FIVE judicial officers appointed
TWO judicial officers retired
SEVEN internal audits conducted
TWO freedom of information requests received
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.
The judges' committee structure facilitates collegiate involvement of the judges of the Court.
Figure 6.1 shows the organisational structure of the Court.
Figure 6.1 Organisational structure of the Family Court of Australia, 30 June 2014
Judicial officers of the Family Court of Australia
At 30 June 2014, there were 33 judges of the Court, including the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice.
Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO.
The Chief Justice is responsible for ensuring the effective, 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 then Federal Magistrates Court, a position she held for four years.
Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia
The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks.
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
Appointed 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 (Chief Judge Family Court of Western Australia) 16 November 2006
The Honourable Justice Steven Andrew Strickland 14 December 2009
The Honourable Justice Ann Margaret Ainslie-Wallace 9 July 2010
The Honourable Justice Judith Maureen Ryan 27 September 2012
The Honourable Justice Peter John Murphy 27 September 2012
The Honourable Justice Steven Andrew Strickland 22 November 1999
The Honourable Justice Christine Elizabeth Dawe 3 March 1997
The Honourable Justice David Michael Berman 18 July 2013
The Honourable Justice Michelle May 5 September 1995
The Honourable Justice Peter John Murphy 11 October 2007
The Honourable Justice Graham Rodney Bell 27 February 1976
The Honourable Justice Colin James Forrest 1 February 2011
The Honourable Justice Michael Patrick Kent 12 July 2011
The Honourable Justice Jenny Deyell Hogan 14 January 2013
The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks 25 June 2004
The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn 2 July 1990
The Honourable Justice Robert James Charles Benjamin 19 August 2005
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO 5 July 2004
The Honourable Justice Victoria Jane Bennett 30 November 2005
The Honourable Justice Paul Joseph Cronin 20 December 2006
The Honourable Justice Kirsty Marion Macmillan 14 December 2011
The Honourable Justice Jennifer Ann Coate 31 January 2013
The Honourable Justice Sharon Louise Johns 29 July 2013
The Honourable Justice Christine Thornton 12 August 2013
The Honourable Justice Stewart Craig Austin 13 July 2009
The Honourable Justice Margaret Ann Cleary 8 July 2010
The Honourable Justice Garry Frederick Foster 8 August 2013
The Honourable Justice Hilary Rae Hannam 13 August 2013
The Honourable Justice Ann Margaret Ainslie-Wallace 9 July 2010
The Honourable Justice Judith Maureen Ryan 31 July 2006
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 14 April 2005
The Honourable Justice Judith Anne Rees 15 December 2011
The Honourable Justice Murray Robert Aldridge 13 December 2012
The Honourable Justice William Philip Johnston 12 July 2010
The Honourable Justice Ian James Loughnan 12 July 2010
The Honourable Justice Peter William Tree 14 January 2013
Family Court of Western Australia
(The following judges of the Family Court of Western Australia also hold Commissions in the Family Court of Australia)
Date of Family Court commission
Chief Judge The Honourable Justice Stephen Ernest Thackray 1 December 2004
The Honourable Justice Jane Crisford 24 October 2006
The Honourable Justice Simon Moncrieff 31 August 2009
The Honourable Justice John Myer Walters 6 December 2012
The Honourable Justice Susan Janet Duncanson 6 December 2012
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
(Presidential Members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal)
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 David Michael Berman 18 July 2013
The Honourable Justice Sharon Louise Johns 29 July 2013
The Honourable Justice Garry Frederick Foster 8 August 2013
The Honourable Justice Christine Thornton 12 August 2013
The Honourable Justice Hilary Rae Hannam 13 August 2013
The Honourable Justice David Michael Berman.
The Honourable Justice Sharon Louise Johns.
The Honourable Justice Garry Frederick Foster.
The Honourable Justice Christine Thornton.
The Honourable Justice Hilary Rae Hannam.
Judicial officer retirements
The Honourable Justice David John Collier 23 July 2013
The Honourable Justice Stuart Grant Fowler 14 November 2013
The Honourable Justice David John Collier.
The Honourable Justice Stuart Grant Fowler.
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 (s 38D(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 Chief Executive Officer is supported by the staff of the National Support Office. Richard Foster was appointed Chief Executive Officer in May 2000.
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
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
The Executive Director, Client Services is responsible for the delivery of client services in all family law registries. The Executive Director ensures that high quality registry services and support are provided to all judicial officers, litigants and legal practitioners, consistent with the strategic and business objectives of the Court. The Executive Director, Client Services also has responsibility for statistical services. Stephen Andrew was appointed Executive Director, Client Services in July 2011.
Chief Information Officer
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
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 policy making 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:
- The Honourable Chief Justice Bryant
- The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice Faulks
- The Honourable Justice Finn
- The Honourable Justice Strickland
- The Honourable Justice Ryan
- The Honourable Justice Watts
- The Honourable Justice Cronin
- The Honourable Justice Kent
- Chief Executive Officer (Richard Foster)
- Principal Registrar (Angela Filippello), and
- 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, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee and the Unrepresented Litigants Committee)
- Children's Committee
- Family Violence Committee
- Information Technology Committee
- Judicial Development Committee
- Judicial Remuneration Committee
- Law Reform Committee
- Library Committee
- Magellan Committee
- Property Management Committee
- Research and Ethics Committee, and
- 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: Children's Committee, Courts Information Committee, Family Violence Committee, Information Technology Committee, Library Committee, Property Management Committee and Research and Ethics Committee.
The Family Court of Australia is also represented on the Joint Costs Advisory Committee.
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 2013–14.
The Rules Committee is established in contemplation of section 123 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), 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 on a regular basis 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 2013–14 the Committee met in person on 23 May 2014 and otherwise by telephone as required.
