Published: 21 June, 2023

Media release: Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Judges travel to Alice Springs for two-way learning with local communities

More than 80 Judges from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia travelled to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to meet with, listen and learn from Aboriginal families.  

Each year, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1 and Division 2) (the Courts) conduct a plenary event to allow for judicial educational and training. Historically, these have been held in city locations. 

For this year’s plenary, which was held from Monday 19 to Wednesday 21 June 2023, the Hon Chief Justice Alstergren AO said that he wanted to depart from the city-centric approach, and consider how the Courts can better engage with, and learn from, communities in a regional and outback location. 

“Conducting a judicial event that involves the vast majority of our judges travelling from every state and territory of the nation to meet in Alice Springs is unprecedented.

“The next few days present a rare and invaluable opportunity for the Judges to be properly educated and to gain an appreciation of the challenges faced by First Nations Australians. 

“This event provided an extremely rare opportunity for the Judges to speak directly with Indigenous families, and in turn, expand their knowledge of and experience with those living in remote communities.

“The Courts have also demonstrated support for and contribute to the local economy and the people living in and around Alice Springs,” Chief Justice Alstergren added. 

The first day of the plenary commenced with a Welcome to Country and an address delivered virtually by the Attorney-General for Australia, the Hon. Mark Dreyfus KC MP, followed by presentations by other guest speakers including local and community leaders, and the Hon Justice Stephen Gageler AC of the High Court of Australia. 

Yesterday, on Tuesday 20 June, the Judges participated in two community visits, one to Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and one to Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa). Local leaders and community members met with the Judges and participated in meaningful community engagement, yarning circles, a tour of the community, school and church visits and planting of a wattle tree in each location to mark the occasion. 

“Our Courts operate in each major city and most regional areas across Australia. As national courts we are committed to serving all Australians including being relevant and accessible to First Nations people. We have a proud history of dedicated specialist Indigenous lists and other initiatives that focus on this commitment,” Chief Justice Alstergren added.

As part of the Courts’ commitment to serve our First Nations people, highly skilled Indigenous Family Liaison Officers (IFLOs) are employed across the country, and are another step towards facilitating a strong and meaningful connection between the Indigenous Communities and the Family Law System. IFLOs have a strong focus on helping and supporting families understand and engage with court processes and are available to connect parties to legal and other support services. IFLOs are essential links between the Community and the Court and are available to assist at any time during the case management process.

IFLOs have also recently been engaging in outreach to talk to the community and the profession with the aims of increasing the visibility of the role and educating the community about the FCFCoA process as an alternative to the child protection systems.

“The advice of two Indigenous Family Liaison Officers(IFLOs) employed by the Courts, one of whom is a Native Title holder in Alice Springs, has been instrumental in the planning of the event.”

“We are also grateful to have developed a positive professional relationship with Mr Charlie King in recent months, whose assistance and guidance has been invaluable for the planning and execution of this event which has been an incredible experience for all involved,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

Local leaders and community members met with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Judges