Judiciary of Australia

The judiciary of Australia comprises judges who sit in federal courts and courts of the States and Territories of Australia. The High Court of Australia sits at the apex of the Australian court hierarchy as the ultimate court of appeal on matters of both federal and State law.

The large number of courts in Australia have different procedural powers and characteristics, different jurisdictional limits, different remedial powers and different cost structures.

Under the Australian Constitution, the judicial power of the Commonwealth is vested in the High Court of Australia and such other federal courts as may be created by the federal Parliament. These courts include the Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, and the Family Court of Australia. Federal jurisdiction can also be vested in State courts.

The Supreme Courts of the States and Territories are superior courts of record with general and unlimited jurisdiction within their own State or Territory.

Like the Supreme Courts of the States, the Family Court and Federal Court are superior courts of record, which means that they have certain inherent procedural and contempt powers. But unlike their State counterparts, their subject-matter jurisdiction must be conferred by statute. Under the doctrine of "accrued jurisdiction", the Federal Court can, however, rule on issues outside its explicit jurisdiction, provided that they are part of a larger controversy that the court does have jurisdiction over.[1]

The High Court has limited trial powers, but very rarely exercises them. It has ample power to transfer cases started there to another, more appropriate court, so that the High Court can conserve its energies for its appellate functions.

Common law and equity are administered by the same courts, in a manner similar to that of the Judicature Acts in the United Kingdom. Legal and equitable remedies may be pursued in the one action in the one court.