Commonwealth courts


Contributor: Greg Connellan

Commonwealth or national courts of Australia include the Federal Circuit Court, Federal Court, Family Court, the High Court and Commonwealth tribunals.

Federal Court of Australia

Although state Supreme Courts can hear matters involving Commonwealth law (i.e. they have federal jurisdiction), the Federal Court can also hear these cases. In some circumstances, the Federal Court can also hear state matters.

The Federal Court’s business includes industrial disputes, actions under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) and bankruptcy matters. There is a right of appeal from the decision of a single Federal Court judge to the “full” Federal Court (i.e. three Federal Court judges) and, if leave is granted, from there to the High Court. The Federal Court also hears appeals from decisions of the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

For more information, visit the Federal Court website at

Family Court of Australia

The Family Court deals with cases under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). There is a right of appeal to the full Family Court (i.e. three Family Court judges) and from there to the High Court.

For further information, visit the Family Court website at

Federal Circuit Court of Australia

The Federal Circuit Court (FCC), formerly the Federal Magistrates Court, was established as a separate court to deal with some cases that previously went to the Family Court or Federal Court. This court can hear a range of less complex family law matters and has the same child support powers as the Family Court. Proceedings can be transferred between the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court and there is a right of appeal to the Family Court in some matters. The jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court has expanded over time and includes reviewing some administrative decisions, industrial, migration, consumer and other matters.

For further information, visit the Federal Circuit Court website at

High Court of Australia

The High Court is the highest court in Australia. Appeals may be made to it from state Supreme Courts, although generally the High Court gives leave to appeal only when important points of law need to be decided. Some matters may be heard directly by it (e.g. constitutional matters).

The High Court’s decisions are binding on all states, so a decision on a case appealed from a Victorian Supreme Court to the High Court will (usually) result in a decision by the High Court that is binding on all other state courts.

High Court of Australia

Melbourne Registry Office, Level 17, Law Courts Building, 305 William Street, Melbourne Vic 3000

Tel: 8600 3001



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