Entity resource statement 2014–15
Table 8.1 Entity Resource Statement 2014–15
|Actual available appropriation
|Ordinary annual services1|
|Total ordinary annual services||182,786||163,731||19,055|
|Special Appropriations Special appropriations limited by criteria / entitlement|
|Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 s 77 7||300||285||15|
|Total special accounts||–||–||–|
|Total net resourcing for agency||183,086||164,016||19,070|
2 Includes an amount of $7.900m in 2014–15 for the Departmental Capital Budget. For accounting purposes, this amount has been designated as 'contributions by owners'.
3 Includes $156.583m in Appropriations (Appropriation Bill No. 1 & 3), and $3.305m in section 74 Receipts per Note 26 A of the Financial Statements, and $1.238m in Cash – Cash and cash equivalents at the beginning of the reporting period – per Cash Flow Statement, and $20.776m in Appropriations Receivable per note 7B of the Financial Statements. Excludes other statutory receivables (GST).
4 Unspent departmental annual Appropriations per Note 26 C of the Financial Statements.
5 Administered Appropriations per Note 26 A of the Financial Statements.
6 Administered appropriation balance remaining will be used to make payments of $0.040m in 2015–16 for accrued items.
7 Repayments not provided for under other appropriations.
8 Does not include 'Special Public Money' held in accounts like Other Trust Monies Account (OTM).
Expenses and resources for outcome 1
Table 8.2 Expenses for Outcome 1
|Outcome 1: Provide access to justice for litigants in family and federal law matters within the jurisdiction of the courts through the provision of judicial and support services.||Budget1
|(a)||(b)||(a) – (b)|
|Program 1.1: Family Court and Federal Circuit Court|
|Ordinary Annual Services (Appropriation Bill No. 1 & No. 3)||884||2912||593|
|Expenses not requiring appropriation in the Budget year||0||3823||-382|
|Departmental Appropriation (Appropriation Bill No. 1 & No. 3)5||156,273||155,386||887|
|Expenses not requiring appropriation in the Budget year6||49,390||50,370||-980|
|Total expenses for Outcome 1||206,847||206,699||148|
|Average Staffing Level (number)||786||775|
2 Administered Expenses (Services Rendered) per note 18 A of the Financial Statements.
3 Includes write down and impairment of assets for bad and doubtful debts per Note 18 B of the Financial Statements.
4 Special appropriations consist of refunds of fees paid under section 77 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
5 Departmental Appropriation combines 'Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Bill No.1 and No.3) and 's 74 retained revenue receipts'.
6 Includes depreciation and amortisation, liabilities assumed by related entities for the Judges Pension Scheme (Family Court of Australia), resources received free of charge, Judges Pension Scheme (Invalidity) (Federal Circuit Court of Australia).
The Courts and Tribunals Legislation Amendment (Administration) Act 2012 came into effect on 1 July 2013 formalising merged administrative arrangements that had been in place for some years. The Act also formalises the arrangements for there to be a single Chief Executive Officer for both the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.
At 30 June 2015, the agency had a total workforce of 772 employees that either support a specific court e.g. direct judicial support to a Family Court Justice or a Federal Circuit Court Judge, or provide shared services e.g. registrars, family consultants, registry services and corporate services.
Of the agency's 772 employees:
- 195 (25.26 per cent) were male and 577 (74.74 per cent) were female, and
- 601 (77.85 per cent) were ongoing employees and 171 (22.15 per cent) were non-ongoing employees.
The following tables show staff statistics by location, gender, full-time and part-time status, and ongoing and non-ongoing.
Table 8.3 Staff by location
Note: Actual occupancy at 30 June 2015 includes full and part-time staff with the exception of judicial officers and casual employees. All figures are based on actual headcount.
SES – Senior Executive Service Officer
NSO – National Support Office
Table 8.4 Staff by gender
Table 8.5 Staff by attendance status
Note: Judicial officers and the Chief Executive Officer, who are holders of public office, and casual employees are not included in the above tables.
Table 8.6 Ongoing staff by location and classification
Table 8.7 Non-ongoing staff by location and classification
Table 8.8 Indigenous staff by location, gender and employment status
At 30 June 2015, there were 33 judges, including the Chief Justice; 16 female and 17 male.
Table 8.9 Total number of judges, 30 June 2015
|New South Wales||14|
|Victoria||1 Chief Justice|
|Australian Capital Territory||1 Deputy Chief Justice|
During 2014–15, 86 employees left the agency (45 were non-ongoing, 41 were ongoing employees), being an annual turnover rate of 11.1 per cent against total employee numbers (772) at 30 June 2015.
Table 8.10 Workforce turnover
|Non-ongoing employees – 5.83%||Resignation||45|
|Total non-ongoing employees||45|
|Ongoing employees – 5.31%||Inter department transfer||9|
|Retirement age under 60||2|
|Retirement age 60 – 65||4|
|Retirement age over 65||4|
|Total ongoing employees||41|
The Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 continued to operate during 2014–15. 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.
At 30 June 2015, 733* Family Court and Federal Circuit Court employees were covered by the Enterprise Agreement.
Table 8.11 Family Court and Federal Circuit Court employees covered by the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014
Offers of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) to agency employees ceased from 13 February 2008, in accordance with government policy; however, at 30 June 2015, 27 employees had enforceable AWAs in place.
In some limited cases, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court has used common law contracts and determination 24 instruments pursuant to the Australian Public Service Act 1999 to build upon existing AWA arrangements.
Table 8.12 Employees covered by other agreements
|Australian Workplace Agreements||Common
|Individual Flexibility Arrangements||Determination
Non-salary benefits provided by the Court to employees include motor vehicles, car parking, superannuation, access to salary sacrificing arrangements, computers including home-based computer access, membership of professional associations, mobile phones, studies assistance, leave flexibilities, workplace responsibility allowances (for example, first aid, chief and deputy chief fire warden, community language) and airline club memberships.
Performance pay arrangements
The Court's industrial instruments do not include provision for performance based pay to employees. No employees received performance pay during 2014–15.
Table 8.13 AWA minimum and maximum salary ranges by classification
|Classification||Salary Range ($)|
|APS 2||59,311 – 59,311|
|APS 5||84,754 – 84,754|
|APS 6||82,194 – 89,217|
|EL 1||102,137 – 130,000|
|EL 2||131,082 – 188,665|
|SES 1||175,434 – 209,650|
|SES 2||209,650 – 215,237|
Table 8.14 Classification structure and pay rates in accordance with the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia and Family Court of Australia Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014*
|APS classification||Salary rates on 1 July 2012||Salary rates on 1 July 2013|
Note: The Courts' Enterprise Agreement came into effect on 1 July 2011, and, although it has passed its nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014, under present arrangements it will continue to operate until it is replaced or otherwise terminated. As a consequence, there was no salary rate increase on 1 July 2014.
Work health and safety
Maintaining the health and safety of staff and all those who use the Court's premises is integral to the values and business of the Court. The Court is committed to:
- a continuous improvement approach to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
- providing and maintaining a healthy and safe workplace
- preventing injuries by managing risk, including identifying and mitigating workplace hazards to health and safety
- developing strategies aimed at preventing work-related injury and illness
- promoting awareness and understanding of work health and safety within the Court
- fostering a cooperative relationship between the Court and its workers which provides for constructive consultation on health, wellbeing, safety and welfare at work, and
- monitoring and evaluating work health and safety performance to assess the effectiveness of the measures taken.
