Published: 01 June, 2023

Media Release: Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia committed to continuing the Burnie circuit

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (‘the Court’) acknowledges the challenges for litigants in North West Tasmania as a result of the absence of suitable premises to conduct the Burnie circuit. The Court is doing all it can to work with the local, state and Commonwealth governments to solve this issue and is thankful for the assistance it has received to date, including from the state Attorney-General and the Department of Justice. All parties are working hard to find a solution for the litigants of North West Tasmania.

Up to December 2021, the Court was able to use the premises of the Burnie Court Complex to provide family law services to families living in the region until the appointment of a much needed permanent local judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania.

The Court, with the assistance of the Tasmanian Department of Justice, was then able to utilise the Burnie Arts and Function Centre to conduct circuits to Burnie. This arrangement continued until April 2023, when renovations commenced at the Burnie Arts and Function Centre.

Since that time, the Court has worked closely with senior officials from the Tasmanian Department of Justice to explore all other potential premises on the North West Coast that would be suitable to safely accommodate the Court and litigants. Unfortunately, no suitable alternative premises have yet been found.

The Court, including the Chief Justice and local judges, are actively engaging with local stakeholders to investigate whether a suitable, safe and secure location is available in Burnie. In an effort to solve this issue, next week, a team of local judges, security and other key staff will be visiting Burnie and surrounds to consider all proposed premises.

In the meantime, the Court will continue to service North West Tasmania by conducting those cases which require face-to-face hearings in the Launceston registry as a temporary arrangement and using electronic hearings, via telephone or videoconference for other cases that can be heard electronically.

Electronic hearings can enhance access to justice for parties who live in regional and remote locations where appropriate technology is available. This means that parties do not have to wait for a circuit judge to travel to their particular location, which also assists in reducing delays.

Electronic hearings can also increase safety for vulnerable parties as their hearing can be conducted via telephone or video in the safety of their home or other suitable location.

Circuits are incredibly important to ensuring access to justice for all Australians and the Court is grateful for assistance from government and stakeholders for the Court to secure appropriate premises to continue the Burnie circuit.