Part 3: The Work of the Court in 2014-2015

Federal Court of Australia Annual Report 2015-2016


The Federal Court has one key outcome identified for its work, which is, through its jurisdiction, to apply and uphold the rule of law to deliver remedies and enforce rights and, in so doing, contribute to the social and economic development and wellbeing of all Australians.

This Part of the Annual Report covers the Court's performance against this objective. In particular, it reports extensively on the Court's workload during the year, as well as its management of cases and performance against its stated workload goals. Aspects of the work undertaken by the Court to improve access to the Court for its users, including changes to its practices and procedures, are discussed. Information about the Court's work with overseas courts is also covered.

Management of cases and deciding disputes

The following examines the Court's jurisdiction, management of cases, workload and use of assisted dispute resolution.

The Court's jurisdiction

The Court's jurisdiction is broad, covering almost all civil matters arising under Australian federal law and some summary and indictable criminal matters. It also has jurisdiction to hear and determine any matter arising under the Constitution through the operation of s 39B of the Judiciary Act 1903.

Central to the Court's civil jurisdiction is s 39B (1A) (c) of the Judiciary Act. This jurisdiction includes cases created by federal statute, and extends to matters in which a federal issue is properly raised as part of a claim or of a defence and to matters where the subject matter in dispute owes its existence to a federal statute.

The Court has jurisdiction under the Judiciary Act to hear applications for judicial review of decisions by officers of the Commonwealth. Many cases also arise under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (ADJR Act), which provides for judicial review of most administrative decisions made under Commonwealth enactments on grounds relating to the legality, rather than the merits, of the decision. The Court also hears appeals on questions of law from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This jurisdiction falls under the Administrative and Constitutional Law and Human Rights National Practice Area (NPA) which also includes complaints about unlawful discrimination no longer being dealt with by the Australian Human Rights Commission and matters concerning the Australian Constitution. Figure A5.9.1 on page 152 shows the matters filed in this practice area over the last five years.

The Court hears taxation matters on appeal from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It also exercises a first instance jurisdiction to hear objections to decisions made by the Commissioner of Taxation. Figure A5.9.7 on page 155 shows the taxation matters filed over the last five years.

The Court shares first instance jurisdiction with the Supreme Courts of the States and Territories in the complex area of intellectual property (copyright, patents, trademarks, designs and circuit layouts). All appeals in these cases, including appeals from the Supreme Courts, are to a full Federal Court. Figure A5.9.5 on page 154 shows the intellectual property matters filed over the last five years.

Another significant part of the Court's jurisdiction derives from the Native Title Act 1993. The Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine native title determination applications and to be responsible for their mediation, to hear and determine revised native title determination applications, compensation applications, claim registration applications, applications to remove agreements from the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements and applications about the transfer of records. The Court also hears appeals from the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) and matters filed under the ADJR Act involving native title. The Court's native title jurisdiction is discussed on page 32. Figure A5.9.6 on page 155 shows native title matters filed over the last five years.

A further important area of jurisdiction for the Court derives from the Admiralty Act 1988. The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Courts of the States and Territories to hear maritime claims under this Act. Ships coming into Australian waters may be arrested for the purpose of providing security for money claimed from ship owners and operators. If security is not provided, a judge may order the sale of the ship to provide funds to pay the claims. During the reporting year the Court's Admiralty Marshals made 31 arrests. While the number of arrests fluctuates from year to year, the noticeable increase during this reporting period is due to twenty-three of these arrests arising out of the OW Bunker dispute. See Figure A5.9.2 on page 153 for the number of Admiralty and Maritime Law matters filed in the past five years.

The Court has jurisdiction under the Fair Work Act 2009, Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 and related industrial legislation (including matters to be determined under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 in accordance with the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009). Workplace relations and Fair Work matters filed over the last five years are shown in Figure A5.9.4 on page 154.

The Court's jurisdiction under the Corporations Act 2001 and Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 covers a diversity of matters ranging from the appointment of provisional liquidators and the winding up of companies, to applications for orders in relation to fundraising, corporate management and misconduct by company officers. The jurisdiction is exercised concurrently with the Supreme Courts of the States and Territories.

The Court exercises jurisdiction under the Bankruptcy Act 1966. It has power to make sequestration (bankruptcy) orders against persons who have committed acts of bankruptcy and to grant bankruptcy discharges and annulments. The Court's jurisdiction includes matters arising from the administration of bankrupt estates.

Cases arising under Part IV (restrictive trade practices) and Schedule 2 (the Australian Consumer Law) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 constitute a significant part of the workload of the Court. These cases often raise important public interest issues involving such matters as mergers, misuse of market power, exclusive dealing or false advertising.

The above areas fall under the Commercial and Corporations NPA. Figure A5.9.3 on page 153 provides statistics on this practice area.

Since late 2009, the Court has also had jurisdiction in relation to indictable offences for serious cartel conduct.

The Court has a substantial and diverse appellate jurisdiction. It hears appeals from decisions of single judges of the Court, and from the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) in non-family law matters and from other courts exercising certain federal jurisdiction. In recent years a significant component of its appellate work has involved appeals from the FCC concerning decisions under the Migration Act 1958. The Court's migration jurisdiction is discussed later in this Part on page 32. The Court also exercises general appellate jurisdiction in criminal and civil matters on appeal from the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island. The Court's appellate jurisdiction is discussed on page 30. Figure A5.7 on page 150 shows the appeals filed in the Court since 2011–12.

This summary refers only to some of the principal areas of the Court's work. Statutes under which the Court exercises jurisdiction in addition to the jurisdiction vested under the Constitution through s 39B of the Judiciary Act are listed on the Court's website at

Changes to the Court's jurisdiction in 2015–16

The Court's jurisdiction during the year was enlarged or otherwise affected by a number of statutes including:

  • Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act 2015
  • Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Act 2015
  • Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Act 2015
  • Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Act 2015
  • Health Legislation Amendment (eHealth) Act 2015
  • Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Act 2015
  • Narcotic Drugs Amendment Act 2016
  • Private Health Insurance Amendment Act 2015
  • Private Health Insurance (Collapsed Insurer Levy) Amendment Act 2015

Amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Act

During the reporting year amendments to the Federal Court Act were made or took effect as a result of:

  • Passport Legislation Amendment (Integrity) Act 2015
  • Civil Law and Justice (Omnibus Amendments) Act 2015
  • Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Act 2015
  • Trade Legislation Amendment Act (No.1) 2016

The Passports Legislation Amendment (Integrity) Act 2015 amended paragraph 58DC (2) (c) of the Federal Court of Australia Act from 8 October 2015 to ensure the terminology of the provision remained consistent with the Australian Passports Act 2005. The amendment to paragraph 58DC (2) (c) clarifies that the provision relates to "documents issued for the purposes of travel" and is not limited in its operation to passports, whether Australian or foreign.

The Civil Law and Justice (Omnibus Amendments) Act 2015 commenced on 14 October 2015 and included amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Act to:

  • streamline and enhance the process for the empanelment of juries for indictable primary proceedings which are tried in the Court and the pre-trial process for such proceeding more generally (by inserting one new definition in section 4; replacing subsections 23BH(1) and (2), section 23CA, subsection 23DG(1), subsection 23DV(2), paragraph 23EM(2)(a), subsection 23EM(3), paragraph 23EM(5)(a); repealing subsection 23EL(1); and amending subparagraph 23CE(b)(ii) and paragraph 23GB(2 (b))
  • clarify and correct legislative omissions and oversights in relation to indictable primary proceedings and criminal appeals (by repealing paragraph 30AE(4)(a) and amending paragraphs 30AL(a), 30BF(2)(b) and 30BF(5)(b)).