During 2014–15 the Court continued to work to achieve this through:
- promoting the importance of health, safety and wellbeing through encouraging discussions at team meetings
- actively preventing work-related injury and illness via regular workplace checks and inspections
- providing access to information, training, professional support and advice on workplace health and safety issues, via the Court's intranet, training programs, e-learning and induction
- consulting with staff and their representatives on the ongoing review of the Work Health and Safety Management Plan, the Rehabilitation Management System and the Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16
- advising managers and staff of their health and safety responsibilities, and
- ensuring health and safety representatives have the time and resources to reasonably perform their roles.
The Court recognises that effective health and safety management reduces the social and financial costs of work-related injury and illness. Specific initiatives taken by the Court during 2014–15 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of staff included:
- development and implementation of the Court's Work Health and Safety Management Plan
- continued implementation and review of the Rehabilitation Management System
- development and implementation of the Court's Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16
- drafting of Work Health and Safety Risk Assessment Guidelines
- development of Due Diligence training for staff of the Court
- review of reporting processes which included the implementation of a new Hazard Notification and Report Form
- advising all management and staff of their legislated obligations, accountability, consultative requirements, communication and leadership responsibilities in relation to health and safety
- providing all registry and business unit managers with resources for early intervention including roles and responsibilities, and
- monitoring of national issues and trends through the National Work Health and Safety Committee.
Ongoing wellbeing initiatives included:
- reconvening of the National Work Health and Safety Committee, with meetings held twice a year
- re-establishment of the Health and Safety Representative Network and the First Aid Officer Network. Meetings are held twice a year providing members with the opportunity to network. Members can also access tools and information online as well as obtain support from the human resources team
- providing regular health and safety updates through the quarterly HR Newsletter
- ergonomic assessments of workstations, provision of ergonomic furniture, access to a free employee assistance program, annual influenza vaccinations, access to peer support officers, first aid officers and harassment contact officers were all provided for the Court's employees on an ongoing basis
- the Court's local health and safety committees continued to meet throughout 2014–15. No locations reported health and safety audits requiring serious investigations during the year, and
- re-launch of the peer support network with nine people attending specialist counselling training.
Workers' compensation and early intervention management
Consistent with the Court's continuous improvement approach, we have realised a decrease in the Court's workers compensation premium for a third consecutive year.
The Rehabilitation Management System (RMS) outlines the Court's approach to wellbeing and rehabilitation, through identifying suitable approaches for effectively managing the incidence and severity of work-related injury/illness and to assist employees to return to work following an absence. The RMS has been in place for two years and its implementation is further supported through activities identified in the Work Health and Safety Strategic Plan 2014–16. The Court continues to proactively manage its workers compensation cases and early intervention, which has further contributed to reducing the total future costs of all claims.
Advertising and market research
Under sections 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the courts are required to disclose particulars of payments of $12,566 or more (inclusive of GST) for advertising, market research, polling organisations, direct mail and media advertising.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court spent a total of $17,479 (GST inclusive) during the 2014–15 financial year in advertising and market research, comprising mainly payments to media advertising organisations for recruitment notices.
During 2014–15, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court did not conduct any market research or advertising campaigns.
Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance
The following information is provided in accordance with Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
Court activities and ecologically sustainable development
As noted in its Environmental Policy, the Court:
"...recognises the importance of implementing sound environmental practices in all court functions..."
This overarching commitment to ecologically sustainable development (ESD) was implemented in a number of ways by the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court during 2014–15.
Impacts on the environment
The Court impacts on the environment in a number of areas, primarily in the consumption of resources. Table 8.15 lists environmental impact/usage data where available (noting data is for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court).
Table 8.15 Family Court and Federal Circuit Court environmental impact/usage data, 2012–13 to 2014–15
|Energy usage privately leased sites (stationary)||6490 GJ (Giga joules)||6237 GJ||Data not available until October 2015|
|Transport vehicles— energy usage||6100* GJ||6035 GJ||5871 GJ|
|Transport Flights (estimated)||3,101,516 kms||3,461,665 kms||2,843,969 kms|
|860 tonnes CO2||962 tonnes CO2||783** tonnes CO2|
|Paper usage (office paper)||27,181 reams||23,964 reams||30,385 reams|
** this figure does not include the emissions for 45,830 kms travelled under a new travel booking provider for the courts which commenced in May 2015 (emission figures not available at this time). The 45,830 kms is included in the total kilometres travelled listed above.
Measures to minimise the Court's environmental impact
Environmental Management System
The Court's Environmental Management System (EMS) has many of the key elements now in place.
- an environmental policy outlining the Court's commitment to environmental management
- an environmental risk register identifying significant environmental aspects and impacts for the Court and treatment strategies to mitigate them
- an environmental legal register to identify any relevant environmental legal requirements for the Court (this register also includes other requirements such as applicable Australian Government policy requirements)
- an EMS manual outlining procedures for each element of the EMS, as well as summary information on each element, and
- a range of forms to accompany the EMS elements as required.
During 2014–15, the Court worked within its EMS to minimise its environmental impact through a number of specific measures, either new or continuing.
- annual stationary energy use continued to reduce as noted in Table 8.15 (2014–15 data is not available until October 2015)
- electricity contracts were reviewed to ensure value for money. Energy supply contracts negotiated in recent years has resulted in estimated savings of $15,000 during 2014–15, and
- ongoing staff education to reduce energy use where possible, such as shutting down desktops and switching off lights and other electrical equipment when not in use.
- in addition to the auto desktop shutdown program that commences at 7pm, staff continued to be encouraged to shut down their desktops as they leave work to maximise energy savings
- e-waste was recycled or reused where possible, including auctioning redundant but still operational equipment
- ensuring ICT Sustainability Plan 2010–15 equipment standards are met when procuring new equipment, and
- ensuring fully recyclable packaging where possible.
- most facsimile machines were set to email to reduce printing costs
- affidavits of 100 pages or more are no longer printed
- one-sided paper was reused for notepaper in some registries
- clients were encouraged to use the online portal system, and staff were encouraged to send emails rather than letters where feasible
- secure paper (confidential etc.) continued to be shredded and recycled for all court locations
- non-secure paper recycling was available at 19 sites, and
- most printers were set to default double sided printing and monochrome.
- cleaning contracts for the Commonwealth Law Courts (via the Department of Finance who act as the lessor) and the majority of the privately leased sites came into effect in 2014. Provision for waste commingled recycling (such as non-secure paper, cardboard, recyclable plastics, metals and glass) forms a part of both contracts, with regular waste reporting included in the contract requirements for the privately leased sites
- printer toner cartridges continued to be recycled at the majority of sites
- recycling facilities for staff personal mobiles were permanently available at 11 sites
- electronic media (CDs, work mobiles etc.) continued to be securely shredded and components recycled where possible
- as noted previously, secure paper recycling was available at all sites, and
- fluorescent light globes continued to be recycled for all sites.
- the Environmental Champions Network (ECN) continued to offer the opportunity for staff to provide input about environmental matters for the courts. The volunteer membership comprises 17 members representing 13 sites nationally.
Projects in 2014–15 included:
- Earth Hour
- a national 'Transport Challenge', where staff earned points for walking, riding etc. or using public transport to go to and from work over a two week period, as well as for exercising (as a points option encouraging healthy behaviour for those who could not use alternative transport)
- Christmas electronic equipment shutdown drive
- ECN internal online national 'community' for interactive communication between members, and
- an environmental management intranet page provided information on environmental issues for the courts
- regular articles about the courts' environmental status were included in the national internal e-newsletter Courts Exchange, and
- a court-specific 'envirosmart' logo was used as branding when promoting environmental initiatives.
