Corporate governance

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 court. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) states that the Court shall consist of: a Chief Justice, a Deputy Chief Justice and senior judges and other judges. By delegation from the Chief Justice, case management judges assist in administering judicial functions in particular areas, such as case management. The judges’ committee structure facilitates collegiate involvement of the judges of the Court.

The Family Court is autonomously governed; that is, the Chief Justice 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, who are public servants, provide that support. In addition, there are arrangements in place with other courts for the supply of services.

The Chief Executive Officer is subject to directions from the Chief Justice. The Chief Executive Officer has been delegated all of the responsibilities and powers of an agency head under the public service legislation for any matter that relates to the administration of the affairs 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 2017

 Figure 6.1: Organisational structure of the Family Court of Australia, 30 June 2017

Judicial officers of the Family Court of Australia

At 30 June 2017, there were 34 judicial positions in the Court, including the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice (vacant), a vacancy in Adelaide, and Justice Coate who is currently seconded to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Image of Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO

Chief Justice

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

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 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). Deputy Chief Justice Faulks retired in October 2016 and a new Deputy Chief Justice is yet to be appointed.

Judges assigned to the Appeal Division

 

Appointed to the Appeal Division

The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO

5 July 2004

The Honourable Justice Michelle May AM

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 Murray Robert Aldridge

12 March 2015

The Honourable Justice Michael Patrick Kent

10 December 2015

 

Judges

Adelaide

The Honourable Justice Steven Andrew Strickland

22 November 1999

The Honourable Justice David Michael Berman

18 July 2013

Brisbane 

The Honourable Justice Michelle May AM

5 September 1995

The Honourable Justice Peter John Murphy

11 October 2007

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 Justice Catherine Carew

7 March 2016

Canberra

The Honourable Justice Shane Leslie Gill

16 May 2016

Hobart

The Honourable Justice Robert James Charles Benjamin AM

19 August 2005

Melbourne

The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO

5 July 2004

The Honourable Justice Victoria Jane Bennett

30 November 2005

The Honourable Justice Paul 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

Newcastle

The Honourable Justice Stewart Craig Austin

13 July 2009

The Honourable Justice Margaret Ann Cleary

8 July 2010

Parramatta

The Honourable Justice Garry Frederick Foster

 8 August 2013

The Honourable Justice Hilary Rae Hannam

13 August 2013

Sydney

The Honourable Justice Ann Margaret Ainslie-Wallace

9 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Judith Maureen Ryan

31 July 2006

The Honourable Justice Murray Robert Aldridge

13 December 2012

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 William Philip Johnston

12 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Ian James Loughnan

12 July 2010

The Honourable Justice Judith Anne Rees

15 December 2011

The Honourable Justice Robert Bruce McClelland

16 June 2015

Townsville

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 Simon Moncrieff

31 August 2009

The Honourable Justice John Myer Walters

6 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Susan Janet Duncanson

6 December 2012

The Honourable Justice Richard O’Brien

12 April 2016

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The Honourable Justice Janine Stevenson

The Honourable Justice Victoria Bennett

The Honourable Justice Colin Forrest

The Honourable Justice David Berman

The Honourable Justice Robert James Charles Benjamin AM

Appointments, retirements and resignations

Judicial officer retirements

The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn retired on 3 July 2016.

The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks retired on 30 October 2016.

The Honourable Justice Christine Elizabeth Dawe retired on 3 March 2017.

Image of The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn

The Honourable Justice Mary Madeleine Finn

Image of The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks

The Honourable Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks

Image of The Honourable Justice Christine Elizabeth Dawe

The Honourable Justice
Christine Elizabeth Dawe

Senior executives

Chief Executive Officer and acting Principal Registrar, Patricia Christie

Chief Executive Officer and acting Principal Registrar

Patricia Christie

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 acting Principal Registrar provides high level legal and procedural advice to support the judicial functioning of the Family Court. In her capacity as acting Principal Registrar 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 acting Principal Registrar also oversees the performance of, and provides direction to, the Court’s registrars.

Patricia Christie was appointed Chief Executive Officer and acting Principal Registrar in November 2016.

Image of Senior Registrar, John DB FitzGibbon

Senior Registrar

John DB FitzGibbon

This is the most senior quasi-judicial position in the Court and has been held by John FitzGibbon since 1999. John sits in court full-time, hearing and determining cases in both parenting and financial proceedings. Most of his court work concerns urgent and interim parenting applications, including all of Victoria’s Magellan cases involving serious allegations of child physical abuse and child sexual abuse and family violence. He assumed that responsibility in 2011 at the request of the Chief Justice. In addition to his usual duties, he was Acting Principal Registrar from June to November 2016. John is also a member of the Rules Committee and is regularly sought to assist in training lawyers.

