terms and conditions, including non-salary benefits.

SES remuneration

Terms and conditions for the Court’s senior executive service employees are in 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.

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 arrangements

During 2012–13, the Court neither entered into any performance pay arrangements nor paid performance pay to any employee.

Training, learning and development

The Court recognises the value of a well educated workforce. It provides staff with an extensive range of learning and development opportunities, both formally and informally. The Court also provides studies assistance, including leave for study and examination attendance for employees undertaking work-related tertiary studies. Finance constraints means the Court relies predominantly on in-house training.

Specific training delivered during the year and funded through the Staff Development Committee (see page 103 for more detail on the Committee and its role):

  • Proof reading and editing—a hands-on program tailored for associates and deputy associates focused on transforming a draft into a polished document through effective editing and proof reading.
  • Resilience training—for registry service staff including business system development officers, child care officers and team leaders. The program explored emotional intelligence and the setting of boundaries with the aim of strengthening and building resilience within their teams.
  • Defusing explosive situations—a half day workshop for registrars which focused on ensuring their physical safety by improving their ability to defuse the strong emotions of very difficult clients.
  • Enhance your resilience—a half day course focusing on improved wellbeing and resilience for coordinating registrars, with a targeted focus on skills to enable them to support their teams to continue to perform at their best.
  • Family consultant training—a range of workshops was provided to family consultants. They included a workshop on interviewing children, observational assessment methods of child-parent interactions and working with Indigenous families.

The Court’s in-house training facilities include self-paced, online learning courses on a range of topics, including Australian Public Service and court specific induction training, occupational health and safety, bullying and harassment and Windows XP suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint).

Performance Management and Development System

The Court’s Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) aims to foster a high performance culture by emphasising the personal development of staff and the relationship between the Court’s goals and individual skills, responsibilities and performance.

The system has continued to be refined. In 2012–13, the PMDS for Child Dispute Services was significantly enhanced in order to better capture professional peer review (in addition to general performance).

Through PMDS, the Court encourages regular ongoing discussions between employees and their managers about performance, including two formal performance reviews each financial year. The initial performance review takes place during October and November and the final review occurs during April and May.

Consistent with previous years, in 2012–13 all employees of the Court participated in the PMDS, thereby ensuring that every pay rise was linked to a performance standard of ‘meeting requirements’ or higher.

Peer support network

The nature of the Court’s core business means employees may be exposed to and involved in highly sensitive and stressful situations. The Court has continued to manage the risk of stress in the workplace through its peer support system within registries and the National Support Office.

The Peer Support program provides a network of trained staff in the workplace to ensure that skilled support is available for immediate assistance should an employee experience a distressing situation or a difficult event. This program is designed to complement the Employee Assistance Program. It has been in place for five years and anecdotal feedback (discussions are totally confidential) indicates that it has proved most effective for staff and is well regarded. Thirty-six people from across the Court are trained to provide support through the network. Training involves two days of face to face training to learn a range of tried and tested counselling skills that work to create effective communication and de-escalate staff who are in crisis.

Trained peer support officers from any location can provide assistance as required. There is no restriction on staff accessing officers from outside their immediate work area. All communication with peer support officers is strictly confidential.

For more information about work health and safety, see Appendix 4.

Employee Assistance Program

The Family Court and its employees, through the Enterprise Agreement, have undertaken a commitment to ensuring psychological and physical wellbeing.

The Court’s Employee Assistance Program provided by Converge International, is a free, confidential counselling service for all court employees and their immediate families who are experiencing personal or work-related problems. Converge also provide a dedicated Managers Assistance Program for managers to confidentially discuss issues which may arise as a result of being in a supervisory position.

Productivity gains

The combination of the merged administration and 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.

Additionally, as part of the single administration, the review of client services, the registrar review and improvements in records management have resulted in a number of changes being introduced to further reduce duplication and improve efficiency. A number of productivity gains also flow from operating under the Enterprise Agreement.

 

Disability reporting

Since 1994, the Court has reported on its performance as employer 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 a new National Disability Strategy, which sets out a 10 year national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. A high level report to track progress for people with disability at a national level will be produced by the Standing Council on Community, Housing and Disability Services to the Council of Australian Governments and will be available at www.fahcsia.gov.au.

The Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy agreed by the Government in December 2009 will also include some reporting on disability matters in its regular How Australia is Faring report and, if appropriate, in strategic change indicators in agency annual reports.

The Court’s recruitment, training and development, occupational health and safety, and access and equity policies take account of the Government’s social inclusion agenda: the vision of a socially inclusive society in which all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society. These policies are published on the Court’s intranet and are available on application to the Court’s Human Resource Manager.

