Information for journalists

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

Denise Healy, Director - Media and Public Affairs

Telephone: (03) 8638 6436 or 0409 743 695

Email: denise.healy@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.

Before publishing any details of family law cases, it is critically important that journalists are familiar with the restriction imposed by section 121 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) legislation took effect, resulting in the amalgamation of the Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Division 2) and the creation of the FCFCOA.

The FCFCOA has a structure that is innovative, fair and efficient and focuses on risk, responsiveness and resolution, by:

  • improving early risk identification and safety of children and vulnerable parties
  • encouraging smarter ways to separate with less acrimony, less cost and more 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 resolving up to 90 per cent of cases within 12 months.

For more background information about the FCFCOA, including the respective roles of Division 1 and 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 Division 1 and Division 2), and the following areas of general federal law (in Division 2 only): administrative law, admiralty law, bankruptcy, consumer law, copyright, human rights, industrial, migration and privacy.

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 Section 121 of the Family Law Act which makes it an offence to publish details of proceedings or images that may identify the people involved in cases under the family law act.

In limited circumstances, a Publication Order, or another section 121 exemption, can be made by the FCFCOA which may lift some publishing restrictions of a certain case. Also see Missing Children.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Family Law Rules) state that a court event, such as a hearing, cannot be photographed or recorded by electronic or mechanical means unless approved by the FCFCOA. For more information, see Etiquette and tips.

Access to court records in family law and child support matters

A person (or their lawyer) 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 the Part 15.4 of the Family Law Rules.

Access to court records in general federal law matters (excludes family law)

Journalists can access the Commonwealth Courts Portal to view basic details of general federal law cases that have been filed in Division 2 of the FCFCOA and the Federal Court of Australia. 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.

Applications can be made to the Federal Court registries, when seeking access to court documents in general federal law cases. The FCFCOA applies the same policy and procedure to non-party (media) access to court records as the Federal Court. This policy does not apply to family law or child support matters.

See Media Access to Court Documents (Federal Court).

Restrictions on reporting migration cases

Section 91X of the Migration Act 1958 provides that the FCFCOA 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.

It is appropriate to shorten the name to ‘Federal Circuit and Family Court’ or to use the abbreviation ‘FCFCOA’.

Judges of Division 1

Judges of Division 1 have the style ‘the Honourable’.

They should be referred (as applicable) as:

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

Judges of Division 2

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

They should be referred (as applicable) as:

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

In practice, the FCFCOA operates as one court.

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.

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

Chief Justice Alstergren.

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 of 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 section 121 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 Court and other related issues.

Journalists should contact the Court’s 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 he or she enters or leaves the room.

See: Etiquette and tips

Related Information

  • Latest News
  • Media releases
  • Judgments
  • Missing children and publication orders