Information for journalists

Journalists who have questions relating to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the FCFCOA) should contact the Courts’ Director - Media and Public Affairs.

Telephone: (03) 8638 6436 or 0409 743 695

Email: media@fcfcoa.gov.au

Only enquiries from media outlets and journalists should be directed to these contacts. For all other enquiries see Contact us.

The FCFCOA understands that journalists may be interested in reporting cases that are before the Court and on issues that are relevant to its work. The FCFCOA aims to assist journalists to achieve well-informed, fair and accurate reporting. However, there is a restriction on reporting on family law cases.

Before publishing any details of family law cases, it is critically important that journalists are familiar with the restriction imposed by Part XIVB of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). Refer to more information in the Reporting on family law matters section below.

Background information on the Court

On 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021 (FCFCOA Act) took effect, resulting in harmonisation of the administrative arrangements for the two courts. The Family Court of Australia became known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1), and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia became known as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2).

The FCFCOA aims to ensure that justice is delivered effectively and efficiently, and to provide for just outcomes in the broad range of disputes that come before the Courts.

In family law matters, the Courts aim to be innovative, fair and efficient and focus on risk, responsiveness and effective resolution, by:

  • improving early risk identification and safety of children and vulnerable parties
  • encouraging smarter ways to separate with less stress, less expense and a greater use of dispute resolution, where it is safe to do so
  • expecting compliance with court orders
  • enhancing national access to justice for vulnerable parties and regional communities through the use of technology, and 
  • aiming to resolve up to 90 per cent of cases within 12 months.

For more background information about the FCFCOA, including the respective roles of the FCFCOA (Division 1) and the FCFCOA (Division 2), see About the Court.

What types of cases are heard in the FCFCOA?

The jurisdiction of the FCFCOA includes family law and child support (in both the FCFCOA (Division 1) and the FCFCOA (Division 2)), and the following areas of general federal law (in the FCFCOA (Division 2) only): administrative law, admiralty law, bankruptcy, consumer law, copyright, human rights, industrial law, migration and privacy.

The FCFCOA (Division 2) shares its general federal law jurisdictions with the Federal Court of Australia.

For further information about the other areas of the FCFCOA’s jurisdiction, please see the Family Law, Migration and General Federal Law sections of the website.

Reporting on family law matters

The FCFCOA operates within an open justice system and journalists (and members of the public) can attend proceedings, except in very limited circumstances and under instruction of the presiding judicial officer. It is important to be aware however, that in family law cases, the identity of parties and others who are involved in those proceedings, as well as details that may lead to the identification of those people, cannot be published or broadcast.

The publishing restrictions are outlined in sections 114Q and 114R which makes it an indictable offence to communicate to the public an account of proceedings under the Family Law Act which identifies:

  • a party to the proceedings, or
  • a witness in the proceedings, or
  • a person who is related to or associated with a party to proceedings
  • or a person who is or is alleged to be in any other way concerned in a matter to which proceedings relate.

In limited circumstances, a Publication Order, or another section 114Q(2) or 114R(2) exemption, can be made by order of the FCFCOA which may lift some publishing restrictions for a certain case. This is most commonly done for the purpose of assisting with searches for Missing Children.

Recording of family law matters

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family Law Rules) state that a court event, such as a hearing, (whether in-person or electronic) or court interview, cannot be photographed or recorded by electronic or mechanical means unless approved in writing by the FCFCOA. This restriction also applies to the recording of any person who is on court premises.

For more information, see Etiquette and tips.

Access by non-parties to court records in family law and child support matters

A person who is not a party to a family law and child support proceeding cannot access court records without leave of the FCFCOA in accordance with Part 15.4 of the Family Law Rules.

Journalists with enquiries about a family law or child support proceeding should contact Courts’ Director – Media and Public Affairs at first instance.

