Supreme Court of Norfolk Island

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The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island hears certain cases in the Australian territory of Norfolk Island. It is the superior Court of Norfolk Island. Appeal lies to the Federal Court of Australia.

Legal Basis[edit]

The Court was established by the Norfolk Island Act 1957. Although that Act was repealed by the Norfolk Island Act 1979, the Court continued in existence as "the Superior Court of Record of the Territory".

Practice and Procedure[edit]

Under s 59 of the 1979 Act, the jurisdiction, practice and procedure of the Supreme Court shall be as provided under "enactment", a term which includes any "Ordinance continued in force by (the 1979) Act" (s 4(1)). One such ordinance is the Supreme Court Ordinance 1960, s 5 of which provides that the Supreme Court has the same jurisdiction in and in relation to the Territory as the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory has in and in relation to the ACT.

By s 11 of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933, the ACT Court has the same original jurisdiction, civil and criminal, as the Supreme Court of New South Wales had in relation to NSW immediately before 1 January 1911.


The Norfolk Island Act 1979 ("the 1979 Act") recited that Parliament recognised the special relationship of the descendants of the settlers from Pitcairn Island with Norfolk Island; and that Parliament

"consider(ed) it to be desirable and to be the wish of the people of Norfolk Island that Norfolk Island achieve, over a period of time, internal self-government as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and, to that end, to provide, among other things, for the establishment of a representative Legislative Assembly and of other separate political and administrative institutions on Norfolk Island".

The 1979 Act repealed the 1957 and 1963 Acts. Part II of the 1979 Act ("Administration") provided for the appointment by the Governor-General of an Administrator (ss.5, 6) and for the establishment of the Administration of Norfolk Island as a body politic (s.5(2)). An Executive Council was established to advise the Administrator (s.11). The Administrator may, on the advice of the Legislative Assembly, appoint a member of the Legislative Assembly to executive office (s.13, and see generally Brown v Administration of Norfolk Island (1991) 29 FCR 511).

The "Judicial System" is dealt with in Part VII of the 1979 Act. The Supreme Court established by the 1957 Act continues in existence, notwithstanding the repeal of that Act (s.52(1)). The Governor-General may appoint a person who, or persons each of whom, is a Judge of another court created by the Parliament to be a Judge or Judges of the Supreme Court (s.53).

Other courts and tribunals for the Territory may be established by or under enactment (s.60).

Section 67(1) empowers the Governor-General to make regulations, in particular to (s.67(1)(a)):

"(a) (make) provision for and in relation to sittings of the Supreme Court in a State or in a Territory other than Norfolk Island for the purpose of hearing and determining a matter, otherwise than in the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction, if a Judge is satisfied that the hearing of the matter outside the Territory is not contrary to the interests of justice..."

Location of Sittings[edit]

Under the Norfolk Island (Supreme Court Sittings) Regulations (SR150/1979) the Supreme Court may, if appropriate, sit in civil cases in New South Wales, Victoria or the ACT as well as in the Territory, but criminal cases must be dealt with in the Territory (reg. 3(1)).

An appeal lies from the Supreme Court to the Federal Court under the provisions of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.

The Supreme Court of Norfolk Island still relies upon the Supreme Court Act 1960 (Norfolk Island) - formerly the Supreme Court Ordinance 1960 - and relies for its Rules of Court and Procedure on the Rules of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory until such time as the Norfolk Island Court decides to make any specific Supreme Court Rule on a particular matter or topic.


The Court deals with matters arising under specific Norfolk Island laws such as Probate and Administration of Deceased estates: Probate and Administration Act 1976 (NI); serious indictable offences and crimes: Criminal Law Act 1960 (NI) adopting the NSW Crimes Act of 1900; Bail on serious offences: Bail Act 2005 (NI), and registration of Maintenance Orders made by foreign courts (not Australian Child Support assessments): Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement)Act 1960 (NI) and exercises federal jurisdiction for those Australian federal laws that are expressed to apply to the Territory of Norfolk Island: Section 18, Norfolk Island Act 1979 (Cth of Aust.)

Its civil and commercial jurisdiction commences at claims in excess of $10,000AUD while the Court of Petty Sessions for Norfolk Island deals with small claims and claims under $10,000.

Foreign Judgements may be registered in the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island since the Foreign Judgments Act 1991 (Commonwealth of Aust) is expressed to apply to all external Territories of Australia (of which Norfolk Island is one).


The Judges of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island are generally appointed from among Justices of the Federal Court who may sit on the Australian mainland or they may convene the court on Norfolk Island depending on the type of matter they may be dealing with.

Supreme Court sittings are generally conducted on a circuit court basis with Judges attending on Norfolk Island where the volume of work may be sufficient to justify the travel or where a regular court sitting has not been convened for some time or where the law governing a particular matter may require that the court be convened on Norfolk Island and not elsewhere (e.g. most criminal law matters except sexual offences which may now be tried off-island).

The Court staff are generally resident on Norfolk Island.