The Trade Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2016 amended legislation from 1 May 2016 relating to export and trade; including the Australian Trade Commission Act 1985 (in part by changing the short title of that Act to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission Act 1985). It also amended the name of the Australian Trade Commission to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission.
Amongst consequential amendments made to other Acts, paragraph 45(2)(cb) of the Federal Court of Australia Act was amended for consistency with the changed titles.

The Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Act 2015 amended the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, with effect from 5 March 2016, to change its short title to the Legislation Act 2003. It included consequential amendment of subsections 59(4), 59(5) and section 59A of the Federal Court of Australia Act to ensure that these provisions remain consistent with the changed title.

Fee regulation

From 1 July 2015 fees payable under the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation 2012 for proceedings in the Court increased by 10 per cent, the categories of fees under that Regulation for all but some bankruptcy filings and examinations were restructured; some additional types of applications were added on which fees are not payable; and the Regulation was amended to correctly refer to a renamed Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The increased fees applied to any document filed in the Court on or after 1 July 2015 but the new setting-down, hearing and mediation fees applied only to hearings and mediations fixed on or after that date. Hearings and mediations which had been fixed up to and including 30 June 2015 were required to pay the reduced rates for setting-down, hearing and mediation fees which applied up to that date even
if the hearing or mediation did not take place until on or after 1 July 2015.

Otherwise the operation of the Regulation remained unchanged during the reporting period.

By virtue of the biennial adjustment provision (section 2.20) of the Regulation, most filing and other fees will again increase from 1 July 2016 by 5.5 per cent. This increase was calculated under a formula based on the change in the Consumer Price Index for the March quarter 2016 compared to the March quarter 2014. It was applied to each fee mentioned in Schedule 1 of the Regulation apart from the fees for filing human rights, some Fair Work applications, and for service and execution of process.

Federal Court Rules

The judges are responsible for making the Rules of Court under the Federal Court Act. The Rules provide the procedural framework within which matters are commenced and conducted in the Court. The Rules of Court are made as Commonwealth Statutory Legislative Instruments.

The Rules are kept under review. New and amending rules are made to ensure that the Court's procedures are current and responsive to the needs of modern litigation. They also provide the framework for new jurisdiction conferred upon the Court. A review of the Rules is often undertaken as a consequence of changes to the Court's practice and procedure described elsewhere in this report. Proposed amendments are discussed with the Law Council of Australia and other relevant organisations as considered appropriate.

There were no changes to the Federal Court Rules during the reporting year, except for a small number of consequential amendments substituting references to the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016 for the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2005 on the making of the former and repeal of the latter from 1 April 2016 (discussed below under 'Other Rules').

Approved forms

Approved Forms are available on the Court's website. Any document that is filed in a proceeding in the Court must be in accordance with any approved form. The Chief Justice may approve a form for the purposes of the Federal Court Rules and, since 1 April 2016, the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016.

No new forms were approved by the Chief Justice for the purposes of the Federal Court Rules and no changes were approved for any existing forms approved for those rules during the reporting year.

On 29 March 2016 the Chief Justice approved, with effect from 1 April 2016, the following forms for the purposes of the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016:

Form B1 Title
Form B2 Application
Form B3 Interim Application Form B4 Notice of Appearance
Form B5 Notice stating grounds of opposition to application, interim application or petition
Form B6 Creditor's petition Form B7 Sequestration order
Form B8 Referral of debtor's petition Form B9 Summons for Examination
Form B10 Application for summons to examine relevant person or examinable person
Form B11 Notice to creditors of annulment application
Form B12 Notice to creditors of application for review of Registrar's decision to make sequestration order
Form B13 Notice to creditors
Form B14 Applicant creditor's petition for administration of deceased person's estate
Form B15 Administrator's petition
Form B16 Arrest warrant under section 78 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966
Form B17 Apprehension warrant under section 264B of the Bankruptcy Act 1966
Form B18 Search warrant under section 130 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966
Form B19 Consent to act as designated person Form B20 Notice of filing of application for recognition of foreign proceeding
Form B21 Notice of making of order under Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008
Form B22 Notice of dismissal or withdrawal of application for recognition of foreign proceeding
Form B23 Notice of filing of application to modify or terminate an order for recognition or other relief

Practice Notes

Practice Notes supplement the procedures set out in the Rules of Court and are issued by the Chief Justice upon the advice of the judges of the Court under rules 2.11, 2.12 and 2.21 of the Federal Court Rules and the Court's inherent power to control its own processes. All Practice Notes are available on the Court's website.

During the reporting year, no new Practice Notes were issued and no changes were made to any of the existing Practice Notes.

Other Rules

By operation of the sunsetting provisions contained in Part 4 of Chapter 3 of the Legislation Act, the former Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2005, as well as the harmonised Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2006, were to be automatically repealed on 1 April 2016.

In close consultation with the Federal Circuit Court and with considerable assistance from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and significant input from Judges and Registrars harmonised replacement rules were developed. From 1 April 2016, the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016 replaced the former Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2005. These rules incorporate, as Part 14, the rules for proceedings brought in the Federal Court under the Cross-Border Insolvency Act 2008 which are harmonised with the rules of all Australian courts with concurrent jurisdiction under that Act. Also from that same date the Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016 replaced the former Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2006.

The replacement bankruptcy rules:

  • reflected the current drafting style for legislative instruments adopted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel;
  • corrected obvious errors identified through the drafting process in the former bankruptcy rules;
  • adopted wording more consistent with the relevant enabling provisions of the Bankruptcy Act 1966;
  • clarified, simplified and provided additional guidance where it was felt that this would be useful to court users and do not affect policy; and
  • consistent with the approach adopted in the Federal Court Rules, made express provision for the Chief Justice to approve forms for the purposes of the bankruptcy rules and to set out certain procedural and other requirements in practice notes.

To ensure that there was no lacuna between the otherwise automatic repeal of the former rules and the commencement of the replacement rules, the Federal Court (Bankruptcy) Repeal Rules 2016 were made by the judges to repeal the former rules; make a small number of consequential amendments to the Federal Court Rules by replacing references to the former bankruptcy rules with references to the new bankruptcy rules; and transitional provisions for the continued use of the forms prescribed under the former bankruptcy rules for a period of six months were made. A similar approach was adopted in the Federal Circuit Court.

Freedom of Information Information
Publication Scheme

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. The Court's plan is accessible from the Court's website at The NNTT's plan can be found at

The availability of some documents under the FOI Act will be affected by s. 5 of that Act, which states that the Act does not apply to any request for access to a document of the Court unless the document relates to matters of an administrative nature. Documents filed in Court proceedings are not of an administrative nature; however, they may be accessible by way of the Federal Court Rules.

Workload of the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court

The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) in a number of areas of general federal law including bankruptcy, human rights, workplace relations and migration matters. The registries of the Federal Court provide registry services for the FCC in its general federal law jurisdiction.

Figure 3.1 – Filings to 30 June 2016

Federal Court of Australia (FCA) and Federal Circuit Court (FCC)

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 above shows an increase in the combined filings of the two courts since 2011–12.

