Federal Magistrates Court

Federal Magistrates Court

The Federal Magistrates Court (also known as the Federal Magistrates Service or the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia"Federal Magistrates Act 1999" (Cth) [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/fma1999186/s8.html s 8] .] ) is an Australian court established by the "Federal Magistrates Act 1999 (Cth)", although its first officers were not appointed until 2000. The court was created to deal with the increasing workload of the Federal Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia, by hearing less complex cases for them and freeing them to deal only with more complex cases. The court now hears over 70% of applications filled in the federal courts. It is also intended to replace (in part) the federal jurisdiction with which state courts have been invested under the Judiciary Act 1903.

The Federal Magistrates Court was initially called the Federal Magistrates Service. As the court's jurisdiction has increased the name of the court has become less appropriate as a description of the court's work. The Federal Magistrates Court now exercises a jurisdiction far greater than that of the state magistrates courts and similar to that of the state district and county courts in Australia.

There are now over 45 Federal Magistrates in Australia. The first Chief Federal Magistrate, Diana Bryant left the court in 2004 when she was appointed the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia. The current Chief Federal Magistrate is John Pascoe. The current members of the court come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including barristers, solicitors, academic lawyers, and legal aid and public service lawyers. A list of the [http://www.fmc.gov.au/html/magistrates.html current members of the court] can be found on the court's website

The court sits permanently in each state capital (except Hobart and Perth), as well as the major regional centres of Launceston, Townsville and Newcastle. The court also sits in a large number of regional cities on circuits to hear family law cases. The court also hears some applications and evidence by telephone or video evidence when parties or witnesses live a long way from the court.

In keeping with the requirement in [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/fma1999186/s3.html sec 3] of the Federal Magistrates Act that the court act 'as informally as possible in the exercise of judicial power' barristers are not required to robe when appearing before the court. The court also has simpler rules than the Family Court or the Federal Court.


Bankruptcy, migration and family law comprise the largest components of the Court's work. [http://www.fmc.gov.au/pubs/docs/04-05pt3.pdf]

Administrative law

The Court has original jurisdiction under the "Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Act". The Court, on remittal from the Federal Court, hears appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.


The vast majority of bankruptcy matters are heard by the Court (92% in 2004-5) [http://www.fmc.gov.au/pubs/docs/04-05pt3.pdf] .


The Court may hear civil actions, with broad powers including unlimited damages, under the "Copyright Act 1968" for:
* general copyright infringements;
* moral rights infringements;
* performers' rights.

Family law

The largest component of the Court's workload comprises family law matters. It hears almost all divorce applications, [http://www.fmc.gov.au/pubs/docs/04-05pt3.pdf] and also deals with:
* spousal maintenance;
* property division;
* parenting orders, including contact, residence and maintenance; and
* determination of parentage;
* location and recovery orders and warrants for the apprehension or detention of children; and
* enforcement of orders made by the Court and the Family Court.There is no monetary limit on the jurisdiciton of the FMC in Family Law.


Reform in 2005 limited first instance jurisdiction to the Federal Magistrates Court and the High Court to review administrative decisions made by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Migration Review Tribunal.

Trade practices

In this area, the Court may determine claims, awarding a maximum of $750,000 in damages [ [http://www.fmc.gov.au/html/history.html History of Events of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia ] ] , in relation to:
* unfair trade practices;
* product safety and information matters;
* consumer protection matters;
* pyramid selling; and
* importation and manufacture of defective goods.

Unlawful discrimination

The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Court of Australia to hear and determine complaints of unlawful discrimination based on sex, age, race and disability. Its power to grant relief is wide - it may, for example, grant unlimited damages.

Other areas

The court also has jurisdiction over admiralty, workplace relations and privacy matters.


External links

* [http://www.fmc.gov.au Official website]
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/fma1999186/ "Federal Magistrates Act 1999"]
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_reg/fmr2000295/ "Federal Magistrates Regulations 2000"]
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_reg/fmcr2001307/s1.01.html "Federal Magistrates Court Rules 2001"]
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FMCA/ Judgments of the Federal Magistrates Court in general federal law] (on [http://www.austlii.edu.au/ AustLII] )
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FMCAfam/ Judgments of the Federal Magistrates Court in family law] (on [http://www.austlii.edu.au/ AustLII] )

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