Fitouts and refurbishments continued to be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner including:
- recycling demolished materials where possible
- maximising reuse of existing furniture and fittings
- engaging consultants with experience in sustainable development where possible and including environmental performance requirements in relevant contracts
- maximising the use of environmentally friendly products such as recycled content in furniture and fittings, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint and adhesives, and energy efficient appliances, lighting and air conditioning, and
- installing water efficient appliances.
Whilst some travel is unavoidable, staff are encouraged to consider alternatives if possible, including using videoconferencing facilities.
- As noted in Table 8.15, travel in 2014–15 reduced in comparison to 2013–14 for both flights and vehicle travel.
Review and improvement strategies
As is noted in its Environmental Policy under the EMS, the Court is committed to 'continual improvement in environmental performance'. Reviews of environmental impacts and improvement strategies are periodically conducted.
In 2014–15 the Court:
- reviewed its environmental risk register (significant environmental aspects and impacts), and
- collected and reported relevant energy use data under the Energy Efficiency in Government Operations Policy.
Additional ESD implications
In 2014–15, the Court did not administer any legislation with ESD implications, nor did it have outcomes specified in an Appropriations Act with ESD implications.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court made no grant payments during 2014–15.
Judicial committees, 30 June 2015
|Committee||Terms of reference|
|Court Policy Committee
Chief Justice Bryant (Chair)
|Standing Committee||Terms of reference|
Justice Berman (Chair)
Justice Ryan (Chair)
Justice Austin (Chair)
Justice Forrest (Chair)
|Professional Development and Judicial Welfare
Justice Ainslie-Wallace (Chair)
Senior management committees, 30 June 2015
|Title||Chair||Members||Terms of reference|
|Chief Executive Officer's Management Advisory Group||Chief Executive Officer Family Court and Federal Circuit Court (Richard Foster)||
||To provide operational and policy advice to the Chief Executive Officer regarding key areas that are likely to be affected by the integration of the administrations of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.|
|Audit and Risk Committee||Brian Acworth
||Monitor and where necessary recommend improvements to:
Maintain an effective working relationship with the ANAO
|National Consultative Committee||Chief Executive Officer's representative – Director,
Human Resources (Claire Golding)
|Members are selected by vote and represent:
||Consultative forum for staff about issues with a national perspective, such as industrial democracy, security, the strategic objectives of the courts, equal employment opportunities, new technology, accommodation and amenities, and personnel and staffing policies and practices. Delegates present staff views on issues that affect the management and future direction of the courts and provide feedback and briefings to the workplace nationally.|
|Work Health and Safety||Director Human Resources (Claire Golding)||
The Family Court has a number of strategies for strengthening its partnerships with clients and other stakeholders within the family law system, such as legal practitioners, non-government organisations and government agencies and departments.
External stakeholders at the strategic level influence, either directly or indirectly, the direction of the family law system within Australia. They include:
- the Attorney-General's Department
- other government departments and agencies
- child welfare authorities
- the Department of Human Services
- legal services commissions and community legal centres
- law societies and the Law Council of Australia
- community-based and non-government organisations, and
- the Australian Federal Police.
Relationships with these groups are managed either by the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, other judges on behalf of the Chief Justice, the Chief Executive Officer and/or other senior executives. There are a number of established channels through which external stakeholders may inform the Court and affect its processes and client service delivery, including the following.
Family Law Council
The Family Law Council, established by the Attorney-General under section 115 of the Family Law Act 1975, confers with the Court in the course of its consideration of particular aspects of family law. The Court has judges appointed to the council and senior executives as observers at its meetings.
Australian Institute of Family Studies
The Australian Institute of Family Studies was established under section 114B of the Family Law Act and is a forum for exchange of information and research.
Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia
The Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice meet quarterly with the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia. There are regular liaison meetings between the state law societies and bar associations and each of the Court's registries.
Family Law Forum
The Chief Justice chairs the national Family Law Forum, which consists of representatives from the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court, the Family Law Council, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, National Legal Aid, the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Child Support, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, non-government organisations and community legal centres.
In addition to the Family Law Forum, a number of external stakeholders contribute to court direction by contributing to or being members of various court committees, for example, as members of the Court's Magellan Committee and the Audit and Risk Committee. For more information on court committees, see Appendix eight.
Local registry consultations and other activities for improved service delivery
Ongoing engagement with local community-based organisations, community forums, law societies, family law pathway networks, volunteer networks and other government agencies, including many at the State level, was again a priority of registries in 2014–15.
Local pathways groups or networks continued to be a key forum for engagement. Pathways is a family law interagency network, established in 2005 and funded by the Federal Attorney-General's Department. It aims to facilitate a more integrated family law system, to include lawyers and community-based agencies that deal with separated families, family dispute resolution and associated issues such as family violence. Each network develops and maintains cross-sector training to help build stronger working relationships in the family law system.
Regular consultation also provides feedback about users' experiences of registry services and the courts. This leads to service improvements and ensures that the courts are better placed to make effective referrals to community-based services for clients who may require ongoing support.
In addition to general consultations, registries engaged with community-based organisations and other jurisdictions about best practice approaches to support those clients who are subject to, or fear, violence from their partner, former partner or other family members.
Some of the regional highlights during the year follow:
New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory
- Key collaborative engagements continued in 2014–15, with the following services being delivered in the Sydney registry:
- expanded Legal Aid Family Law Duty Service
- Legal Aid NSW Court Ordered Mediation Program
- Information and Referral Service (provided by the Sydney City Family Relationship Centre), and
- Women's Family Law Support Service.
- Continuing Legal Education seminars were held approximately every two months for members of the profession.
- The Magellan Steering Committee met in February 2015. The expansion of the Magellan protocol that commenced in March 2014 has seen a broad spread of reports across 15 districts.
- A Child Dispute Services representative attended meetings of the Greater Sydney Families in Transition Group (Pathways).
- Staff from the Child Dispute Services team attended the monthly Greater Newcastle Family Law Pathways Network (FLPN) meetings. The judiciary presented at FLPN events on Indigenous issues and at the annual FLPN conference on 'Mental Health and Family Law'. Child Dispute Services staff also presented at two conferences on the topics of drug and alcohol and mental health issues.
- Judicial officers and staff held quarterly meetings with members of the legal profession.
- Judicial officers and registrars attended the annual conference of the Hunter Valley Family Law Practitioners Association.
- Regular lunchtime seminars were held for members of the legal profession, with judges, lawyers and special guest speakers presenting on topics such as:
- Commonwealth Courts Portal
- FACS intervention in court proceedings
- divorce applications
- Magellan list and the role of the Independent Children's Lawyer
- Section 106B and transactions to defeat claims
- dealing with unrepresented litigants
- caveats and caveatable interests, and
- parents and children with mental health issues.
- The registry hosted visits from students from the University of Newcastle as part of their family law training program, as well as high school students conducting mock trials.
- The management team engaged with the local legal profession to work through administrative issues, and the Child Dispute Services representative attended local Pathways meetings.
- The Early Intervention Unit (EIU) duty solicitor scheme continued, with two or three full-time solicitors onsite. EIU services are delivered to increase access to earlier, expert legal assistance for unrepresented individuals seeking legal help; assist clients to take timely and appropriate action to progress or resolve their family law matters efficiently and effectively; and improve the efficiency of the courts by reducing the impact of unrepresented litigants on the workload of registry staff and the court process. Significant numbers of matters were settled at mediation, which otherwise would have been listed before a judicial officer.
- The Court Ordered Mediation Program (COMP), which began as a pilot at Parramatta registry in 2011, continues to operate with one permanent full-time equivalent Legal Aid mediator onsite. Parties in children's matters may be referred (or ordered) to COMP at any stage of the litigation process if there is a connection to Legal Aid NSW (i.e. at least one party has Legal Aid funding or if an Independent Children's Lawyer has been appointed in the matter). COMP has resulted in full or partial settlement for a majority of matters, saving a significant number of court days and legal aid funded days.
