In your state, you are required to confirm you wish to access this information. Please enter 'QLD' or 'WA' in the field below to continue.

No thanks

Different Australian Courts – How Do They Work?

Australian courts
Image: By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (High Court of Australia Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many different levels of Courts and Tribunals in Australia and you may have wondered how they all work. Each Court and Tribunal has its own special function and deals with distinct matters at both federal and state levels. Here is an outline of the different Courts and Tribunals you may come across in Australia.

 Australia’s Federal Courts

 Australia has four principle federal courts. These are:

  • High Court of Australia – This is the highest Court in Australia and the highest court of appeal. This court hears matters in relation to the meaning of the constitution and civil and criminal appeals from all Australian courts.
  • Federal Court of Australia – Hears matters in relation to bankruptcy, corporations, industrial relations, native title, taxation and trade practices laws and appeals from the Federal Magistrates Court (except family law).
  • Family Court of Australia – This court hears cases in relation to family disputes and appeals from the Federal Magistrates court in relation to family matters. This court is in every state except Western Australia where family matters are heard at the state level.
  • Federal Circuit Court of Australia – Formally known as the Federal Magistrates Court, this court hears less complex disputes in family, administrative, bankruptcy, industrial relations, migration and trade practices laws.

State Courts 

  • Magistrates Court – This is the lowest level of court and is sometimes called the Local Court. Here the Magistrate will hear the case and deliver a verdict, usually a fine or punishment. Cases in the Magistrates Court are civil matters involving less that $40,000 and criminal cases such as theft and drink driving. If the case is more serious, a committal hearing will occur to determine if the case should be heard in a higher court. Magistrate’s courts include Children’s Court, Minor Debts Court, Coroner’s Court, Small Claims Tribunals and Industrial Magistrates Courts.
  • District Court – This court is the next level in the hierarchy and can hear appeals from the Magistrates Court. It also deals with civil cases up to $250,000 and criminal offences such as robbery, rape and fraud. The District Court also has a jury.
  • County Court – This court is a Victorian court and sits at the same level as the District Court in all states expect Tasmania. It hears both criminal and civil matters.
  • Supreme Court – This is the highest state court and has two divisions, the Trial Division and Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal deals with cases heard in lower courts and cases are heard by three or five judges. The Trial Division deals with civil cases over $250,000 and criminal offences such as murder, manslaughter and serious drug offences. This division has a jury of ordinary citizens who determine if the accused is guilty or not guilty.

Tribunals 

  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal – Independent body which reviews administrative decisions made by the Australian Government ministers, officials, authorities and other tribunals.
  • Australian Competition Tribunal – Hears application of review put forward by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
  • Commonwealth Courts Portal – Online services providing information about Federal Court cases.
  • Copyright Tribunal of Australia – Inquires into the amount of royalty payable in relation to the recording of musical works. It also determines the granting of licences and remuneration costs.
  • Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal – Hears and determines appeals in relation to service offences by Australian Defence Force personnel.
  • Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal – Determines pay and allowance for regular and reserve members.
  • Fair Work Commission – Resolves workplace issues, disputes and dismissals.
  • National Native Title Tribunal – Develops understanding of native title, reach and rights to land and waters.
  • Veterans’ Review Board – Reviews decisions about repatriation pensions and attendant allowances.

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: July 13, 2017.

Join the discussion

Share this article:

There are 0 comments. Be the first!

Seasick on Sun Princess: Norovirus strikes again

The passengers of Carnival’s Sun Princess cruise ship have had their holiday marred, as the vessel was hit with yet another outbreak of norovirus. The voyage left Brisbane on 31 July 2017 travelling to Vanuatu and New Caledonia. By the time it returned on 10 August, at least 91 passengers were infected with the virus. […]

Read more

Landmark vaginal mesh class action begins in Sydney

On 4 July 2017, the trial for one of the Australia’s largest product liability class actions against Johnson & Johnson began in Sydney. Shine Lawyers brought the class action against Johnson & Johnson for its vaginal mesh implants, which have left thousands of women with painful and life altering complications. Implants with devastating impacts Up to […]

Read more

Tougher smoking laws passed in Queensland

Queensland has passed the toughest smoking laws in Australia this week. So what will it mean for smokers? From September 1 Smoking will be banned near: Childcare facilities Bus stops Taxi ranks Public pools Sporting venues Skate parks Outdoor malls Beaches Non-residential buildings (5-metre clearance) Smoking is no longer allowed in: Aged care facilities Pubs […]

Read more

What is an Inquest?

An inquest is a court hearing strictly designed to investigate single or multiple deaths and/or fire with the purpose of preventing a similar occurrence.

Read more

Call Us Now

Our friendly consultants are available to talk Monday to Friday, 8:15am to 6:00pm AEST.

1800 618 851

Live Chat

Chat with Shine Lawyers through the livechat system without leaving your computer. No downloading, completely private and best of all - its easy to use.

Start a live chat now

Enquire Now

Enquire now