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Report on Government Services 2024

Part C, Section 7: RELEASED ON 29 JANUARY 2024

7 Courts

The focus of this section is the court administration functions of Australian and state and territory courts.

Data is reported for the Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1), the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2), the criminal and civil jurisdictions of the supreme courts (including probate registries), district/county courts, magistrates' courts (including children's courts), coroners' courts and the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Indicator results tab uses data from the data tables to provide information on the performance for each indicator in the Indicator framework. The same data in the data tables are also available in CSV format.

Data downloads

  • Context
  • Indicator framework
  • Indicator results
  • Explanatory material

Objectives for courts

Courts aim to safeguard and maintain the rule of law and ensure equal justice for all. Court services support the courts and aim to encourage public confidence and trust in the courts by enabling them to:

  • be open and accessible
  • be affordable
  • process matters in a high quality, expeditious and timely manner.

Governments aim for court services to meet these objectives in an equitable and efficient manner.

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Service overview

The primary support functions of court administration services are to:

  • manage court facilities and staff, including buildings, security and ancillary services such as registries, libraries and transcription services
  • provide case management services, including client information, scheduling and case flow management
  • enforce court orders through the sheriff’s department or a similar mechanism.

Court support services are reported for the State and Territory supreme, district/county and magistrates’ (including children’s) courts, coroners’ courts and probate registries, and for the Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Divisions 1 and 2), and the Family Court of Western Australia.

The High Court of Australia, tribunals and specialist jurisdiction courts (for example, Indigenous courts, circle sentencing courts, drug courts and electronic infringement and enforcement systems) are excluded.

Roles and responsibilities

State and territory court levels

There is a hierarchy of courts within each state and territory (see figure 7.1). Supreme courts hear disputes of greater seriousness than those heard in the other courts. Supreme courts also develop the law and operate as courts of judicial review or appeal. For the majority of states and territories, the hierarchy of courts is as outlined below (although Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory do not have a district/county court):

  • supreme courts (includes probate)
  • district/county courts
  • magistrates’ courts (includes children’s and coroners’ courts).

Differences in state and territory court levels mean that the allocation of cases to courts and seriousness of cases heard varies across states and territories.

Supreme court jurisdictions across states and territories
Criminal courts

All state and territory supreme courts have jurisdiction over similar criminal matters such as murder, treason and certain serious drug offences, but significant differences exist in this court level across the states and territories:

  • District/county courts do not operate in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, instead the supreme courts generally exercise a jurisdiction equal to that of both the supreme and district/county courts in other states.
  • The Queensland Supreme Court deals with a number of drug matters, which supreme courts in other states and territories do not hear.
  • In the New South Wales Supreme Court, almost all indictments are for offences of murder and manslaughter, whereas the range of indictments routinely presented in most other states and territories is broader.
  • In the Western Australian Supreme Court, with the introduction of the Court Jurisdiction Legislation Amendment Act 2018 which came into effect on 1 January 2019, the Court predominantly deals with the most serious offences such as homicide and related offences, and serious breaches of Commonwealth drug enforcement laws.

All state and territory supreme courts hear appeals, but the number and type of appeals vary because in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland some appeals are also heard in district/county courts.

Civil courts

All supreme courts deal with appeals and probate applications and have an unlimited jurisdiction on claims but:

  • New South Wales usually deals with complex cases, all claims over $750,000 (except claims related to motor vehicle accidents or worker's compensation) and various other civil matters.
  • Victoria deals with complex cases, high value claims and various other civil matters.
  • Queensland deals with claims over $750,000 and administrative law matters.
  • Western Australia usually deals with claims over $750,000.
  • South Australia exercises its unlimited jurisdiction for general and personal injury matters.
  • Tasmania usually deals with claims over $50,000.
  • The Australian Capital Territory usually deals with claims over $250,000.
  • The Northern Territory also deals with mental health, family law and Coroners Act 1993 applications.
District/county court jurisdictions across states and territories

There are no district/county courts in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.

Criminal courts

The district/county courts have jurisdiction over indictable criminal matters (such as rape and armed robbery) except murder and treason, but differences exist among the states that have a district/county court. For example, appeals from magistrates' courts are heard in the district/county courts in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, but not in Western Australia and South Australia. In the latter two states, all appeals from the magistrates’ court (criminal) go directly to the Supreme court. Briefly, the jurisdictions of the district/county courts are:

  • New South Wales: The District Court deals with most of the serious criminal cases that come before the courts. It has responsibility for indictable criminal offences that are normally heard by a judge and jury, but on occasions by a judge alone. It does not deal with treason or murder.
  • Victoria: The County Court deals with all indictable offences, except the following which must be heard in the Supreme court: murder, attempted murder, child destruction, certain conspiracy charges, treason, and concealing an offence of treason. Examples of criminal offences heard in the County Court include drug trafficking, serious assaults, serious theft, rape and obtaining financial advantage by deception.
  • Queensland: The District Court deals with more serious criminal offences than heard by the Magistrates' Court – for example, rape, armed robbery and fraud.
  • Western Australia: With the introduction of the Court Jurisdiction Legislation Amendment Act 2018, which came into effect on 1 January 2019, the District Court has had jurisdiction for all indictable offences (and therefore the ability to impose a range of life imprisonment sentences) except those related to Murder, Manslaughter, attempt to unlawfully kill, assisted suicide etc, and selected Commonwealth offences – these are dealt with by the Supreme Court.
  • South Australia: The District Court is the principal trial court and has jurisdiction to try a charge of any offence except treason or murder or offences related to those charges. Almost all matters have been referred following a committal process in the Magistrates Court.
Civil courts

All district/county courts hear appeals and deal with the following types of cases:

