Part 4: Management of the Court
Federal Court of Australia Annual Report 2015-2016
Federal Court governance
Since 1990 the Court has been self-administering, with a separate budget appropriation and reporting arrangement to the Parliament. Under the Federal Court of Australia Act, the Chief Justice of the Court is responsible for managing the Court's administrative affairs. The Chief Justice is assisted by the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer. The Act also provides that the Chief Justice may delegate any of his or her administrative powers to judges, and that the Registrar may exercise powers on behalf of the Chief Justice in relation to the Court's administrative affairs.
In practice, the Court's governance involves two distinct structures: the management of the Court through its registry structure; and the judges' committee structure which facilitates the collegiate involvement of the judges of the Court. Judges also participate in the management of the Court through formal meetings of all judges. The registries and the judges' committees are discussed in more detail below.
Federal Court registry management structure
As outlined in Part 1 of this report, the Court's administration is supported by a national registry structure, with a Principal Registry responsible for managing national issues and provision of the corporate services functions of the Court, National Operations for the implementation of the National Court Framework and its ongoing function and a District Registry in each State and Territory which supports the work of the Court at a local level.
A diagram of the management structure of the Court is set out in Appendix 3 on page 137.
There are a number of committees of judges of the Court, which assist with the administration of the Court and play an integral role in managing issues related to the Court's administration, as well as its rules and practice.
An overarching Policy and Planning Committee provides advice to the Chief Justice on policy aspects of the administration of the Court. It is assisted by standing committees that focus on a number of specific issues in this area. In addition, other ad hoc committees and working parties are established from time to time to deal with particular issues.
An overarching National Practice Committee provides advice to the Chief Justice and judges on practice and procedure reform and improvement.
There are also a small number of standing committees that focus on specific issues within the framework of the Court's practice and procedure.
All of the committees are supported by registry staff. The committees provide advice to the Chief Justice and to all judges at the bi-annual judges' meetings.
There were two meetings of all judges of the Court during the year, which dealt with matters such as reforms of the Court's practice and procedure and amendments to the Rules of Court. Business matters discussed included the National Court Framework, the progress of Digital Hearings, management of the Court's finances and cost savings initiatives.
The Corporate Services Branch in the Principal Registry is responsible for supporting the Court's and National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) corporate functions.
In the 2015-2016 Budget, the Government outlined reforms that would see the corporate functions of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court merge with the Court to form a single administrative body with
a single appropriation. The merge is to commence on 1 July 2016. The reform preserves all the courts' functional and judicial independence while pursuing efficient and effective delivery of shared corporate services for all the courts. The coming year will create a significant opportunity to strengthen the services provided by the Corporate Services group.
The following outlines the major corporate services issues during the reporting year.
The Finance Committee, which is made up of judges from each of the registries, as well as the Registrar, oversees the financial management of the Court. The Corporate Services Branch supports the
Committee. During 2015–16, the Committee met on three occasions.
During 2015–16 revenues from ordinary activities totalled $130.747 million.
Total revenue, in the main, comprised:
- An appropriation from Government of $94.225 million
- $20.338 million of resources received free of charge, including for accommodation occupied by the Court in Sydney
- $14.314 million of liabilities assumed by other government agencies, representing the notional value of employer superannuation payments for the Court's judges
- $1.870 million from the sale of goods and services.
Pre-depreciation expenses of $130.739 million in 2015–16 comprised: $82.252 million in judges' and employees' salaries and related expenses; $27.587 million in property related expenses;
$20.667 million in other administrative expenses and $0.227 million write-down of non-current assets.
- The net operating result from ordinary activities for 2015–16 was a surplus of $8,267 prior to depreciation expenses. This was primarily as a result of less than expected expenditure on:
- property operating costs
- judges' and employee benefits
- registry staff salaries even after providing for redundancy costs of $1.597m
- judges' long leave
- library publications
- Some of the lower than expected expenditure was offset by higher than expected expenditure on:
- domestic travel
When depreciation expenses of $4.013 million are included, the Court's expenses for 2015–16 totalled $134.752 million.
The above result includes a $0.501 million surplus in relation to the NNTT, primarily as a result of lower than expected employee costs.