Justice Ryan continued to chair the Rules Committee during 2013–14. Committee members during the year were Justice Murphy, Justice Loughnan, Justice Berman, Justice Hogan, Magistrate Moroni, Senior Registrar FitzGibbon, Registrar Kearney and Neil Wareham (legal counsel to the Family Court).
In 2013–14, 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 (Scale of Costs) Rules 2013, which were made on 1 January 2014. The amending rules increased 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.
During 2013–14 the Committee continued to express its support for a steering committee to be established comprising judicial officers from the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to oversee the progress of harmonisation of the two courts' rules.
The Rules Committee is also:
- engaging in further consultation regarding the electronic accessibility of court documents and court processes, and
- deferring further consultation regarding the issue of whether rules are required in respect of altruistic and commercial surrogacy until information is released as to the outcome of the Family Law Council's report to the Attorney-General on issues relating to who is considered to be a parent of a child under theFamily Law Act 1975.
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 reporting period.
During 2013–14 the Law Reform 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 of Australia. In addition, the Law Reform Committee kept a 'watching brief' on bills introduced into federal parliament and scrutinized 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 2013–14 follow:
Proclamation of new Acts monitored
- Court Security Act 2013 (Cth) (proclaimed to commence on 1 January 2014)
- Court Security (Consequential Amendments) Act 2013 (Cth) (proclaimed to commence on 1 January 2014)
- Marriage Amendment (Celebrant Administration and Fees) Act 2014 (Cth) (proclaimed to commence on 1 July 2014)
- Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Cth) (proclaimed to commence on 1 August 2013).
Proposed legislation considered
- Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014 (Cth)
- Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (NSW)
- Evidence Amendment (Journalists' Privilege) Bill 2010 (No. 2) (Cth)
- Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2013 (Cth)
- Marriage Amendment (Celebrant Administration and Fees) Bill 2014 (Cth)
- Marriage (Celebrant Registration Charge) Bill 2014 (Cth)
- Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 (Cth)
- Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2013 (Cth)
- Military Court of Australia Bill 2012 (Cth)
- Military Court of Australia (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012 (Cth)
- Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013 (Cth)
- Public Interest Disclosure (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 (Cth)
- Telecommunications Amendment (Get a Warrant) Bill 2013 (Cth).
The Committee also commented on exposure drafts of bills as requested.
Regulations monitored and/or commented upon
- Court Security Regulation 2013 (Cth)
- Family Law (Bilateral Arrangements-Intercountry Adoption) Amendment (2014 Measures No. 2) Regulation 2014 (Cth)
- Marriage Amendment (Celebrant Fees and Charges) Regulation 2014 (Cth).
- Marriage (Celebrant Fees) Determination 2014
- Marriage (Celebrant Registration Charge) Determination 2014.
Inquiries, investigations and consultations – monitored and contributed to
- Comprehensive Revision of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee) (monitoring)
- Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Review and Evaluation (Australian Institute of Family Studies) (monitoring)
- Evaluation of the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 (Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department) (monitoring)
- Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments (Australian Institute of Family Studies) (background information, participation via survey)
- Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements (Productivity Commission) (preliminary submission, attended round table discussion, met with Commissioners)
- Inquiry into Equal Recognition before the Law and Legal Capacity for People with Disability (Australian Law Reform Commission) (perusal of issues and discussion paper, submission, meeting with Commissioners and staff, supplementary information)
- Inquiry into Grandparents who take Primary Responsibility for Raising their Grandchildren (Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee) (submission)
- Inquiry into Surrogacy and Family Formation (Family Law Council) (submission)
- Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014 (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee) (monitoring)
- Inquiry into the Child Support Program (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs) (correspondence)
- Inquiry into the Current Investigative Processes and Powers of the Australian Federal Police in Relation to Non-Criminal Matters (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee) (submission)
- Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations (Parliament of Victoria) (monitoring)
- Inquiry into the Impact of Federal Court Fee Increases Since 2010 on Access to Justice in Australia (Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee) (monitoring, awaiting government response)
- Inquiry into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People With Disabilities in Australia (Senate Community Affairs Committee) (monitoring, awaiting government response)
- Jurisdictional, Applicable Law and Choice of Court Rules Project (Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department) (monitoring)
- National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery (Commonwealth Minister for Justice) (monitoring)
- Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry (Queensland Government) (monitoring implementation)
- Research on Independent Children's Lawyers Project (Australian Institute of Family Studies) (participation via survey)
- Review of Commonwealth Laws for Consistency with Traditional Rights, Freedoms and Privileges (Australian Law Reform Commission) (monitoring)
- Review of the Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (Cth) (Productivity Commission) (monitoring)
- Review of the Queensland Mental Health Act 2000 (Queensland government) (monitoring)
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Government) (permitted public hearings to be held on Family Court premises, monitoring)
- Taskforce for the Sharing of Experts' Reports between the Child Protection and Family Law Systems (Attorney-General's Department) (representative).
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.
During 2013–14, members of the Family Violence Committee were Justice Ryan (Chair), Justice Collier (during 2013), Justice Stevenson, Justice Hannam (during 2014), Judge Brown, Judge Hughes, Judge Altobelli, Angela Filippello (Principal Registrar, Family Court of Australia), Di Loiszczyk (family consultant) and Kristen Murray (Senior Research Adviser to Chief Justice Bryant). The Committee met in person and held two meetings via video conference during 2013–14.
The Committee's major project was the development of the Family Violence Plan 2014–16. The Plan builds on the work undertaken from 2004 onwards under the Family Court's Family Violence Strategy, and the ongoing work of the Federal Circuit Court in this important area. It forms part of the commitment both courts have made to addressing family violence, including the measures contained in the joint Family Violence Best Practice Principles.