In 2015–16, a total of 14 647 matters were filed in the two courts. The significant increase in FCA filings related in part to changes to the fee arrangements. Any growth in filings has an impact on the Federal Court's registries, as they process the documents filed for both courts. The registries also provide the administrative support for each matter to be heard and determined by the relevant court. The Court was able to accommodate this increase easily due to the technology and systems it has set up, most notably ECFs and eLodgment, to aid efficient case processing.

Case flow management of the Court's jurisdiction

As noted in Part 2, the Court has adopted as one of its key case flow management principles the establishment of time goals for the disposition of cases and the delivery of reserved judgments. The time goals are supported by the careful management of cases through the Court's Individual Docket System, and the implementation of practices and procedures designed to assist with the efficient disposition of cases according to law. This is further enhanced by the reforms of the National Court Framework.

Under the Individual Docket System, a matter will usually stay with the same judge from commencement until disposition. This means a judge has greater familiarity with each case and leads to the more efficient management of the proceeding.

Disposition of matters other than native title

In 1999–2000, the Court set a goal of eighteen months from commencement as the period within which it should dispose of at least eighty-five per cent of its cases (excluding native title cases).

The time goal was set having regard to the growing number of long, complex and difficult cases, the impact of native title cases on the Court's workload, and a decrease in the number of less complex matters. It is reviewed regularly by the Court in relation to workload and available resources. The Court's ability to continue to meet its disposition targets is dependent upon the timely replacement of judges.

Notwithstanding the time goal, the Court expects that most cases will be disposed of well within the eighteen-month period, with only particularly large and/or difficult cases requiring more time. Indeed, many cases are urgent and need to be disposed of quickly after commencement. The Court's practice and procedure facilitates early disposition when necessary.

During the five-year period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016, 93 per cent of cases (excluding native title matters) were completed in less than eighteen months, 89 per cent in less than twelve months and 78 per cent in less than six months (see Figure A5.4 on page 147). Figure A5.5 on
page 148 shows the percentage of cases (excluding native title matters) completed within eighteen months over the last five reporting years. The figure shows that in 2015–16, over 93.7 per cent of cases were completed within eighteen months. This is an increase from last year's figures.

Delivery of judgments

In the reporting period, 1776 judgments were delivered. Of these, 681 judgments were delivered in appeals (both single judge and full court) and 1095 in first instance cases. These figures include both written judgments and judgments delivered orally on the day of the hearing, immediately after the completion of evidence and submissions. There was a significant increase in judgments delivered in the reporting year and is in line with the increase in filings the Court has seen.

The nature of the Court's workload means that a substantial proportion of the matters coming before the Court will go to trial and the decision of the trial judge will be reserved at the conclusion of the trial. The judgment is delivered at a later date and is often referred to as a "reserved judgment". The nature of the Court's appellate work also means a substantial proportion of appeals require reserved judgments.

Appendix 7 on page 159 includes a summary of decisions of interest delivered during the reporting year and illustrates the Court's varied jurisdiction.

Workload of the Court in its original jurisdiction

Incoming work

In the reporting year, 5000 cases were commenced in, or transferred to, the Court's original jurisdiction. See Table A5.1 on page 32.

Matters transferred to and from the Court

Matters may be remitted or transferred to the Court under:

  • Judiciary Act 1903, s 44
  • Cross-vesting Scheme Acts
  • Corporations Act 2001
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999

During the reporting year, 92 matters were remitted or transferred to the Court:

  • 13 from the High Court
  • 36 from the Federal Circuit Court
  • 14 from the Supreme Courts
  • 29 from other courts

Matters may be transferred from the Court under:

  • Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Act 1976
  • Jurisdiction of Courts (Cross-vesting) Act 1987
  • Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977
  • Bankruptcy Act 1966
  • Corporations Act 2001
  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975

During 2015–16, two matters were transferred from the Court:

  • two to the Federal Circuit Court
  • none to Supreme Courts
  • none to other courts

Matters completed

Figure A5.2 on page 143 shows a comparison of the number of matters commenced in the Court's original jurisdiction and the number completed. The number of matters completed during the reporting year was 5870.

Current matters

The total number of current matters in the Court's original jurisdiction at the end of the reporting year was 3035 (see Table A5.1).

Age of pending workload

The comparative age of matters pending in the Court's original jurisdiction (against all major causes of action, other than native title matters) at 30 June 2016 is set out in Table 3.1 below.

Native title matters are not included in Table 3.1 because of their complexity, the role of the National Native Title Tribunal and the need to acknowledge regional priorities.

Table 3.1 – Age of current matters (excluding appeals and related actions and native title matters)

Cause of ActionUNDER 6 MONTHS6-12 MONTHS12-18
Administrative Law81311490
Competition Law7201414
Trade Practices1141514926178
Human Rights22313130
Workplace Relations500027
Intellectual Property1311521834209
Fair Work11820914152
% of Total79.9%5.9%4.1%2.7%7.3%100.0%
Running Total17401869195920172177
Running %79.9%85.9%90.0%92.7%100.0%

Table 3.1 shows that at 30 June 2016 there were 218 first instance matters over eighteen months old compared with 309 in 2015 (not including native title matters). The decrease in matters in this category is due to the types of filings received and the reforms introduced under the National Court Framework.

Table 3.2 – Age of current native title matters (excluding appeals)

Cause of ActionUNDER 6 MONTHS6-12 MONTHS12-18
Native Title Action7310613235337
% of Total21.7%3.0%1.8%3.9%69.7%100.0%
Running Total738389102337
Running %21.7%24.6%26.4%30.3%100.0%

The number of native title matters over eighteen months old decreased. The number of native title matters between 12–18 months and 18–24 months old also decreased. This has been mainly due to the Court's approach to managing native title matters namely the use of the priority list. Further information about the Court's native title workload can be found on page 32.

The Court will continue to focus on reducing its pending caseload and the number of matters over eighteen months old. A collection of graphs and statistics concerning the workload of the Court is contained in Appendix 5 commencing on page 141.

The Court's appellate jurisdiction

The appellate workload of the Court constitutes a significant part of its overall workload. While most of the appeals arise from decisions of single judges of the Court or the FCC, some are in relation to decisions by State and Territory courts exercising certain federal jurisdiction.

The number of appellate proceedings commenced in the Court is dependent on many factors including the number of first instance matters disposed of in a reporting year, the nature of matters filed in the Court and whether the jurisdiction of the Court is enhanced or reduced by legislative changes or decisions of the High Court of Australia on the constitutionality of legislation.

Subject to ss 25(1), (1AA) and (5) of the Federal Court Act, appeals from the FCC, and courts of summary jurisdiction exercising federal jurisdiction, may be heard by a Full Court of the Federal Court or by a single judge in certain circumstances. All other appeals must be heard by a Full Court, which is usually constituted by three, and sometimes five, judges.

The Court publishes details of the four scheduled Full Court and appellate sitting periods to be held in February, May, August and November of each year. Each sitting period is up to four weeks in duration.

In the reporting year, Full Court and appellate matters were scheduled for hearing in all eight capital cities. Once an appeal is ready to be heard, it can usually be listed for the next scheduled Full Court and appellate sittings in the capital city where the matter was heard at first instance.

When appeals are considered to be sufficiently urgent, the Court will convene a special sitting of a Full Court which may, if necessary and appropriate, use videoconferencing facilities or hear the appeal in a capital city other than that in which the case was originally heard.