Equity increased from $51.812 million in 2014–15 to $52.771 million in 2015–16.
Table 4.1 – Outcome and Programme Statement
|BUDGET 15–16 |
|ACTUAL 15–16 |
|Outcome 1: Through its jurisdiction, the Court will 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 well-being of all Australians|
|Programme 1.1 – Federal Court Business|
|Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year||37.351||38.657||-1.306|
|Total for Programme 1.1||134.750||135.740||-0.990|
|Total expenses for Outcome 1||134.750||135.740||-0.990|
|Average staffing level (number)||400||391|
The Court's agency resource statement can be found at Appendix 2 on page 136
Audit and risk management
The Registrar certifies that:
- Fraud control plans and fraud risk assessments have been prepared that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.
- Appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and practices that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines are in place.
- The Court has taken all reasonable measures to appropriately deal with fraud relating to the Court and there have been no cases of fraud during 2015–16 to be reported to the Australian Institute of Criminology.
The Court had the following structures and processes in place to implement the principles and objectives of corporate governance:
- An Audit Committee that met four times during 2015–16. The committee comprises an independent chairperson, four judges and the NSW District Registrar. The Principal Registrar, the Executive Director – Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer and representatives from the internal audit service provider and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) attend committee meetings as observers.
- Internal auditors, O'Connor Marsden and Associates, who conducted three internal audits during the year to test the Court's systems of internal control.
- A Fraud Control Plan.
- Quarterly self-controlled assessments completed by senior managers.
- Internal compliance certificates completed by senior managers.
- Annual audit performed by the ANAO who issued an unmodified audit certificate attached to the annual financial statements.
There were no significant issues reported under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 that relate to non-compliance with the finance law in relation to the entity.
The Court was not the subject of any reports bya Parliamentary committee or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Court was not the subject of any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals regarding its operations as a statutory agency for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 or as a non corporate Commonwealth entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
The Court's procurement policies and procedures, expressed in the Court's Resource Management Instructions, are based on the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and best practice guidance documents published by the Department of Finance. The Court achieves a high level of performance against the core principles of achieving value for money through efficient, effective and appropriately competitive procurement processes.
The Court supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website. In compliance with its obligations under the Commonwealth Procurement Rules to achieve value for money in its purchase of goods and services, and reflecting the scale, scope and risk of a particular procurement, the Court applies procurement practices that provide small and medium-sized enterprises the appropriate opportunity to compete for its business.
During 2015–16, 11 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $840 278. In addition, one ongoing consultancy contract was active during the 2015–16 year which involved total actual expenditure of $98 313.
Table 4.2 below outlines expenditure trends for consultancy contracts over the three most recent financial years.
Table 4.2 – Expenditure trends for consultancy contracts 2013–14 to 2015–16
|Financial Year||New contracts actual expenditure||Ongoing contracts - actual expenditure|
|2015–16||$ 840 278||$98 313|
|2014–15||$ 532 381||$88 000|
|2013–14||$ 360 198||$930 591|
Information on consultancy services
The Court's policy on the selection and engagement of all contractors is based on the Australian Government's procurement policy framework as expressed in the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPR) (July 2014) and associated Finance Circulars and guidance documentation published by the Department of Finance.
The main function for which consultants were engaged related to the delivery of specialist and expert services, primarily in connection with the Court's information technology (IT) infrastructure, finance and business elements of the Court's corporate services delivery.
Selection of consultant services was made in accordance with the guidelines, and was obtained by way of either an Open, Prequalified or Limited Tender process, which are defined as follows:
Method 1 – Open tender which involves publishing an open approach to market and inviting submissions.
Method 2 – Prequalified tender which involves publishing an approach to market inviting submissions from all potential suppliers on:
- a shortlist of potential suppliers that responded to an initial open approach to market on AusTender;
- a list of potential suppliers selected from a multi-use list established through an open approach to market; or
- a list of all potential suppliers that have been granted a specific licence or comply with a legal requirement, where the licence or compliance with the legal requirement is essential to the conduct of the procurement.