  • New South Wales: claims up to $750,000 (or more if the parties consent) and has unlimited jurisdiction in motor accident injury claims.
  • Victoria: appeals under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008, adoption matters and change-of-name applications. Has unlimited jurisdiction in both personal injury claims and other claims.
  • Queensland: claims between $150,000 and $750,000.
  • Western Australia: claims up to $750,000 and unlimited claims for personal injuries and has exclusive jurisdiction for motor accident injury claims.
  • South Australia: unlimited claims for general and personal injury matters.
Magistrates’ court jurisdictions across states and territories
Criminal courts
  • New South Wales: deals summarily with matters with a maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment for a single offence, and up to five years' imprisonment for multiple offences, including some indictable offences.
  • Victoria: deals with summary offences and determines some indictable offences summarily.
  • Queensland: deals with summary offences and determines summarily some indictable matters where the penalty imposed by this jurisdiction may be up to three years imprisonment.
  • Western Australia: deals with summary offences and determines some indictable offences summarily.
  • South Australia: deals with matters with a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment for a single offence and 10 years imprisonment for multiple offences. Magistrates are able to sentence a defendant in relation to certain major indictable offences where the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and defence agree to the defendant being sentenced in the Magistrates' Court.
  • Tasmania: deals with matters with a maximum penalty of up to two years imprisonment for a single offence and up to five years imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence. Also deals with some indictable offences summarily.
  • Australian Capital Territory: deals summarily with matters with a maximum penalty of up to two years imprisonment. With the DPP's consent, an offence punishable by imprisonment for longer than two years but up to five years. With a defendant's consent, matters with a maximum penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment where the offence relates to money or property (up to 10 years in other cases).
  • Northern Territory: deals with some drug and fraud charges and matters with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment (or 10–14 years imprisonment if the accused consents).
Civil courts
  • New South Wales: deals with small claims up to $20,000 and general division claims up to $100,000, as well as family law matters.
  • Victoria: deals with claims up to $100,000 for monetary damages, and applications for equitable relief and applications under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010.
  • Queensland: deals with claims up to $150,000. Since 1 November 2010 minor civil disputes are lodged with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
  • Western Australia: deals with claims for debt recovery and damages (not personal injury) up to $75,000, minor cases up to $10,000, residential tenancy applications for monies up to $10,000, residential tenancy disputes and restraining orders.
  • South Australia: deals with minor civil claims up to $12,000, and all other claims including commercial cases and personal injury claims up to $100,000.
  • Tasmania: deals with claims up to $50,000 (or more if both parties consent) for monetary damages and debt recovery, minor civil claims up to $5,000, residential tenancy disputes, restraint orders and family violence orders.
  • Australian Capital Territory: deals with claims between $25,000 and $250,000, victims' financial assistance applications up to $50,000, matters under the Domestic Relationships Act 1994 and commercial leasing matters. Until December 2016, small claims up to $10,000 were dealt with by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. From December 2016 the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has had jurisdiction for small claims up to $25,000.
  • Northern Territory: deals with claims up to $100,000 and workers compensation claims.
State and territory courts – specific elements

The datasets from the following areas are reported separately from their court level to improve comparability and understanding of the data presented.

Probate

In all states and territories, probate issues are heard in supreme courts and encompass applications for the appointment of an executor or administrator to the estate of a deceased person. The two most common types of application are:

  • where the executor nominated by a will applies to have the will proved
  • where the deceased was intestate (died without a will) and a person applies for letters of administration to be entitled to administer the estate.
Children’s courts

Children's courts are specialist jurisdiction courts which sit within magistrates' courts. Depending on the state or territory legislation, children's courts may hear both criminal and civil matters. These courts in the main deal with summary proceedings, however some jurisdictions have the power to also hear indictable matters.

Children's courts deal with complaints of offences alleged to have been committed by young people. In all states and territories, children aged under 10 years cannot be charged with a criminal offence. People aged under 18 years at the time the offence was committed are considered a child or juvenile in all states and territories. In February 2018, the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Act 2016 commenced in Queensland, increasing the age that a person can be charged as an adult from 17 to 18 years. This brought Queensland in line with all other Australian states and territories.

Children's courts may also hear matters where a child has been seriously abused or neglected. In these instances, the court has jurisdiction to determine matters relating to the child's care and protection. The majority of matters heard in the civil jurisdiction of children's courts are care and protection orders, although some jurisdictions also hear matters such as applications for intervention orders. In Tasmania, child protection matters are lodged in the criminal registry.

Coroners’ courts

In all states and territories, coroners' courts (which generally operate under the auspices of state and territory magistrates' courts) inquire into the cause of sudden and/or unexpected reported deaths. The definition of a reported death differs across states and territories, but generally includes deaths for which the cause is violent, suspicious or unknown. All coronial jurisdictions investigate deaths in accordance with their respective Coroners Act. Each Act defines what constitutes a 'reportable death' to determine which deaths must be investigated by a coroner. In some states and territories, the coroner has the power to commit for hearing, while in others the coroner is prohibited from making any finding of criminal or civil liability (but may refer the matter to the DPP). Suspicious fires are generally within the jurisdiction of the coroners' courts in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory but not in the other states and territories. In 2015-16, the scope of fires captured by the ACT Coroners' Act changed, which resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of fires reported to the coroner in the Australian Capital Territory.

Australian court levels

Australian courts hear and determine civil matters arising under laws made by the Australian Government. The hierarchy of Australian courts (see figure 7.1) is as follows:

  • the High Court of Australia
  • the Federal Court
  • the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1)
  • the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2).
Figure 7.1 Major relationships of courts in Australia a
Figure 7.1 – Diagram showing an overview of the major relationships of courts in Australia. The diagram depicts higher and lower courts and the flow of cases on appeal. More details can be found within the text surrounding this image.

a In some jurisdictions, appeals from lower courts or district/county courts may go directly to the full court or court of appeal at the supreme/federal level; appeals from the Federal Circuit Court can also be heard by a single judge exercising the Federal/Family Courts’ appellate jurisdiction. b Appeals from federal, state and territory tribunals may go to any higher court in their jurisdiction.

Australian Government courts

On 1 September 2021, the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia were renamed as the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) (FCFCOA (Division 1)) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) (FCFCOA (Division 2)) respectively. The Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) are, for the purposes of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, a single listed entity known as the Federal Court of Australia. The administrative arrangements for the two courts have been harmonised under a single, consistent structure. The FCFCOA (Division 1) deals only with family law matters while the FCFCOA (Division 2) deals with family law, migration and other general federal law matters. Since 1 September 2021, the FCFCOA (Division 2) is the single point of entry for all family law applications filed in the federal family law courts (including applications for final orders, associated interim orders, consent orders and applications for divorce).

Federal Court of Australia

The Federal Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine any civil matter arising under laws made by the Federal Parliament, as well as any matter arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation. The Federal Court also has original jurisdiction in respect of specific subject matter conferred by 240 statutes of the Federal Parliament. It sits in all capital cities on a continuous basis and elsewhere in Australia from time to time.

The Federal Court has a substantial and diverse appellate jurisdiction. It hears appeals from decisions of single judges of the Federal Court, decisions of the FCFCOA (Division 2) in non‑family law matters, decisions of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island and particular decisions of State and Territory supreme courts exercising federal jurisdiction. Non‑appeal matters for the Federal Court include a significant number of Native Title matters which by nature are both long and complex.

The Federal Court has the power to exercise indictable criminal jurisdiction for serious cartel offences under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (formerly the Trade Practices Act). The Federal Court also exercises a very small summary criminal jurisdiction, but the cases are not separately counted. There are so few cases, these would not make a material difference by being included in the civil case totals.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1)

The FCFCOA (Division 1) has first instance jurisdiction in all states and territories except Western Australia (which has its own family court). It has jurisdiction to deal with matrimonial cases and associated responsibilities, including divorce proceedings, financial issues and children’s matters such as who the children will live with, spend time with and communicate with, as well as other specific issues relating to parental responsibilities. It can also deal with ex-nuptial cases involving children’s matters. The most complex disputes are heard in the FCFCOA (Division 1).

The FCFCOA (Division 1) has appellate jurisdiction and hears all family law appeals from the FCFCOA (Division 1), FCFCOA (Division 2), the Family Court of Western Australia, and other state and territory courts exercising original jurisdiction in family law.