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. In addition, judges participate in a number of committees that develop policies across a range of matters. As part of the implementation of the International Framework for Court Excellence, and following consultations with the judges of the Court, the Chief Justice introduced five standing committees in 2014. These committees facilitate an inclusive, analytical and transparent discussion of important policy issues faced by the Court and result in an integrated and accountable decision-making process.

 Flowchart showing judicial committees and their reporting

Court Policy Committee

At the strategic level, this committee is the peak policy making body within the Court. The committee’s 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.

The committee comprises:

  • The Honourable Chief Justice Diana Bryant AO (Chair)
  • The Honourable Justice Michelle May AM (Justice Thackray joined the committee in March 2017 in place of Justice May)
  • The Honourable Justice Ann Ainslie-Wallace
  • The Honourable Justice Anne Rees
  • The Honourable Justice Stewart Austin
  • The Honourable Justice Colin Forrest
  • The Honourable Justice David Berman
  • Chief Executive Officer and acting Principal Registrar Patricia Christie, and
  • Leisha Lister (secretariat).

Judicial committee highlights

This section summarises the work of some of the judicial committees during 2016–17.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee’s principal focus is to:

  • consider and define the full cost and budgetary requirements of the Family Court
  • consider spending and budgetary priorities that affect core judicial work
  • discuss budgetary priorities and the allocation of financial resources
  • consider the budgetary requirements of the Court following the changes to the administration of the Family Court pursuant to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, and
  • ensure transparency in respect of expenditure and the setting of budgetary priorities that affect core judicial work.

During 2016–17 members of the Finance Committee were Justice Berman (Chair), Justice Watts and Justice Austin. The committee met in person, by audio visual conferencing and by telephone. The committee was significantly assisted in its deliberations by the attendance from time to time of Chief Justice Bryant and the then Executive Director Finance, Adrian Brocklehurst.

Rules Committee

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 2016–17 the Rules Committee met in person on 19 October 2016 and on 5 May 2017. Justice Rees is the Convenor of the committee and the members during the year were Justice Ryan, Justice Loughnan, Justice Berman, Magistrate Moroni, Senior Registrar FitzGibbon and Registrar Paxton.

During 2016–17 the committee worked on a number of projects including amendments to the Family Law Rules 2004 (Cth) secured by the Family Law Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Rules 2016. The amending rules commenced on 1 January 2017 with the exception of amendments relating to the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (CALAA) which commence at the same time as Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the CALAA.

In summary the amending rules:

Subpoenas generally

  1. Limit the requirement of service of subpoenas by hand to subpoenas to give evidence and subpoenas for production and to give evidence.
  2. Provide that subpoenas for production be served by ordinary service.
  3. Enable the issuing party and the named person to agree about an alternative method of service of subpoenas for production.
  4. Enable the issuing party and each other party, any interested person and the independent children’s lawyer (if any) to be served by an agreed manner of service.
  5. Remove the requirement of filing an affidavit of service as a precondition to filing a Notice of Request to Inspect.

Subpoenas in arbitrations

  1. Limit the requirement of service of subpoenas by hand to subpoenas to give evidence and subpoenas for production and to give evidence.
  2. Provide that subpoenas for production be served by ordinary service.
  3. Enable the issuing party and the named person to agree about an alternative method of service of subpoenas for production.
  4. Enable the issuing party and each other party and any interested person to be served by an agreed manner of service.
  5. Remove the requirement of filing an affidavit of service as a precondition to filing a Notice of Request to Inspect.

Judge managed court events

  1. Amend the terminology in Chapter 16 and elsewhere (where relevant) to distinguish the first day before the Judge (‘the trial management hearing’) from the subsequent conventional trial in parenting matters.
  2. Amend the terminology in Chapter 16 in relation to the first day before the Judge in financial matters from ‘the procedural hearing’ to ‘the trial management hearing’.

Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016

  1. Substitute ‘Chief Executive Officer’ for ‘Principal Registrar’ in the Rules.

Cases to which the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 applies

  1. Remove the current general delegation of powers to Deputy Registrars in relation to subpoenas in Trans-Tasman proceedings.
  2. Specify the particular powers to be delegated to Deputy Registrars by reference to particular provisions in the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 in relation to subpoenas in Trans-Tasman proceedings.