Method 3 – Limited tender which involves either:
- an agency approaching one or more potential suppliers to make submissions, where the process does not meet the rules for open tender or prequalified tender; or
- for procurements at or above the relevant procurement threshold, limited tender can only be conducted in accordance with paragraph 10.3 of the CPRs; or
- where a procurement is exempt as detailed in Appendix A of the CPRs.
Consultancy services are sought where:
- skills are not available in the agency; or
- specialised or professional skills are needed; or
- independent research or assessment is needed.
Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website www.tenders.gov.au.
Competitive tendering and contracting
During 2015-16, there were no contracts let to the value of $100,000 or more that did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor's premises.
During 2015-16, there were no contracts or standing offers exempted by the Chief Executive Officer from publication in the contract reporting section on AusTender.
The Court occupies law court buildings in every Australian capital city. With the exception of Sydney and Darwin, the purpose-built facilities within these Commonwealth-owned buildings are shared with other Commonwealth Court jurisdictions.
The Federal Court in Sydney is located in the Law Courts Building in Queens Square. This building is owned by a private company (Law Courts Limited) that is jointly owned by the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments. The Court pays no rent, outgoings or utility costs for its space in this building.
The Court's Darwin Registry is co-located in the Northern Territory Supreme Court building under the terms of a Licence to Occupy between the Court and the Territory Government.
From 1 July 2012, the Commonwealth Law Court buildings have been managed under revised 'Special Purpose Property' principles. Leasing arrangements are now governed by whether the space is designated as special purpose accommodation (courtrooms, chambers, public areas) or usable office accommodation (registry areas). An interim Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Court with the Department of Finance and Deregulation for 2015–16 with negotiations continuing for a long-term agreement.
In the course of this year the Court continued to develop and revise security policies and undertake awareness training in compliance with its obligations under the Government's Protective Security Policy Framework. A review has been conducted of the workplace emergency plans and procedures, including evacuation and lockdown procedures for each of the Commonwealth Law Courts buildings.
In relation to physical security, an audit of security equipment across all Commonwealth Law Court buildings was conducted. The intention, over a five-year period, is to replace and upgrade the security equipment in each of these buildings. Additionally, following a procurement process the Commonwealth Law Courts and Tribunals entered into a new Security Guarding contract which commenced in January 2015.
Amendments to the Court Security Act 2013, which commenced on 18 August 2015, provided greater flexibility to court security officers in handling dangerous items that are left for safekeeping or seized. Previously any seized items could only be handed to the police but, in practice, police officers were reluctant to receive knives and other potential weapons where there was no offence provision which covered the confiscation. Further, there was no provision authorising disposal of unclaimed items left for safekeeping. As amended, the provisions now only require court security officers to take reasonable steps to give items to the police and provide explicit authority to dispose of any unclaimed items.
The Court provides the following information as required under s516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Court, together with other jurisdictions in shared premises, seeks to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment through the following measures:
- Environmental Management Systems are in place in all buildings to minimise the consumption of energy, water and waste.
- The Court has established a National Environment Committee with sub committees in most registries. The Committee seeks to raise staff awareness of workplace environment issues.
- The Court has developed a National Environmental Initiative Policy which encourages staff to adopt water and energy savings practices.
Advertising and marketing services
A total of $10 344 was paid for recruitment advertising services in 2015–16. Payments to Adcorp on advertising for notification of native title applications, as required under the Native Title Act 1933, totalled $174 137 over the reporting year. The Court did not conduct any advertising campaigns in the reporting period.
At 30 June 2016, the Court employed 477 employees under the Public Service Act 1999, comprised of 238 ongoing full-time employees, 50 ongoing part-time employees and 189 non- ongoing employees. The high number of non-ongoing employees is due to the nature of the engagement of judges' associates, who are typically employed for a specified term of twelve months, as well as the engagement of casual court officers for irregular and intermittent courtroom duties.
At 30 June 2016, the Court employed nine employees who identify as Indigenous, of whom eight were engaged in ongoing positions and one in a non-ongoing position. This is a decrease of one ongoing employee from the previous reporting year (nine ongoing and one non-ongoing as at 30 June 2015).
The Court had an average staffing level of 387.25 during the reporting period.
More detailed staffing statistics can be found in Appendix 9 commencing on page 190.