Family Court of Western Australia

The Family Court of Western Australia was established in 1976 as a state court exercising both state and federal jurisdiction. The Court deals primarily with disputes arising out of relationship breakdowns. It comprises judges, family law magistrates and registrars. Funding for the court is principally sourced through a grant from the Australian Government, which is provided annually to the Western Australian Government. The Western Australian Government provides limited funding for proceedings brought under State legislation dealing with property disputes between de facto couples.

The FCFCOA (Division 1) hears appeals involving the federal family law jurisdiction. In relation to the exercise of non-federal family law jurisdiction (pursuant to the Family Court Act 1997 (WA)) appeals are heard in the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2)

Since 1 September 2021, the FCFCOA (Division 2) is the single point of entry for all family law applications filed in the federal family law courts (including applications for final orders, associated interim orders, consent orders, and applications for divorce). As a result, the vast majority of family law applications continue to be case managed and heard in the FCFCOA (Division 2). The Court now also undertakes a triage function to ensure the most legally and/or factually complex cases are transferred to the FCFCOA (Division 1) for hearing.

The jurisdiction of the FCFCOA (Division 2) is broad and includes a number of varied and complex areas including family law and child support, administrative law, admiralty, anti-terrorism, bankruptcy, copyright, human rights, industrial, migration, privacy and trade practices.

Information on the manner in which court authorities value and treat assets is provided in table 7.12.

Funding

Nationally in 2022-23, total recurrent expenditure (excluding payroll tax) by Australian, state and territory courts in this report was approximately $2.47 billion (table 7.1). Expenditure in some states and territories is apportioned (estimated) between the criminal and civil jurisdictions of courts so caution should be used when comparing criminal and civil expenditure across states and territories.

Total recurrent expenditure less court income (excluding payroll tax) for the Australian, state and territory courts in this report was $2.04 billion in 2022-23 (tables 7A.14−15). Court income is derived from court fees, library revenue, court reporting revenue, sheriff and bailiff revenue, probate revenue, mediation revenue, rental income and any other sources of revenue (excluding fines). The civil jurisdiction of courts accounts for the vast majority of income received (table 7A.13).

Cost recovery and fee relief in the civil courts

Court fees are mainly collected in civil courts and in some jurisdictions are set by government rather than court administrators. The level of cost recovery from the collection of civil court fees varies across court levels and states and territories. Nationally, in 2022-23, 25% of costs were recovered through court fees in the Supreme courts, 16% in the Federal court, 41% in the District courts and 18% in the Magistrates’ courts (table 7A.16). Cost recovery tends to be low in the children’s courts – in these courts many applications do not attract a fee.

Most courts in Australia are able to waive or reduce court fees to ameliorate the impact on vulnerable or financially disadvantaged parties (fee relief). Table 7.2 shows that the proportions of total payable civil court fees which were waived or reduced in 2022-23 were highest in the Northern Territory Magistrates' court (52.3%) followed by the FCFCOA (Division 2) (44.6%) and the Family Court of Western Australia (20.4%).

Fee exemptions are also available in some courts – this is usually where legislation exists to exempt particular categories of fees from being payable. Fee exemptions are more common in the Federal courts than state and territory courts (table 7A.19).

During 2022-23, almost $41.4 million of civil court fees were either waived, reduced or exempted and therefore not recovered by courts (table 7A.19).

Size and scope

Staffing

Descriptive information on the numbers of judicial officers and full time equivalent staff can be found in tables 7A.28–30.

Lodgments

Lodgments are matters initiated in the court system and provide the basis for court workload as well as reflecting community demand for court services (see tables 7A.1–2 for further information).

State and territory courts

Nationally, there were 726,299 criminal lodgments registered in the supreme, district/county, magistrates’ and children’s courts in 2022-23 (table 7A.1). There was an increase in criminal lodgments from 2021-22 across all states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory.

Nationally, there were 390,233 civil lodgments (table 7A.2). An additional 93,947 probate matters were lodged in the supreme courts (table 7A.2).

In the coroners’ courts, there were 29,697 deaths and 68 fires reported, with numbers varying across jurisdictions as a result of different reporting requirements (table 7A.2). There were an additional 13,715 lodgments in the Family Court of Western Australia.

There were more lodgments in the criminal courts than civil courts in all states and territories (figure 7.2). Most criminal and civil matters in Australia in 2022-23 were lodged in magistrates’ courts (see figure 7.2). The number of lodgments per 100,000 people can assist in understanding the comparative workload of a court in relation to the population of the state or territory (see tables 7A.3 (criminal) and 7A.4 (civil) for data by state and territory).

Australian Government courts

In 2022-23, there were 3,399 lodgments in the Federal Court of Australia, 5,845 lodgments in the FCFCOA (Division 2, non-family law matters) and 98,684 lodgments in the FCFCOA (Divisions 1 and 2, family law matters) (table 7A.2).

Finalisations

Finalisations represent the completion of matters in the court system so that they cease to be an item of work for the court. Each lodgment can be finalised only once. Matters may be finalised by adjudication, transfer, or another non‑adjudicated method (such as withdrawal of a matter by the prosecution or settlement by the parties involved)1.

Most cases that are finalised in the criminal and civil courts do not proceed to trial. Generally, cases that proceed to trial are more time-consuming and resource-intensive. In the criminal courts the proportions of all finalised non‑appeal cases that were finalised following the commencement of a trial in 2022-23 varied from 2% to 77% in the supreme courts and from 7% to 22% in the district courts. Proportions in the magistrates' courts varied from 1% to 15% (state and territory court authorities and departments, unpublished).

State and territory courts

In 2022-23, there were 739,242 criminal finalisations in the supreme, district/county, magistrates’ and children’s courts and 354,284 civil finalisations in these courts (tables 7A.5–6).

There were an additional 29,615 cases finalised in the coroners’ courts and 13,345 cases finalised in the Western Australian Family Court (table 7A.6). The number of finalisations per 100,000 people is available in tables 7A.7–8.

The pattern of finalisations across states and territories (figure 7.3) is similar to that of lodgments, but the number of lodgments will not equal the number of finalisations in any given year because not all matters lodged in one year will be finalised in the same year.

Australian Government courts

In 2022-23, there were 3,230 cases finalised in the Federal Court of Australia, 4,237 cases finalised in the FCFCOA (Division 1) and 103,776 cases finalised in the FCFCOA (Division 2) (table 7A.6).

Lodgments and finalisations in criminal courts – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The proportion of all criminal non-appeal matters lodged and finalised in the Supreme, District, Magistrates’, and Children’s courts involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in the criminal courts relative to their representation in the community (table 7.3). Indigenous status is based on self-identification by the individual who comes into contact with police, with this information transferred from police systems to the courts when the defendant’s matter is lodged in the courts. Data for criminal courts are presented for six jurisdictions (New South Wales (data is available for the Supreme Court only), Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory). For other jurisdictions, data on Indigenous status is either not available or not currently considered to be of sufficient quality for publication.

