Today the Hon Will Alstergren will be sworn in as Australia’s fifth Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the Hon Robert McClelland will be appointed as the Court’s Deputy Chief Justice.

These appointments follow the retirement of Chief Justice John Pascoe AC CVO, which took effect at one minute to midnight on 9 December as he reached the statutory retirement age of 70 on 10 December 2018.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter and representatives of Australia’s legal bodies will welcome the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice today at a ceremonial sitting to be held at 2.15pm at the Commonwealth Law Courts Building in Melbourne.

Chief Justice Alstergren is honoured to take the appointment as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.  

“I take very seriously the responsibility for ensuring the effective, orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the court and to maintain public confidence in the Court. The duty is not only to manage the existing work of the Court but also to develop steps to improve the way the Court goes about its work,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

Having been the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia for just over 12 months, his Honour has a clear vision on how to improve the family law system for the benefit of the families who seek to resolve their disputes.

“Parties come to the family law system facing a variety of difficult circumstances. As a society, we are becoming more aware of the prevalence of complex issues such as family violence. The Court is cognisant of its responsibility to recognise the impact of family violence when assisting parties to resolve their disputes and to ensure outcomes are in the best interests of the children who rely on this system.

The volume of cases that have come into our system and the complexity of those cases has increased, as has the backlog. Without change, the system is not sustainable with the current level of resources.

We have a great opportunity.  An opportunity to embrace change.  An opportunity to utilise the unparalleled cooperation that currently exists between the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court to drastically improve our system. 

I embrace making changes that will make a real difference to litigants. I will start this by working to harmonise the case management process across the two federal family courts. In so doing I commit to making the court process easier to understand and quicker to get to an outcome, whether by judgment or agreement.  I intend to lead a collegiate, modern court that is interested in the views of those who come before it.”

Deputy Chief Justice McClelland said that, “On a daily basis we see the impact of litigation. It is not only prohibitively expensive it is also emotionally draining. The scars of litigation often take years to heal and children can be severely impacted by that fall out. The Courts have an obligation to provide leadership to facilitate matters being resolved as soon as is reasonably practical and at a cost that is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances of the case.”

Auspicious guests include; Her Excellency the Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau AC; Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia the Hon Susan Kiefel AC; Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia the Hon Chief Justice James Allsop AO; President of the Victorian Court of Appeal the Hon Justice Chris Maxwell AC; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria the Hon Chief Justice Anne Ferguson; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tasmania the Hon Chief Justice Blow AO; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory the Hon Chief Justice Michael Grant; Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria the Hon Chief Judge Peter Kidd; Chief Magistrate of the Magistrates Court of Victoria the Hon Chief Magistrate Lauritsen; Shadow Attorney-General the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP; along with many other representatives of Australia’s judiciary – past and present.

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Media contact: Denise Healy, National Media and Public Affairs Manager, Family Court of Australia
Telephone: 0409 743 695
Emaildenise.healy@familycourt.gov.au

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