- Family consultants attended a national Independent Children's Lawyer training program – a three day event held in July–August 2014 and hosted by Legal Aid NSW.
- A pilot commenced in January 2015 for a permanent Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor available daily from 9.00am –1.00pm, dealing with parenting matters.
- The Family Law Settlement Service (FLSS) is a joint initiative of the courts, the NSW Bar Association and the Law Society of NSW. FLSS assists with financial/property matters, usually at the post-conciliation conference and pre-final hearing stage of proceedings. The NSW Law Society met with Parramatta judicial officers and the Parramatta legal profession to explain the FLSS process. The FLSS settlement rate has also positively contributed to a material saving of court days.
- Staff continued to provide a significant number of briefings to secondary, TAFE and university students.
- The Family Court case management judge, the Federal Circuit Court coordinating judge, other judicial officers, and the registry management team, met regularly with members of the legal profession.
- The senior family consultant continued to facilitate Family Relationship Centre (FRC) attendance at court, as part of FRC training and familiarisation.
- Registrars and family consultants attended a Greater Sydney Family Law Pathways education and networking event at which keynote speakers addressed dealing with the views and rights of children. The senior family consultant attended steering group meetings and local interagency events held by Greater Sydney Family Law Pathways.
- A Parramatta registrar, whose first language is Vietnamese, was guest speaker at a NSW Vietnamese Women's Association seminar (in partnership with Liverpool Multicultural Health Service) on the subject of 'Improving the wellbeing of Vietnamese seniors and planning ahead'. This registrar was also guest speaker at a Vietnamese community conference 'Law in your daily life' on the subject of family law. Finally, representatives from NSW health programs, (Transcultural Mental Health Service and Multicultural Problem Gambling Service) have spoken at a Parramatta Child Dispute Services team meeting.
- The senior family consultant attended a 'Forced Marriage Workshop', convened by the Federal Attorney-General's Department.
- A family consultant was the keynote speaker at the opening of the new premises for Blacktown Children's Contact Centre.
- The family consultant continued to chair the NSW Central West FLPN. This group provides a bi-monthly forum for family law professionals in the NSW Central West region, with the forum being held via video link between Dubbo and Bathurst. The FLPN held three training events in the NSW Central West for legal practitioners and family dispute resolution practitioners during the financial year.
- The family consultant provided an overview and orientation of the registry for new family dispute resolution practitioners from the Dubbo FRC.
- The Senior Family Consultant has regular interaction with ACT Pathways. ACT Pathways meets regularly to plan and develop strategies for seamless referrals for clients between the various family law service providers in the ACT. The group also undertakes educative activities about family law.
- The Senior Family Consultant is a committee member of the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health Incorporated for the Canberra region. The group meets monthly to discuss raising awareness of the importance of psycho-social development in infancy through education, advocacy, research and professional networking.
South Australia/ Northern Territory
- During 2014–15 the Adelaide registry has been active in promoting electronic filing with practitioners and unrepresented clients. Staff have also undertaken further training to enable them to assist clients in accessing the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
- The registry has implemented a practice for providing information and procedural advice via email for those clients with access to email facilities.
- Other activities in South Australia included:
- Continued involvement with stakeholder and community groups, including Pathways, Family Relationship Centres, Children's Contact Services, family law practitioners, Grandparents for Grandchildren Inc., law students from the Adelaide University and the University of South Australia, and the South Australian Police call centre staff training.
- Facilitated a court user satisfaction survey and coordinated the involvement of university students to assist with the collection of survey data.
- Hosted the Australian Advocacy Institute advocacy skills training workshop.
- Hosted a visit from Ms Silvia Atiola from the Legislative Assembly of Tonga. Ms Atiola was undertaking a research project entitled 'Advancing Domestic Violence Victim's Access to Justice in Tonga: Barriers preventing Victim's Access'. The primary purpose of the visit was to explore access to justice for women escaping family violence and see what could be implemented in Tonga. Ms Atiola also took the opportunity to look at how the Adelaide registry identified security concerns and initiated safety plans for clients who have concerns when attending court events.
- Convened a NAIDOC Week planning committee with the Federal and South Australian state courts.
- The Brisbane registry has maintained a collaborative approach with the State Magistrates Court in maximising the use of their Justice of the Peace (JP) service to the community. Presentations were conducted in October 2014, and February and March 2015 to the JP Branch. The presentations focused on the particular requirements for witnessing family law documents and to encourage volunteers to offer time as JPs in the registry.
- Brisbane registry staff continued meetings with the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
- Brisbane registry also held regular meetings with family law practitioners, Legal Aid, the Department of Human Services, Child Support and the Magellan Stakeholders Group. These meetings provide opportunities for information exchange and building stronger networks across the family law system.
- The benefits of eFiling continued to be promoted to clients, with Queensland, once again, experiencing the largest volume in the number of documents eFiled.
- The Registry Manager and staff representatives attended regular meetings with the North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, the Family Law Pathways Network, the Family Relationship Centre (Centacare), and Relationships Australia, as well as ad hoc meetings with the profession and representatives from State Government departments.
- The Family Law Pathways Network hosted the Legal and Community Sector Forum at the Townsville registry on 16 December 2015 and Justice Tree spoke on considering the needs of children in the context of domestic and family violence, child abuse and substance abuse issues of one or both, of the parents.
- Presentations were made to JPs and Commissioners for Declarations at the invitation of the JP Branch in North Queensland.
- The Registrar conducted presentations to the Profession on Urgent Applications and Preparing for Financial Conferences in North Queensland.
- Regular liaison continued with the family law section of the Law Institute of Victoria (via the monthly Court Practice Committee), the Family Law Section of the Victorian Bar (via the Case Management Judge's regular consultations with the Chair) and with the Victorian Legal Aid Commission (via meetings with relevant senior managers). Matters discussed included case management processes, the commencement and collection of new fees, the implementation of the international court excellence framework, and any issues arising with respect to registry services and facilities.
- The collaborative relationship between the federal family law jurisdictions and state child welfare authorities continued and the initiative of a co-located child protection worker at the Melbourne and Dandenong registries was consolidated. The vision was that working together with the dedicated focus of a specialist senior child protection practitioner, would ensure professional, sensitive and well-targeted responses to children and young people who are at significant risk of harm. This work was steered by a committee comprising the courts, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Legal Aid. Funding was assigned by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Attorney-General's Department to evaluate this initiative. That evaluation has been briefed to the Australian Institute of Family Studies who will report in 2015. Anecdotal reports from judges, the Victorian Department and the registries is that this initiative is achieving the objective of ensuring exchange of relevant and timely information so that arrangements can be made to protect children at risk.
- Justice Bennett re-established the Court Liaison Committee which includes the President of the Children's Court, the Deputy Chief Magistrate, Victoria Legal Aid, Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Health and Human Services. Early discussions have focussed on collaboration to reduce risk in complex family cases.
- Significant support of Victoria Pathways has continued, including helping with the design of events and providing a venue for those events. The Victorian Regional Coordinator for Child Dispute Services is central to this support of Pathways.
- The registry hosted a Japanese delegation of Family Court judges and senior administrators, with a special interest in Hague cases, and specifically in the development of a specialised mediation service in these cases as Japan is now a signatory to the Convention. This collaborative initiative, under the leadership of Justice Bennett and funded by the Federal Attorney-General's Department (with further funding contributions by Victoria Legal Aid, Relationships Australia and a number of law firms) involves a delegation of Australian family law professionals travelling to Japan in 2015 to participate in an intensive, cooperative training program around The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (see page 45 for more information).