In 2015-16 the Court specially fixed 55 Full Court or appellate matters, involving 34 sets of proceedings, for early hearing outside of the four scheduled sitting periods. Hearing these matters involved a total of 41 sitting days or part thereof compared with 34 special hearing fixtures involving 26 sitting days in 2014-15.

The appellate workload

During the reporting year 1203 appellate proceedings were filed in the Court. They include 993 appeals and related actions, 19 cross appeals and 191 interlocutory applications such as applications for: security for costs in relation to an appeal, a stay, an injunction, expedition or various other applications.

The FCC is a significant source of appellate work accounting for approximately seventy per cent (849 of the 1203) of the appeals and related actions (746), cross appeals (5) and other interlocutory applications (98) filed in 2015–16. The majority of these proceedings continue to be heard and determined by single judges exercising the Court's appellate jurisdiction.

Further information on the source of appeals and related actions is set out in Figure A5.8 on page 151.

Although the above figures indicate that there was an overall increase of more than nine per cent in the Court's appellate workload in 2015–16, the Court's non-migration appeals and related actions increased substantially by almost thirty per cent from 263 in 2014-15 to 340 in 2015-16.

During the reporting year the number of appellate migration matters filed (695) remained high including 653 appeals and related actions, one cross-appeal and 41 interlocutory applications.

As shown in Table 3.4, this workload is subject to fluctuation due to changes that may occur in government policy or the impact of decisions of the Federal Circuit Court, the Full Court of the Federal Court or the High Court.

In the reporting year 959 appeals and related actions, 26 cross appeals and 182 interlocutory applications were finalised. At 30 June 2016, there were 517 appeals and related actions, 19 cross appeals and
102 interlocutory applications current before the Court.

The comparative age of matters pending in the Court's appellate jurisdiction (including native title appeals) at 30 June 2016 is set out in Table 3.3 below.

At 30 June 2016 there were seven matters that are eighteen months or older. These matters are either awaiting the outcome of decisions in the Federal Court (e.g. following the conclusion of High Court proceedings in one matter) or the matters involve further litigation and/or the pursuit of a negotiated outcome in a complex native title appeal. It is also noted that a large number of migration appeals and application have been held in abeyance pending the outcomes of decisions of the Full Federal Court and the High Court.

Table 3.3 – Age of current appeals and related actions, cross appeals and interlocutory appellate applications as at 30 June 2016

Appeals and related actions399921961517
% of Total77%17.8%3.7%1.2%0.2%100%
Cross appeals and interlocutory appellate applications9220810121
% of Total76%16.5%6.6%0.8%0.0%100%

Managing migration appeals

In 2015–16 fourteen migration appeals and related actions and six interlocutory applications were filed in the Court's appellate jurisdiction related to judgments of single judges of the Court exercising the Court's original jurisdiction. A further 675 migration matters were filed in relation to judgments of the FCC including 639 appeals and related actions, one cross-appeal and thirty-five interlocutory applications.

Table 3.4 shows the number of appellate proceedings involving the Migration Act as a proportion of the Court's overall appellate workload since 2010–11. The Court continues to apply a number of procedures to streamline the preparation and conduct of these appeals and applications and to facilitate the expeditious management of the migration workload.

Initially, the Court applies systems to assist with identifying matters raising similar issues and where there is a history of previous litigation. This process allows for similar cases to be managed together resulting in more timely and efficient disposal of matters. Then, all migration related appellate proceedings (whether to be heard by a single judge or by a Full Court) are listed for hearing in the next scheduled Full Court and appellate sitting period. Fixing migration related appellate proceedings for hearing in the four scheduled
sitting periods has provided greater certainty and consistency for litigants. It has also resulted in a significant number of cases being heard and determined within the same sitting period.

Where any migration related appellate proceeding requires an expedited hearing, the matter is allocated to a single judge or referred to a specially convened Full Court.

Table 3.4 – Appellate proceedings concerning decisions under the Migration Act as a proportion of all appellate proceedings (including appeals and related actions, cross appeals and interlocutory applications)

Migration Jurisdiction 269 338 333 393 677 695
% of Total 32% 43% 42% 44% 61% 58%
Total Appellate Proceedings83779778789011011203

The Court's Native Title Jurisdiction

During the reporting year the Court resolved 96 native title determination applications.

Thirty-five applications were resolved by consent determination, 11 applications were resolved following a litigated hearing and a further 50 matters were otherwise resolved including by discontinuance or dismissal.

In addition to the applications referred to above 7 consent determinations of native title were achieved which partially resolved applications.

Fifty new applications were filed during the reporting period; 32 of these were native title determination applications. Significantly, 16 were non-claimant applications, the majority of which were filed in Queensland.

At the end of the reporting period the Court's native title caseload consisted of 303 of which 266 were claimant applications, 31 were non-claimant applications, 5 were compensation applications and 1 was a revised native title determination application.

The Court maintains a priority list that has been identified, in conjunction with the parties, as likely to be resolved in the coming twelve to eighteen months. The identification and publication of these claims on the Court's website allows the resources and coordinated efforts of all parties to be appropriately focused on their resolution. There are currently 92 matters on the Court's priority list. It is anticipated that approximately 54 of these matters will be resolved in 2016–17.

The Court has continued to utilise a number of strategies to achieve the orderly resolution of matters consistent with the overarching purpose of facilitating the just resolution of disputes according to law as quickly, inexpensively and effectively as possible. Intensive case management by both judges and registrars continues to be used to identify the genuine issues in dispute between the parties and the most effective means of resolving those disputes. Mediation is ordered, as required, and may be conducted by a registrar or a specialist native title mediator from the Court's published list of native title mediators. In some instances particular issues in an application are referred to a judge for hearing and adjudication.

A number of significant decisions were made by the Court in the reporting year relating to the validity of tenure and extinguishment, the content of native title rights and interests and the power of the Court to make native title determinations. In the Ngadju matter (State of Western Australia v Graham on behalf of the Ngadju People [2016] FCAFC 47) the Full Court, after considering the interrelationship between State Agreements and the relevant Western Australian mining legislation, confirmed the validity of almost 300 mining leases initially found to be invalid in a determination of native title made in November 2014. The application of section 47B of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) was considered in the Banjima appeal to the Full Court (Banjima People v State of Western Australia & Ors [2015] FCAFC 171). The Full Court confirmed Barker J's findings that exploration licences did not fall within the exceptions to the application of section 47B and the Banjima People were entitled to exclusive possession of each of the relevant unallocated crown land parcels. Applications for special leave to the High Court have been filed in both the Ngadju and Banjima matters

In the case of the Iman People (Doyle on behalf of the Iman People #2 v Queensland [2016] FCA 13) the Court relied upon the presumption of regularity to find that a public road had extinguished native title.

The Court also found that the combined effect of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA) and the Native Title (Queensland) Act 1993 was to validate the grant of leases as "past acts" notwithstanding that the leases had been surrendered before the NTA came into effect. The latter finding is the subject of an appeal. In the Pilki matter (State of Western Australia v Willis on behalf of the Pilki People [2015] FCAFC 186), the Full Court found that there was no reason to draw a distinction between 'commercial purposes' and 'non-commercial purposes', and accordingly, the decision by North J to recognise the right of the Pilki People to access and take resources for any purpose was upheld. The Full Court of five judges in the Badimia case (CG (Deceased) on behalf of the Badimia People v State of Western Australia [2016] FCAFC 67) confirmed that the Court has the power under the NTA to make a negative determination in the absence of a non-claimant application.

