Introducing the Federal Circuit Court of Australia

As a result of legislative amendments which recognise the work and status of the Court, the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, from today will be known as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and its judicial officers, Judges of that Court.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Act 2012 amends the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 and other legislation to rename the Federal Magistrates Court the ‘Federal Circuit Court of Australia’ and to change the title of the Chief Federal Magistrate to ‘Chief Judge’ and federal magistrates to ‘judge’.

The jurisdiction, status and arrangements under which the Court operates will not change and there will be no impact on litigants.

The Federal Circuit Court (originally the Federal Magistrates Court) was established in 2000 with the aim of delivering flexibility and simplified procedures that would reduce delays for litigants. Since that time the Court has experienced significant growth in workload, judicial numbers and jurisdiction and is now the nation’s largest federal court that deals with both family law and general federal law matters.

Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, John Pascoe AO CVO, said that the change of name more accurately reflects the Court’s modern role in the federal court system.

“It acknowledges its broad Commonwealth jurisdiction in both family law and general federal law and the inclusion of ‘circuit’ to the name highlights the importance of the Court’s work in regional locations.

“While it has been a challenge over the years, the Court has successfully met its original objective of avoiding undue delay for litigants and it has an outstanding reputation for efficiency and hard work.

The Court has continuously evolved and the change of name reflects that change.”

Facts and figures:

  • The Federal Circuit Court deals with more than 85 per cent of all family law matters nationally (except for WA) and most divorces are filed in the Federal Circuit Court
  • 92,542 applications were filed in the Federal Circuit Court in

2011-2012, a significant increase compared to its first year of operation (2000-01) when 36,435 applications were filed

  • The Court started with ten judicial officers, there are now 63 (which includes two new appointments commencing in April)
  • In addition to family law, the Court also deals with administrative law, admiralty law, bankruptcy, consumer law, human rights, industrial law, intellectual property, migration and privacy
  • In 2011–12, 83 per cent of all applications (family law and general federal law) were completed within six months and 95 per cent were completed within 12 months
  • 2,277 written judgments were produced in 2011-12 and thousands more decisions were handed down ex-tempore
  • In 2011-12, the Court circuited to 33 rural and regional locations, and spent the equivalent of approximately 145 weeks (in Judicial hours) hearing matters in regional areas
  • The Court hears approximately 95 per cent of all migration applications that are filed in the federal courts

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