The National Court Framework (NCF)

The NCF and the overarching purpose

The NCF is a fundamental reform of the Court and the way it operates. The key purpose of the NCF is to reinvigorate the Court's approach to case management by further modernising the Court's operations so that the Court is better placed to meet the demands of litigants and can operate as a truly national and international Court.

Overarching purpose

The overarching purpose of civil practice and procedure and case management within the individual docket system is to facilitate the just resolution of disputes according to law as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible: see ss 37M and 37N Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) and Part 7 of the Central Practice Note (CPN-1).

The parties and their lawyers are expected, and have a statutory duty, to:

  • co-operate with the Court and among themselves to assist in achieving the overarching purpose
  • identify the real issues in dispute early and deal with those issues efficiently

Goals of the NCF

  • To organise and manage nationally the whole of the Court's work by reference to the great subject matter areas of the Court's work
  • To organise the Court's resources to meet the demands of the broad range of work done by the Court
  • To develop the confidence of the profession and the community, particularly in areas requiring a degree of specialised skill and knowledge
  • To broaden the base of judicial knowledge and experience in the Court

National Practice Areas (NPAs)

The Court's workload is organised into 9 National Practice Areas (NPAs) and where applicable, Sub-areas, based on established areas of law. 

This structure was put in place for the following reasons:

  • to foster consistent national practice
  • for the utilisation of specialised judicial and registrar skills
  • for the effective, orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the Court

A description of each NPA (and any Sub-areas) can be found on Descriptions of the Court's National Practice Areas.

Each NPA and Sub-area has dedicated webpages on the Court's website, which contain a summary of the NPA and any related Sub-area and key NPA-specific resources, such as relevant forms and rules, legislation, practice notes, latest judgments and speeches.

Centralised allocation of judicial matters

The manner in which judges are allocated matters for their dockets has been centralised. Judge-related cases are allocated nationally, focusing on responding to the needs of the case and the parties. The individual docket system remains.

Further information about the individual docket system and national allocation system can be found on the allocation principles page on this site.

National practice notes

National practice notes set out the Court's case management principles and procedures. For further information, read the practice notes overview.

National duty system

The key features of the national duty system are:

  • a nationally consistent approach
  • the creation of a Commercial and Corporations NPA Duty Judge system to operate along-side a General Duty Judge system
  • a direct-to-chambers approach enabling practitioners to liaise directly with the chambers of the Duty Judge about an urgent case.

NCF benefits

Some of the benefits for litigants, arising from the NCF reforms include:

  • simplified practice and procedure
  • access to judicial experience and expertise
  • early case management hearings
  • enhanced facilitation of ADR (including mediation)
  • hearings set down, wherever possible, within 6 months of the case management hearing (bearing in mind the interests of the parties and the nature of the case)
  • judgment delivered within approximately 3 - 6 months of the completion of the trial
  • focus on costs processes including encouragement of lump-sum or consolidated costs orders near the time of judgment.