The Court also held two User Forums in the first part of 2016.The first was held in February in Western Australia and focused on issues surrounding the preparation and production of tenure material by the State as well as particular concerns raised by Native Title Representative Bodies, including timing of production of tenure information, issues arising from large extinguishment acts that cover large portions of claims, production of source documentation, the use of electronic documents in Court, the provision of cadastre and tenure data and managing contested tenure issues in a collaborative way. The second forum was held in April in Queensland. Issues discussed included the next generation of native title anthropologists, utilising the National Native Title Tribunal's tenure portal, Prescribed Body Corporate issues (capacity, governance, dispute resolution and managing a PBC), the impact and costs of collateral litigation (costs of intra indigenous disputes), and post-determination issues (including approaches to ILUAs and s 31 agreements and the authority of the applicant).

Assisted Dispute Resolution

Assisted Dispute Resolution (ADR) has become an important part of the efficient resolution of litigation in the Court context, with cases now almost routinely referred to some form of Assisted Dispute Resolution. In addition to providing a forum for potential settlement, mediation is an integral part of the Court's case management.

In recognition of the Court's unique model of mediation and commitment to a quality professional development program, the Court became a Recognised Mediator Accreditation Body in September 2015 and implemented the Federal Court Mediator Accreditation Scheme (FCMAS). The FCMAS incorporates the National Mediator Accreditation Standards and the majority of court ordered mediations are conducted by registrars who are trained and accredited by the Court under the FCMAS. In the native title jurisdiction, the Court maintains a list, available on its website, of specialist mediators who have current experience in the resolution of complex Indigenous land management disputes.

Since the 2010–11 reporting period, the Court has provided some statistical information about referrals to ADR. Data about ADR should be considered in light of a number of factors. Firstly, referrals to mediation or other types of ADR may occur in a different reporting period to the conduct of that mediation or ADR process. Secondly, not all referrals to mediation or the conduct of mediation occur in the same reporting period as a matter was filed. This means that comparisons of mediation referrals or mediations conducted as a proportion of the number of matters filed in the Court during the reporting period are indicative only. Thirdly, the data presented on referrals to ADR during the reporting period does not include information about ADR processes that may have been engaged in by parties before the matter is filed in the Court, or where a private mediator is used during the course of the litigation.
Similarly, the statistics provided below do not include instances where judges of the Court order experts to confer with each other to identify areas where their opinions are in agreement and disagreement without the supervision of a registrar.

As shown by Table 3.5 the main practice areas where mediation referrals are made are Commercial and Corporations and Employment and Industrial Relations. Although the reporting of these statistics is by reference to National Practice Area rather than cause of action, as in past years, the mediation referrals by matter type is broadly consistent with past years.

Table 3.5 – Mediation referrals in 2015–16 by National Practice Area (NPA) and Registry











Administrative Law and Constitutional Law and Human Rights61110002323
Admiralty and Maritime512000008
Commercial and Corporations6646311811529188
Employment and Industrial Relations17541154515102
Intellectual Property294326030083
Native Title5084000017

A review of the reporting on Assisted Dispute Resolution is underway and will consider better methods to collect data about referrals and outcomes. If further statistics are required, contact the Court via In the reporting year, over 200 matters have been resolved through mediation. This has meant the Court vacated 765 days of judicial listings and saved a nominal amount of $3.3 million in terms of the Court's time and resources. When a mediation process has a successful outcome and a matter settles, savings are made by the Court, the parties and the wider community.

Management of cases and deciding disputes by tribunals

The court provides operational support to the australian competition tribunal, the copyright Tribunal and the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal. This support includes the provision of registry services to accept and process documents, collect fees, list matters for hearings and otherwise assist the management and determination of proceedings. The Court also provides the infrastructure for tribunal hearings including hearing rooms, furniture, equipment and transcript services.

A summary of the functions of each tribunal and the work undertaken by it during the reporting year is set out in Appendix 6 commencing on page 156.

Improving access to the Court and contributing to the Australian legal system


The following section reports on the Court's work during the year to improve the operation and accessibility of the Court, including reforms to its practices and procedures, enhancements in the use of technology and improvements to the information about the Court and its work.

This section also reports on the Court's work during the year to contribute more broadly to enhancing the quality and accessibility of the Australian justice system, including the participation of judges in bodies such as the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration and in other law reform, community and educational activities.

An outline of the judges' work in this area is included in Appendix 8 commencing on page 170.

eServices strategy

The Court's eServices strategy aims to take advantage of technology opportunities to achieve benefits to the Court and its users. The Court uses technology to maximise the efficient management of cases by increasing online accessibility for the legal community and members of the public, as well as assisting judges in their task of deciding cases according to law quickly, inexpensively and as efficiently as possible.

One of the objectives of the Court's eServices strategy is to create an environment where actions are commenced, case managed and heard digitally. A significant component of this objective was achieved by the introduction of Electronic Court Files (ECFs) in July 2014. Matters commencing with the Court since its deployment are now handled entirely electronically. The Court's official record for such matters is the Electronic Court File. To date over 25 000 ECFs have been created. The system has had a number of enhancements made in the reporting year. These have included creating views of all the Court's files by National Practice Areas, functionality to easily identify types of documents, for example suppressed documents and the ability to view future listings over a range of dates.

The Court has continued to promote the use of its electronic filing application, eLodgment. This application was further enhanced in preparation for the introduction of ECFs and will continue to be enhanced in future years. In 2015–16 the number of active users of eLodgment increased by thirty-three per cent to 14 121 and over 128 000 documents were electronically lodged. By June 2016, ninety-eight per cent of documents filed with the Court were done so electronically.

The growth in eLodgment users can be attributed to the Court's approach in promoting and improving the eLodgment system. The Court consulted with the users about enhancements made to the system ensuring that any changes improved usability. The Court also conducts an education and training program that targets both practitioners and their support staff. Building upon engagement of the previous year, a further two hundred and fifty members of the legal sector were trained this year. The eLodgment training for legal support staff is "hands on" using an exact replica of the eLodgment system. Training helped prospective users acquire all the knowledge they needed to use the system efficiently and with proficiency.

During the reporting year, 675 matters were conducted in eCourtroom. The majority of these were applications for sub service heard by the Court's registrars. These matters are ordinarily dealt with entirely in eCourtroom saving the parties time and cost in attending Court and the Court costs in setting up courtrooms. Most matters in eCourtroom are completed within two weeks of the eCourtroom commencing.

The Court has also expanded its real time business intelligence work to assist in decision making, monitoring trends and workload management. This will assist registries in planning and ensure that the Court maximises the available resources effectively to meet a fluctuating workload.

All the elements of the Court's eServices strategy have streamlined the way in which the Court operates, allowing all court users to focus on resolving differences as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible. This fulfils the Court's legislative purpose to facilitate the just resolution of disputes.

Practice and procedure reforms

The National Practice Committee is responsible for developing and refining policy and significant principles regarding the Court's practice and
procedure. It comprises of the National Coordinating Judges who are responsible for managing the National Practice Areas under the Court's National Court Framework. During the reporting year, the Committee dealt with a range of matters including:

  • drafting of Practice Notes
  • public consultation about Practice Notes
  • judgments, and
  • third party access to documents.