Costs

  1. Increase by 1.7 per cent the costs allowable for work done and services rendered by lawyers and itemised in the scale of costs in schedule 3 of the Rules.

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

Court Performance Committee

The Court Performance Committee is chaired by Justice Austin and its membership comprises all registry Case Management and Magellan judges.

Case management

The principles devised in 2015 to guide the operation of the Court’s ‘trial docket’ system of case management have been implemented in all registries, enhancing consistency across the Court in the way it manages its case-flow.

The system envisages that only those cases which cannot be consensually resolved by intervention of registrars are allocated to judicial dockets for procedural management by judges to final trial.

Now that the trial docket system is managed more consistently across the court’s registries, the committee has concentrated upon expansion of the National Calendar to attempt to harmonise the experience of litigants and lawyers in all registries in terms of the time elapsed between filing and trial. There are still variations, but the amplitude of variation is decreasing.

A rolling list was trialled in Sydney in early 2017, using four visiting judges in combination with the seven Sydney judges, in an attempt to clear some backlog. The Sydney profession were uniformly satisfied with the initiative.

Magellan

The Magellan protocol is a discrete case management pathway designed to ensure that cases involving allegations of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of children are heard within six months of such allegations being raised in the litigation before the Court.

Due to the increasing vigilance of the registry Magellan teams, cases are not categorised so easily as ‘Magellan’, which means the truly deserving cases are getting closer and faster attention. There are 139 live Magellan files, which represents an annual decrease of 25 files per annum.

National calendar

The Court’s national services should ideally be delivered as uniformly as circumstances allow. With that goal in mind, the Court operates a National Calendar under which trial judges are moved between registries to try and balance the case-flows in different registries. Even though resources do not permit complete equivalence in all registries, the National Calendar significantly reduces disparity.

During 2016–17, 90 weeks of trial judge time was moved between the Court’s registries to supplement the resources of registries in greatest need.

Professional Development and Judicial Welfare Committee

The aim of the Professional Development and Judicial Welfare Committee is to develop, implement and oversee judicial education in the Court by formulating a comprehensive plan for ongoing and extensive judicial education and to provide advice to the Chief Justice on judicial education and welfare issues.

The committee, chaired by Justice Ainslie-Wallace, assists the Chief Justice in the dissemination of information her Honour considers should be brought to the attention of the judges.

Topics and issues covered in 2016–17 included:

  • unacceptable judicial behaviour
  • judges and justice in the Third Reich
  • preparation of judgments for publication – the work of the judgments office, and
  • cyber safety – keeping children safe.

The committee also develops education programs and puts in place mechanisms to support judges to maintain resilience and to provide orientation for new appointments.

Key activities for 2016–17 include:

  • maintaining awareness of the systems in place to support resilience and health of judges
  • providing an orientation program for new judges, and
  • providing access to judgment writing courses for new judges.

Court Services Committee

The Court Services Committee is responsible for overseeing and reporting to the Court Policy Committee on governance and policy considerations pertaining to:

  • the Court’s provision of services to the public, including the provision of services through the built environment in the form of court buildings and courtrooms and through electronic media, but also in terms of the equitable delivery of access to justice, mindful of barriers created by the cost of litigation, race, religious, cultural and language diversity, and physical and mental health disabilities
  • the Court’s provision of services to its judges and staff, including by way of the development and/or provision of appropriate information and other technology, as well as adequate training and ongoing support in its use, and
  • the Court’s maintenance and storage of its records.

In doing so, it also oversees the work of the following sub-committees:

  • Children’s Committee
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee, and
  • Unrepresented Litigants Working Group.

Work of the sub-committees

Children’s Committee

The Children’s Committee, a joint initiative between the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, met regularly during the reporting year and its business included the successful planning and staging of the second National Independent Children’s Lawyers’ Conference held in Melbourne in October 2016. Plans are now well underway for the staging of the third such conference in Brisbane in October 2018.

Three research projects are underway:

  1. Yourtown – Kids’ Helpline and the University of Sydney, which aims to identify concerns of children during and after involvement in family law matters and to determine who they want to talk to and how, why and what they hope to gain support about. It is expected to produce some results by the end of 2017.
  2. The committee’s Chair, Judge Cole from the Federal Circuit Court, has been heavily involved in a pilot project with a Young Persons Family Law Advisory Group in Adelaide. The project has worked well and it is hoped sufficient funding will be obtained to enable it to continue, and for consideration to be given to introducing such groups in other states.
  3. The Attorney-General’s Department has commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to develop a better understanding of the experiences of children and young people after their parents separate and to hear what they think about how the family law system can better meet their needs.