Finalisations in civil courts – applications for domestic and family violence protection orders

Domestic and family violence matters2 are generally dealt with at the magistrates’ court level. Applications for protection orders are civil matters in the court while offences relating to domestic and family violence (including breaches of violence orders and protection orders) are dealt with in criminal courts. Protection orders are the most broadly used justice response mechanism for addressing the safety of women and children exposed to domestic and family violence (Taylor et al. 2015).

In 2022-23, across all magistrates’ courts approximately 47% of all finalised civil cases involved applications for domestic and family violence-related protection orders (excludes interim orders and applications for extension, revocation or variation) (table 7.4). Proportions varied across states and territories, and was lower nationally compared with 2021-22.

The FCFCOA (Division 1) and FCFCOA (Division 2) do not issue family violence protection orders. Since 1 November 2020, it has been mandatory in both courts for each party to file a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk in every proceeding where parenting orders are sought. In 2022-23, data from the Notices filed with applications for final orders seeking parenting orders indicates that in 83% of matters, one or more parties alleged that they had experienced family violence (FCFCOA Annual Report 2022-23, p. 9).

  1. For the purposes of this report, civil non-appeal lodgments that have had no court action in the past 12 months are counted (deemed) as finalised. The rationale for this is to focus on those matters that are active and part of a workload that the courts can progress. A case which is deemed finalised is considered closed – in the event that it becomes active again in the court after 12 months it is not counted again in this report. Locate Footnote 1 above
  2. While ‘domestic’ and ‘family’ violence are distinct concepts, the former referring to violence against an intimate partner and the latter referring to broader family and kinship relationships, the terms are often used interchangeably and their definitions generally incorporate both domestic and family-related violence. Locate Footnote 2 above

The performance indicator framework provides information on equity, efficiency and effectiveness, and distinguishes the outputs and outcomes of courts. The framework of performance indicators for courts is based on common objectives for courts. The emphasis placed on each objective may vary across states and territories and court levels.

The performance indicator framework shows which data is complete and comparable in this report. For data that is not considered directly comparable, text includes relevant caveats and supporting commentary. Section 1 discusses data comparability and completeness from a report-wide perspective. In addition to the contextual information for this service area (see Context tab), the report's statistical context (section 2) contains data that may assist in interpreting the performance indicators presented in this section.

Improvements to performance reporting for courts are ongoing and will include identifying data sources to fill gaps in reporting for performance indicators and measures, and improving the comparability and completeness of data.

The Steering Committee recognises that this courts data collection (unlike some other data collections) does not have an intermediary data collector or validator akin to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare or the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The reporting process in this section is one of continual improvement and refinement, with the long-term aim of developing a national data collection that covers court processes across the Australian, State and Territory jurisdictions in a timely and comparable way.

Outputs

Outputs are the actual services delivered (while outcomes are the impact of these services on the status of an individual or group) (see section 1). Output information is also critical for equitable, efficient and effective management of government services.

Outcomes

Outcomes are the impact of services on the status of an individual or group (see section 1).

Indicator framework diagram showing equity, effectiveness and efficiency output indicators and outcome indicators, and shows comparability and completeness of indicators. Details described in text below.

Text version of indicator framework

Performance – linked to Objectives

Outputs
  • Equity – Access
    • Access to interpreter services – no data reported and/or no measures yet developed
  • Effectiveness – Access – Timeliness and delay
    • Judicial officers – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    • Backlog – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    • On-time case processing – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    • Attendance – most recent data for all measures is either not comparable and/or not complete
    • Clearance – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
  • Effectiveness – Access – Affordability
    • Fees paid by applicants – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
  • Effectiveness – Quality
    • Complaints – no data reported and/or no measures yet developed
  • Efficiency – Inputs per unit of output
    • Judicial officers per finalisation – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    • FTE staff per finalisation – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    • Cost per finalisation – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
    Outcomes
    • Perceptions of court integrity – no data reported and/or no measures yet developed

    A description of the comparability and completeness is provided under the Indicator results tab for each measure.

An overview of the Courts performance indicator results is presented. Different delivery contexts, locations, caseloads, case mixes and government policies can affect the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of court services. The allocation of cases to different courts also differs across states and territories and Australian courts.

The courts data collection is based on national counting rules, so data presented in this section may differ from data published by individual jurisdictions in their annual reports. There also can be differences from the data reported in the ABS Criminal Courts publication (ABS 2023) – the ABS publication provides information about judicial decisions relating to finalised and adjudicated defendants.

Information to assist the interpretation of this data can be found with the indicators below and all data (footnotes and data sources) is available for download above as an excel spreadsheet and a CSV dataset. Data tables are identified by a ‘7A’ prefix (for example, table 7A.1).

Specific data used in figures can be downloaded by clicking in the figure area, navigating to the bottom of the visualisation to the grey toolbar, clicking on the 'Download' icon and selecting 'Data' from the menu. Selecting 'PDF' or 'Powerpoint' from the 'Download' menu will download a static view of the performance indicator results.

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1. Access to Interpreter services

‘Access to interpreter services’ is an indicator of government’s objective to provide court services in an equitable manner. One component of equity of access to court services in Australia is an ability to receive access to interpreter services for those who need assistance with understanding and communicating in the court system.

‘Access to interpreter services’ is defined as the number of booking requests made for an interpreter in the courtroom where the interpreter attended, divided by the number of booking requests made for an interpreter in the courtroom, multiplied by 100.

As Australia’s population becomes increasingly diverse, there is a growing need to provide access to interpreters in the courtroom to accommodate the linguistic diversity of people coming before the courts. This is particularly the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with more than 100 languages and dialects spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory (Hurst 2019, available on North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency website).

The ability of courts to provide interpreters to meet demand is heavily dependent upon the availability of suitable interpreters. Factors affecting the suitability of an interpreter for a particular defendant can include qualifications in the relevant language, cultural factors such as familiarity with community, and sex (Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity 2017).

Demand for interpreter services in the courtroom is likely to be greater than the availability of appropriate and qualified interpreters. This gap will vary across states and territories as the diversity of language composition of state and territory populations differs.

High or increasing proportions of booking requests where an interpreter attended are desirable.

Data is not yet available for reporting against this indicator.

A case study example in box 7A.1 shows available pilot data for South Australian and Tasmanian criminal courts – this case study is presented to provide insights into the potential value of this measure when more courts become able to report.

In 2022-23, booking requests for an interpreter where an interpreter attended in South Australia's criminal courts was 100% for the Supreme court, 92.5% for the District court, 81.8% for the Magistrates’ court and 75.9% for the Children’s courts (82.4% across all South Australian courts). In Tasmania's criminal courts, attendance was 88.9% for the Supreme court and 75.5% for the Magistrates’ court and 83.3% for the Children's court (78.7% across all courts) (States and territory unpublished).

In South Australian criminal courts in 2022-23, a total of 2,791 booking requests were made for an interpreter in the courtroom (involving over 60 different languages). In Tasmanian Supreme, Magistrates' and Children's criminal courts, a total of 277 booking requests were made for an interpreter (table 7A.36).