The Committee also considered proposed legislative changes and reform in the areas of
telecommunications; administrative law; bankruptcy; evidence; environmental protection; and foreign acquisitions and takeovers of corporations.

Liaison with the Law Council of Australia

Members of the National Practice Committee met during the reporting year with the Law Council's Federal Court Liaison Committee to discuss matters concerning the Court's practice and procedure.

These matters included:

  • the National Court Framework
  • migration appeals, and
  • Case Management Handbook.

Assistance for self represented litigants

The Court delivers a wide range of services to self represented litigants. These services have been developed to meet the needs of self represented litigants for information and assistance concerning the Court's practice and procedure.

During the reporting year, the Government provided funding to Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH), JusticeConnect, JusticeNet SA and Legal Aid Western Australia to provide basic legal information and advice to self represented litigants in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court. This may involve diverting parties from commencing proceedings or continuing unmeritorious proceedings, providing assistance to draft or amend pleadings or prepare affidavits, giving advice on how to prepare for a hearing and advice on how to enforce a court order. The service began in Queensland in March 2014 and has been operating nationally in this reporting period. While the service is independent of the courts, facilities are provided within court buildings to enable meetings to be held with clients. The service is also assisted by volunteer lawyers from participating law firms.

Tables 3.6, 3.7 and 3.8 below provide some broad statistics about the number of self represented litigants appearing in the Court as applicants in a matter (respondents are not recorded). As the recording of self represented litigants is not a mandatory field in the Court's case management system statistics shown in the Tables are indicative only. In the reporting year, 563 people who commenced proceedings in the Court were identified as self represented. The majority were appellants in migration appeals.

Table 3.6 – Actions commenced by Self Represented Litigants (SRLs) during 2015–16 by Registry































The 563 SRLs in 2015–16 were applicants in 513 proceedings, as a proceeding can have more than one applicant. The following table breaks down these proceedings by major CoA. Reporting continues to be by CoA to show the particular areas of the Court's jurisdiction where litigants identify as self represented.

Table 3.7 – Proceedings commenced by SRLs in 2015–16 by CoA

Administrative Law398%
Appeals and related actions38375%
Bills of Costs00%
Competition law00%
Consumer Protection61%
Cross Claim00%
Fair work122%
Human Rights41%
Intellectual Property20%
Native Title41%

Table 3.8 – Appeals commenced by SRLs in 2015–16 by type of appeal

Administrative Law41%
Competition Law10%
Consumer Protection72%
Fair Work103%
Human Rights31%
Intellectual Property00%
Native Title10%


The Court is aware of the difficulties faced by litigants who have little or no understanding of the English language. The Court will not allow a party or the administration of justice to be disadvantaged by a person's inability to secure the services of an interpreter. It has therefore put in place a system to provide professional interpreter services to people who need those services but cannot afford to pay for them.

In general, the Court's policy is to provide these services for litigants who are unrepresented and who do not have the financial means to purchase the services, and for litigants who are represented but are entitled to an exemption from payment of court fees, under the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation (see below).

Court fees and exemption

Fees are charged under the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation for filing documents; setting a matter down for hearing; hearings and mediations; taxation of bills of costs; and for some other services in proceedings in the Court. During the reporting year the rate of the fee that was payable depended on whether the party liable to pay was a publicly listed company (for bankruptcy filing and examination fees only); a corporation; a public authority (for bankruptcy filing and examination fees only); a person; a small business; or a not-for-profit association.

Some specific proceedings are exempt from all or some fees. These include:

  • Human Rights applications (other than an initial filing fee of $55)
  • some Fair Work applications (other than an initial filing fee of $68.60)
  • appeals from a single judge to a Full Court in Human Rights and some Fair Work applications
  • an application by a person to set aside a subpoena
  • an application under section 23 of the International Arbitration Act 1974 for the issue of a subpoena requiring the attendance before or production of documents to an arbitrator (or both)
  • an application for an extension of time
  • a proceeding in relation to a case stated or a question reserved for the consideration or opinion of the Court
  • a proceeding in relation to a criminal matter
  • setting-down fees for an interlocutory application.

A person is entitled to apply for a general exemption from paying court fees in a proceeding if that person:

  • has been granted Legal Aid
  • has been granted assistance by a registered body to bring proceedings in the Federal Court under Part 11 of the Native Title Act or has been granted funding to perform some functions of a representative body under section 203FE of that Act
  • is the holder of a health care card, a pensioner concession card, a Commonwealth seniors health card or another card certifying entitlement to Commonwealth health concessions
  • is serving a sentence of imprisonment or is otherwise detained in a public institution
  • is younger than 18 years
  • is receiving youth allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY benefits.

Such a person can also receive, without paying a fee, the first copy of any document in the court file or a copy required for the preparation of appeal papers.

A corporation which had been granted Legal Aid or funding under the Native Title Act had the same entitlements.

A person (but not a corporation) is exempt from paying a court fee that otherwise is payable if a Registrar or an authorised officer is satisfied that payment of that fee at that time would cause the person financial hardship. In deciding this, the Registrar or authorised officer must consider the person's income, day-to-day living expenses, liabilities and assets. Even if an earlier fee has been exempted, eligibility for this exemption must be considered afresh on each occasion a fee is payable in any proceeding.

More comprehensive information about filing and other fees that are payable, how these are calculated (including definitions used, for example 'not-for-profit association', 'public authority', 'publicly listed company' and 'small business') and the operation of the exemption from paying the fee is available on the Court's website Details of the fee exemptions during the reporting year are set out in Appendix 1 on page 88.


The Federal Court website is the main source of public information and a gateway to the Court's suite of online services such as eLodgment, eCourtroom and the Commonwealth Courts Portal. It provides access to a range of information including court forms and fees, guides for court users, daily court listings and judgments. In recent years it has also been used to publish selected court documents in representative proceedings and cases of high public interest; these were previously only available to interested parties by visiting the registry in which the matter was filed. In the reporting year the website provided 3,186,887 page views, in 1,287,257 sessions by 641,430 users. While the majority of users of the Court's website are from Australia, there has been an increase in international traffic from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South East Asia.

The Federal Court website is the foundation of information campaigns and other court initiatives and projects. In the 2015–16 reporting year it was used extensively to communicate changes to court users regarding the National Court Framework (NCF). Currently there is development under way in order to accommodate procedural changes introduced as part of the NCF.

There are two subscription services offered on the Court website: Practice News, which communicates changes to the Court's practice and procedure, and the Daily Court Lists, which provides details of hearings listed the next business day. Work is underway to increase the types of email subscriptions available to Court users. In the reporting year, an Arrest and Release notification service was developed for Admiralty practitioners and other interested parties; the service has been highly successful. The Court also provided RSS feeds (Rich Site Summary feeds) for judgments and news items.

Requests for information

In 2015–16 nearly 600 emails were received by the Court through the website's email account: The query account was used as a contact for the Court's initiatives as well as requests received from students, researchers and members of the public who are interested in the role of the Court, its jurisdiction, practice and procedure and at times particular cases of interest. Staff ensure they respond to the queries in a comprehensive and timely fashion.

Some enquiries concern legal advice. Whilst court staff cannot provide legal advice, they endeavour to assist all enquirers by referring them to reliable sources of information on the internet or to community organisations such as legal aid agencies and libraries.