- Quarterly meetings were held with the registrar and the three agencies providing free legal advice at the registry. The purpose of the meetings is to exchange information about process changes and registry practices, particularly as they relate to unrepresented litigants.
- As part of the collaborative relationship with the Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria), the registry manager facilitated and improved the exchange of information between the registry and the local region of the Victorian Department. Several meetings were held during the year between Dandenong judges, senior registry staff and senior staff of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the part-time co-located child protection liaison officer, in order to foster cooperation and understanding.
- Quarterly meetings of community-based legal practitioners, local Family Relationship Centres, Victorian Family Pathways Network and other community-based dispute resolution services were held. It is a forum of service providers with a common client base, sharing information and discussing family dispute resolution issues and challenges.
- The Tasmania Family Violence Consultative Committee forum is convened biannually and includes members of the community sector, Department of Justice (Safe at Home), Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania Police and staff of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. The forum is convened by Senior Family Consultant Antonia Dunne and is arranged in Hobart with video link to Launceston. Discussions have included the courts' safety plan process, user satisfaction survey results in relation to interviewee's feeling of safety when attending court, Professor Chisholm's report The Sharing of Experts' Reports between the Child Protection System and the Family Law System, the courts' Family Violence Plan, family violence training modules and professional development for family consultants, and the family violence screening tool pilot.
- Registrar Andrew Weidman convenes and chairs quarterly meetings between the courts, Child Protection and Legal Aid Commission Tasmania to raise new developments, discuss stakeholder concerns and review the informal protocol between the courts and Child Protection.
- The registrar delivered a lecture to family law students at the University of Tasmania Law School on conciliation conferences, chaired by registrars in financial matters and family consultants have presented to the Tasmanian Young Lawyers Group.
- The Tasmanian registries actively support both the southern, northern and north west family law pathways groups.
In addition to hearing and determining cases, the Family Court's judges actively contribute to the development of the law and legal education, both in Australia and internationally. This is achieved through attending conferences and seminars; membership of relevant bodies; presenting papers and lectures; addressing academic institutions, professional associations and community-based organisations; meeting international delegations and liaising with judicial colleagues around the world.
Many judges also serve as members of organising committees for conferences as well as working in the community with a variety of legal and non-legal organisations.
A summary of conferences and seminars attended and papers delivered by the Chief Justice and Family Court judges during 2014–15, and other activities undertaken during this period, follow:
|Conferences attended and papers delivered|
|3–5 July 2014||5th LAWASIA Family Law and Children's Rights Conference and IAML Hague Symposium in Sapporo, Japan. Paper delivered: Visitation Enforcement: Enforcement of visitation orders and parental alienation by spouses and children: an Australian perspective|
|30 July–1 August 2014||13th AIFS Conference 2014. Paper delivered: Representing the best interests of children and young people and facilitating their participation in family law proceedings|
|7–8 August 2014||Human Rights Under the Charter: The Development of Human Rights Law In Victoria conference at the Supreme Court of Victoria. Paper delivered: The international experience in human rights law|
|15 August 2014||Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Australian Chapter conference in Melbourne.|
|12 September 2014||7th Australian Institute of Judicial Administration's Appellate Judges' Conference in Sydney.|
|22 September 2014||Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship Programme in Sydney Women's Access to Justice in the Family Law in the Pacific.|
|23 September 2014||Australian Institute of Judicial Administration Court Administrators' Conference in Sydney. Paper delivered: Succession Planning|
|24 September 2014||International Association of Court Administrators 7th International Conference in Sydney. Co-presented with Chief Justice Warren of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Paper delivered: Court Excellence and the Perfect Storm – International Perspectives on Justice Administration – 10 years On|
|24–26 September 2014||New Zealand Family Court Judges' Triennial Conference in Wellington, New Zealand.|
|3–5 October 2014||Australian Women Lawyers 5th National Conference in Adelaide.|
|7–10 October 2014||Family Law Section 16th Biennial Conference in Sydney. Paper delivered: Heads of Jurisdiction State of the Nation|
|30 October 2015||Seminar at Levan Legal in Perth. Paper delivered: The Internationalisation of Family Law|
|5 November 2014||Family Relationship Services Conference in Adelaide. Paper delivered: Seeing and Hearing: the work of the Children's Committee in enhancing children's involvement in parenting proceedings|
|20–22 November 2014||Third meeting on Article 13(1)(b) in The Hague, Netherlands.|
|29–30 November 2014||Family Conference III – International Family Policy Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Paper delivered: Modern Family – Surrogacy and its Problems|
|27 March 2015||Law Institute of Victoria Continuing Professional Development series in Melbourne. Paper delivered: Call for Inquiry into Commercial Surrogacy|
|17 April 2015||Australian Association of Women Judges lecture in Brisbane. Paper delivered: Surrogacy – whose rights are we concerned with?|
|29 April 2015||Affinity Intercultural Foundation, monthly lecture series in Sydney. Paper delivered: Surrogacy – a form of 21st century family|
|27–30 May 2015||52nd Association of Family Conciliatory Courts Annual Conference in New Orleans.|
|22 June 2015||National Judicial College of Australia's National Judicial Orientation Program in Broadbeach, Queensland.|
Chief Justice's activities
In addition, the Chief Justice:
- Attended as special guest The Family Law 'Detection Of Overall Risk Screen' (known as the DOORS) risk screening tool launch in Adelaide on 8 July 2014.
- Met with a Nigerian judicial delegation in Melbourne on 12 August 2014.
- Spoke at the Inaugural Women in the Tax Leadership Roundtable lunch in Melbourne on 20 October 2014.
- Attended the Australian Academy of Law's Patron's Address – 'The Common Law Litigation Process – Time for a rethink?' in Sydney on 23 October 2014.
- Attended the National Judicial College of Australia's Heads of Jurisdiction Leadership Program in Coogee on 23–24 October 2014.
- Spoke at the Australian Association of Women Judges' launch of the book Australian Feminist Judgments: Writing and Rewriting the Law in Brisbane on 2 December 2014.
- Met with a Malaysian judicial delegation in Melbourne on 28 January 2015.
- Met with a Japanese judicial delegation in Melbourne on 6 February 2015.
- Launched the Australian Standards of Practice For Family Assessments and Reporting in Sydney with Chief Judge Pascoe of the Federal Circuit Court on 11 February 2015.
- Attended the 2015 Constitutional Law Conference and Dinner in Sydney on 13 February 2015.
- Participated in a roundtable discussion of the legal, social, economic, scientific and medical facets of surrogacy conducted by the House of Representatives Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee on 5 March 2015.
- Participated in Law Institute of Victoria's Continuing Professional Development series on 15 September 2014 and 27 March 2015.
- Organisation of the upcoming Commonwealth and Common Law International Family Justice Conference in Coogee 16–19 November 2015.
- Held regular meetings with the Family Law Section executive throughout the financial year.
- Attended quarterly Heads of Jurisdiction meetings.
The Chief Justice is a Joint Director of Studies, Program Committee, World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights Inc. The Chief Justice is a board member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and is President of the Australian Chapter of the AFCC.
The Chief Justice is the sole patron of Australian Women Lawyers, a patron of the Court Network and a patron of Gordon Care.
The Chief Justice is Chair of the working group to develop a Guide to Good Practice on the Interpretation and Application of Article 13(b) of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.
Activities of judges
Papers presented and conference, seminars and workshops conducted and/or attended
- Hunter Valley Family Law Practitioners' Annual Conference, Hunter Valley (Children – Are they seen and not heard in the Courts?) July 2014.