The Family Violence Plan is an overarching document that contains actions for the administration of the courts, and for decision makers, legal practitioners, service providers and others involved in the family law system. It contains six priority areas, each of which has a defined goal and identified actions, responsibilities and timelines. The Plan complements the courts' other plans that form part of its broad access and inclusion framework.
The Plan was developed following extensive internal and external consultation.
During 2013–14, the Family Violence Committee kept the following matters under review:
- National Child Protection and Family Law Collaboration meetings
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration Family Violence Orders Committee, and
- Federal Circuit Court of Australia's trial of the Notice of Risk.
The Family Violence Committee also discussed issues raised in correspondence from the Family Law Council concerning protection of victims of violence in family law proceedings.
The joint Family Court/Federal Circuit Court Children's Committee was established in 2012 to explore what, if any, further work needs to be undertaken with respect to the involvement of children in parenting cases and how the courts might ascertain whether children feel their voices have been heard in proceedings that addressed their living arrangements.
Since its formation, the Committee has undertaken a literature review, conducted a national survey of Independent Children's Lawyers (ICL), met with the National Children's Commissioner and Children's Commissioners from various States and Territories, commissioned a survey and report on children's views about their participation in the court process from the ACT Children's Commissioner.
Committee members have also been involved in ICL training days around the country as well as doing presentations on the issue of children's participation in court proceedings at practitioner conferences. Currently, the Committee is organising, in conjunction with national Legal Aid, a national training day for ICLs to take place in Sydney in October 2014. The Committee is also working on the development of a Children's Corner on the courts' websites to provide appropriate information to children and has been producing fact sheets for distribution as well. The Committee has also begun discussions with Kids Help Line, various academics around the country and Sesame Street productions in the USA in respect of several possible projects.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee
The Family Court has a long history in promoting and improving access to justice for Indigenous families dating back to 1993. In 2004 it developed the Family Court Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Plan and an Indigenous Plan for 2010 to 2013.
In 2013 the Chief Justice set up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee to ensure that the Court's administration and judiciary work hand in hand to enable and facilitate participation of Indigenous Australians in court processes. The Court has consulted widely with Indigenous people and through its Indigenous Action Plan 2014–2016 has identified and sought to make its services more responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
Some of the measures adopted by the Family Court have included cross-cultural education for judicial officers, registrars and family consultants within the Court; the creation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander positions; the provision of appropriate information and referrals; and the continued development of relationships with key organisations and elders in the community.
At present the Court is endeavouring to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan and is responding to the recommendation of the Family Law Council's 2012 report on improving the Family Law system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.
The Family Court is endeavouring to work in harmony with the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Western Australia in these endeavours.
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 and 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 on a regular basis 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 to set 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 continued to meet regularly by telephone during the reporting period and has considerably advanced its work program.
International Framework for Court Excellence Committee
The International Framework for Court Excellence Committee, chaired by Justice Murphy, was established to provide advice to Chief Justice on the implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence in the Family Court of Australia. In particular, the Committee was established to implement an internal self-assessment survey (to ascertain views about court leadership; planning; resource management; court processes; court user satisfaction; access; and public confidence) and provide a report on these results recommending improvements and strategic directions for the Court.
Family Law Courts Advisory Group
The Family Law Courts Advisory Group (FLCAG) has a critical governance role in resourcing both courts and coordinates various administrative relationships between the two courts. FLCAG meets as required.
Membership of FLCAG comprises:
- Chief Justice Bryant (Family Court)
- Chief Judge Pascoe (Federal Circuit Court)
- Justice Watts (Family Court)
- Judge Baumann (Federal Circuit Court), and
- Albin Smrdel (Attorney-General's Department).
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, the Child Support Agency, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, family dispute resolution providers, non-government organisations and community legal centres.
The Family Law Forum met in November 2013.
Joint Costs Advisory Committee
The Joint Costs Advisory Committee comprises representatives of the four federal courts: the High Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. During the reporting period the committee comprised:
- Judge of the Family Court of Australia (Justice Benjamin) (Chair)
- Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar of the High Court of Australia (Andrew Phelan)
- Deputy Registrar of the Federal Court of Australia (John Mathieson)
- Principal Registrar of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Adele Byrne), and
- Principal Registrar and Acting Principal Registrar of the Family Court of Australia, (Angela Filippello and Chris Spink) (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 6th report on legal practitioners' costs in September 2013, in which the Committee 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.
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 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 Chief Executive Officer, meets bi-monthly and comprises:
- Executive Director Operations, 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
- Director of Administration, Federal Circuit Court
- Director, Court Services, and
- Director, Human Resources.
A number of administrative committees were also active during 2013–14 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
- Work Health and Safety, and
- Information and Communication.
Senior management committee highlights
This section highlights the work of senior management committees during 2013–14. Appendix 8 has details of membership and terms of reference for the various committees.
Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group
In 2013–14, CMAG continued to provide advice to the Chief Executive Officer on new policy and other initiatives. These included:
- continued implementation of the Court Excellence Framework including the staff survey
- the introduction of Live Chat between court users and the NEC
- the launch of the YouTube instructional videos
- working with KPMG on the review of the federal courts
- the Registry Services Information and Technology Services Priorities Plan
- the updated and revised Statement of Strategic Intent, and
- the multicultural and family violence plans.
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, an external member, and two senior managers from the Court's administration.
During 2013–14, 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.
The Committee met once in 2013–14. 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
- 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 2013–14, the Committee met monthly for the first half of the year to discuss the learning and development needs across all areas of the courts. It was decided the Committee would circulate information out of session throughout the rest of the year, meeting at the beginning of the new financial year to set the year's training agenda.
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 as well as management and staff feedback.
Specific training delivered through the Committee can be found under Training, Learning and Development.
