Federal Circuit Court of Australia
The Federal Circuit Magistrates Court of Australia was established by the Federal Circuit Magistrates Court of Australia Act 1999. Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Act 2012 saw the titles of its Judicial officers changed from Chief Federal Magistrate and Federal Magistrate to Chief Judge and Judge respectively.
The Federal Circuit Court is an independent Federal Court under the Australian Constitution, and is a Federal Court of record and a court of law and equity.
The establishment of the Federal Circuit Court had marked a change in direction in the administration of justice at the federal level in Australia. Australia had not previously had a lower level federal court, although a considerable amount of federal law work had been done in state and territory courts of summary jurisdiction. The Court’s creation was an exciting development in the federal court structure, and in a presentation to the 13th Commonwealth Law Conference, Melbourne 2003, Chief Justice of the High Court, Murray Gleeson said,
"The Service deals with shorter and simpler matters in federal jurisdictions, and, in the short time since it was created, it has become even more apparent there is a great deal of work suitable for its attention…I expect that, in time, it will become one of Australia\'s largest courts."
The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court has broadly grown since its inception, however approximately 90% of the Court's workload is in the area of family law.
The Federal Circuit Court was established to provide a simple and accessible alternative to litigation in the Federal Court of Australia (Federal Court) and the Family Court of Australia (Family Court).
The Act directs the Court to operate informally and to use streamlined procedures, which complements the Parliament’s initiatives to encourage people to engage in a range of dispute resolution processes.
The Federal Circuit Court is committed to providing access to justice for the people of Australia and the Court’s expansive regional circuit network is demonstrative of this commitment. The Court's Judges regularly travel to various regional locations to hear matters, alleviating the burden on regional litigants (and their legal representatives) to travel to major cities to have their matters dealt with. At present the Federal Circuit Court is the only federal court that regularly conducts regional circuits. The Federal Circuit Court’s commitment to the provision of access to justice for all Australians is further demonstrated by its ability to conduct special sittings in most regions of Australia on demand.
The Federal Circuit Court also has a continuing commitment to finalise matters promptly and efficiently. Of the family law matters that were filed in the Federal Circuit Court between 2007 and 2008, 85.9% of matters were finalised within six months.