- Child Dispute Services, national seminar series (Fathers and their children: attachment and the ongoing relationship of fathers in contemporary society) Dr Richard Fletcher, July 2014.
- Queensland Family Law Practitioners' Annual Conference, Gold Coast (session chaired Spousal Maintenance) August 2014.
- Queensland Law Society, 29th Annual Family Law Residential, Gold Coast (The Intersection of Family Law and Succession Law) August 2014.
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Appellate Judges Conference, Sydney, September 2014.
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Court Administrators Conference, Sydney, September 2014.
- International Association for Court Administration, 7th International Conference, Sydney, September 2014.
- Queensland Family Law Practitioners, Brisbane (Caveats) September 2014.
- Queensland Child Protection Practitioners' Association, Annual Oration (Making decisions in children's matters: The role of social science evidence and children's views) chair of oration by Professor Judith Cashmore.
- Australian Bar Association, Appellate Advocacy Course, Sydney, September 2014.
- University of Queensland, Presentation to Advocacy Students, Brisbane (Advocacy in the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia) September 2014.
- Judicial College of Victoria, JOACAC Koori Twilight (Supports for Koori Offenders) Magistrate Rose Falla, September 2014.
- Queensland Family Law Practitioners' Conference, Cairns, October 2014.
- Queensland Young Lawyers Association, Brisbane (Issues for Young Lawyers) October 2014.
- Family Law Section, National Conference, Sydney (session chaired on Hague Convention and participated in a parenting orders scenario) October 2014.
- Judicial Conference of Australia, Colloquium, Noosa, October 2014.
- Law Council of Australia – Family law section, 16th National Family Law Conference, Sydney, (Game Changers – the six most revolutionary decisions under the Family Law Act); Breakfast speech (Interaction of Child Protection and Family Law) October 2014.
- Family Law Practitioners Association Annual Conference, Cairns, October 2014.
- International Bar Association Annual Conference, Tokyo (The voice of the child in Hague Child Abduction proceedings: the Australian Experience) October 2014.
- Family Court of Australia, Continuing Legal Education seminars for local legal profession and students, Parramatta registry (Cross Examination on Affidavits) October 2014.
- Annual Conference of the Judges of the Family Court of Australia, November 2014.
- Women's Legal Service, White Ribbon Day Breakfast, Supreme Court, Brisbane, November 2014.
- Riverina Law Society, Annual General Meeting and CLE conference, Griffith (Interaction of Child Protection and Family Law) November 2014.
- Industrial Court of Queensland Annual Conference, Noosa (Litigants in person) November 2014.
- Family Court of Australia, National Registrars Training Day, Brisbane, (ATO & Darling and six defining cases) November 2014.
- First regional seminar of the Working Party on Mediation in South East Asia, International Islamic University, Malaysia, panelist plenary session (Wrongful removal and retention of children across international borders: an overview of regional perspectives and responses) November 2014.
- South East Asia Regional Seminar of the Working Party on Mediation in the Context of the Malta Process, Kuala Lumpur (An Overview of Australia's Perspective on and Response to Wrongful Removal and Retention of Children Across International Borders) November 2014.
- Judicial College of Victoria, JOACAC Koori Twilight (Indigenous River Walk) November 2014.
- Melbourne University, Family and Children's Law Research Group, Associate Professor Lisa Young, Murdoch University (Child Sexual Abuse Allegations and Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s 60CC(2A): A New Era?) November 2014.
- Greater Sydney Indigenous Pathways, Indigenous Family Law Conference (The Family Law System) November 2014.
- Law Institute of Victoria, Leadership Lunch, White Ribbon Day, Rosie Batty, Phil Cleary, Ken Lay, November 2014.
- Australian Indonesia Partnership for Justice, Meeting with Indonesian judiciary, Jakarta (The progress on the International Framework for Court Excellence implementation in the Family Court of Australia) December 2014.
- Victoria Legal Aid, Insight Event, Melbourne, Keynote Address (Let's Celebrate 10 Years of RDM ... What's Next?) December 2014.
- Melbourne University, Family and Children's Law Research Group, Professor Susan B. Boyd, University of British Columbia and Dr Fiona Kelly, La Trobe, (Autonomous Motherhood? A Socio-Legal Study of Choice and Constraint) December 2014.
- Law Society of Northern Territory, Darwin (Interaction of Child Protection and Family Law) January 2015.
- Law Society of Northern Territory, Darwin, Start at the Top Family Law Conference, session chair (Child Protection Convention and Hague – How it Works) January 2015.
- Law Council of Australia, Family Law Section, Family Law Intensive, Sydney (The latest and greatest of 2014) February 2015.
- National Judicial College of Australia, Children's Conference, Canberra, February 2015.
- Launch of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association, Queensland Branch, Supreme Court, Brisbane, February 2015.
- National Judicial College of Australia, Children's Voices in the Courts conference, Australian National University, Canberra, February 2015.
- National Judicial College of Australia, Judgment Writing Course, Adelaide (Writing better judgments) March 2015.
- Legal Conferences, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Havana, Cuba, March 2015.
- Greater Sydney Pathways Network, Annual 'Main Event', Sydney (What about what I want? How the courts deal with the child's rights and views, and take them into account) March 2015.
- College of Law, CLE Family Law Autumn Intensive, Sydney (The Vexed Issue of Vaccination) March 2015.
- National Judicial College of Australia (Judges Speaking with Children) March 2015.
- University of Queensland, Presentation to family law students, Brisbane (Introduction to the Family Court) March 2015.
- Bar Association of Queensland Annual Conference, Gold Coast (Challenges of Litigants in Person) March 2015.
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Cultural Diversity & the Law conference, Sydney (Conference welcome and introduction of Attorney-General; Court Management and Leadership Enhancing Public Trust and Confidence in Courts and Tribunals) March 2015.
- Judicial College of Victoria, JOACAC Twilight, (Understanding Kinship), March 2015.
- Family Court of Australia, Continuing Legal Education seminars for local legal profession and students, Parramatta registry (Divorcing the Assets: Things you should know about tax and family law but were afraid to ask) March 2015.
- Family consultant presentation (Distortion, Distress, Disruption and Danger: Personality function and dysfunction in the context of parental separation) Dr Peter Krabman, March 2015.
- NSW Judicial Commission, Conference of District Court Judges, (Unrepresented Litigants) April 2015.
- Judicial College of Victoria, JOACAC Koori Twilight (A conversation on reconciliation) the Hon. Fred Chaney, April 2015.
- South Australian Pathways Network, Annual Forum, Adelaide (Panel discussion: Conflict, Trauma & Everything in Between) May 2015.
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Justice Without Barriers Conference, Brisbane, May 2015.
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 52nd Annual Conference, New Orleans, May 2015.
- Annual Oration, Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association, Queensland Branch, Supreme Court, Brisbane, May 2015.
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Technology and the Courts conference, Brisbane, May 2015.
- Legal Aid Queensland, Launch of Best Practice Guidelines for Representing Children, Brisbane, May 2015.
- North Queensland Law Association Annual Conference, Hamilton Island (The Latest and Greatest in each Jurisdiction) May 2015.
- Griffith University Law School, Presentation, Brisbane (Gender Dysphoria) May 2015.
- Central West NSW Pathways Network, Forum, Dubbo, (What about what I want? How the courts deal with the child's rights and views, and take them into account) May 2015.
- Victoria University, Lecture (The Operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention) May 2015).
- Address to the Symposium on Court Proceedings in the Era of Globalization, Tokyo, by electronic link to Japan (Australia's Experience of Giving Evidence Remotely and the Hague Network of Judges) May 2015.