Data on interpreter attendance by language requested is available in table 7A.36.

2. Judicial officers

‘Judicial officers’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of providing services that enable courts to be open, accessible and affordable. This indicator relates access to the number of judicial officers available to deal with cases in relation to population size.

‘Judicial officers’ is defined as the number of full time equivalent (FTE) judicial officers divided by the relevant resident population, multiplied by 100,000.

Judicial officers can make enforceable orders of the court. For the purposes of this report, the definition of a judicial officer includes: judges; associate judges; magistrates; masters; coroners; judicial registrars; all other officers who, following argument and giving of evidence, make enforceable orders of the court. Where judicial officers have both judicial and non-judicial work, this refers to the proportion of time allocated to judicial work.

A high or increasing proportion of judicial officers in the population indicates potentially greater access to the judicial system.

Factors such as geographical dispersion, judicial workload and population density are also important to consider when comparing figures concerning judicial officers.

Nationally in 2022-23, there were 4.9 FTE judicial officers in the criminal and civil courts per 100,000 people in the population (table 7.5b).

3. Backlog

‘Backlog’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of processing matters in an expeditious and timely manner.

‘Backlog’ is a measure of the age of a court’s active pending caseload at 30 June, against nominated time benchmarks. It is defined as the number of cases in the nominated age category as a proportion of the total pending caseload.

The following national benchmarks have been set.

For the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2), magistrates’ and children’s courts:

  • no more than 10% of lodgments pending completion are to be more than 6 months old
  • no lodgments pending completion are to be more than 12 months old.

For Supreme courts, the Federal Court, district/county, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1), the Family Court of Western Australia, coroners’ courts and all appeals:

  • no more than 10% of lodgments pending completion are to be more than 12 months old
  • no lodgments pending completion are to be more than 24 months old.

In the criminal jurisdiction lodgments that have bench warrants associated with them have been excluded from the pending count. In the civil jurisdiction lodgments that have not been acted upon in the last 12 months are deemed finalised and excluded from the pending count (the deeming rule does not apply to appeal cases). These exclusions are so that only those matters that are part of an active caseload are included in the pending count. Jurisdictions diverting from the national counting rule are footnoted.

Court backlog and timeliness of case processing can be affected by a number of factors, some of which may not be due to court delay. In addition to changes in lodgment and finalisation numbers, backlog in criminal courts may be influenced by: (a) the complexity of cases, which may vary across court levels and across jurisdictions; (b) whether cases have become inactive or remain an active part of the court's workload; (c) cases which require finalisation in another court level; (d) matters on interlocutory appeal; (e) cases delayed by related cases or co-accused; (f) unavailability of a witness or other participant.

Backlog in civil matters may be influenced by: (a) different case flow management practices across court levels and across jurisdictions; (b) involvement of several related applications or issues that require judgements and decision by the court for a single case; (c) matters which may be adjourned at the instigation of, and by the consent of, the parties which are outside the control of the court; (d) the court employing case management or other dispute resolution processes (for example, mediation) as alternatives or prior to formal adjudication; (e) family law matters determined to be 'on hold'.

Performance relative to the benchmarks indicates effective management of caseloads and timeliness of court services.

Figure 7.4 shows the backlog in the Supreme/Federal, District, Magistrates' and Children's courts. At 30 June 2023, the backlog in civil courts was generally higher than criminal courts across most states and territories.

Detailed data on the backlog for criminal and civil matters (including appeal and non-appeal disaggregations and historical data) for all court levels is available in tables 7A.20−21.

4. On-time case processing

‘On-time case processing’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of processing matters in an expeditious and timely manner.

‘On-time case processing’ is a measure of the age of cases which have been finalised in the financial year, against nominated time categories. It is defined as the number of finalised cases at each court level which were finalised in less than or equal to 6, 12 or 24 months (dependent on court level), as a proportion of the total cases finalised during the financial year.

Higher proportions of cases finalised in these time categories indicates effective management of caseloads and timeliness of court services. The on-time case processing indicator should be considered in conjunction with the backlog indicator.

Time taken to process cases is not necessarily due to court delay. Some delays are caused by factors other than those related to the workload of the court (for example, a witness being unavailable). See tables 7A.22–23 for further information about factors which can impact on delay.

Figure 7.5 shows the proportion of finalised cases:

  • in the Supreme/Federal and District courts (all matters) which were finalised in less than or equal to 12 or 24 months
  • in the Magistrates’ and Children’s courts which were finalised in less than or equal to 6 or 12 months.

Data for on-time case processing for criminal and civil matters for all court levels is available in tables 7A.22−23.

5. Attendance

‘Attendance’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of processing matters in an expeditious and timely manner.

‘Attendance’ is defined as the average number of attendances recorded (no matter when the attendance occurred) for those cases that were finalised during the year. The number of attendances is the number of times that parties or their representatives are required to be present in court to be heard by a judicial officer or mediator/arbitrator where binding orders can be made. The number includes appointments that are adjourned or rescheduled. A court appearance extending over more than one day is counted as one attendance.

Fewer attendances may suggest a more effective process. However, this should be balanced against the likelihood that the number of attendances will increase if rehabilitation or diversionary programs are used, or if intensive case management is used. Both of these paths are believed to improve the quality of outcomes as:

  • rehabilitation and diversionary programs aim to provide therapeutic benefits for the offenders, and benefits of reduced recidivism for the community
  • intensive case management is believed to maximise the prospects of settlement (and thereby reduce the litigant’s costs, the number of cases queuing for hearing, and the flow of work on to appellate courts); alternatively, it can narrow the issues for trial (thus shortening trial time and also reducing costs and the queuing time for other cases waiting for hearing).

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can resolve some types of matters out of court and thereby reduce the need for judicial hearings. Accordingly, differences across jurisdictions in the availability and use of ADR can affect the comparability of the attendance indicator.

Data for attendance is available in table 7A.24.

Attendance data can be difficult to collect. Due to system limitations, some jurisdictions supply data on listed hearings rather than actual attendances in court. Attendance data for criminal courts are provided in table 7.6a and for civil courts are provided in table 7.6b.

6. Clearance

‘Clearance’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of processing matters in an expeditious and timely manner.

‘Clearance’ indicates whether a court’s pending caseload has increased or decreased over the measurement period, by comparing the volume of case finalisations and case lodgments during the reporting period. It is measured by dividing the number of finalisations in the reporting period by the number of lodgments in the same period, multiplied by 100.

The following can assist in interpretation of this indicator:

  • a figure of 100% indicates that, during the reporting period, the court finalised as many cases as were lodged, and the pending caseload should be similar to the pending caseload 12 months earlier
  • a figure greater than 100% indicates that, during the reporting period, the court finalised more cases than were lodged, and the pending caseload should have decreased
  • a figure less than 100% indicates that, during the reporting period, the court finalised fewer cases than were lodged, and the pending caseload should have increased.