Access by non-parties to court records in general federal law and migration matters (excludes family law)

Journalists (and the public) can access the Commonwealth Courts Portal to view basic details for general federal law cases that have been filed in the FCFCOA (Division 2), and some limited migration cases. The portal is a useful tool for the media to source details of a case such as the names of the parties and their legal representatives, the file number, hearing dates (past and future), orders and a list of all filed documents.

To access documents as a non-party, the Request by a Non-Party for Access to Court Documents form must be submitted by email to the local filing registry. See the request to inspect a general federal law file page for more information.

Once the Court has made a decision on your request, you will be notified by email.

This policy does not apply to family law or child support matters.

Restrictions on reporting migration cases

Section 91X of the Migration Act 1958 provides that the FCFCOA (Division 2) cannot publish a person's name where the person has applied for a protection visa or a protection-related visa or where these types of visas have been cancelled. In addition, the FCFCOA has powers to make suppression and non-publication orders.

FCFCOA names and styles

The Court

The name ‘Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia’ is a proper noun, and should be capitalised accordingly, as should a reference to one of the courts individually, being the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) or the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2).

It is appropriate to shorten the name to ‘Federal Circuit and Family Court’ or to use the abbreviation ‘FCFCOA’, ‘FCFCOA (Division 1)’ or ‘FCFCOA (Division 2)’.

Judges of the FCFCOA (Division 1)

Judges of the FCFCOA (Division 1) have the style ‘the Honourable’.

They should be referred (as applicable) as:

  • ‘the Hon Chief Justice [name]’
  • ‘the Hon Deputy Chief Justice [name]’, or
  • ‘the Hon Justice [name]’.

Judges of the FCFCOA (Division 2)

Judges of the FCFCOA (Division 2) have the style ‘her Honour’ or ‘his Honour’.

They should be referred (as applicable) as:

  • ‘ His Honour Chief Judge [name]’
  • ‘His Honour Deputy Chief Judge (Family Law) [name]’
  • ‘Her Honour Deputy Chief Judge (General Federal Law) [name]’, or
  • ‘Her Honour/His Honour Judge [name]’.

In reporting about the FCFCOA generally, it is appropriate to refer to his Honour at first mention as:

Chief Justice and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, the Honourable William Alstergren AO.

In subsequent mentions, his Honour should be referred to as:

Chief Justice Alstergren.

Other information

Electronic devices in court

On court premises

Audio recording, video recording and photography are prohibited on all court premises, without prior express written approval from the FCFCOA. This includes live transmission of video or audio (even if not recorded), including streaming over the internet using videoconferencing software.

During a hearing

The use of mobile phones or other devices such as tablets or laptops must not cause a disturbance.

Recording of the hearing (including any remote hearing conducted via video link or telephone), including for the purpose of making any transcript, is strictly prohibited.

Any direction made by the FCFCOA concerning the use of any communication or recording device must be complied with.

Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the deletion of any unauthorised photographs or recordings and/or confiscation of the device while on court premises, and may also constitute the criminal offence of contempt of court.

For more information, please see rule 15.23 of the Family Law Rules, and section 17 of the Court Security Act 2013. See also the Security and conditions of entry policy.

Can journalists obtain copies of judgments?

Journalists are encouraged to access and review FCFCOA judgments, which are published on various legal databases. For more information, see Judgments.

Family law judgments that are published online have been anonymised by the FCFCOA to prevent the identification of the parties and witnesses. Even if a journalist has received a judgment that has not been anonymised, the identification of the parties and witnesses cannot be published (see sections 114Q and 114R of the Family Law Act 1975).

Can journalists interview judges?

Judges do not provide public comment on their cases, either current or concluded.

From time to time, however, the Chief Justice/Chief Judge may participate in media interviews regarding the general work of the Courts and other related issues.

Journalists should contact the Courts’ Director - Media and Public Affairs for interview requests.

Court etiquette for media

Normal court etiquette applies.

When entering or leaving a courtroom, bow to the judicial officer.

If the judicial officer arrives after you or leaves first, stand as they enter or leave the room.

See: Etiquette and tips