The committee has established and is building links with the Australian Children’s Contact Services Association and will be sending a delegate to that Association’s coming national conference.

The committee will also be providing input to National Legal Aid in the development of training modules to be used in the training of Independent Children’s Lawyers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Committee continues the long history of the Court in promoting and improving access to justice for Indigenous families, by ensuring the Court’s administration and judiciary work together to enable and facilitate the participation of Indigenous Australians in the Court’s operations and processes.

The committee continues to undertake work to

  • develop a court protocol for Acknowledgement of Country at Court events
  • examine the potential for a resource of information relevant to ATSI outreach issues to be available for general access
  • establish and build a link between the Court’s registries and local Indigenous leaders, and
  • work collaboratively with the Family Court of Western Australia, the Federal Circuit Court, state courts and tribunals, the National Judicial College and relevant state judicial education authorities such as the Judicial Commission of NSW.

Members of the committee participated in the following events:

  • Committee Chair, Justice Benjamin, represented the Family Court at the AIJA Indigenous Justice Conference in Alice Springs in August 2016.
  • In August 2016 Justices Benjamin and Bennett attended a seminar in Melbourne organised by the Victorian Judicial Commission as to the ongoing legacy of the Stolen Generation.
  • On 2 August 2016 Justices Benjamin and Bennett met with Wayne Muir, the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, and Nerita Waight, a lawyer at the Family and Youth Practice, to discuss issues regarding the interaction between Indigenous families and the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court in Victoria.
  • Justices Benjamin and Bennett regularly attend the Victorian Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Committee which is chaired by Justice Kaye of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
  • In March 2017 Justice Benjamin attended a Back to Country in Wathaurong Country near Geelong with members of the Federal Circuit Court. The conference was organised by the Judicial College of Victoria.
  • Federal Circuit Court Judge Myers is leading an inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration. Justice Benjamin met with Judge Myers in June 2017 in relation to providing a family law perspective to that inquiry.
  • Justice Benjamin has attended regular AIJA meetings, providing a broader judicial response in respect of Indigenous issues including the promotion of Indigenous barristers in Victoria which may be extend to Queensland.
  • The committee has undertaken work on the Reconciliation Action Plan and this plan was referred to the Chief Justice for consideration in mid-2017. 

Unrepresented Litigants Working Group

 Image of Dennis Ho, Baroness Hale of Richmond, the Honourable Justice Victoria Bennett and Chief Justice the Honourable Diana Bryant AO at the 7th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights, Dublin 5–7 June 2017

Dennis Ho, practitioner from Hong Kong, Baroness Hale of Richmond, the Honourable Justice Victoria Bennett and Chief Justice the Honourable Diana Bryant AO at the Plenary Session Are Children Humans?, delivered by Lady Hale to open the 7th World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights, Dublin 5–7 June 2017

The Unrepresented Litigants Working Group is chaired by Justice Le Poer Trench and consists of representatives of the NSW Bar Association, the NSW Law Society, community legal centres and others.

The group has worked on simplifying documents and processes around contravention applications and has produced a number of simplified forms for consideration by the Court.

The committee is also exploring the option of using the pro bono services of retired judges to assist in areas where the Chief Justice considers it may be helpful.

Significant work was also undertaken on educative initiatives to assist unrepresented litigants with conducting a hearing in the Court. The progression of this work is subject to funding.

Cultural Diversity

Justice Berman and Leisha Lister continued to represent the Family Court on the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity (JCCD), established by the Australian Council of Chief Justices in cooperation with the Migration Council of Australia.

The JCCD is an advisory body formed to assist Australian courts, judicial officers and administrators to positively respond to Australia’s diverse needs, including the particular issues that arise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Council reports to the Council of Chief Justices (CCJ) and provides policy advice and recommendations to the CCJ for approval.

Over the last year, that council has released the following reports:

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 Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar of both courts on the issue of family violence.

In discharging this responsibility, the committee reviews and updates the courts’ Family Violence Plan and Family Violence Best Practice Principles, as well as undertaking discrete projects.

