Federal Circuit Court of Australia

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The Federal Circuit Court of Australia (known until 2013 as the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia)[1] is an Australian court established by the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 (Cth), now known as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999.[2] Its first judicial officers were appointed in 2000. On 12 April 2013, in recognition of its increased jurisdiction and its role as an intermediate court servicing regional centres as well as capital cities throughout Australia, it was renamed the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and its judicial officers received the title "Judge" instead of "Federal Magistrate".[3] The Court was created to deal with the increasing workload of the Federal Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia, by hearing less complex cases for them and freeing them to deal only with more complex cases. The Court now hears over 70% of applications filed in the federal courts. It is also intended to replace (in part) the federal jurisdiction with which state courts have been invested under the Judiciary Act 1903.

There are now over 60 judges of the Court. The first Chief Federal Magistrate, Diana Bryant left the court in 2004 when she was appointed Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the third person to be appointed that position since the establishment of the Family Court. The current Chief Judge is John Pascoe AC, CVO. The current judges of the Court come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including barristers, solicitors, academic lawyers, and legal aid and public service lawyers.

List of Federal Circuit Court Judges[edit]

The judges of the Court are (as of January 2012):[4]

Name Location Appointed Comments
Donald, WarrenWarren Donald Parramatta 13 June 2000
Mead, ChristineChristine Mead Adelaide 13 June 2000
Baumann, MichaelMichael Baumann Brisbane 19 June 2000
Brewster, JimJim Brewster Canberra 19 June 2000
Hartnett, NorahNorah Hartnett Melbourne 19 June 2000
Scarlett, StephenStephen Scarlett Sydney 19 June 2000
Coker, JohnJohn Coker Townsville 26 June 2000
Driver, RolfRolf Driver Sydney 31 July 2000
Raphael, KennethKenneth Raphael Sydney 31 July 2000
Roberts, StuartStuart Roberts Launceston 4 December 2000
Phipps, MauriceMaurice Phipps Melbourne 18 December 2000
Connolly, MichaelMichael Connolly Melbourne 4 June 2001
Brown, StewartStewart Brown Adelaide 5 November 2001
Barnes, ShenaghShenagh Barnes Sydney 5 November 2001
Coakes, GilesGiles Coakes Newcastle 12 January 2004
Lindsay, StuartStuart Lindsay Adelaide 19 January 2004
Jarrett, MichaelMichael Jarrett Brisbane 2 February 2004
Emmett, SylviaSylvia Emmett Sydney 5 July 2004
Pascoe, JohnJohn Pascoe AC, CVO Sydney 14 July 2004 Chief Judge
Riethmuller, GrantGrant Riethmuller Melbourne 19 July 2004
Lloyd-Jones, MichaelMichael Lloyd-Jones Sydney 26 July 2004
O'Dwyer, DanielDaniel O'Dwyer Melbourne 2 August 2004
Smith, MatthewMatthew Smith Sydney 2 August 2004
Nicholls, NickNick Nicholls Sydney 23 August 2004
Sexton, RobynRobyn Sexton Sydney 27 September 2004
Lapthorn, KevinKevin Lapthorn Brisbane 29 August 2005
Henderson, LouiseLouise Henderson Parramatta 28 November 2005
Hughes, KateKate Hughes Melbourne 30 January 2006
Riley, HeatherHeather Riley Melbourne 3 July 2006
Burchardt, PhilipPhilip Burchardt Melbourne 10 July 2006
O'Sullivan, JohnJohn O'Sullivan Melbourne 10 July 2006
Halligan, DavidDavid Halligan Parramatta 31 July 2006
Lucev, ToniToni Lucev Perth 14 August 2006
Turner, FrankFrank Turner Melbourne 3 October 2006
Cameron, RobertRobert Cameron Sydney 3 October 2006
Altobelli, TomTom Altobelli Sydney 13 November 2006
Burnett, MichaelMichael Burnett Brisbane 24 November 2006
Coates, StephenStephen Coates Brisbane 24 November 2006
Spelleken, LeanneLeanne Spelleken Brisbane 11 December 2006
Kelly, CharlotteCharlotte Kelly Adelaide 12 March 2007
Terry, JanetJanet Terry Newcastle 10 April 2007
Simpson, DenysDenys Simpson Adelaide 12 June 2007
Neville, WarwickWarwick Neville Canberra 2 July 2007
Kemp, DaleDale Kemp Sydney 4 July 2007
Howard, PaulPaul Howard Brisbane 9 July 2007
Purdon-Sully, SusanSusan Purdon-Sully Brisbane 15 October 2007
Cassidy, MargaretMargaret Cassidy Brisbane 5 November 2007
Bender, EvelynEvelyn Bender Melbourne 15 September 2008
Demack, AnneAnne Demack Brisbane 22 September 2008
Walker, JudithJudith Walker Sydney 22 September 2008
McGuire, TerryTerry McGuire Melbourne 6 October 2008
Dunkley, DavidDavid Dunkley Sydney 13 October 2008
Baker, BarbaraBarbara Baker Hobart 27 October 2008
Monahan, GeoffreyGeoffrey Monahan Sydney 3 November 2008
Cole, PeterPeter Cole Adelaide 24 November 2008
Willis, JosephineJosephine Willis Cairns 27 January 2009
Whelan, DominicaDominica Whelan Melbourne 24 May 2010
Harman, JoeJoe Harman Parramatta 7 June 2010
Turner, LeanneLeanne Turner Darwin 7 June 2010
Foster, GarryGarry Foster Sydney 18 April 2011
Myers, MatthewMatthew Myers Newcastle 23 January 2012
Curtain, RonRon Curtain Melbourne 23 January 2012
Harland, AlexandraAlexandra Harland Darwin 15 March 2013
Small, JudithJudith Small Melbourne 15 March 2013

Federal Circuit Court judges are assisted by Associates and Deputy Associates, many of whom are qualified lawyers.