National Work Health and Safety Committee
The National Work Health and Safety Committee met twice during the year to discuss and resolve national work health safety issues in addition to:
- developing and reviewing health and safety management arrangements, policies and practices
- consulting with staff on health and safety issues
- developing and refining processes to regularly audit health and safety in the Court's registries including eliminating identifiable hazards and mitigating known risks
- reviewing any workplace incidents or accidents to develop prevention strategies
- making recommendations on the work health and safety impact of changes in the workplace, and
- discussing and resolving work health and safety issues in the Court.
Corporate and operational planning and associated performance reporting and review
At 30 June 2014, there were 767 ongoing and non-ongoing agency employees (excluding judicial officers, the CEO and casual employees) in all states and territories except Western Australia.
Guidance for staff is contained in the following documents, available to all staff on the Court's intranet and website:
- administration policies and procedural documents including guidelines, procedures and manuals from the finance, human resources and information, communication and technology areas
- APS Values and Code of Conduct
- Corporate Plan and business area plans (for the National Support Office)
- Courts Exchange, the courts' staff newsletter
- HR information bulletins
- 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, and
- Intranet messages—latest news.
The Court has, as part of its corporate governance arrangements, appropriate mechanisms to manage general business risk as well as fraud risk.
In 2013–14, the Court's internal audit services were provided by RSM Bird Cameron and monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.
The 2013–14 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:
- credit cards
- IT Disaster Recovery Planning
- IT Security
- a review and update of the courts' Risk Control and Compliance Framework
- a review and update of the courts' Strategic Risk Management Plan, and
- collection of fees.
The Court's Audit and Risk Committee monitored the implementation of individual audit report recommendations generated from those audits, through quarterly status reports.
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 was updated during 2013–14 and 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, with regular reviews and updating of the Plan being undertaken.
The Court's Human Influenza Pandemic Plan was also revised and updated during 2013–14.
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.
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 available to all staff on the intranet, and
- monthly financial reports to the Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group and oversight by the Audit and Risk Committee.
Fraud prevention and control
A revised and updated Fraud Control Plan was implemented on 1 July 2013 to cover the requirements of the single FMA Act agency, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The Court's Fraud Control Plan 2013–15 complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.
The Court has in place fraud investigation, reporting and data collection procedures that meet the needs of the Court and comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines 2011.
During 2013–14, the Audit and Risk Committee continued to receive reports on the implementation status of fraud risk treatments.
The Court continued to monitor the Fraud Control Plan 2013–15, 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.
One instance of fraud against the Court was reported in 2013–14 with a formal investigation undertaken in accordance with established policies and procedures.
Fraud control certification
In accordance with guideline 5.8 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 and Federal Circuit Court 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 processes are in place.
- Annual fraud data has been collected and reported that complies with the Guidelines.
Richard Foster, PSM
Chief Executive Officer
15 August 2014
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 at www.familycourt.gov.au
The Court received two Freedom of Information requests during 2013–14. At 30 June 2014, there were no matters outstanding before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Court's Strategic Risk 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 2013–14, 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, newsletters and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.
Policy and practices on the establishment and maintenance of appropriate ethical standards—Ethics Contact Officers
Established in May 2009, the Australian Public Service Commission's Ethics Contact Officer Network (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 Director, Human Resources is the Court's representative at the ECONET forum.
Management and Accountability
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (the Act) came into effect on 15 January 2014. The Act promotes integrity and accountability in the Australian public sector by encouraging the disclosure of information about suspected wrongdoing, protecting people who make disclosures and requiring agencies to take action. A Public Interest Disclosure is, essentially, a disclosure made by a current or former public official of suspected wrongdoing in the Commonwealth public sector.
The courts are committed to complying with all applicable laws and with best practice. Corrupt practices, breaches of the law and other conduct that is disclosable under the Act are contrary to our values. If they occur, reporting them is encouraged so that they may be addressed properly. With that in mind the courts established formal procedures under the Act, the Public Interest Disclosure Rules and the Public Interest Disclosure Standards. These procedures are published on the courts' intranets.
Authorised officers appointed by the Chief Executive Officer for the courts are the Executive Director, Client Services, Regional Registry Manager Sydney and Director, Human Resources.
An amendment to the Fair Work Act 2009, that took effect from 1 January 2014, introduced a new Part 6-4B – Workers bullied at work. Workers who believe they are being bullied at work can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. Failure to comply with a Commission order may result in penalties of up to $10,200 against an individual and $50,000 against a constitutional corporation (such as the courts). The courts have always been mindful of their duty of care for the health and wellbeing of employees and have a zero tolerance of workplace bullying and harassment. Nonetheless the courts have responded to this new legislative requirement by enhanced awareness training for staff and supervisors.
Service Charter and Service Commitments
The aim of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court is to give clients and other users of the courts the best services they possibly can. What the courts mean by this is set out in the joint Service Charter and Service Commitments 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 court staff cannot do. This is important because frequently clients or prospective clients have expectations that the courts cannot meet.
The context is that for many clients, the Family 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.
Full detail about feedback and complaints is in Part 3 Report on Court Performance but in summary, in 2013–14, the Court received:
- 58 complaints about administrative matters, including court administrative procedures and processes, staff personal conduct, privacy, security and the client feedback process
- 36 complaints about judicial conduct, and
- 11 compliments.
External and internal scrutiny
Reports by the Auditor-General
The Auditor-General made no report specific to the Family Court during 2013–14.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
There were no relevant proceedings in the AAT.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman made no report specific to the Family Court during 2013–14.
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 office and the Commonwealth are represented by the Australian Government Solicitor. An order was made in the proceedings that the person must provide various particulars, failing which the proceedings would automatically come to an end. The person has failed either to provide all of the particulars or to seek relief from the effect of the order.