- Melbourne University Law School (Reflections of a Visiting Japanese Judge – A Seminar in English) Judge Aya Kobayashi, Tokyo District Court, Japan, May 2015.
- Meeting of Canadian and American Networks of Judges, New Orleans, co-authored with the Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO and presented by the Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO (Updates on the 1996 Hague Convention) May 2015.
- Queensland Legal Walk for Justice, May 2015.
- Child Dispute Services, national seminar series (Distortion, Distress, Disruption, Damage and Danger: Personality function and dysfunction in the context of parental separation) Dr Peter Krabman, May 2015.
- Child Dispute Services, national seminar series (Post-Separation Interventions in High Conflict Families) Professor Matt Saunders, May 2015.
- Family Court of Australia, Continuing Legal Education seminars for local legal profession and students, Parramatta registry (BFAs: the Good, the Bad and the (very) Ugly) May 2015.
- Family Court of Australia, National Registrars Training Day, Brisbane (The latest and greatest of 2014) June 2015.
- Brisbane Family Law Pathways Group (A View from the Bench) June 2015.
- St Vincent de Paul, CEO Sleepout, Brisbane, June 2015.
- The Hochelaga Lectures 2015: The Family Court and the wellbeing of the Child, Hong Kong University (The Handling of Parental Responsibility Disputes by the Australian Family Court Following a Decade of Reform) 24 June 2015.
- Wellbeing of the Child through the Hague Child Abduction Convention and Protection of Children Convention: An Asia-Pacific Symposium, Macao (Complementarity between the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention and the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention: How the Conventions Support Each Other) 25–26 June 2015.
- Judicial Commission of NSW, National Reconciliation Week event, panel member (Violence at home is everybody's business: legal responses to family violence) June 2015.
- NSW Law Society, 5th National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference, panel member (Human rights in the home: a conversation) June 2015.
Professional legal development
Family Court judges contribute to professional legal development through their membership of and participation in professional and research-based associations.
The Family Court has been consistently represented on the Family Law Council since its establishment. During 2014–15 the Family Court's judicial representative on the Family Law Council was Justice Benjamin from the Hobart registry. The Family Law Council is considering a reference on the intersection of family law and child protection. In December 2014 the Family Law Council produced, to the Attorney-General, a detailed report on surrogacy in Australia which is now being considered by Government.
Justice Benjamin is also a Chair of the Family Court's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee and continues to serve on the Academic Committee of College of Law, including the continuing development of Master qualifications for practitioners in family law. Justice Benjamin lectures at the University of Tasmania once per year and provides papers for local legal profession conferences such as the Family Law Practitioners Association conference and Independent Children's Lawyer conference.
Justice May from the Brisbane registry is President of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration; Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law; Member of the Advisory Board for the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation at Monash University; Member of the Bar Association of Queensland; Member of the steering committee of the Council of Australasian Tribunals Inc.; Judicial Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; and Advisory Board member of the Judges Forum of the International Bar Association.
Justice Murphy from the Brisbane registry is a Member of the Applied Family Law Advisory Committee of the College of Law; Member of the National Advisory Council of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia; Member of the Judgment Writing Committee of the National Judicial College of Australia; Member of the Advisory Board of the World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights; Governing Council Member of the Judicial Conference of Australia; Member of the Judicial Education Committee of the Family Court of Australia; and Chair of the Court Excellence Committee.
Justice Strickland from the Adelaide registry is the Family Court's nominated director on the board of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators and is its longest serving director. Justice Strickland is also the judge representing the Family Court on the Council of Chief Justices Rules Harmonisation Committee and is President Elect of the Australian Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
Justice Berman from the Adelaide registry is a member of the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity (a national body convened by the Chief Justice of the High Court and other Heads of Jurisdiction) and was a member of the steering committee that organised a national cultural diversity conference in Sydney in March 2015.
Justice Bennett from the Melbourne registry is a member of the Judicial Officers Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Committee, which is chaired by the Hon. Justice Kaye of the Supreme Court of Victoria; Member of the Law Institute of Victoria Courts Practise Committee; and Member of the Independent Children's Lawyer's User Group Committee.
Justice Bennett undertook the National Judicial Institute of Ontario's Hague Child Abduction Convention: International Perspectives program – a five week online program providing a unique experience to share experiences, insights and communicate with judges from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States.
Judges are also involved in the development and conduct of the National Judicial Orientation Program, delivered through the National Judicial College, and teaching for other judicial education bodies throughout Australia.
Judges regularly present to law societies and bar associations in their respective jurisdictions, as well as hold informal meetings with members of the legal profession and participate in stakeholder meetings. Judges are often asked to speak at secondary schools and lecture at law schools about particular topics and their work generally.
For example, Justice Strickland was involved in continuing legal development with the Law Society of South Australia and Adelaide Law School GDLP Advocacy Coaching Clinics and the South Australian Bar Readers Course. Justice Berman assisted with the Bar Readers Course at the Family Court. Justice Benjamin and Judge Baker have, over the last few years, provided a full day mock trial practice for students undertaking the practical legal training course in that state.
Justice Bennett from the Melbourne registry is primary contact judge designated for Australia to the International Hague Network of Judges. During 2014–15, Justice Bennett undertook direct (case specific) judicial communication, including enquiries, mediation and mirror orders, with the following countries:
- United Kingdom
- Republic of Ireland
- United States of America
- New Zealand
- Northern Ireland
- Canada, and
Justice Bennett also had general network judicial communications with all countries to ascertain procedures within their respective jurisdictions for enforceability of measures recognised under the Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.
Membership of professional associations
Judges of the Family Court are members of various professional organisations, some of which include:
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- Association of International Family Judges
- Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration Incorporated
- Australian Academy of Law
- Australian Association of Women Judges
- Australian Centre for Justice Innovation
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
- Bar Association of Queensland
- Council of Australasian Tribunals Inc.
- Family Law Council
- Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia
- International Association of Court Administration
- International Association of Women Judges
- International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- International Bar Association
- Judicial Conference of Australia
- Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity
- Law Society of South Australia, and
- Victorian Bar Association.
The Court's work in Indonesia during 2014–15 is covered in detail in Part two. In addition, during 2014–15, the Court had visitors from the following countries.
In September 2014, the Court's Sydney registry hosted a judicial delegation from Bangladesh. The delegation met with the Family Court of Australia and other Australian service providers to gain information on the administration of the justice system in Australia, as well as reforms and initiatives to improve the efficiency and accessibility of judicial services. The delegation was also interested in the Court's experience in the implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence.
The Chief Justice hosted a delegation from Nigeria in August 2014 at the request of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The delegates were interested in building a network with the Australian Judiciary so that an exchange program could be established with the Nigerian judiciary and a hands-on application of international best practices could be achieved. This visit enabled the heads of superior courts of Nigeria to gain a greater understanding of the family law jurisdiction in Australia and the ongoing work in the area of judicial performance and the implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence.
Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Palau – ALAF Program
The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO and Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Ambassador for Women and Girls with the Australian Leadership Awards fellows in Melbourne
In September 2014, the Family Court of Australia, through the Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship (ALAF) program, supported nine delegates from Papua New Guinea, Palau and Fiji to assist with the development of strategies for the reduction of violence against women and increasing access to support services and to justice for survivors of violence.
The two-week program focused on strengthening access to justice in family law for disadvantaged groups. The program identified ways to strengthen the delivery of family law services to women, children and persons with a disability and aimed to improve access to the family courts for women and other disadvantaged groups. The program was also assisted by a delegation from Indonesia.
It began by identifying barriers faced by disadvantaged groups in accessing family courts. Through a dialogue with the Family Court of Australia and other relevant Australian partner organisations, the fellows developed proposed solutions and approaches to overcome the identified access to justice barriers and to strengthen the delivery of family law and family violence services to women, children and persons with disabilities.
