Our court system, like most other official systems, has a hierarchical structure. The High Court of Australia (which is the final court of appeal in Australia) is at the top of the structure. The Victorian Magistrates’ Court (which is the court most people are likely to come into contact with) is at the bottom. In between are the County Court of Victoria and the Supreme Court of Victoria. Then there are the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia, which are both Commonwealth courts. Also, there is the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which is the Commonwealth equivalent to the Victorian Magistrates’ Court. For the overall structure of state and Commonwealth courts, see the diagram following.
This diagram sets out the general hierarchy of courts and some tribunals. It is not meant to set out rights of appeal between the courts and tribunals.
Tribunals are less formal forums for resolving disputes in specialised areas; they have become an important part of the Australian justice system and are discussed later in “Tribunals”.