Freedom of Information
Proceedings in the High Court in the matter of Kline v Official Secretary to the Governor General (2013) 249 CLR 645 have restored the law concerning the application of the Freedom of Information Act as it was understood before the decision of the Federal Court in Bienstein v Family Court of Australia(2008) 170 FCR 382. This has implications for the control by the courts of their records relating to particular cases, which will not be taken to respond to Freedom of Information Requests and thus to review by agencies of the Executive. The decision in Bienstein which gave Freedom of Information requests an enhanced operation in relation to case records, has been expressly disapproved.
Whole-of-government Information, Communication and Techology (ICT) initiatives
During 2013–14, 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 2013–14:
- In October 2013, the Court submitted the annual ICT benchmarking report to the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO). The report covered all ICT operating and capital expenditure for 2012–13 and included quantitative measures about capacity and quantities of ICT equipment. This was the first year that the report included the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court as a new combined agency.
- The Court reported to AGIMO on the ICT Audit Information Collection and ICT Benchmarking Supplementation Survey in June 2014.
- The Court completed the implementation of the Government Desktop Common Operating Environment Policy in the Court's standard operating environment upgrade project in September 2013.
- The contract for network services under the Internet Based Network Connection Services panel was delayed by the change of Federal Government. A contract is expected to be signed between Department of Finance (on behalf of the Court) and Optus early in the 2014–15 financial year.
- 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 2014, 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. Work continued throughout the year to meet the compliance deadlines.
Senate estimates committee hearings
Senior Executive Service staff of the Court attend Senate estimates committee hearings to answer questions about the Court's activities. In 2013–14, 38 Senate estimates questions on notice were received and answered by the Family Court.
KPMG review of courts performance and funding
The Attorney-General's Department (the Department) engaged KPMG in late December 2013 to undertake a review of the performance and funding of the federal courts to support future strategic decision-making. The review process has been informed by Terms of Reference developed by the Department, the Attorney-General and the Heads of Jurisdiction of each of the courts, and further builds on previous work which considered:
- the appropriateness, effectiveness, efficiency, integration, performance and strategic policy alignment of the courts in the 2012 Strategic Review of Small and Medium Agencies in the Attorney-General's Portfolio (the Skehill Review), and
- governance options to achieve a more integrated family law system, including structures and management processes necessary to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and integration of service delivery across the family law jurisdiction in the 2009 Future governance options for federal family law courts in Australia (the Semple Review).
A key theme emerging from the Skehill and Semple Reviews, and this review, has been the financial difficulties exhibited by the courts, particularly the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The courts await the Government's consideration of the review and any decisions arising.
Productivity Commission Public Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements
The courts participated with a range of other stakeholders, in the Commission's inquiry to examine the current costs of accessing justice services and securing legal representation, and the impact of these costs on access to, and quality of justice. A draft report was provided to Government in April 2014 and the final report is due by September 2014. Further details can obtained at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/access-justice
There were no internal evaluations during 2013–14.
Management of human resources
The Human Resources section of Corporate Services Division supports all areas of the Court by managing a range of human resources, entitlements processing services and advice to the Court's judiciary and staff.
In 2013–14 Human Resources focussed on:
- the machinery of government change to formalise a single administration to support the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The administration is now known as the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court
- recruitment services: advertising support, recruitment tips and assistance, probation, letters of offer and contracts
- payroll, entitlements and conditions of employment
- payroll system, including support for Aurion/employee self-service (ESS) reporting
- workforce capability services including planning, Performance Management and Development Scheme (PMDS), learning and development and workplace wellbeing
- the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
- workplace relations support including Enterprise Agreement and National Consultative Committee, policy and legislation advice
- systems to support new workplace health and safety legislation, and
- employee wellbeing and respectful behaviours.
The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 continued to operate during 2013–14.
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.
The Court is committed to supporting employees to adhere to the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. During 2013–14, employees continued to receive information about the Values and the Code through all staff emails, the intranet and induction and other training programs. Employees also receive information and guidance about conduct and behaviour expectations from their managers.
Workforce planning, retention and turnover
In 2013–14 workforce planning activities continued to focus 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 2014, 173 (22.56 per cent*) of court staff were eligible to retire. Accordingly, the Court continued to develop appropriate human resource strategies to ensure future capability and resourcing and to cope with staff turnover. These included promoting a clearer understanding of the capacity and capability of the Court's workforce and developing a risk management strategy that strengthens succession management for critical roles and leadership positions in the Court. The strategies were communicated to managers and staff, helping to ensure that succession plans were developed at local levels.
* As a percentage of staff numbers, excluding the judiciary and casuals.
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.
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 schemes recognise and reward employees for the achievement of corporate goals, providing non-cash rewards and recognition. This year the Janet Kitcher Excellence in Performance Award ceased after seven years and a new award, ASPIRE, was trialled.
Maria Paniel from the National Support Office. Winner of the first ASPIRE award.
The ASPIRE award (Appreciating Strong Performance and Innovation by Recognising Employees) was formulated by the Young Employees Advisory Group 2013–14. With the aim of motivating and engaging employees, the award will be given every six months within each regional group.
The pilot took place in the National Support Office, the recipient being Maria Paniel, Administration Officer. Maria received the award for her positive, can-do attitude, her enthusiasm and high level of productivity. Maria's happiness is infectious and she is described as being a pleasure to work with.
Other nominees were:
- Claire Golding, Director Human Resources
- Christine Carey, Director Finance
- Jane Morgan, Workforce and Policy Manager
- John Keen, Management Accountant
- Kate Naylor, Senior Communications Officer, and
- Neil Brett, Senior Applications Developer.
An evaluation of the ASPIRE trial in 2014–15 will determine if it is suitable to roll out nationally.
Australia Day achievement medallions
The Australia Day medallions are awarded to select members of staff each year. The awards recognise excellence in contribution by employees working in both government and non-government organisations, including the courts.