More detail on social inclusion matters can be found at www.socialinclusion.gov.au.

Financial management

The Family Court of Australia is a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

Operating revenue and expenses

Total revenue for the Court in 2012–13 was $119.766 million, including appropriations from Government ($93.983 million), other revenue ($2.749 million), and other gains ($23.034 million). Other gains includes resources received free of charge associated with the use of Commonwealth Law Courts ($13.737 million) and library services provided by the Federal Court of Australia ($0.308 million) and liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges’ Pension Scheme ($8.698 million).

Operating expenses for the 2012–13 financial year amounted to $126.620 million, being a $16.576 million reduction from 2011–12. The movement in nominal dollars is primarily a result of the changes to the funding and management of the Commonwealth Law Courts. These changes resulted in an overall net reduction of $16.013 million in expenditure (a reduction in property-related expenses (rent and suppliers) of $29.750 million offset by an increase in resources received free of charge for the use of the Commonwealth Law Courts of $13.737 million).

Figure 6.2 provides a breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the Court for 2012–13 excluding notional expenses for resources received free of charge (Commonwealth Law Courts, library and ANAO audit fees) and liabilities assumed by Related Entities (Judicial Superannuation). This breakdown shows that the Court has a significant proportion of fixed costs (44 per cent) relating to judicial officers and their support, property and depreciation. Of the remaining expenditure, 39 per cent provide direct support to the judicial officers in determining cases (via client services, family consultants or registrars), 15 per cent provide indirect support to the judicial officers through the provision of information technology and corporate services (including the Chief Executive Officer) along with meeting statutory reporting requirements for the Court, and two per cent of expenditure is attributable to corporate overheads. Details of the expenditure categories are shown in Table 6.1.

Figure 6.2 Family Court expenditure, 2012–13

Figure 6.2 Family Court expenditure, 2012–13.

Table 6.1 Categories of Family Court expenditure

Judges and support

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to judges and their support staff.

Depreciation

All depreciation, amortisation and other expenses associated with asset movements.

Property

Lease rentals for Commonwealth Law Courts and leased premises, and all property operating expenses (such as cleaning, energy, repairs, maintenance and management fees) associated with these premises.

Registrars

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to registrars.

Family consultants

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to family consultants.

Client services

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to client service staff.

Corporate support

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to finance, human resources, property services, contract services and the CEO.

Information technology services

All employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the provision of information technology services.

Corporate overheads

Workers Compensation and ComCover insurance premiums, Fringe Benefit Tax expenditure, ComSuper management fees, legal and audit fees, corporate salary overheads attributed to registry management, corporate support and IT services staff, and expenditure related to project activity in the Court (some of which is externally funded).

Operating deficits and ongoing budgetary pressure

For 2012–13 the Court has recorded an operating surplus3 attributable to the Court of $4.336 million, compared with an operating deficit of $4.301 million reported in 2011–12.

Contributing to the operating surplus is an increase in the asset revaluation surplus of $2.510 million.

The remaining $1.826 million surplus is mainly a result of savings arising from delays in recruitment and the early application of savings initiatives ($1.174 million). Further contributing to the surplus was the impact of a change in government bond rates or expenses ($0.652 million).

The Court continues to undertake significant initiatives to reduce costs and generate efficiencies. The Government is working with the Court to address these ongoing pressures. In addition, the Court is identifying new and innovative ways to provide better access to justice for family law litigants, in the context of limited resources and potential better outcomes for litigants.

Administered revenue

The Court received $3.109 million in 2012–13 on behalf of the Commonwealth for court fees. Administered revenue is not available to offset the Court’s operating costs. Offsetting the administered revenue collected by the Court on behalf of the Government were refunds of fees ($0.085 million) resulting in total comprehensive income of $3.024 million which was returned to Government.

Services provided free of charge

The Family Court provides resources free of charge to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in accordance with sections 90, 92 and 99 of the Federal Circuit Court Act 1999. Resources provided free of charge include:

  • court staff, who perform work on behalf of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and
  • accommodation, including access to courtrooms.

It is estimated that the cost of resources provided free of charge by the Family Court to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia during 2012–13 was $32.650 million.

Figure 6.3 shows the expenditure categories in which the services provided free of charge to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are provided.