The Court's approach to change management and human resources issues is characterised by transparency and consultation. Consistent with this, the Court's National Consultative Committee (NCC) continued to operate as necessary through the year. In large, most of the NCC's responsibilities were taken over in 2015–16 by the Court's Enterprise Bargaining Negotiation Team, which includes the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and Bargaining Representatives. The Court's other consultative forums such as Regional Consultative Committees and the Work Health and Safety Committee continued to operate. Minutes from all committees are placed on the Court's intranet where they can be readily accessed by staff.
Enterprise Agreement and workplace bargaining
The Court's 2011–2014 Enterprise Agreement expired on 30 June 2014 and Court Management negotiated with the CPSU and Bargaining Representatives for a replacement agreement during the year. The process however has not yet been completed and will continue in 2016–17 in line with the Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy.
During the reporting period, the Court relied on determinations under s24 of the Public Service Act for setting the employment conditions of all substantive Senior Executive Service (SES) employees and individual flexibility agreements under the Court's Enterprise Agreement to supplement the salaries for 25 non-SES employees. The Court has no employees on Australian workplace agreements or common law contracts.
The Enterprise Agreement and s24 determinations provide a range of monetary and non-monetary benefits to the Court's employees. Employees may choose to participate in salary sacrifice arrangements including for motor vehicles through novated lease, and for making additional superannuation contributions.
No performance bonus payments were made in 2015–16.
Work health and safety
The Court continued to promote a proactive approach to Work Health and Safety (WHS) management. Court management engaged with the Court's Health and Safety Committee (HSC) to promote health and safety in the workplace. Work in this area focussed on ensuring that the Court complies with its responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).
Specific measures included:
- Arranging regular meetings of the national HSC, with four meetings held during the reporting year
- Undertaking WHS workplace inspections and follow-up audits
- Providing 16 workstation assessments for staff, with three conducted internally by trained Health and Safety Representatives
- Providing annual influenza vaccinations for all staff, with 218 employees taking up the vaccination offer. This equated to approximately 42% of staff
- Providing access to eyesight testing and reimbursement for spectacles where needed for screen-based work
- Providing access to free confidential counselling services through the Court's Employee Assistance Program
- Providing access to professional debriefing following trauma/critical incidents in the workplace
- Providing training to Admiralty Marshals in boarding and disembarking vessels, consistent with a risk assessment of the role
- Continuing to arrange medical fitness assessments of all court staff undertaking Admiralty Marshal duties, consistent with a risk assessment of the role and
- Encouraging health and fitness-related activities (eg participation in community-based fitness events) by providing funding via the Court's Health and Fitness policy.
The Court's workers compensation premium for 2015-2016 was 1.69 per cent of payroll costs, which compared favourably to the overall scheme premium rate of 1.85 per cent, but is an increase from the Court's premium rate of 1.50 per cent for 2014- 2015. The increase was largely due to re-opening of a number of long-term cases for updates to treatment, ongoing costs of invalidity retirement cases and a small number of short-term cases being opened and resolved. The Court has increased efforts to implement early intervention strategies as well as reviewing longstanding cases (for both compensable and non-compensable), and will continue to manage its workers compensation cases proactively throughout the next reporting period.
During the reporting year, the Court had:
- no notifiable incidents reported to Comcare under s38 of the WHS Act
- no provisional improvement notices issued under s90 of the WHS Act
- no enforcement notices issued under Part 10 of the WHS Act
- no incidents under ss83–86 of the WHS Act (ceasing of work due to a reasonable concern of exposure to serious risk).
A critical component of the full implementation of the Court's National Court Framework (NCF) and the Electronic Court File projects has been workforce planning to ensure that organisation structures and work practices are realigned and standardised across the Court, and that staff develop greater legal competency and strong skills for working in a digital environment, to support the work of judges and registrars and deliver high quality and efficient services to our clients. As part of the re-orientation of positions within the Court during the year, there was an increase in advertised recruitment activity, movement of current staff, and initial, medium and long-term training and development to build capability to support the NCF and its ongoing operation.