Higher or increasing proportions of cases cleared indicates effective management of caseloads. However the clearance indicator can be affected by external factors (such as those causing changes in lodgment rates), an increase or decrease in the numbers of cases proceeding to a hearing or trial and the time required to finalise them, as well as by changes in a court’s case management practices. Results for this indicator need to be interpreted within the context of changes in the volumes of lodgments, finalisations and pending caseloads over time.

Clearance data for criminal and civil courts are provided in table 7.7. Disaggregation of these data by appeal/non-appeal is in tables 7A.25–27.

7. Fees paid by applicants

‘Fees paid by applicants’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of enabling courts to be open, accessible and affordable.

‘Fees paid by applicants’ is defined as the average civil court fees paid per lodgment. It is derived by dividing the total civil court fees collected (filing, sitting, hearing and deposition fees) by the number of civil lodgments in a year. Court fees exclude enforcement, transcript and mediation fees.

Providing court service quality is held constant, lower court fees help keep courts accessible.

In 2022-23, average civil court fees paid per lodgment were greater in supreme courts (excluding probate) than in district/county and magistrates’ courts (table 7.8). The average fees collected by the Australian courts, and state and territory courts vary for many reasons and caution should be used in making direct comparisons.

8. Complaints

‘Complaints’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to provide court services in a high quality manner.

‘Complaints’ is defined as the number of complaints recorded by courts relating to administrative staff, services, policy or facilities per 100,000 people in the population, expressed in index form comparing trends within a jurisdiction over time.

A low or decreasing trend in complaints per 100,000 people in the population (index score) is desirable.

Data is not yet available for reporting against this indicator.

A case study example in Box 7A.2 shows available data for South Australian courts – this case study is presented to provide insight into the potential value of this measure when more courts become able to report. Complaints relating to administrative functions of South Australian courts increased in 2021-22 relative to the indexed baseline, but decreased relative to 2021-22 in 2022-23.

9. Judicial officers per finalisation

‘Judicial officers per finalisation’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of providing court services in an efficient manner.

‘Judicial officers per finalisation’ is measured by dividing the number of full time equivalent (FTE) judicial officers within each court level for the financial year by the total number of finalisations for the same period and multiplying by 1,000.

All else being equal, a lower or decreasing number of judicial officers per finalisation suggests greater efficiency. However, efficiency data should be interpreted with caution as data could also reflect under-resourcing. The following points need to be considered in interpreting the results for this indicator:

  • some finalisations take a short time and require few resources, whereas other finalisations may be resource intensive and involve complicated trials and interlocutory decisions
  • factors such as geographical dispersion, judicial workload and population density are important considerations when comparing figures on judicial officers.

Nationally in 2022-23, in the criminal and civil courts there were 1.0 FTE judicial officers per 1,000 finalisations (table 7.9).

10. Full time equivalent staff (FTE) per finalisation

‘FTE staff per finalisation’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of providing court services in an efficient manner.

‘FTE staff per finalisation’ is measured by dividing the total number of FTE staff employed by courts for the financial year by the total number of finalisations for the same period, and multiplying by 1,000.

FTE staff include those employed directly by court authorities or by umbrella and other departments (see section 7.4 for further details).

All else being equal, a lower or decreasing number of full-time equivalent staff per finalisation suggests greater efficiency. However efficiency data should be interpreted with caution as data could also reflect under-resourcing. The following points need to be considered in interpreting the results for this indicator:

  • some finalisations take a short time and require few resources, whereas other finalisations may be resource intensive and involve complicated trials and interlocutory decisions
  • additional staff may sometimes be appointed to undertake project work (eg. ICT or new buildings) or deliver restorative justice approaches (like liaison officers) that do not directly contribute to the resolution of cases
  • factors such as geographical dispersion, court workload and population density are important considerations when comparing figures on FTE staff.

Nationally in 2022-23, in the criminal and civil courts there were 7.1 FTE staff per 1,000 finalisations (table 7.10).

11. Cost per finalisation

‘Cost per finalisation’ is an indicator of governments’ achievement against the objective of providing court services in an efficient manner.

‘Cost per finalisation’ is measured by dividing the total recurrent expenditure (gross and net – excluding payroll tax) within each court for the financial year by the total number of finalisations for the same period. This indicator is not a measure of the actual cost per case.

All else being equal, lower expenditure per finalisation suggests greater efficiency. However efficiency data should be interpreted with caution as data could also reflect under-resourcing. The following points need to be considered in interpreting the results for this indicator:

  • some finalisations take a short time and require few resources, whereas other finalisations may be resource intensive and involve complicated trials and interlocutory decisions
  • additional funding may sometimes be allocated to undertake project work (eg. ICT or new buildings) or deliver restorative justice approaches (like liaison officers) that do not directly contribute to the resolution of cases
  • expenditure data may include arbitrary allocation between criminal and civil jurisdictions
  • net expenditure is calculated by deducting income (court fees and other sources of revenue, excluding fines) from total expenditure, and for civil courts is impacted by court fee relief and exemptions
  • a number of factors are beyond the control of jurisdictions, such as geographic dispersion, economies of scale and socioeconomic factors.

Nationally in 2022-23, the net cost per finalisation for:

  • supreme courts was $23,138 in the criminal courts and $7,193 in the civil courts (figure 7.6)
  • district/county courts criminal jurisdiction was $13,259, more than 7 times that in the civil jurisdiction ($1,749)
  • magistrates’ and children’s courts, civil jurisdiction, was lower than in the criminal jurisdiction ($943 compared with $966) (tables 7A.31–32).

Nationally in 2022-23, the gross cost per finalisation in the criminal jurisdiction of:

  • supreme courts ($23,502) was higher than the civil jurisdiction ($10,861)
  • district/county courts ($13,574) was higher than the civil jurisdiction ($3,716)
  • magistrates’ and children’s courts ($1,009) was slightly lower than in the civil jurisdiction ($1,140) (tables 7A.34–35).

Nationally in 2022-23, net expenditure per reported death and fire in coroners’ courts (excluding costs associated with autopsy, forensic science, pathology tests and body conveyancing fees) was approximately $2,258 (table 7A.32).

12. Perceptions of court integrity

‘Perceptions of court integrity’ is an indicator of government’s objective to encourage public confidence and trust in the courts. Community confidence and trust in the fairness and equality of court processes and procedures is integral to a willingness to engage with courts and comply with court outcomes. High levels of perceived integrity of courts is an indicator of community confidence and trust that courts treat people fairly and appropriately and that court processes are administered in a consistent and unbiased manner.

‘Perceptions of court integrity’ is defined as the proportion of the community who believe that courts in Australia treat people fairly, equally and respectfully.

High or increasing proportions of perceived court integrity are desirable.

Data is not yet available for reporting against this indicator.

Homicide and related offences

Case-type can have a significant impact on performance against certain indicators – some case-types will inherently require more court time and judicial resources than other case types, which may impact on backlog and clearance results. Aggregating performance across all case-types can mask differences in case composition between jurisdictions and court levels.

