Federal Court of Australia

Corporate Plan 2017 - 2018

Background

The FCA was created by the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) and began to exercise its jurisdiction on 1 February 1977. It assumed jurisdiction formerly exercised in part by the High Court of Australia and the whole jurisdiction of the Australian Industrial Court and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy.

The FCA is a superior court of record and a court of law and equity. It sits in all capital cities and elsewhere in Australia from time to time. The Court’s jurisdiction is broad, covering almost all civil matters arising under Australian federal law and some summary and indictable criminal matters.

The Chief Justice is the senior judge of the Court and is responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the Court. He is assisted by the CEO and Principal Registrar who is appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Chief Justice.

The FCA has a substantial and diverse appellate jurisdiction. It hears appeals from decisions of single judges of the Court, decisions of the FCC in non-family law matters, decisions of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island and certain decisions of state and territory supreme courts exercising federal jurisdiction.

The objectives of the FCA are to:

  • decide disputes according to law—as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible and, in so doing, to interpret the statutory law and develop the general law of the Commonwealth, so as to fulfil the role of a court exercising the judicial power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution
  • provide an effective registry service for the community, and
  • manage the resources allotted by Parliament efficiently.

The FCA has had responsibility for the corporate administration of the NNTT since July 2012. From 1 July 2016, the Courts Administration Legislation Amendment Act 2016 merged the corporate services of the FCoA and the FCC with the FCA into a single administrative entity – known as the Federal Court of Australia. The Act makes provision for the courts to share corporate services including Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and other functions.

Under the arrangement, each court remains independent to fulfil its statutory obligations. Heads of Jurisdiction continue to be responsible for managing the administrative affairs of their respective courts (excluding corporate services) with assistance from a CEO and Principal Registrar.

Our vision

An internationally respected court.

Our Mission

To contribute to the social and economic development and wellbeing of all Australians by applying and upholding the rule of law to deliver remedies and enforce rights.

Our values

Prompt, courteous, effective, efficient, accountable.

We are committed to upholding the Australian Public Service Values and Employment Principles and to comply with the Code of Conduct. We are impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful and ethical.

 

Goals

The FCA's goals are based on three strategic objectives that will guide operations over the next four years. Our performance against this plan will be reported in the Annual Performance Statement in our Annual Report.

This plan reflects both the purpose and goals of the Court, our vision and our culture of relentless improvement.

The Court has a track record of innovation and forward thinking. It will continue a number of long-term projects, aligned with its strategic objectives, during 2017–18 and beyond. These include international projects led by the judiciary, further refining the reforms of the National Court Framework (NCF) and digital file and the implementation of Digital Hearings.

Our strategic objectives for the next four years:

  1. Efficient and just dispute resolution.
  2. Provide leadership in international justice.
  3. Contribute to the Australian legal system—strengthening relations with court users.

 

Performance Measures

The key outcome measure for the Court is contained in the Portfolio Budget Statements. Across its jurisdiction, the Court will apply and uphold the rule of law for litigants in the FCA and parties in the NNTT through the resolution of matters according to law and through the effective management of the administrative affairs of the Court and the NNTT.

The Court maintains two time goals to measure the performance of its work. All strategies and tactical plans are designed to support the achievement of these performance goals.

Our Annual Performance Statement will report on the success of the plan to achieve the following targets:

  1. eighty-five per cent of cases completed within 18 months of commencement, and
  2. judgments to be delivered within three months.

 

1 Strategic Objective - Efficient and just dispute resolution

The Court began the process of reinvigorating its case management approach in 2015 with the introduction of the NCF. The NCF is an innovative approach to case management, involving the development of a structure to facilitate the delivery of quality judgments, by experienced judges, in a timely manner and for a reasonable cost. It is consistent with our vision to build an internationally respected court.

As a result of the implementation of the initial NCF reforms in 2015–16, the Court’s entire workload has been reorganised and is now managed with reference to nine National Practice Areas (NPAs). A new national allocation system has been implemented where the work of judges is realigned under these practice areas. In 2016–17, new practice notes were promulgated and comprehensive guides and information published as part of our strategy to simplify practices and procedures.

With the implementation of digital files for all new matters in the Court, Digital Hearings (previously known as eTrials) are a further initiative by the Court to provide efficient and just dispute resolution and to reduce litigation costs.

A successful pilot for Digital Hearings was conducted in 2015–16. The pilot studied how judges and litigants interact digitally in the courtroom and identified the workflows necessary to support these interactions. The next phase of Digital Hearings will be implemented during 2017–18. Consultations have commenced with key stakeholders about the changes.

The Court will continue to develop its business intelligence work with the overall aim of turning the Court’s data into information that can better inform the Court’s administrative decisions.

Our strategies over the next four years

  1. Restructure judicial and case support nationally for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
  2. Further refine practices and procedures, particularly for appeals.
  3. Further develop real-time business intelligence reporting to support better monitoring and management of workloads for the judiciary and registrars.
  4. Implement digital hearings.