During 2016–17, members of the Family Violence Committee included:

  • Justice Ryan, Family Court, Chair
  • Justice Stevenson, Family Court
  • Justice Hannam, Family Court
  • Judge Brown, Federal Circuit Court
  • Judge Hughes, Federal Circuit Court
  • Judge Bender, Federal Circuit Court
  • Phillip Cameron, Coordinating Registrar, Family Court
  • Leisha Lister, Executive Officer, Family Court, and
  • Di Lojszczyk, Family Consultant.

The committee’s major project was the continued implementation of the Family Violence Plan 2014–16 which 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 (an amended version of the Family Violence Best Practice Principles was issued in December 2016).

The Family Violence Committee also worked on issues raised by:

  • the report from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence
  • the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee Inquiry into Domestic Violence, and
  • internal review processes on the death of a child or party.

Collaborative committees

Federal Costs Advisory Committee (FCAC)

The committee comprises representatives of the four federal courts: the High Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. It first met in November 2007.

Membership of the Committee is as follows:

  • The Hon Justice R Benjamin, Family Court of Australia (Chair)
  • Mr A Phelan, Chief Executive and Principal Registrar, High Court of Australia
  • Mr J Mathieson, Deputy Principal Registrar, Federal Court of Australia
  • Ms A Byrne, Deputy Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and
  • Patricia Christie, Chief Executive Officer and acting Principal Registrar .

Terms of reference

The committee’s terms of reference are:

  1. to review and recommend variations in the quantum of costs contained in the rules made by the federal courts, and
  2. to advise on such other matters relating to those costs as may be referred to it by a federal court.

In undertaking its functions the committee must inform itself by having regard to:

  1. previous decisions of the FCAC
  2. the FCAC formula as an indicative mechanism to be adjusted according to the available data (including but not exclusive to statistics provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics)
  3. written submissions from the Law Council of Australia or any other interested party regarding any circumstances to be taken into account by the committee in consideration of the application of the FCAC formula
  4. reasonable expenses incurred by lawyers in the conduct of their practices, and
  5. any other relevant factors.

Scales of Costs

The current costs scales for each of the federal courts are provided for in the following legislation:

  • High Court Rules 2004 Schedule 2
  • Federal Court Rules 2011 Schedule 3
  • Family Law Rules 2004 Schedule 3, and
  • Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 Schedule 1.

The committee’s last report

The committee’s ninth report was published in September 2016 and recommended an increase of 1.7 per cent to the scales of costs of each of the four federal courts.

Information Publication Scheme

Entities 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).

Information about FOI and the IPS entity 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 six Freedom of Information requests during 2016–17. At 30 June 2017, there were no matters outstanding before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Feedback and service improvements

Feedback helps to drive service improvement and the Court invites feedback, including suggestions and complaints about administrative things such a privacy matter, a security matter, a court policy, or the way correspondence has been handled.

Full details about feedback and complaints are contained in Part three—Report on Court Performance—but in summary, in 2016–17, the Court received:

  • seven complaints about Family Court services
  • sixteen complaints arising from services provided by the Federal Circuit Court or other third parties and relating to Family Court matters
  • ten complaints about judicial conduct, and
  • sixteen complaints about the time taken in delivery of a judgment.

External and internal scrutiny

External scrutiny

Commonwealth Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman made no adverse report specific to the Family Court during 2016–17.

Freedom of Information

The Court received six Freedom of Information requests during 2016–17.

Action in defamation

There were no actions in defamation during 2016–17.

Senate Estimates Hearings – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Senior Executive Service staff of the Court attend estimates committee hearings to answer questions about the Court’s activities. In 2016–17, 17 questions on notice were received and answered by the Family Court.

Correction of errors in 2015–16 report

The Court has no matters to report.

In focus: How do I? web pages

The Court has been working to improve our online resources, particularly the ‘How do I?..’ webpages.

The ‘How do I?’ pages explain application processes for litigants by using dynamic features which enables users to self-select content specific to their situation.

The pages can be accessed from the homepage of the Family Court website.

How do I eFile?

The How do I eFile? page has been divided into application types, making it clearer what is required when eFiling specific types of applications with the courts using the Commonwealth Courts Portal (www.comcourts.gov.au).

How do I apply for parenting orders?

The How do I apply for parenting orders? page features clear information about a range of parenting matters and includes a link to Attorney-General’s Department’s publication Parenting Orders – what you need to know, which was launched on 19 October 2016.

How do I? for lawyers

A new ‘How do I?...’ for lawyers section has been developed as a dedicated resource specifically for lawyers and firms to self-administer their Portal accounts. It covers topics like registering a law firm, adding or changing an administrator, barristers getting access to files and setting up direct debit facilities.