ISSN 1444–6707 (print version) ISSN 1447–5065 (online version)

© Commonwealth of Australia 2021

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Contact officer for annual report

National Communications Manager

Federal Court of Australia

Corporate Services

GPO Box 9991


Ph.: +61 2 6113 9470


Alternative format An electronic version of this report is available on the Federal Circuit Court website at:

Website address

From 1 September 2021, the web address of the Court will change to to coincide with the commencement of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. This report will be moved to that website from this date.

Acknowledgments This report reflects the efforts of many people. Special thanks go to the Court staff involved in contributing and coordinating material, as well as the following specialist contractors:

Design and typesetting Giraffe Visual Communication Management.

Printing Elect Printing.

This annual report is printed on Pacesetter Satin. Pacesetter is made from elemental chlorine free bleached pulp sourced from well-managed forests and controlled sources. It is manufactured by an ISO 14001 certified mill.

Letter of transmittal from Chief Judge Alstergren to the Attorney-General

Reader’s guide

The purpose of this report is to inform the Attorney-General, the Parliament, court clients and the general public about the performance of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in the financial year ending 30 June 2021.

Prepared according to parliamentary reporting requirements, the report outlines the goals in the Court’s Portfolio Budget Statements and Corporate Plan and relates them to the results achieved during the year to those goals. It provides information on the Court’s performance in relation to its stated outcome:

Apply and uphold the rule of law for litigants in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia through more informal and streamlined resolution of family law and general federal law matters according to law, through the encouragement of appropriate dispute resolution processes and through the effective management of the administrative affairs of the Court.

Part 1: The year in review

Highlights significant issues and initiatives the Court has undertaken during the reporting year as well as developments during 2020–21.

Part 2: Overview of the Court

Provides information about the Court, including its role, functions, organisational structure, appointments and retirements and court service locations.

Part 3: Report on Court performance

Reports on how the Court performed during the period against the outcome and related program.

Part 4: Management and accountability

Provides information on corporate governance and judicial and collaborative committees.

Part 5: Appendices

Includes outcome and program statement, freedom of information data, information about committees, judicial activities, information required by other legislation and contact details.

Part 6: Indexes

Includes the list of requirements and alphabetical index.

Acronyms and abbreviations and a glossary of court-specific terminology are on pages iv–viii.

An electronic version of this annual report is available from the Court’s website at

Acronyms and abbreviations

Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Companion of the Order of Australia
Australian Consumer Law
Apprehended Domestic Violence Order
Attorney-General’s Department
Australian Human Rights Commission
Australian Law Reform Commission
Member of the Order of Australia
Officer of the Order of Australia
Australian Public Service
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Australasian Legal Information Institute
Creative Commons
Commerce Clearing House
Child Dispute Services
Chief Executive Officer
Central Migration Docket
Continuing Professional Development
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Digital Court File
Digital Court Program
Enterprise Agreement
Citation for all decisions of the Federal Circuit Court
Freedom of Information
Family Relationships Advice Line
Fair Work Commission
Independent Assessment Authority
Intellectual Property
National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee
National Enquiry Centre
Medal of the Order of Australia
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability
Priority Property Pools under $500,000
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Queens Counsel
Reconciliation Action Plan
Senior Counsel

Glossary of court-specific terms

A written statement by a party or witness. An affidavit is the main way of presenting the facts of a case to the Court.
An application to a higher court to review a decision of a lower court or tribunal.
A person who files an appeal with a court.
The individual, organisation or corporation who/which applies to the Court to commence legal proceedings against another person or persons. Also known as ‘plaintiff’ in admiralty and corporations matters and in some other courts.
The document that starts most proceedings in the Court.
The matter before the Court.
A place the Court regularly visits in rural and regional Australia.
Dispute resolution
Procedures and services to help resolve disputes before or during a court hearing without the need for a judicial decision. It may include mediation, conciliation or counselling.
Docket system
A system by which each case is allocated to a particular judge who generally manages the matter from commencement to disposition.
The procedure of electronically lodging a document through the Commonwealth Courts Portal.
The procedure of electronically lodging general federal law documents

in the Federal Circuit Court.
The process of the Court accepting a document or documents lodged by a party to a proceeding.
In personam
An action or right against a specific person.
In rem
An action against certain property.
The final order or set of orders made by the Court after a hearing, often accompanied by reasons which set out the facts and law applied in the case. A judgment is said to be ‘reserved’ when the Court postpones the delivery of the judgment to a later date to allow the presiding judicial officer time to consider the evidence and submissions. A judgment is said to be ‘ex tempore’ when the presiding judicial officer gives the judgment orally at the hearing or very shortly thereafter.
The extent of legal authority or power of the Court to apply the law.
Individuals, organisations or companies who/which are the parties to a proceeding before the Court.
A court order is a document that sets out what the parties must do. Orders

can be urgent, interim (temporary) or final. Courts usually have wide-ranging powers to make orders to enforce judgments.
People involved in a court case. Applicants, respondents and defendants are generally called ‘parties’.
Pro bono
Legal work performed without charge for litigants who cannot afford the cost of a lawyer and are not eligible for legal aid. Pro bono legal work is done at a substantially reduced rate, or in some circumstances, at no cost.
The regular and orderly progression of a matter including all acts and events between the time of commencement and judgment.
A legally qualified court official who has delegated judicial powers to decide certain matters (e.g. grant a divorce) or manage how a case will run, or to mediate disputes.
The Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation 2012 and the Family Law (Fees) Regulation 2012 which prescribe the filing and other fees that must be paid for proceedings in the Court.
A party to court proceedings against whom relief is claimed.
Rules made by the judges that set out the procedures for conducting a proceeding in the Court. The rules of the Federal Circuit Court are the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 and the Federal Circuit Court (Bankruptcy) Rules 2016.
A party to a matter who does not have legal representation and represents litigant themselves before the Court.
Any document lodged against an existing cause of action that does not attract document a fee and does not require follow up action by court staff once lodged.


30 circuit locations around Australia

2,543 applications filed in General Federal Law

49,625 divorce applications filed

89,373 filings in family law

5,236 Migration applications

1,004 General Federal Law matters referred to mediation

3,320 judgments published

80% of matters resolved before trial

Launch of the Lighthouse Project

8 judicial appointments