The NNTT also introduced a new organisational structure and workflows as part of implementing the second phase of the NNTT President's Review to energise and strengthen the NNTT's capability to support Members and clients in the native title space. The restructure which included: consolidation of various units into two practice teams; creation of new positions focussed on research and business development, and providing specialist advice; creation of a business unit to manage systems, processes and procedures and communications; consolidation of various administrative support staff into a national business support team; accommodated all current ongoing employees. An expanded staff training and development program supported employees to perform effectively in the new structure, and a recruitment strategy has commenced to fill vacant positions or roles currently undertaken by staff on temporary arrangements.
The Court has a range of strategies in place to attract, develop, recognise and retain key staff including flexible work conditions and individual flexibility agreements available under the Enterprise Agreement. The Court continued to refine and customise these through 2015–16 as required to meet specific issues and cases.
Work life balance
The Court's Enterprise Agreement and a range of other human resources policies, provide flexible working arrangements to help employees balance their work and other responsibilities, including young families and ageing parents. The options available include access to part-time work, job sharing, flexible leave arrangements, purchased leave, and long term leave with or without pay.
The Court also provides a range of other family- friendly initiatives including improved parental and adoption leave arrangements and homework rooms or similar appropriate facilities for staff with school- aged children.
Reward and recognition
The Court encourages and recognises exceptional performance through its annual National Excellent Service Award, which is presented by the Chief Justice each year to mark the anniversary of the Court's Foundation Day, 7 February 1977. The award recognises the work of individual staff and teams; those who consistently demonstrate a high level of commitment to service, integrity and professionalism in dealing with others in order to strive for improvements to benefit everyone in the Court and/ or the wider community.
This year there were many strong nominations, and for the first time in the history of the Court's Award, joint winners were announced. The winners of the 2015 National Excellent Service Awards were Nellie Burke of the National Operations Team, and the NNTT Brisbane Office Relocation Team consisting of: Barry Miller, Brian Campbell, Chris King, Clair Berman-Robinson, Joanna Fear, Kay van Brederode, Mark McInerney, Rae Heather, and Susan Jenkins. Recipients received their awards in ceremonies led by the Chief Justice.
Nellie Burke, National Allocations and Workload Coordinator for the National Operations Registrar, received the Award for the instrumental role she played in the development and implementation of the National Court Framework and the ongoing management of the national allocation system which is a critical function of the Court.
The NNTT Brisbane Office Relocation Team that coordinated the relocation of the NNTT's Brisbane office from 239 George Street to the Commonwealth Law Courts Building also demonstrated outstanding commitment to service by accomplishing a well- planned and smooth transition. This transition not only minimised costs to the Court, but also delivered benefits to the wider community with surplus furniture items and books being donated to various community organisations including community legal centres and libraries in need.
Training and development
During 2015–16 the Court offered a range of development opportunities to assist employees develop and improve their skills and knowledge in order to meet current operations requirements and ensure they have the capabilities needed for the future.
The focus for the Court was on competency based training in the legal and information technology areas to support the implementation and ongoing operations of the National Court Framework reforms and the Electronic Court File project. In-house training took a variety of forms including small group face-to-face information sessions, classroom based teaching, eLearning modules and peer mentoring (on the job training). The Court provided training across all registries on its Skype for Business application and new equipment upgrade. Employees also attended legal specialist conferences, seminars and workshops to be kept up to date on topics relevant to their work.
The Court also provided access to management and leadership training to reinforce professional skills; interpersonal and change management sessions to the NNTT staff to support the restructure; recruitment and selection training to managers to refresh skills in attracting and assessing quality staff; and training to registry staff on dealing with self represented litigants. As part of their ongoing training, in-house mediators attended refresher workshops to maintain their accreditation.
The Court's study assistance policy continued to operate and provided 24 employees with leave and/ or financial assistance to pursue approved tertiary studies during 2015–16. The Court supports staff to gain tertiary qualifications in disciplines identified as important by the Court, the NNTT and the Australian Public Service. The policy's objectives are to foster a highly-skilled and committed workforce and to enhance the skills and employment prospects of staff.