 

Priorities for 2017–18 efficient and just dispute resolution

In 2017–18 the FCA will undertake the following projects and deliverables:

Objective Deliverable Target

Finalise implementation of the NCF

  • Develop mechanisms for allocation of registrar work nationally

June 2018

  • Restructure the delivery of case work on a nationally cohesive basis
June 2018
  • Integrate native title work
June 2018

Implement Stage 2 for digital hearings

  • Refine the mechanism that forms the basis of digital hearings

June 2018

  • Pilot the mechanism
June 2018
  • Continue consultations with the legal profession about the ideal operational practices and processes
Ongoing

Refine further real-time business intelligence reporting to better monitor and manage workloads of the judiciary and registrars

  • Refine further current reporting for judiciary

June 2018

  • Develop reports for registrars
June 2018
  • Develop reports for native title workload
June 2018
  • Develop reports for appeals workload
June 2018

Streamline systems and processes

  • Improve a number of identified eServices to make them more integrated, increase our efficiency and enhance the court user experience

Ongoing

 

2 Strategic Objective - Provide leadership in international justice

The Court’s international programs support its vision to promote judicial independence and leadership and assist in developing court services, with particular emphasis on Asia and the Pacific regions.

The Court’s international development projects are funded externally by a range of donors including the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the United Nations Development Programme. This funding is separate to the FCA’s allocated budget process.

The Court works closely with other jurisdictions to develop relationships with its international counterparts. This includes partnering with judiciaries around the world to provide technical expertise to collaborate on reforms and developments and hosting international delegations.

The Court currently has MOUs with courts in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Myanmar. Each MOU has strategic and thematic priorities which the Court collaborates to address in order to strengthen the provision of justice in those countries. In addition, the Court manages the Pacific Judicial Strengthening Initiative involving 14 Pacific countries. This initiative commenced in 2016 and is initially for three years, with the possibility of a two-year extension. The initiative is designed to strengthen governance and the rule of law by enhancing the professional competence of judicial and court officers, along with the processes and systems that they use. Over the years, it has transitioned from a regional training and capacity building program, to a targeted development project, based on improving law and justice outcomes for beneficiaries at local, regional and national levels.

Our strategies over the next four years

  1. Enhance the capacity of judicial and court officers through international collaboration and cooperation.
  2. Advance relations with courts with which the Court has an existing MOU; the Court currently or has previously collaborated with; and other courts in the Asia-Pacific region.

Priorities for 2016–17 include continued collaboration pursuant to existing MOUs with courts; continuing to foster understanding of global legal issues; developing new judicial relationships within the Asia-Pacific region; and increasing global awareness of the Court’s international programs.

 

3 Strategic Objective - Contribute to the Australian legal system—strengthen relations with court users

This strategy takes into account the changing needs and expectations of court users and the wider choices available through digital technologies, including the rapid development of artificial intelligence and big data applications. It will continue to be aligned with the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda and the evolving whole-of-government initiatives and strategies that it encompasses.

The FCA will continue to create user-focused services that overcome barriers created by geography, culture, language and socioeconomic circumstances.

The FCA aims to develop innovative approaches to meet the needs of court users and improve access to justice. These approaches extend to the communication channels we use, as well as providing procedures which are clear, consistent and understandable. Our web strategy has been crucial to the achievement of this goal. Over the next year, we will continue to identify and deploy additional services and technologies to enhance the intuitiveness and responsiveness of our digital communications for different court users.

The FCA also engages in a wide range of activities with the legal profession and community that support the Australian legal system. The Court’s judicial officers continue to contribute to the work of law reform bodies as well as educational and legal community-based organisations. This work ensures that the Court develops positive relationships with, and gains the support of, the legal sector and the Australian public. The Court also provides opportunities for members of the legal profession to discuss existing and emerging issues, provide feedback to the Court and act as a reference group for proposed changes. It is essential to the Court’s and the Australian legal system’s reputation nationally and internationally, that these relationships continue.

Our strategies over the next four years

  1. Contribute to the legal profession through liaison and education.
  2. Collaborate with members of the judiciary and legal sector on initiatives of mutual interest and benefit.
  3. Maintain effective media relations to deliver timely public information.
  4. Strengthen connections with the Australian community.


Priorities for 2017–18 contribute to the Australian legal system—strengthen relations with court users

In 2017–18, the FCA will undertake the following projects and deliverables:

Objective

Deliverable

Target

Continued enhancement of our online strategy

  • Continue implementation of improved web and digital services

June 2018

  • Continue to align services with the Digital Transformation Agenda
Ongoing

Continued initiatives for court user education

  • Develop tailored resources and educational materials via different channels to assist the court users

Ongoing

Contribute to the legal profession through consultation and educational services

  • Consult with educational providers and professional bodies to identify needs

Ongoing

  • Develop and deliver seminars, lectures and training to improve access to justice, education on new services and other topics of relevance, including artificial intelligence and big data issues
Ongoing
  • Conduct regular forums with the profession to identify needs and receive feedback
Ongoing

 

Resourcing - Federal Court of Australia

The table below illustrates the financial and staffing resources applied by the FCA over the four years of this plan.

  2017–18
Budget
$’000
2018–19
Forward
estimate
$’000
2019–20
Forward
estimate
$’000
2020–21
Forward
estimate
$’000
Administered expenses
- Special appropriations
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
600 600 600 600

Administered total

600

600

600

600

Departmental expenses
- Departmental appropriation 65,064 67,171 67,513 67,723
- S74 retained revenue receipts 1,289 1,289 1,289 1,289
- Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year (b) 13,747 13,747 13,747 13,747

Departmental total

80,100

82,207

82,549

82,759

Total expenses Federal Court of Australia

80,700

82,807

83,149

83,359

Average staffing level (c)

329

Note: Departmental appropriation splits and totals are indicative estimates and may change in the course of the budget year as government priorities change.

  1. Estimated expenses incurred in relation to receipts retained under section 74 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
  2. Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year are made up of liabilities assumed by other entities.
  3. Excludes judges.