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Court Practice & Procedure Noticeboard February 2021 - Federal Circuit Court’s Target Met Despite Pandemic

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The Federal Circuit Court of Australia’s target for 70% of matters to be resolved prior to trial was met for 2020 according to the recent release of the Court’s 21st Annual Report for the financial year ending 30 June 2020. However, the Court failed to meet the other targets for timely resolution of matters due to the impact of COVID-19.

The Court had been achieving a significant clearance rate for applications for final orders in family law, in particular through the Summer Campaign, and was steadily reducing the backlog of pending cases. However, the impact of the pandemic can clearly be detected in the statistics reported. The Report acknowledged that the substantial effort, reorganisation, training and administrative work on the part of judges and staff as the Court shifted to electronic hearings would have contributed to the lower number of applications finalised overall during this financial year.

Overall Snapshot

  • 62% of final orders applications were disposed of within 12 months;
  • 89% of all other applications were disposed of within six months; and 
  • 73% of matters were resolved prior to trial.

"While the Court has been able to continue with the majority of its workload during the pandemic and has maintained a high clearance rate, there are certain categories of work that have not been able to be conducted electronically at the usual rate they would be undertaken, for example trials for final orders applications," the Report noted at page 23.

Family Law Snapshot

  • 16,455 Final Orders applications were filed in 2019-2020, with 18,177 still pending;
  • 21,775 Interim Orders applications were filed in 2019-2020, with 10,577 still pending;
  • 45,886 Divorce applications were filed in 2019-2020, with 11,988 still pending.

The Report notes that, following the merger of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal now hears appeals from most decisions of the Child Support Registrar.

The Court has also developed a fully electronic divorce file which permits the management of divorce applications in electronic format from filing to disposition, offering litigants and the legal profession streamlined services.

Migration Law Snapshot

  • 6,555 Migration applications were filed in 2019-2020 and 4,045 were finalised.

The Report notes that the Court has expected a significant upward trend in the migration workload as a result of increasing numbers of reviews by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Independent Assessment Authority.

General Federal Law Snapshot

  • 88% of general federal law applications were disposed of within 12 months.


  • 1,872 Bankruptcy applications were filed in 2019-2020 and 2,105 were finalised.

The Commonwealth Government introduced temporary debt relief measures in March this year which will have had an impact on the bankruptcy filing figures. It is anticipated that there will be a substantial increase in filings after the measures are lifted and will flow through to the 2020–21 financial year.

The Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court have also adopted harmonised bankruptcy rules.

Fair Work

  • 1,563 Fair Work applications were filed in 2019-2020 and 1,329 were finalised.

The Report also referenced the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce Final Report and highlighted the recommendations from that report that addresses the exploitation of migrant workers.

Human Rights

  • 70 Human Rights applications were filed in 2019-2020 and 74 were finalised.

Intellectual Property

  • 57 Intellectual Property applications were filed in 2019-2020 and 36 were finalised.

The Report highlighted the Court as a forum for IP litigation, with the National IP List providing a streamlined and consistent national approach to the case management of IP litigation in the Court.

Download the full Report, including information on the provision of corporate services and financial statements, on the Federal Circuit Court website.

The Court Practice & Procedure Practice Area on Westlaw offers definitive guides to court practice and civil procedure in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, the federal courts, specialist courts such as the Land & Environment Court, and High Court. The services provide comprehensive annotated legislation relevant to lower and superior courts and coverage of relevant Rules, Practice Notes and costs issues. In addition, the Alert, Journals and the reports series will also enable practitioners to keep up to date with pertinent caselaw as well as primary law materials and precedents. The Court Practice & Procedure Noticeboard is specifically geared to deliver news items of interest and significance written and curated by in-house editors. To subscribe to the Court Practice & Procedure Practice Area on Westlaw, contact Thomson Reuters.
Headshort of Wyn Diong
By Wyn Diong
Senior Content Manager

Wyn is an experienced Senior Content Manager in the Analytical Law Team at Thomson Reuters with a long history of working in the information services industry. She holds a Bachelor of Media and a Postgraduate Certificate in TESOL from Macquarie University. In her years with Thomson Reuters, she has worked on multifarious publications in both Primary Law and Secondary Sources and is at present, nurturing multiple subscription services including Uniform Evidence Law, Indictable Offences Queensland and Victorian Courts. She is the (co)author of numerous articles on Legal Insight covering a diverse range of topics. Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, she worked for Pan Macmillan Australia at the Macquarie Dictionary and taught English as a Second Language and Academic English at Macquarie University.

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