At the conclusion of the program, ALAF fellows prepared and presented 'return to work plans' which detailed their initiatives to:
- overcoming barriers women face in accessing the family law system
- building referral mechanisms to government and non-government services that support survivors of violence, and
- enabling stronger integration between family law and family violence processes to support women and children.
In November 2014, Professor Nancy Marder, Director of the Justice John Paul Stevens Jury Center, and Co-Director of the Institute for Law and the Humanities (and keynote speaker for the annual Australasian Jury Research and Practice Conference), met with the Chief Justice to discuss the role of female judges in Australia.
Representatives from the Kenyan Judicial Service Commission visiting the National Support Office in Canberra
In June 2015 the Court hosted a delegation from the Judicial Service Commission of the Republic of Kenya. As part of their study tour, the delegation met with Dennis Beissner, Manager of the Statistical Services Unit in Canberra, to discuss the Court's case management, performance and reporting systems and how they works towards improved efficiency in administration of justice. Afterwards the delegation met with Deputy Chief Justice Faulks to discuss judicial performance, case management and complaint handling.
The Melbourne registry hosted Professor Makiko Mizuno and two lawyers from the Kyoto Bar Association. The party was interested in legal interpretation and, in particular, court interpreting.
The Chief Justice, Justice Bennett and Judge Stewart hosted a delegation from Japan which included Judge Murai, Judge Tobisawa, visiting Research Scholar from the Asian Law Centre at the Melbourne Law School, Judge Aya Kobayashi, and Ms Satomi Asaki, Family Court Probation Officer and Visiting Research Scholar from the ANU College of Law.
The delegation viewed proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court, met with family consultants, reviewed redacted reports prepared by family consultants, met with private lawyers who handle Hague Convention cases, and met with Victorian Legal Aid. The delegation also met with the Chief Justice and Justice Bennett to discuss Hague Convention cases and international mediation proposals.
Ms Satomi Asaki, a Family Court Probation Officer from the Fukuoka High Court and visiting scholar at the ANU, spent time at the Canberra registry investigating the role of the family consultant in children's cases. Ms Asaki was interested in family court procedures, and the system that supports these cases such as family lawyers, Legal Aid, Independent Children's Lawyers and other agencies external to the Court which work with families and young people.
Mr Yamazaki, the Assistant Chief of Personnel Division of High Court in Japan, met with the Deputy Chief Justice and the Human Resources team to discuss the development of human resources in the Family Court of Australia.
Dr Hitoshi NASU, Court Clerk / Family Probation Officer from Japan visited the Canberra registry to gain a better understanding of eFiling and the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
Family Court assistance with the Historical Institutional Abuse Enquiry, Northern Ireland
In July 2014, the Chambers of Justice Bennett was approached by Mr Stephen Magee of the Historical Institutional Abuse Enquiry, Northern Ireland. Contact was at the suggestion of an Irish court colleague who had had dealings with Chambers to arrange a video link for a hearing in Ireland for Hague mirror orders.
The Historical Institutional Abuse Enquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, is running a Public Inquiry looking into the abuse of children under 18 who were in care of various state and voluntary institutions. Some children were sent to Australia under Child Migration Schemes and there are some 60 applicants who now live in Australia. As it was not cost-effective to fly a number of these, possibly with companions, to Northern Ireland to give evidence, the inquiry wanted to facilitate them using video conferencing technology.
In discussion with Jane Reynolds, Regional Registry Manager, and with the approval of the Chief Executive Officer, Richard Foster, the Chambers of Justice Bennett provided personnel who arranged the video links and were available to host the visitors to the Court on the evenings when they gave their evidence to the Commission.
This has enabled us to speak directly to applicants from Northern Ireland who migrated from institutions here to Australia. They have provided valuable evidence to this enquiry.
Sir Anthony Hart
Chief Justice's Chambers
Owen Dixon Commonwealth Law Courts
305 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(GPO Box 9991, Melbourne VIC 3001)
Deputy Chief Justice's Chambers
Nigel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts
Cnr University Avenue and Childers Street
Canberra ACT 2600
(GPO Box 9991, Canberra ACT 2601)
National Support Office
Chief Executive Officer
15 London Circuit
Canberra ACT 2601
(GPO Box 9991, Canberra ACT 2601)
National Enquiry Centre
The National Enquiry Centre (NEC) is the entry point for all telephone and email enquiries on Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia matters. The NEC provides information and procedural advice, forms and brochures, and referrals to community and support services. NEC staff cannot provide legal advice. The NEC is opened from 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday.
PO Box 9991, Parramatta NSW 2124
Phone: 1300 352 000
TTY/voice calls: Contact the National Relay Service on 133 677 or for Speak and Listen calls contact 1300 555 727
International: +61 2 8892 8590
Family Court website: www.familycourt.gov.au
Federal Circuit Court website: www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au
Family law registries
Australian Capital Territory
Nigel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts
Cnr University Ave and Childers Street
Canberra ACT 2600
(GPO Box 9991, Canberra ACT 2601)
New South Wales
Level 1, 463 Kiewa Street
Albury NSW 2640
(PO Box 914, Albury NSW 2640)
Cnr Macquarie and Wingewarra Streets
Dubbo NSW 2830
(PO Box 1567, Dubbo NSW 2830)
Level 2, 29–31 Molesworth Street
Lismore NSW 2480
(PO Box 9, Lismore NSW 2480)
61 Bolton Street
Newcastle NSW 2300
(PO Box 9991, Newcastle NSW 2300)
Garfield Barwick Commonwealth Law Courts
1–3 George Street
Parramatta NSW 2123
(PO Box 9991, Parramatta NSW 2123)
Lionel Bowen Commonwealth Law Courts
97–99 Goulburn Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(GPO Box 9991, Sydney NSW 2001)
Level 1, 43 Burelli Street
Wollongong NSW 2500
(PO Box 825, Wollongong NSW 2500)
Cnr Railway Terrace and Stott Terrace
Alice Springs NT 0870
(PO Box 9991 NT 0871)
Supreme Court Building
Darwin NT 0800
(GPO Box 9991, Darwin NT 0800)
Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts
119 North Quay Brisbane QLD 4000
(PO Box 9991, Brisbane QLD 4001)
Commonwealth Government Centre
Level 3 and 4, 104 Grafton Street
Cairns QLD 4870
(PO Box 9991, Cairns QLD 4870)
Virgil Power Building
46 East Street (Cnr Fitzroy Street)
Rockhampton QLD 4700
(PO Box 9991, Rockhampton QLD 4700)
Level 2, Commonwealth Centre
143 Walker Street
Townsville QLD 4810
(PO Box 9991, Townsville QLD 4810)
Roma Mitchell Commonwealth Law Courts
3 Angas Street
Adelaide SA 5000
(GPO Box 9991, Adelaide SA 5001)
Edward Braddon Commonwealth Law Courts
39–41 Davey Street
Hobart TAS 7000
(GPO Box 9991, Hobart TAS 7001)
Level 3, ANZ Building
Cnr Brisbane and George Streets
Launceston TAS 7250
(PO Box 9991, Launceston TAS 7250)
53–55 Robinson Street
Dandenong VIC 3175
(PO Box 9991, Dandenong VIC 3175)
305 William Street Melbourne VIC 3000
(GPO Box 9991, Melbourne VIC 3001)
Family Court of Western Australia
Peter Durack Commonwealth Law Courts
150 Terrace Road
Perth WA 6000
(GPO Box 9991, Perth WA 6848)
08 9224 8222