Figure 6.3 2012–13 Expenditure resources shared with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia

Figure 6.3 2012–13 Expenditure resources shared with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Events after the reporting period

Under the Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Act 2013 commencing on 1 July 2013, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia merges into one single Financial Management Accountability (FMA) agency called the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. This decision significantly affects the ongoing structure and financial activities of the entity. As the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court form a single agency for the purposes of the FMA Act from 1 July 2013, the Chief Executive Officer will be able to prepare a single set of financial statements covering both courts for the purposes of meeting the requirements under section 49 of the FMA Act.

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 theCommonwealth Procurement Rules. The Chief Executive 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 2012–13. 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 2012–13 had provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors’ premises.

Consultants

During 2012–13:

  • two new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $60,251 (GST inclusive), and
  • two ongoing consultancy contracts were active involving total actual expenditure of $50,786 (GST inclusive).

Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2012–13 was $111,037 (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.

Legal services expenditure

Paragraph 11.1 of the Legal Services Directions 2005 states that the Chief Executive Officer of the Court has the responsibility for ensuring that:

  • arrangements for legal services are handled efficiently and effectively, and
  • appropriate systems and procedures are in place to comply with these directions.

In accordance with paragraph 11.1 (ba) of the Legal Services Directions 2005, the Court incurred the legal services expenditure shown in Table 6.2 during 2012–13. All expenditure figures include GST.

Consistent with paragraph 11.2 of the Legal Services Directions 2005, the Chief Executive Officer issued a Certificate to the Office of Legal Services Coordination of the Attorney-General’s Department stating that the Family Court:

  • had appropriate systems and procedures in place to ensure compliance with the Directions
  • had no record of any alleged, possible or determined breach of the Directions during the 2012–13 financial year.

Table 6.2 Legal services expenditure, 2012–13

Total costs recovered 1

$0.00

Total external legal services expenditure

$46,647.04

Total internal legal services expenditure

$106,362.61

Total (external and internal) expenditure

$153,009.65

Summary of external legal services expenditure

 

Total value of briefs to counsel (A)

$1,074.56

Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)

$427.64

Total value of professional fees paid (C)

$45,144.85

Total external legal services expenditure (A+B+C)

$46,647.04

Counsel

 

Number of briefs to male counsel

1

Number of briefs to female counsel

1

Total number of briefs to counsel

2

Number of direct briefs to male counsel

0

Number of direct briefs to female counsel

0

Total number of direct briefs to counsel

0

Total value of briefs to male counsel (including direct briefs)2

$149.00

Total value of briefs to female counsel (including direct briefs)2

$925.56

Total value of briefs to counsel (A)3

$1,074.56

Disbursements

 

Total value of disbursements (excluding counsel) (B)

$427.64

Professional fees

 

Australian Government Solicitor

$20,830.79

Ashurst

$19,714.06

Office of Parliamentary Counsel

$4,600.00

Total value of professional fees paid (C)

$45,144.85

1 do not subtract this figure from the legal services expenditure total

2 includes the value of direct briefs

3 includes all expenditure on counsel

Note: These figures are subject to a rounding error of $0.01 as a result of the allocation of GST across items from within a single invoice.

Assets and property management

Asset management

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

The most significant property-related activities at various court locations in 2012–13 are detailed below.

Adelaide

A reconfiguration of the Adelaide ground floor staff room and adjacent meeting room was delivered in January 2013. The improved design provides more appropriate amenities for staff servicing the registry counter, in an often high pressure environment. Whilst the modest reconfiguration was low in value, it has boosted the morale of staff working within this area of the courts.

Dandenong

A modest refurbishment of the chambers was delivered in December 2012. The methodology behind the works was to improve the outdated chambers. This was particularly important as the works aligned with the renewal of the lease in Dandenong. The works consisted of covering the exposed brick in chambers and repainting. Whilst the works were low in value, the outcome has greatly improved the previously aged and outdated chambers.

Launceston

A number of minor works were delivered in May 2013, including upgrading the public bathrooms (cosmetic only), improving the registry counter area, improving the area occupied by the associates and improving the courtroom air conditioning. The works have resulted in an improved environment for staff and for litigants attending court.

Sydney

The ground floor security scanning area was reconfigured in January 2013. This has provided a significant improvement to the flow of litigants attending the registry. The improved layout has reduced congestion, and provides improved safety and security through increased visibility and capacity in monitoring access points.

Correction of material errors in 2011–12 report

The Court has no matters to report.


2 http://www.courtexcellence.com/

3 Equivalent to the total comprehensive (loss) less depreciation/amortisation expenses previously funded through revenue appropriations as reported in Note 28: Net Cash Appropriation Arrangements per the Financial Statements for the period ending 30 June 2013 and including ‘Other Comprehensive Income’.