Published information

The Court publishes a range of information on aspects of its work including: a guide for witnesses appearing in the Court; information on procedures in appeals, bankruptcy, native title and human rights cases; and information on the Court's use of mediation. In addition, during the reporting year the Court developed comprehensive information about the National Court Framework reforms which is available from the Court's website,

Freedom of information

Information Publication Scheme

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a section 8 statement in an annual report. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. The Court's plan is accessible from the Court's website at The NNTT's plan can be found at

The availability of some documents under the FOI Act will be affected by s. 5 of that Act, which states that the Act does not apply to any request
for access to a document of the Court unless the document relates to matters of an administrative nature. Documents filed in Court proceedings are not of an administrative nature; however, they may be accessible by way of the Federal Court Rules.

Access to judgments

When a decision of the Court is delivered, a copy is made available to the parties and published on the Federal Court and AustLII websites for access by the media and the public. Judgments of public interest are published within an hour of delivery and other judgments within a few days. The Court also provides copies of judgments to legal publishers and other subscribers.

Information for the media and televised judgments

The Director, Public Information deals with enquiries about cases and issues relating to the Court's work from media throughout Australia and internationally. These predominantly relate to the timely provision of judgments and guidance on how to access court files.

During the reporting year, the DPI facilitated the establishment of an online file for the Wotton v State of Queensland matter to coincide with the trial that was heard, in part, on Palm Island. Mainstream television access was also arranged for the first day of the trial.

The DPI is also responsible for the production of training and educational videos about the Court's work. During the year a training video on how to obtain best results in videoconferencing was made with the cooperation of court staff.

The DPI assisted producers of "Legal Briefs" an educational series for ABC Television – by arranging an interview with a judge and access to a court room for filming.

The reporting year was also notable for the record number of shipping arrests by court marshals and resultant coverage – assisted by the DPI – in both mainstream and specialist maritime media.

Community relations

The Court engages in a wide range of activities with the legal profession, including regular user group meetings. The aim of user groups is to provide a forum for Court representatives and the legal profession to discuss existing and emerging issues, provide feedback to the Court and act as a reference group. Seminars and workshops on issues of practice and procedure in particular areas of the Court's jurisdiction are also regularly held.

In 2015–16, members of the Court were involved in:

National Court Framework – consultation and information forums

Registries across the country hosted consultations regarding the draft NPA practice notes. The forums were well attended by Court users and provided an opportunity for the Court to seek input from the profession regarding the practice of the Court and its case management initiatives. Forums were held in the NPAs of Taxation, Employment and Industrial Relations as well as Commercial and Corporations.

International Arbitration Series –a joint initiative of the CIArb Australia and Federal Court of Australia

The first seminar in the series focused on a range of cutting-edge legal issues regarding the role of the courts in international commercial arbitration.

National Commercial Law Seminar Series

In the reporting year, this national seminar series considered legal pitfalls that commonly arise in the sale of a business, including: misleading or deceptive conduct, intellectual property issues, and post-sale restraints of trade. The seminar series also looked at D'Arcy v Myriad and its implications for patent law.

Working with the Bar

The Victoria Registry hosted the Victorian Silks ceremony on 4 December 2015. Queensland Registry hosted the Queensland Silks ceremony on 17 December 2015. Registries across the country hosted Advocacy sessions as well as a number of Bar Moot Courts, Moot Competitions and assisted with Readers' Courses during the year.

Federal Court User Groups

The Court is reconsidering its approach to user liaison. User groups are being formed along NPA lines to discuss issues related to the operation of the Court, its practice and procedure, act as a reference group for discussion of developments and proposals and as a channel to provide feedback to the Court on particular areas of shared interest.

During the reporting year, user groups met in NSW for the Copyright and Competition Tribunals. In Queensland, a specialist Native Title user forum was held.

Legal community

During the course of the year the Court's facilities were made available for many events for the legal community including:

  • in Sydney – the Richard Cooper Memorial Lecture, Australian Association of Constitutional Law Lectures, Magna Carta Lecture, Forbes Society Tutorial, Tony Blackshield Lecture, Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation Lecture, Australian Academy of Law AGM, International Arbitration Lecture, Gilbert + Tobin Centre for Public Law UNSW Lecture, AMTAC Address, Mahla Pearlman Oration
  • in Brisbane – an ALRC Symposium, and
  • in Perth – the Court held a successful intellectual property seminar series and hosted the Australian Women Lawyers Welcome for their National Conference.


The Court also engages in a range of strategies to enhance public understanding of its work and the Court's registries are involved in educational activities with schools and universities and, on occasion, with other organisations that have an interest in the Court's work. The following highlights some of these activities during the year.

The Court is committed to providing opportunities for students to gain hands on work experience. The Court hosted many work experience students across multiple registries including New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Students are given a program that exposes them to all areas of the Court's operations over the course of one week.

The NSW Registry provided internships for university students specifically with the University of Sydney. The Court in the Victoria Registry participated in the Indigenous Clerkship Program run by the Victorian Bar. Two clerks participated in the program and each clerk spent one week with each of the participating institutions: the Federal Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Victorian Bar.

The Court hosted a number of school visits and educational tours to the Court across its registries. The Western Australia Registry hosted two school visits organised by the WA Law Society.

The Court support for and work with universities continued through the year: in the Western Australia Registry, the Murdoch Student Law Society held the Grand Final of their Junior Trial Advocacy Competition at Court and the Jones-Day Inter-Law School Trial Advocacy Competition involving four law schools was also held at the Court. The Queensland Registry hosted five university moot competitions. The Victoria Registry hosted a number of moot courts for Monash, Melbourne, New England, La Trobe and Deakin universities. The South Australia Registry held the Flinders Law Students Association Moot competition and the NSW Registry hosted University of New England and University of New South Wales Moot Courts.

On 21 May 2016, the Victoria Registry participated in Courts Open Day during Victoria Law Week; an event organised by the Victoria Law Foundation. Justice Pagone, District Registrar Daniel Caporale and staff of the Victorian Registry welcomed members of the public to the Court. A number of information sessions were organised including "On the Bench" – a Q&A session with Justice Pagone, "How to Arrest a Ship" – a presentation by the Court's Admiralty Marshals and "Connecting Courtrooms" – an interactive session highlighting the use of technology in Federal Court hearings.

Complaints about the Court's processes

During the reporting year, seven complaints were made to the Court in relation to its procedures, rules, forms, timeliness or courtesy to users. This figure is down from twelve last year. This figure does not include complaints about the merits of a decision by a judge, which may only be dealt with by way of appeal.

Information about the Court's feedback and complaints processes can be found at

Involvement in legal education programs and legal reform activities (contribution to the legal system)

The Court is an active supporter of legal education programs, both in Australia and overseas. During the reporting year, the Chief Justice and many judges:

  • presented papers, gave lectures and chaired sessions at judicial and other conferences, judicial administration meetings, continuing legal education courses and university law schools
  • participated in Bar reading courses, Law Society meetings and other public meetings
  • held positions on advisory boards or councils or committees.

An outline of the judges' work in this area is included in Appendix 8 commencing on page 170.

National standard on judicial education

In 2010 a report entitled "Review of the National Standard for Professional Development for Australian Judicial Officers" was prepared for the National Judicial College of Australia. The Court was invited and agreed to adopt a recommendation from that Report to include information in the Court's Annual Report about:

  • participation by members of the Court in judicial professional development activities
  • whether the proposed Standard for Professional Development was met during the year by the Court
  • if applicable, what prevented the Court meeting the Standard (such as judicial officers being unable to be released from court, lack of funding, etc).