The Court sits permanently in each state capital, although in Perth it only hears general federal law matters as the Family Court of Western Australia has sole jurisdiction over family law in that state. The Court also sits permanently in the major regional centres of Launceston, Cairns, Townsville, Parramatta and Newcastle and regularly circuits to a large number of regional cities to hear family law cases. The Court hears some applications and evidence by telephone or video evidence when parties or witnesses live a long way from the Court.

In keeping with the Court's requirement to act as informally as possible, section 3 of the Federal Circuit Court Act, barristers are not required to robe for interim or interlocutory applications and wigs are not worn for any occasion. Barristers are only required to robe for final hearings before the Federal Circuit Court for all judgments, trials and contested hearings in which oral evidence is to be adduce practice direction number 1 of 2010


Bankruptcy, migration and family law comprise the largest components of the Court's work.[5]

Family law[edit]

There has been a progressive shift over the past 10 years in the balance of workload between the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia, with the majority of all family law matters and most divorces now heard in the Federal Circuit Court. This has resulted in the Family Court of Australia becoming a smaller court which manages all appeals and deals with the most lengthy and complex family law cases.

The Federal Circuit Court's family law jurisdiction covers:

  • Parenting - an order regarding the child/children of a marriage or de facto relationship that has broken down.
  • Financial - an order relating to the division of property or payment of maintenance following the breakdown of a marriage or eligible de facto relationship.
  • Divorce - all applications for divorce, except orders relating to nullity and validity of marriage and divorce.
  • Child support - certain applications and appeals.
  • Child maintenance - an order for child maintenance in special circumstances.
  • Parentage declarations and testing - an order declaring that a person is a parent of a child/children or to assist in determining the parentage of a child/children.
  • Contravention - an application alleging a breach of a court order.
  • Injunctions - an application for an injunction in a current or pending matter.
  • Location and recovery - an order for information or the ability to publish information about a child/children's location or the return of a child/children to a party.

General federal law[edit]

The Federal Circuit Court shares jurisdiction with the Federal Court of Australia. The largest volume of the court's general federal law work is in bankruptcy applications and migration. The Federal Circuit Court deals with 95 per cent of all migration applications that are filed in the federal courts. In addition, the Court deals with a significant number of industrial law and human rights matters.

The Federal Circuit Court's general federal law jurisdiction covers the following:

Administrative law[edit]

The Court has original jurisdiction under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth). The Court, on remittal from the Federal Court, hears appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.


  • In personam actions (claims against a specific person or company) such as freight claims and seafarer's wages.
  • In rem actions remitted by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and state Supreme Courts.


All civil claims and matters under the Bankruptcy Act 1966, except those requiring jury trials. The vast majority of bankruptcy court cases in Australia are heard by The Federal Circuit Court (92% in 2004-5).[5]

Consumer law (Trade practices)[edit]

The Court has civil jurisdiction with respect to claims under the following provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (formerly known as the Trade Practices Act 1974):

  • Section 46 (Misuse of Market Power)
  • Section IVB (Industry Codes)
  • Part XI (Application of the Australian Consumer Law as a law of the Commonwealth), and
  • Schedule 2 (Australian Consumer Law).

The Court can provide injunctive relief and award damages of up to $750 000. The Court also has civil jurisdiction with respect to claims under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. There is provision in certain proceedings for a litigant to elect that an application for compensation be dealt with as a small claims proceeding.

This jurisdiction includes hearing matters relating to (but not limited to) unfair trade practices, product safety and information matters, consumer protection matters, pyramid selling, and importation and manufacture of defective goods.

Human Rights[edit]

Federal unlawful discrimination matters under the Australian Human Rights Commissions Act 1986 relating to complaints under the:

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1974, and
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court of Australia to hear and determine complaints of unlawful discrimination based on sex, age, race and disability. Its power to grant relief is wide - it may, for example, grant unlimited damages.

Industrial law[edit]

The court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court for matters under the:

  • Fair Work Act 2009
  • Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009 , and
  • the Fair Work Act 2009 confers small claims jurisdiction on the Court for various matters if the compensation is not more than $20 000.

The Court also has jurisdiction in relation to certain matters under the Independent Contractors Act 2006. This jurisdiction is exercised by the Court's Fair Work Division.

Intellectual property (Copyright)[edit]

The Court may hear civil claims and matters, under parts V, VAA, IX and Section 248J of the Copyright Act 1968 such as claims for injunctions and damages for breach of copyright.

  • Trade Mark/Design - From 15 April 2013, the Federal Circuit Court will have certain jurisdiction under the Trade Marks Act 1995 and the Designs Act 2003. The jurisdiction is comparable to that exercised by the Federal Court except that it will not be able to hear an appeal from another court.


Reform in 2005 limited first instance jurisdiction to the Federal Circuit Court and the High Court to review administrative decisions made by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Migration Review Tribunal. The Court does not have jurisdiction to undertake a merits review of these types of decisions.


Enforcing determinations of the Privacy Commissioner and private sector adjudicators under the Privacy Act 1988.


In 2006 the Court was embroiled in controversy when it was revealed that Magistrate Jennifer Rimmer had plagiarised the work of her colleagues when writing decisions.[6]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]