The Court continues to develop guidelines and implement strategies to remain inclusive of cultural and lifestyle differences across employees and clients. Work continued on the Court's Multicultural Plan, Reconciliation Action Plan and Website/ Intranet Accessibility activities. Client information is made accessible through translators and translated documents. Employees have access to appropriate software or other support to enable them to work effectively. Staff are also provided with guidance and training in dealing with clients from varying backgrounds as needed.
Disability reporting mechanisms
Since 1994, non-corporate Commonwealth entities have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007-08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–2011, entities have no longer been required to report on these functions.
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014, and can be found at www.dss.gov.au.
Agency multicultural plan
The Court's Agency Multicultural Plan (the Plan) aims to ensure that no-one's rights are affected because of the inability of a party or a witness in a Court proceeding to speak or to hear the English language. All court users must have every reasonable means of understanding the course of court proceedings and be treated with due courtesy and respect.
Actions contained in the Plan that were progressed in the 2015–16 include:
- finalising the Court's interpreter and translation policy
- awareness activities for the Court's staff and
- review of the Court's guidelines for the use of interpreters in Court.
Recordkeeping and information management
The Court is on track to meet the Federal Government's 2016 targets for Digital Continuity 2020 with the establishment of an Information Governance Committee in May 2016 and an information governance framework presently in progress. The first meeting of the Information Governance Committee was held in May with membership from the Court's senior management and the NNTT.
The Court is committed to working in a digital recordkeeping environment and continues to emphasis the importance of digital records and implementing procedures to ensure all records are kept in digital format. The Court's electronic document records management system (EDRMS) in conjunction with the Court's financial and human resources business systems are cooperating to ensure records are not being duplicated and meet recordkeeping business system standards.
A Court Records Policy Committee was established in July 2015 to provide practical guidance on the records management of electronic court files and establish policies to assist the management of court records. The Committee's membership consists of registry practitioner's from the eight Court registries. The Committee has been successful in making a number of recommendations that have now become official Court procedure.
A number of records management awards were received in 2015 for the Court's Electronic Court File project which was implemented in 2014. The Court won the inaugural National Archives Award for Digital Excellence, the ACT's Records Information Management Rob Barnett Award and the business benefit and innovation categories of the Eddis Linton Award for excellence in records and information management.
The 2nd "Check Up" report to the National Archives of Australia on digital records management was completed in 2015. This report is the 2nd in a three- year reporting cycle and was a joint report from the Court and the NNTT. The Court has made steady improvement in most reporting categories.
The project to digitise the papers and documents of the first chief justice of the Federal Court, Chief Justice Sir Nigel Bowen and the Judges' meeting was completed in June 2016. Two archive assistants worked on the project, a copy of the documents will be housed at National Archives.
The Court hosted a meeting of the Federal Agencies Records Managers Network in May 2016 where the emphasis was on the legality of digital signatures. The Court's Registrar addressed the group on this topic.
The Court's policy on accessing Native Title and significant case files is well advanced. Files within these categories will be located at the National Archives for the benefit of the nation's history.
The NNTT has successfully rolled out EDRMS (eDOCS) to staff across all offices. System end user training was provided and eLearning/information modules were also completed by all staff in preparation for a digital transition.
Since 1 January 2016, all core and administrative records are captured and managed in digital format only. Concomitantly the NNTTs records and information management policy and procedures have been updated to reflect the digital transition. The archiving and secondary storage projects are ongoing.
The Court continues to optimise its technology resources to pursue future efficiencies and support its operations. The Court's Information Technology group has worked in close collaboration with judges, registrars and staff of the Court to deliver a range of ICT program areas that support the Court's objectives. Work on some of the program areas will continue into 2016–17.
In the reporting year, a project has commenced which will prepare the Court for Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi service will provide access to the Internet for members of the profession and the public. Judges and staff with a Court tablet or laptop will be able to use the Wi-Fi to connect to the Court's network to access electronic court files, share drives, the Intranet, and other resources. Connectivity in the courtroom will enable more efficient running of proceedings and supports the wider move to digital working within the Court.
A Wi-Fi proof of concept project was successfully conducted in the Victoria Registry in conjunction with the March 2016 Judges' Meeting. A network has been deployed in the NSW Registry with a trial running throughout June 2016. Deployment to other registries is planned in the 2016-2017 financial year.