The Standard provides that judicial officers identify up to five days a year on which they could participate in professional development activities. During 2015–16 the Court offered the following activities:

  • a one day Intellectual Property Workshop, in conjunction with the Law Council of Australia
  • a number of seminars in Commercial Law, as part of the National Commercial Law seminar series
  • an information session, conducted by videoconference to each Registry, for the Court's Admiralty judges and marshals
  • six education sessions were scheduled at the Judges meeting in August 2015
  • five education sessions were scheduled at the Judges meeting in March 2016, and judges were also offered the opportunity to attend the Supreme Court and Federal Court Judges' Conference held in Brisbane, 23–27 January 2016.

Education sessions offered in 2015–2016 included:

  • Judicial ethics
  • Judgment writing tips
  • Discrimination law
  • Contempt
  • Fundamentals of the Internet
  • The new arrangements in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • A workshop on the court's Admiralty jurisdiction
  • A workshop on the court's industrial jurisdiction
  • The courtroom and the brain
  • Efficient use of interpreters in court, and
  • Eyes on the spies: The inspector, the committee and the judges.

In addition to the above, judges undertook other education activities through participation in seminars and conferences, details of which can be found in Appendix 8 on page 170. In the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, the Federal Court of Australia met the National Standard for Professional Development for Australian Judicial.

Work with international jurisdictions


The Court's International Programs Unit collaborates with neighbouring judiciaries predominantly across the Asia Pacific Region to promote governance, access to justice and the rule of law both in Australia and overseas. In 2015–16, the Court coordinated a number of activities and hosting of several international visits.

Memorandum of understanding with the Supreme and national courts of Papua New Guinea

Under the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Papua New Guinea (PNG) signed in December 2014, the Courts continued to promote judicial development, understanding of each country's respective laws, judicial culture and international legal standards. Within this, the Courts have collaborated in support of promoting court- annexed mediation and case management more broadly, along with promoting leadership and change management capabilities. The Federal Court hosted several visits from delegates within the PNG courts:

  • A delegation led by Justice George Manahu visited the Victorian Registries of the Supreme Court and Federal Court to exchange ideas on the development of a case management system and processes for the higher courts of PNG.
  • A delegation led by Justice David Cannings visited the NSW and Principal Registries to enhance knowledge of electronic case management and the role of judicial and court officers to improve the facilitation of justice in PNG.
  • Queensland Registry hosted library staff from PNG with an aim of improving the Court's electronic library services.
  • South Australian Registry hosted court officers from PNG to develop their knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of Registry staff and the management of court processes.

Federal Court officers provided ongoing support for the facilitation of visits in Australia as well as in PNG.

In PNG, the Federal Court's Chief Information Officer reviewed tenders for the design and implementation of the PNG Court's new integrated case management system. The NSW District Registrar and the Deputy District Registrar reviewed the progress with respect to case management reforms and the outcomes of visits from PNG to the Federal Court. Improvements in PNGs case docketing system were observed, as well as their ability to provide alternative dispute resolution with the appointment of internal mediators. The Registrars identified future options and actions for ongoing development and support to PNG Courts, which will continue in 2016-17.

Memorandum of understanding with the Supreme Court of Indonesia

Cooperation with the Mahkamah Agung Republik Indonesia (Supreme Court of Indonesia) continued under the Memorandum of Understanding signed in June 2014. Chief Justice Allsop, Registrar Soden and National Operations Registrar Lagos met with the Chief Justice and senior members of the Supreme Court of Indonesia in March. The discussions highlighted the Court's role in improving the ease of doing business with Indonesia, including the prospect of establishing a Commercial Court and implementing electronic processes in the Indonesian Court. As the current Annex to the MoU with Indonesia nears completion, the signing of the new Annex is envisaged for 2017.

Memorandum of understanding with the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar

The Federal Court and the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar signed an historic five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June. Chief Justice Allsop and Registrar Soden visited Myanmar to attend a signing ceremony. Australian diplomatic representatives, including the Ambassador to Myanmar, attended the event. The areas of cooperation under the MoU were developed in line with the Supreme Court's strategic judicial reform plans and include improving the public's access to justice through court annex mediation, enhancing accountability and transparency through annual court reporting, developing leadership and change management expertise to implement reforms. Ongoing knowledge exchanges will be facilitated through attachments to the Federal Court and further visits to Myanmar later in 2016.

The MoU followed the visit to the Federal Court by fellows from the Supreme Court in late 2015. The purpose of the DFAT-funded Australia Awards
Fellowship was to provide an opportunity for two judicial administrators from Myanmar to observe an effectively governed and functioning judiciary and to develop a plan to implement associated reforms locally.

Pacific Judicial Development Program

After five and a half years, the Pacific Judicial Development Program (PJDP) ended on 31 December 2015. During its life participating countries achieved notable improvements in the quality of justice in ways that are relevant, effective, efficient and sustainable. These improvements have had a measurable impact on promoting a fairer society and improving human wellbeing in the Pacific.

In the period July to December, a number of activities were held which focussed support on issues of bilateral and regional importance including networking among the region's Chief Justices, and training judicial and court officers in fundamental aspects of their role.

Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative

The Federal Court was successful in its tender to assess the region's ongoing judicial support needs, design and manage the implementation of the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative (PJSI). In May the Court agreed with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to manage and implement the PJSI over the next three years, with a possibility of extension for a further two years. Assistance will be provided to participating Pacific Island Countries to improve their capacity to drive change locally, achieve professionalism and service excellence, deliver justice in a fair and timely manner, and increase access to justice for their citizens.

Australian Federal Police Expert Panel

The Court successfully tendered to join an exclusive panel of experts from which the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will draw upon to provide project design, monitoring and evaluation services to its international operations. The Court looks forward to the opportunity to bring its experience in law and justice reform to the AFP.

Visitors to the Court

During the year, the Court hosted the following visitors:

Chief Justices of Myanmar and Indonesia: Chief Justice Allsop met with Chief Justice Htun Htun Oo of Myanmar and Deputy Chief Justice Rahmadi of Indonesia who attended the 16th Asia Pacific Chief Justices Meeting in Sydney. The meeting entailed discussions regarding the road to judicial reform and court led initiatives that can support public confidence in the judiciary through accountability and transparency measures.

France: In November, Chief Justice Allsop hosted a lunch with Consul-General Nicolas Croizier. President Beazley of the NSW Court of Appeal attended, together with Justices Bennett, Greenwood, Rares, Jessup, Tracey, Reeves, Robertson, Rangiah, Wigney and Perry.

Indonesian Judicial Commission: Justice Logan and District Registrar Heather Baldwin hosted members of the Indonesian Judicial Commission at the Queensland Registry in November, where the visitors were given demonstrations of eLodgement and the Electronic Court File.

Nauru: The Court facilitated a work placement for an administrative officer of the Supreme Court of Nauru, providing them with an insight into the administrative and financial systems of the Court through skill and knowledge sharing.

Vietnam: Deputy Chief Justice Nguyen met with Justice Bennett and Principal Registrar Soden to discuss the processes and policies related to judges such as judicial remuneration and the application and development of judicial precedents; as well as more generally the settlement of bankruptcy, intellectual property and environmental disputes.