In 2014 the Family Court, in joint recognition with the Federal Circuit Court, awarded Australia Day achievement medallions to:
Belinda King, Melbourne registry
Belinda has been with the Court for eight years and is a Client Service Officer. Initially on the switchboard, she helped transition the service to the National Enquiry Centre, eventually broadening her role to be a Client Service Officer on the counter. Belinda is consistently professional, courteous and patient with all clients as well as knowledgeable with a good eye for detail. Belinda has excellent communication skills, is courteous / tactful in communication with everyone including litigants, lawyers, judges, chambers staff, registrars and consultants.
Chief Justice Bryant AO, presents Belinda King with her Australia Day achievement medallion.
Greg Kift, Sydney registry
As the Business Systems Development Officer Manager, Greg has a rare mix of management styles that allow him to connect with anyone and understand instantly what needs to be done in order to achieve results. His team is consistently inspired by his tenacity and desire to improve business systems in the courts. His passion for reducing paper use (and even electricity) means he's constantly looking for ways to get our systems working smarter and to minimise environmental and monetary cost. His management of projects to train staff in Windows 7 have meant the courts can progress their technological options in court systems.
Chief Justice Bryant AO, presents Greg Kift with his Australia Day achievement medallion.
Jaimol Poovakkulathuchacko, Parramatta registry
Jaimol has been with the Court for 15 years. She is a Senior Client Service Officer, operating as a Team Leader two days per week (job sharing with another Team Leader).
Jaimol is a quiet achiever, in that she has never sought accolades nor recognition for her leadership. She is a highly effective and respected client service leader in the registry and is well known and respected in other registries. Jaimol combines her knowledge, skills and experience to willingly mentor team members and provide positive encouragement to all.
Jaimol Poovakkulathuchacko receives her Australia Day achievement medallion from Chief Justice Bryant AO.
Chief Justice Bryant AO presents Neil Brett with his Australia Day achievement medallion.
Neil Brett, National Support Office
Commencing with the Court in 1998, Neil became a Lotus Notes applications development specialist before moving on to Casetrack development and taking a Senior Applications Developer role in 2003. Never one to shy away from a technical challenge Neil was often involved in the more complex and intricate aspects of the workings of Casetrack. Most recently his focus has been on Commonwealth Courts Portal development. He has had a major contribution to the growth of the Portal's functionality, useability and acceptance. The Portal is at the leading edge of IT applications in courts around the world.
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 35 years. Recipients in 2013–14 follow.
- Lee-Anne McMurray (Brisbane)
- Judith Meryl Coxon (Dandenong)
- Liz Picking (Melbourne)
- Ineke Stierman (Hobart)
- Lily A Cheng (Parramatta)
- Susana Srsa (Sydney)
- Christ Anthonisz (Brisbane)
- Heather Priest (Adelaide – combined service)
- Marianne Christopoulos (Adelaide – combined service)
- Sylvia Martin (Sydney)
- Beth Den Hartog (Dandenong)
- Darren Watkins (Adelaide)
- Michael Philip Bills (Adelaide)
- Tracey Anne Morris (Townsville)
- Pia Marrone (Melbourne)
- Russell McMahon (Adelaide).
- Beheshteh Gharakhan (Sydney)
- Tammy Weiss (Dandenong)
- Nagarajah Muralitharan (Parramatta)
- Kristine Claffey (Newcastle)
- Maria Hawken (Dandenong)
- Kwok Tung Wong (Melbourne)
- Angela Filippello (Brisbane)
- Rosario Abellar (Sydney)
- Donna Bowen (Sydney)
- Louise Deane (Sydney).
- Carol MacPherson (Lismore).
During 2013–14, 88 employees and judicial officers left the Court. Of these, 47 were non-ongoing and 41 were ongoing employees, being an annual turnover rate of 11.5 per cent against employee numbers (767) at 30 June 2014 (see Table 8.9 at Appendix 3).
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court agency consists of dedicated judicial support staff to Family Court justices and Federal Circuit Court judges with the remainder providing shared services to both courts in roles such as registrars, family consultants, registry services and corporate services.
At 30 June 2014, the Court had 767 employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–14, Common Law Agreements or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) but excluding judicial officers and casual employees. Tables 8.3 to 8.7 at Appendix 3 provide a breakdown of staff by location, gender, attendance, ongoing and non-ongoing employment status.
At 30 June 2014, the Court had 33 judges, including the Chief Justice (16 female and 17 male). For further information see Table 8.8 at Appendix 3 which disaggregates the number of judges by location. The remuneration arrangements for all judicial officers and the Chief Executive Officer are governed by determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal. Further details including relevant determinations are available at: www.remtribunal.gov.au
A single Enterprise Agreement for the Courts
As mentioned previously, the courts' Enterprise 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.
Offers of AWAs to court employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy.
In some limited cases, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has used common law contracts and determination 24 instruments pursuant to the Public Service Act 1999 to build upon existing AWA arrangements. See Table 8.11 at Appendix 3 for more detail.
Table 8.12 at Appendix 3 sets out the AWA minimum and maximum salary ranges by classification.
Relationship between agreements
Terms and conditions of employment in the agency are governed by one or more of the following industrial instruments:
- The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014, effective from 1 July 2011, covering all non-SES employees except those on AWAs
- individual determinations under s 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999, or
- individual common law contracts.
The Enterprise Agreement, like its predecessors, is a comprehensive agreement. However, for some employees, it may be supported by either an individual flexibility agreement, a s 24(1) determination or a common law contract that provides additional terms and conditions (for example, as a way of retaining high-value employees).
AWAs may also be supported by individual s 24(1) determinations or common law contracts to provide for pay increases or additional terms and conditions, including non-salary benefits.
