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Federal Court of Australia
Federal Court of Australia

The Federal Court of Australia is an Australian superior court of record which has jurisdiction to deal with most civil disputes governed by federal law (with the exception of family law matters), along with some summary (less serious) criminal matters. Cases are heard at first instance by single Judges. The Court includes an appeal division referred to as the Full Court comprising three Judges, the only avenue of appeal from which lies to the High Court of Australia. In the Australian court hierarchy, the Federal Court occupies a position equivalent to the Supreme Courts of each of the states and territories. In relation to the other Courts in the federal stream, it is equal to the Family Court of Australia, and superior to the Federal Circuit Court. It was established in 1976 by the Federal Court of Australia Act.

The Chief Justice of the Federal Court is James Allsop.


The Federal Court has no inherent jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction flows from statute.[1][2] The Court's original jurisdiction include matters arising from Commonwealth legislation such as, for example, matters relating to taxation, trade practices, native title, intellectual property, industrial relations, corporations, immigration and bankruptcy.[3][4]

The Federal Court of Australia also has appellate jurisdiction from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia on all matters, with the exception of family law, where the Family Court of Australia has appellate jurisdiction.[5] The Court also exercises general appellate jurisdiction in criminal and civil matters on appeal from the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island;[3][4] and exercises appellate jurisdiction in appeals from State Supreme Courts in some federal matters.[6] Other federal courts and tribunals where the Court exercises appellate jurisdiction include the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority[7] and the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.[8]

Related courts

The jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia includes the jurisdiction exercised by two former federal courts, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and the Commonwealth Industrial Court.

The Federal Court of Bankruptcy had jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters and was created in 1930.[9] The jurisdiction in bankruptcy was transferred to the Federal Court of Australia on its establishment in 1977.[10]

The Commonwealth Industrial Court was established in 1956 as a result of the Boilermaker's case,[11] where the High Court held that a Chapter III Court could not exercise a non-judicial power, the arbitral function, because of the constitutional separation of powers in Australia.[11] The judicial functions were given to the newly created Commonwealth Industrial Court and the arbitral functions were given to Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.[12]

The Court was renamed the Australian Industrial Court in 1973.[13] In 1977 the jurisdiction of the Australian Industrial Court was transferred to the Federal Court of Australia.[14]

In 1993 the industrial relations jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia was transferred to the Industrial Relations Court of Australia,[15] and transferred back to the Federal Court of Australia in 1996.[16] The last judge of the Industrial Relations Court, Anthony North, retired in September 2018.[17]

Current judges

  • Susan Kenny (16 October 1998)
  • John Middleton (7 August 2006)
  • Mordecai Bromberg (7 December 2009)
  • Bernard Murphy (13 June 2011)
  • Iain Ross (1 March 2012) (also President of Fair Work Commission)
  • Jennifer Davies (4 July 2013)
  • Debra Mortimer (12 July 2013)
  • Jonathan Beach (30 June 2014)
  • Mark Moshinsky (3 November 2015)
  • David O'Callaghan (1 February 2017)
  • Simon Steward (1 February 2018)
  • Michael Wheelahan (3 October 2018)
  • Elias Anastassiou (1 February 2019)
  • Michael O’Bryan (26 February 2019)
  • John Snaden (29 April 2019)
  • Stewart Anderson (6 May 2019)
  • Neil McKerracher (15 October 2007)
  • Katrina Banks-Smith (12 February 2018)
  • Craig Colvin (13 February 2018)
  • Darren Jackson (20 March 2019)
  • Anthony Besanko (3 April 2006)
  • Richard Conway White (31 August 2013)
  • Natalie Charlesworth (1 March 2016)

See also

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