Homicide data have been selected to be presented by indicator in the section because of the seriousness of the offence. Table 7.11 presents indicator data for backlog, attendance and clearance results for homicide and related matters processed by the Supreme, District, Magistrates’ and Children’s courts during 2022-23. Given that homicide-related lodgments are generally small in number, percentages in the table should be interpreted with caution.

A lodgment for homicide is counted where any criminal matter initiated, commenced, lodged or filed in a particular court level includes a charge of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or driving causing death. Lodgments are based on a count of defendants, not a count of charges (a defendant may have multiple charges) and are counted independently at each court level. The charge(s) against a defendant may change once a matter has been lodged in the courts and proceeds through the court process and the data do not reflect whether or not a defendant has been found guilty.

Table 7.11 Homicide and related offences, 2022-23a

Supreme Court
 

Unit

NSW

Vic

Qldb

WA

SA

Tasc

ACT

NT

Lodgments

no.

58 69

127

47

47

15

7

16

Finalisations

no.

78

82

110

33

43

20

2

10

Pending

no.

89 105 116 47 74 26 18 22

Backlog >12 mths

%

39.3

43.8

25.9

23.4

41.9

53.8

61.1

45.5

Backlog >24 mths

%

15.7

17.1

8.6

2.1

27.0

26.9

16.7

Attendance

no.

na

na

10.9

9.6

11.9

22.1

10.0

18.5

Clearance rate

%

134.5

118.8

86.6

70.2

91.5

133.3

28.6

62.5

District/County Court
 

Unit

NSW

Vic

Qldb

WA

SA

Tasc

ACT

NT

Lodgments

no.

67

25

17

17

..

..

..

Finalisations

no.

70

63

1

19

17

..

..

..

Pending

no.

73 17

10 24

..

..

..

Backlog >12 mths

%

28.8

52.9

..

41.7

..

..

..

Backlog >24 mths

%

5.5

11.8

..

8.3

..

..

..

Attendance

no.

11.8 10.7 4.0 6.4 5.2

..

..

..

Clearance rate

%

104.5 252.0 .. 135.7 100.0

..

..

..

Magistrates’ Court
 

Unit

NSW

Vic

Qldb

WA

SA

Tasc

ACT

NT

Lodgments

no.

201

142 125 83 73 1216 4 20

Finalisations

no.

210 84 127 71 88 8 5 13

Pending

no.

203 104 228 47 43

16

1 19

Backlog >6 mths

%

46.8 35.6 76.8 38.3 23.3 56.3 100.0 57.9

Backlog >12 mths

%

16.3 9.6 52.6 6.4

25.0 100.0 36.8

Attendance

no.

10.4 11.2 16.1 6.9 3.8 8.0 5.6 8.8

Clearance rate

%

104.5 59.2 101.6 85.5 120.5 38.1 125.0 65.0
Children’s Court
 

Unit

NSW

Vic

Qldb

WA

SA

Tasc

ACT

NT

Lodgments

no.

10 15 15 6 7

np

1

3

Finalisations

no.

14 16 29 7 2

np

3

2

Pending

no.

16 9 17 2 5

np

1

Backlog >6 mths

%

81.3 22.2 47.1

20.0

np

..

100.0

Backlog >12 mths

%

31.3

11.1

23.5

np

..

Attendance

no.

13.0 9.4 14.0 10.4 3.0

np

6.0 8.5

Clearance rate

%

140.0 106.7 193.3 116.7 28.6

np

300.0

66.7

Homicide and related offences’ is defined according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) and includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and driving causing death. Data for Queensland do not include offences for dangerous driving causing death. Homicide data for the Tasmanian children’s court are not published in order to minimise re-identification risks due to the small number of homicide and related offences in this court. na Not available. np Not published. .. Not applicable. – Nil or rounded to zero.

Source: Australian, state and territory court authorities and departments (unpublished).

Interpreting efficiency data

Information on the manner in which court authorities value and treat assets is provided in table 7.12.

Table 7.12 Treatment of assets by court authorities
  

Federal Court of Australia

FCFCOA (Division 2)

FCFCOA (Division 1)

NSWa

Vic

Qldb

WA

SA

Tas

ACT

NT

Revalu-
ation method

Land

na

na

na

Fair value

na

..

Market

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Buildings

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

na

..

Market

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Other assets

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

Fair value

na

..

..

Fair value

Cost

Fair value

Fair value

Frequency of revalu-
ations

Land

3 yrs

3 yrs

3 yrs

5 yrs

5 yrs

5 yrs

na

6 yrs

5 yrs

3 yrs

Sufficient regularity to avoid material mis-
statement

Buildings

3 yrs

3 yrs

3 yrs

5 yrs

5 yrs

5 yrs

na

6 yrs

5 yrs

3 yrs

Other assets

3 yrs

3 yrs

3 yrs

..

..

..

na

na

na

3 yrs

 

Buildings

na

na

na

        

Useful asset livesc

General equipment

4-10 yrs

4-10 yrs

4-10 yrs

4-10 yrs

5-10 yrs

3-7 yrs

5-10 yrs

5-54 yrs

3-25 yrs

3-20 yrs

5-10 yrs

IT

3-5 yrs

3-5 yrs

3-5 yrs

3-4 yrs

3-5 yrs

3-4 yrs

3-10 yrs

3-25 yrs

na

4-5 yrs

3-6 yrs

Office equipment

4-8 yrs

4-8 yrs

4-8 yrs

4-10 yrs

10 yrs

3-5 yrs

5-10 yrs

3-25 yrs

na

3-20 yrs

5-10 yrs

Vehicles

na

na

na

na

5 yrs

na

2-8 yrs

na

na

na

na

Library material

10-40 yrs

na

na

na

na

Infinite

na

25 yrs

5-40 yrs

50 yrs

na

Capitalis-
ation threshold

Buildings

2,000

2,000

2,000

3,000

na

10,000

1,000

5,000

10,000

5,000

5,000

IT

2,000

2,000

2,000

3,000

na

5,000

1,000

5,000

10,000

50,000d

5,000

Other assets

2,000

2,000

2,000

3,000

5,000

5,000

1,000

5,000

10,000

5,000

5,000

In New South Wales, land and buildings are revalued at least every five years. Property, plant and equipment are measured on an existing use basis, where there are no feasible alternative uses in the existing natural, legal, financial and socio-political environment. The straight line method of depreciation is used. In Queensland, non-current physical assets measured at Fair value are comprehensively revalued at least every five years with interim valuations, using appropriate indices, being otherwise performed on an annual basis where there has been a material variation in the index. Asset lives for some assets have been grouped with other classifications. For some jurisdictions, IT equipment includes software. For software only. na Not available. .. Not applicable.

Source: Australian, state and territory court administration authorities and departments.

Key terms

TermsDefinition

Active pending population

A lodgment that is yet to be finalised but is part of the active case management of court administrators.

Attendance indicator

An attendance is defined as the number of times that parties or their representatives are required to be present in court (including any appointment which is adjourned or rescheduled) for all finalised matters during the year. The actual attendance is one that is heard by a judicial officer or mediator/arbitrator.