Terms and conditions for the Court's senior executive service employees are in AWAs and individual 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 provided by the Court to employees include:
- motor vehicles
- car parking
- 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 2013–14, the Court neither entered into any performance pay arrangements nor paid performance pay to any employee.
Training, learning and development
There have been a number of training initiatives run via the Staff Development Committee. These include:
Family consultant training
Dyadic peer consultation
Peer consultation is a framework being introduced within Child Dispute Services (CDS) during 2014. Clinicians can select a peer to engage with in monthly sessions, and use this forum as an opportunity to explore and critically reflect on their practice. In order for this system to be implemented, all participating staff require training in how to facilitate the reflective process for their colleagues. A leading expert in peer reflective practice, Dr Daphne Hewson, was commissioned to develop and deliver three training sessions (each two days duration) to run in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Indigenous cultural competence
Given the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing the family law system, it was identified that CDS should have a staff member at each registry trained in conducting culturally sensitive assessments. As such, Aboriginal Forensic Psychologist, Mr Stephen Ralph, was commissioned to develop and deliver two training sessions which were held in Sydney in February 2014 and Townsville in May 2014. All staff located at these registries were required to attend, with a representative from nearby registries also attending. As a result of this training initiative, there is now a staff member in each region (and most sub-registries) who is trained in how to approach assessments with Aboriginal litigants.
In order to build the skills and knowledge of registrars with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, training has been arranged for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in the use of Microsoft Office 2010. Education at registry level has been continuing and a national plan has been developed for 2014–15.
Team leader training
Human Resources, through the Staff Development Committee, conducted a Team Leader Development Program, specifically for registry and judicial support team leaders. The training included:
- above the line behaviour, a workshop based on the best-selling book The Oz Principle which focuses on developing a workplace culture based on accountability
- DISC and Workplace Motivators and Emotional Intelligence Framework
- performance management
- individual debrief session and action plans for implementation of learning from the program back into the registry, and
- ideas to revolutionise our workplace and how we do business.
Quarterly follow ups by teleconference will continue during 2014–15.
Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au
From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a ten year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the Strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring.
The first of these reports will be available in late 2014, and will be published at www.dss.gov.au
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.
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.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court is a prescribed agency under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
Operating revenue and expenses
Total revenue for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in 2013–14 was $212.961 million, including appropriations from Government ($172.113 million), other revenue ($1.884 million) and other gains ($38.964 million). 'Other gains' reflects notional revenue to pay for services received free of charge, comprised of Commonwealth Law Courts rent from the Department of Finance ($18.734 million), registry, migration and library services received from the Federal Court ($9.771 million), liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges' Pension Scheme ($10.358 million) and Australian National Audit Office audit fees ($0.101 million).
Following the merger of the two separate prescribed FMA agencies from 1 July 2013, the courts were required to re-appropriate $19.429 million in revenue recognised in prior financial years in both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. In accordance with the Finance Ministers Orders, these amounts have been recognised as revenue in 2013–14 (with appropriations receivable opening balances reduced accordingly). But for this treatment, the appropriations from Government would have been $152.684 million in 2013–14.
Operating expenditure for the 2013–14 financial year amounted to $205.380 million. Figure 6.2 provides a breakdown of the actual costs incurred by the courts for 2013–14. Of the total amount, 31 per cent is directly attributable to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 13 per cent is directly attributable to the first instance jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia, and four per cent is directly attributable to the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia. Depreciation and amortisation, asset movements and bad debts, and property and other notional expenses not directly attributable to either jurisdiction, comprise 21 per cent of the expenditure. The remaining 31 per cent of expenditure relates to services shared between the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court for registry and corporate services (Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration). A breakdown of the costs directly attributed to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration is shown in Figure 6.3.
Figure 6.2 Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure ($205.380 million), 2013–14 ($million)
Table 6.1 Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court expenditure
|Family Court of Australia direct expenditure||Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed as 1st Instance judicial officers within the Family Court of Australia and includes judicial salary (and entitlements, such as long leave and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for circuits, judicial calendaring/relief), and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters).|
|Family Court of Australia appellate direct expenditure||Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary assigned to the appellate jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia and include judicial salary (and entitlements, such as long leave and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for Full Court, judicial calendaring/relief) and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters).|
|Federal Circuit Court of Australia direct expenditure||Expenses directly incurred by the judiciary appointed to exercise Federal and Family Law jurisdiction within the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and include judicial salary (and entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave, superannuation, and notional pension scheme contributions), judicial support staff costs (and employee entitlements, such as annual leave, long service leave and superannuation), travel costs (for circuits, judicial calendaring/relief), and court operation expenses (Regulation 7 Family Reports, court recording, transcription, interpreters). Includes registry and migration services provided free of charge in federal law matters to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia from the Federal Court of Australia.|
|Family Court and Federal Circuit Court admin: employee and supplier expenses||Employee and supplier expenses incurred by registry and corporate services in supporting both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Details shown in Figure 6.3.|
|Property and library services received free of charge||Expenses which the courts recognise but do not require any appropriation revenue from Government. Includes services provided free of charge from the Department of Finance for courtrooms and chambers within Commonwealth Law Courts and library services from the Federal Court, and audit services from the Australian National Audit Office.|
|Shared property expenses||Rent and property operating costs the courts incur for leased and Commonwealth Law Court premises. These are property costs for which the court received appropriation revenue funding.|
|Depreciation and amortisation||Expenses which the courts recognise but do not require any appropriation revenue from Government. Appropriation funding for depreciation and amortisation ceased 30 June 2010 with the move to 'net cash' funding and was replaced with a Departmental Capital Budget to fund the replacement of court assets.|