Courtroom Video Conferencing Modernisation
The Court's new Internet Protocol based courtroom Video Conference network and bridge was deployed in the reporting year. The new technology provides considerable improvement in picture and sound quality.
Advantages of the new network include the following:
- a more reliable network
- the Court owns and controls the bridge removing the reliance on third parties
- increased quality of video calls to broadcast quality high definition
- the bridge enables the Court to use all of the features of new courtroom equipment and
- the network is private from the public Internet.
The Court will continue a program of upgrading audio-visual technology equipment to modernise all courtrooms. The modern equipment includes a personal computer at the bench of each courtroom fitted with a large format touchscreen monitor. This allows judges familiar with the touch screen interface of their tablets to work in a similar manner while in the courtroom. The stands of these monitors allow them to be laid back almost flat with the bench to minimise restrictions to lines of sight.
Key projects that have been finalised this year include:
- Adding VCF capability to Qld Courtroom 2
- Upgrade of AV equipment in Tasmania Courtroom 1
- Adding VCF capability to ACT Courtroom 7
- Adding a third camera for use in seminars in WA Courtroom 4
- Upgrading and standardising microphones in Victoria Registry.
All judges and eligible staff within the Court and the NNTT received their new laptop or tablet device within the reporting year. The tablets were chosen for their portability and touch-screen capability. The tablets also offered increased battery life and can be used with a keyboard dock.
NNTT Data Centre migration
A major project for IT completed in the 2015-2016 year has been to complete the integration of the NNTT technology environment with the Court. The final critical step of this has been to relocate the remaining NNTT servers from a data centre in the Perth Registry to the main court data centre in Sydney. This migration was successfully completed in March 2016.
There are a number of advantages for the NNTT and Court of this migration, as follows:
- NNTT applications are now hosted in a purpose built commercial data centre
- NNTT applications can be included in the Court's high quality disaster recovery arrangements
- The NNTT and Court share a common email and Skype for Business (Lync) platforms and
- The NNTT and Court may share use of conference room equipment for Skype for Business (Lync).
The Perth data centre will be decommissioned and the floor space on Level 4 made available to other tenants of the building.
The Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) provides the appropriate controls for the Australian Government to protect its people, information and assets, at home and overseas. The IT Security section of the PSPF forms a major element of the framework. Federal Court's IT Security compliance to the PSPF has risen from thirty-five per cent in 2014 to sixty-eight per cent in 2015.
The Court has invested in IT Security Technology to enable scanning of its IT assets. This technology offers complete vulnerability analytics and continuous network monitoring to identify known vulnerabilities, continuously monitor networks for threats, and perform analysis to measure security and compliance status and to allow Court IT Staff to rapidly respond to security breaches.
The Court has deployed online credit card payments for all miscellaneous court payments. This will enable any third party to make payments to the Court online. This online payment system conforms with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.
Library and information services
The Federal Court Library provides a comprehensive, professional library service to judges and staff of the Federal Court, Family Court of Australia (including Child Dispute Services), Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Members and staff of the NNTT. The collection is distributed nationally with library staff in each State capital except Hobart, Canberra and Darwin. Services to Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory are provided by librarians in the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian libraries respectively.
The Federal Court entered into a new Heads of Agreement with the New South Wales Department of Justice under which the New South Wales Law Courts Library provides library services to Judges and staff of the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court who are located in the Sydney Law Courts Building. This continues the joint library service and cost sharing arrangements that have existed since 1977.
The Federal Court Library continues to collaborate with other court libraries through a number of consortia arrangements including the Australian Courts Consortia for a shared library management system using SirsiDynix software. This consortia now incorporates the libraries of the Federal Court, High Court and the courts in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The Federal Court has also joined the New South Wales Department of Justice consortia for the purchase of CCH subscription services.
Assistance to libraries in the Pacific region continued with the Federal Court Library organising the shipping to Tonga of a set of New South Law Reports that had been donated by the Hon K.R. Handley. A delegation of library and information technology staff from the National Courts and Supreme Courts of Papua New Guinea visited the Brisbane Library in October 2015 to investigate the eLibrary systems.