Case

The measurement of workload in the civil jurisdiction. It is the issues, grievances or complaints that constitute a single and related series of disputes brought by an entity (or group of entities) against another entity (or group).

Comparability

Data is considered comparable if, (subject to caveats) it can be used to inform an assessment of comparative performance. Typically, data is considered comparable when it is collected in the same way and in accordance with the same definitions. For comparable indicators or measures, significant differences in reported results allow an assessment of differences in performance, rather than being the result of anomalies in the data.

Completeness

Data is considered complete if all required data is available for all jurisdictions that provide the service.

Cost recovery

The amount of court fees collected divided by the amount of court expenditure.

Court fees collected

Total court income from fees charged in the civil jurisdiction. Can include filing, sitting hearing and deposition fees, and excludes transcript fees.

Electronic infringement and enforcement system

A court with the capacity to produce enforceable orders against defendants (such as fines, licence cancellation and incarceration) and to process infringements, on-the-spot fines and summary offences.

Excluded courts and tribunals

This includes such bodies as guardianship boards, environment resources and development courts, and administrative appeals tribunals. The types of excluded courts and tribunals vary among the states and territories.

Finalisation

The formal completion of a matter before the court. The date of finalisation in the criminal courts occurs when all charges against a defendant have been completed and the defendant ceases to be an active unit of work to be dealt with by the court. The date of finalisation in the civil courts occurs when all matters pertaining to a file cease to be an active unit of work for the court. In the civil jurisdiction, (with the exception of appeals heard in the Supreme and District courts, the Federal Court of Australia, and all matters finalised in the Federal Circuit Court and the Family court of Australia), cases are deemed finalised if there is no action on a file for more than 12 months.

FTE staff

Full time equivalent (FTE) staff can include the following categories of staff employed directly by court authorities or by umbrella and other departments:

  • judicial officers, judicial support staff and registry court staff
  • court security, bailiff and sheriff type staff
  • court reporters
  • library and information technology staff
  • counsellors, mediators and interpreters
  • cleaning, gardening and maintenance staff
  • first line support staff and probate staff
  • corporate administration staff and umbrella department staff.

Income

Income derived from court fees, library revenue, court reporting revenue, sheriff and bailiff revenue, probate revenue, mediation revenue, rental income and any other sources of revenue (excluding fines).

Judicial officer

Judges, magistrates, masters, coroners, judicial registrars and all other officers who, following argument and giving of evidence, make enforceable orders of the court. The data is provided on the basis of the proportion of time spent on the judicial activity.

Lodgment

The initiation or commencement of a matter before the court. The date of commencement is counted as the date of registration of a court matter. In the criminal courts lodgment counts are based on the number of defendants per case. Unless otherwise noted, matters excluded from the criminal court lodgment data in this collection are: any lodgment that does not have a defendant element (for example, applications for telephone taps), extraordinary driver's licence applications, bail procedures (including applications and review), directions, warrants, and secondary processes – for example, interlocutory matters, breaches of penalties (that is, bail, suspended sentences, probation). In the civil courts, lodgment counts are based on: the number of cases (except in children's courts where, if more than one child can be involved in an application, the counting unit is the number of children involved), and the number of reported deaths (and, if relevant, reported fires) for coroners' courts. Unless otherwise noted, the following types of matters are excluded from the civil lodgment data reported in this collection: admissions matters (original applications to practice and mutual recognition matters), extraordinary drivers licence applications, cross-claims, directions, secondary processes – for example, interlocutory matters, breaches of penalties (that is, bail, suspended sentences, probation), and applications for default judgments (because the application is a secondary process).

Matter

Coronial matters: Deaths and fires reported to the coroner in each jurisdiction, including all reported deaths and fires regardless of whether the coroner held an inquest or inquiry. Coronial jurisdictions can extend to the manner of the death of a person who was killed; was found drowned; died a sudden death of which the cause is unknown; died under suspicious or unusual circumstances; died during or following the administration of an operation of a medical, surgical, dental, diagnostic or like nature; died in a prison remand centre or lockup; or died under circumstances that (in the opinion of the Attorney-General) require that the cause of death be more clearly ascertained. Deaths which are reported to the coroner can include deaths which are considered (a) ‘reportable’ because they fall within the legislative scope of the coroner or (b) ‘non-reportable’ because they do not fall within the legislative scope of the coroner. The Report on Government Services counts ‘reportable’ deaths.

Criminal matters: Matters brought to the court by a government prosecuting agency, which is generally the Director of Public Prosecutions but could also be the Attorney-General, the police, local councils, traffic camera branches or other government agencies.

Civil matters: Matters brought before the court by individuals or organisations against another party, such as small claims and residential tenancies, as well as matters dealt with by the appeal court jurisdiction.

Excluded matters: Extraordinary driver’s licence applications; any application on a pending dispute; applications for bail directions or judgment; secondary processes (for example, applications for default judgments); interlocutory matters; investigation/examination summonses; firearms appeals; escort agents’ licensing appeals; pastoral lands appeals; local government tribunals; police promotions appeals; applications appealing the decisions of workers compensation review officers.

Probate matters: Matters such as applications for the appointment of an executor or administrator to the estate of a deceased person.

Real expenditure

Actual expenditure adjusted for changes in prices using the general government final consumption expenditure (GGFCE) chain price index deflator and expressed in terms of current year prices (i.e. for the courts section with 2020‑21 as the base year). Additional information about the GGFCE index can be found in section 2.

Recurrent expenditure

Expenditure that does not result in the creation or acquisition of fixed assets (new or second hand). It consists mainly of expenditure on wages, salaries and supplements, purchases of goods and services, and the consumption of fixed capital (depreciation).

Specialist jurisdiction court

A court which has exclusive jurisdiction in a field of law presided over by a judicial officer with expertise in that area. Examples of these types of courts which are within the scope of this report are the family courts, Children’s courts and Coroners’ courts. Examples of specialist jurisdiction courts which are excluded from this report include Indigenous and circle sentencing courts and drug courts.

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2023, Criminal courts, Australia, 2021-22, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/criminal-courts-australia.

Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) Annual Report 2022-23, https://www.fcfcoa.gov.au/fcfcoa-annual-reports/2022-23

Taylor, A., Ibrahim, N., Wakefield, S. and Finn, K. 2015, Domestic and family violence protection orders in Australia: An investigation of information sharing and enforcement, State of knowledge paper Issue 16, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney.

Note: An errata was released for section 7 Courts above on 29 January 2024.

Errata

The following changes have been made to section 7:

  • Section 7, tables 7A.26 and 7A.27 was amended to correct an error in the calculation of the Clearance indicator – finalisations/lodgments for civil matters. Data for the Australian total in 2022-23 for WA Family court/FCFCOA (Division 1) and FCFCOA (Division 2), Family law matters, non-appeal has changed from 15.4 finalisations per lodgement to 102.6.

A PDF of Part C Justice can be downloaded from the Part C sector overview page.