Figure 6.3 Family Court and Federal Circuit Court administration expenditure ($62.649 million), 2013–14 ($ million)
Table 6.2 Categories of Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Administration expenditure
|Corporate services||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to finance, human resources, property services, contract services.|
|Information technology services||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the provision of technology services to the courts.|
|Corporate costs||Corporate costs are the employee entitlements expenses (long service leave, annual leave, superannuation) incurred by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court support staff, along with fringe benefit expenses incurred by the Court's judiciary and SES for Fringe Benefit Tax liabilities for the provision of motor vehicles and other fringe benefits.|
|Principal, Child Dispute Services||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the courts' Principal, Child Dispute Services.|
|CEO and support||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to the Office of the Chief Executive Officer.|
|Registry services – client service||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to client service staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.|
|Registry services – registrars||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to registrar staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.|
|Registry services – family consultant||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to family consultant staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.|
|Registry services – administration||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to administration staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.|
|Registry services – Indigenous Family Liaison Officers||Employee and supplier expenses directly attributed to Indigenous Family Liaison Officer staff providing front line support to both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.|
Operating deficits and ongoing budgetary pressure
For 2013–14 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has recorded an underlying surplus of $18.784 million. This includes the recognition of $19.429 million as revenue for the previously unspent appropriation balances for the then separate prescribed agencies as at 30 June 2013 which was required to be reappropriated as part of the 2013–14 Portfolio Additional Estimates. Excluding the impact of this adjustment the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has an underlying deficit of $0.645 million4.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court received $55.138 million on behalf of the Commonwealth for court fees and fines. Administered revenue is not available to offset the courts' operating costs. Offsetting the administered revenue collected by the courts on behalf of the Commonwealth were refunds of fees ($0.283 million), and write down and impairment of assets ($0.632 million). The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court also receive an administered appropriation to source primary dispute resolution services such as counselling, mediation and conciliation from community-based organisations for litigants in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. In 2013–14 the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court incurred $0.189 million for these primary dispute resolution services. This resulted in a total comprehensive income of $54.034 million which was returned to Government.
Events after the reporting period
There were no subsequent events that had the potential to significantly affect the ongoing structure and financial activities of the courts.
Purchasing, consultants and contracts
The Court's Procurement and Risk Management section assists staff undertaking procurement and manages a number of corporate contracts. The section also manages, or has significant involvement in, all complex procurement undertaken by the Court to ensure compliance with legislative obligations and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. The 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 2013–14. 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 2013–14 had provision for the Auditor-General to access contractors' premises.
- six new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $158,275 (GST inclusive), and
- one ongoing consultancy contract was active involving total actual expenditure of $25,845 (GST inclusive).
Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts for 2013–14 was $184,120 (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.
During the reporting period no contracts or standing offers were exempt from publication on AusTender in terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Assets and property management
Nigel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts, Canberra.
The Family Court of Australia is located in shared Commonwealth owned facilities (Commonwealth Law Courts) in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Parramatta and Sydney. The Court also occupies privately leased facilities in Albury, Cairns, Coffs Harbour, Dandenong, Darwin, Dubbo, Launceston, Lismore, Newcastle, Townsville and Wollongong, and shares the state court facility in Alice Springs and Rockhampton.
Lionel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts, Sydney.
A modest upgrade of courtroom two was undertaken in June 2014, consisting of a repaint and recovering of the seats. Whilst the works were limited, it has uplifted the feel and presentation of the courtroom.
Due to a shortage of chambers in Canberra, works were undertaken to convert two offices into chambers and an office for associates. Extensive additional storage was also installed outside chambers to alleviate storage issues for the judge and associate in the adjacent chambers.
The upgrade of the bathroom in the child observation area was delivered in April 2014. This is the last stage (previous works were undertaken in 2011–12) to upgrade the child care area to provide a space that is fit for purpose and welcoming for children attending court or for a family assessment.
A minor project was completed in May 2014 to improve the public waiting area. Works were minimal, with a repaint and new furniture, however the refurbishment created a vast improvement to the waiting area for litigants attending court.
National compactus replacement
File storage is an ongoing issue across the courts. The compactus units, especially at the Commonwealth Law Courts (CLCs), are outdated and inefficient, and in some cases have work health safety (WHS) issues. A program to replace the compactus units nationally commenced in 2013–14 with Sydney and Brisbane being the first two CLCs to be replaced. The compactus replacement will maximise storage capacity and will address WHS issues where identified.
A refurbishment of the child dispute service area was completed in December 2013. The works have improved the amenity of public waiting space on level five where clients (including children) and lawyers attend for conciliation conferences with a registrar or attend a family consultant assessment. The area was small, cramped and uninviting, especially for children. The refurbishment provides a more open and inviting space.
A bulk replacement of task chairs across the registry addressed WHS issues and provided a much-needed replacement of outdated chairs with modern ergonomic chairs.
Extensive negotiations occurred across the year with the Department of Attorney-General and Justice (NT) to co-locate within the Supreme Court building. An agreement was reached and Heads of Agreement signed by both jurisdictions in April 2014. Fitout works are scheduled for 2014–15. The move will make the Northern Territory the only jurisdiction in the country to combine the Supreme Court, Family Court, Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court in one building. The move is also consistent with the Government's policy of gaining accommodation efficiencies, specifically in sharing accommodation.
The lessor gave the courts notice to vacate in April 2014. As a result, the courts negotiated to sub-lease a vacant courthouse with the Department of Attorney-General and Justice (NT). The building, known as the Westpoint building, will be used for circuits and family assessments. The move is also consistent with the Government's policy of gaining accommodation efficiencies specifically in sharing accommodation.
Correction of errors in 2012–13 report
The Court has no matters to report.
4 Equivalent to the total comprehensive income less depreciation/amortisation expenses previously funded through revenue appropriations as reported in note 30: net cash appropriation arrangements per the Financial Statements for the period ending 30 June 2014 and including 'other comprehensive income'.