When can a Non-party Access Court Documents?

Subject to any order or direction of the Court and certain exceptions (listed below), a non-party may inspect the "unrestricted" documents set out in r 2.32(2) of the Federal Court Rules either after the first directions hearing or hearing (whichever is earlier) or prior, with leave of the Court. These include documents such as originating applications, pleadings (or particulars of a pleadings), certain formal notices and reasons for judgment. 

The exceptions include where the Court has ordered the Court documents are:

  • confidential (r 2.32(3) of the Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth) (Federal Court Rules))
  • forbidden from, or restricted from publication to, the person or a class of persons of which the person is a member (r 2.32(3) of the Federal Court Rules)
  • suppressed or prohibited or restricted from publication on the grounds permitted in Part VAA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) (see s 37AF).

Under r 2.32(4) of the Federal Court Rules, a non-party may apply to the Court for leave (permission) to inspect any "restricted" documents (see table below).

Generally, access to a restricted document, including an exhibit, would be granted where the document (or the relevant parts of the document) has been admitted into evidence or read out in open court. However, there may be cases where it would be appropriate to refuse access to a document on the basis that:

  • only parts of the document have been admitted into evidence or read in open court and
  • it would be unduly burdensome for Court staff to provide a redacted version of the document, showing only those parts that are in evidence or have been read out.

The Access to Documents and Transcripts Practice Note (GPN-ACCS) provides you with guidance on how to access Court documents in a case including what the Court will take into consideration when assessing access requests.

Restricted and Unrestricted documents

"Unrestricted" Court documents are those documents stated r 2.32(2) of the Rules.

"Restricted" Court documents include any document in a proceeding which falls outside the categories set out in r 2.32(2) of the Rules (unrestricted documents). The table below provides a non-exhaustive list of the categories of restricted documents that leave of the Court must be obtained in order for a non-party to inspect or obtain a copy.

Unrestricted documents (r 2.32(2) of the Rules)Restricted documents (non-exhaustive list)
  • an originating application or cross-claim
  • a notice of address for service
  • a statement of agreed facts or an agreed statement of facts
  • a pleading or particulars of a pleading or similar document (eg. Statement of Claim or Defence)
  • an interlocutory application
  • a judgment or an order of the Court
  • a notice of appeal or cross-appeal
  • a notice of discontinuance
  • a notice of change of lawyer
  • a notice of ceasing to act
  • in a proceeding to which Division 34.7 applies (i.e. Native Title Proceedings)
    an affidavit accompanying an application, or an amended application, under section 61 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
    an extract from the Register of Native Title Claims received by the Court from the Native Title Registrar
  • reasons for judgment
  • an affidavit (other than an affidavit accompanying an application or amended application in a native title proceeding)
  • an unsworn statement of evidence filed in accordance with a direction given by the Court or a Judge
  • interrogatories or answers to interrogatories
  • a list of documents given on discovery
  • an admission
  • evidence taken on deposition
  • written submissions or a written outline of submissions
  • a subpoena or documents lodged with the Registry in answer to a subpoena for production of documents
  • an exhibit

How to make an access request to inspect Court documents

To make a request, see How to make an access request to inspect Court documents.

Updated 10 February 2023