Corporate Plan 2016 - 2020

The three courts and the NNTT undertake regular reviews of their operating environment, challenges and risks to determine performance goals and operational plans each year.

A review of the external environment suggests that the key environmental drivers during the period of this plan will be government policy, the economy, technological change, globalisation and social change.

Government policy

The work of the courts and the NNTT is greatly influenced by Government policy and legislative change. These changes are outside of our control and can impact the volume and type of workloads, as well as the jurisdiction of the courts and the NNTT. As a result, we need the agility to structure resources and systems to ensure we can respond to change in the most cost effective way.

Forward estimates project a deficit economy for at least another four years. Ongoing budget cuts and the drive for greater public sector efficiencies and accountability, in conjunction with each courts’ objective to provide enhanced access to justice, will result in a need to deliver more services at a reduced cost or the same cost. This will require significant management and prioritisation of resourcing over the next four years.

For the NNTT, the recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission in relation to native title connection issues, the Federal Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, the outcomes of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) investigation and the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission Property Rights Forums, highlight emerging pressures in the native title system which will impact upon practitioners and influence service delivery for the NNTT. In addition, changes in state government policy relating to land tenure matters, have the potential to increase the demand for Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs).

The courts and the NNTT have an ongoing commitment to relentless improvement, with many programs to improve efficiency already in place. For the courts, these programs encompass changes to the way that cases are managed and provision of alternative dispute resolution processes, in addition to technological innovations. The courts and the NNTT also invest in educational materials and support to improve access for external stakeholders including the public, litigants and the legal profession. These initiatives improve efficiency and reduce the demands on staff.

Technological change

Technological change continues to play a significant role in driving strategy. Whilst technological advances have provided opportunities to improve the experience of court users, as well as automate processes and increase efficiency, they have also created significant pressure on our ability to resource and fund ongoing development.

The introduction of the Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda and the creation of the Digital Transformation Office in the 2015–16 Budget, will guide how we structure and develop future services for court users. The new policy provides standards for digital development, as well as a goal to create public services that are ‘simple, clear, faster and customer-centric’. The courts and the NNTT are already on the path to achieve this goal and further work will be conducted over the life of this plan.

Mobile devices and mobile technologies have enabled information and transactions to occur in multiple environments. Mobile technologies are fast becoming the key drivers of technological change for the courts and the NNTT. However as the use of digital technologies increases, we will need to be mindful of achieving a balance with our statutory obligations. Additional challenges include accuracy, data security and timeliness of information provided through these platforms. The amalgamated corporate services model is an opportunity to pool our knowledge to identify and apply best of breed technology.

The pace of technological change and innovation creates opportunities for us to improve the experience of court users across multiple platforms. Further digital innovation is anticipated over the life of this corporate plan. Our challenge is to capitalise on these opportunities as the lifecycle of new technologies continues to become shorter.

Globalisation and free trade

The growth of globalised trade impacts on the work of the Federal Court. In addition, continued growth in the economies and societies within our region will have a major impact on the type and volume of work. This economic, commercial and social change needs to be matched by strengthening and deepening the rule of law and of the mechanisms for its regional and transnational enforcement. It will require new and more sophisticated structures to strengthen the region’s court systems and strengthening and deepening of its arbitral systems and related dispute resolution mechanisms.

The expansion of Free Trade Agreements beyond those with China and Japan and the increase in commercial activity has the potential to increase the number of disputes.

Social and economic change

The expectations and types of court users, clients and stakeholders for the courts and the NNTT are expected to change significantly over the next four years.

With the ongoing development of ‘big data’, tailored services and communications, convenience and personalisation are now expected by the different stakeholder groups serviced by the courts and the NNTT. Whilst technology provides a lower cost option to meet this need, defining stakeholder needs and developing tailored responses creates significant workload.

Business, government and commercial organisations also expect the legal profession to conduct business with them electronically. We need to position the courts and the NNTT to continue to respond to this expectation and identify the most effective technology platform to address their needs. For the NNTT this also includes maintaining a balance between leveraging the benefits of technology to improve access, but also ensure that we meet the needs of clients in remote areas where access to technology can be not only cost prohibitive, but more importantly, inaccessible in some areas.

The work of the courts has also been impacted by economic and social change. For example, workloads for judges have increased as a result of increases in unrepresented litigants and, in the FCA, class actions. This trend is expected to continue over the four years of the plan.

For the NNTT, an increase in the determination of native title claims has placed greater emphasis on the challenges facing Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) and how native title holders can leverage economic development from the recognition of their native title rights and interests. Further, as the resolution of native title claims in settled areas proceeds, tenure analysis is becoming increasingly involved. The NNTT has been actively involved in assisting stakeholders to identify more efficient and timely ways to capture and analyse current and historical tenure.

There is a growing community awareness and focus on matters involving family violence and allegations of child abuse that impact on strategy for the FCoA and the FCC. Cases involving mental illness and substance abuse have also increased, as have cases relating to international family law (including Hague Convention abduction matters and the 1996 Protection Convention), as well as medical procedures for which court approval is required. These are complex matters that present strategic challenges for each court.