The Court system in Australia operates under a general hierarchy that reflects influences from both Federal and State Governments.
There are four Federal Courts – these are the High Court, the Federal Court, the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court. The High Court is the supreme judicial body in Australia and is located in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. It deals with constitutional matter and appeals from various lower courts, although special permission must be achieved before such an appeal can be launched.
The Federal Circuit and Federal Courts have different functions, hearing cases of various seriousness that lie within Federal jurisdiction. The Family Court, created in 1975 is a specialist Court that adjudicates in family law matters. It sits in every State except Western Australia where family matters are dealt with by a State Court.
State and Territory Courts have their own separate hierarchy that varies somewhat across the nation. However there is a general form of lower, intermediate and superior Courts that operate and most states also have Coroner’s and Children’s Courts.
State Superior Courts typically adjudicate in serious criminal matters, such as murder, where trials can be heard by judge and jury or by judge alone. Major civil cases, involving unlimited monetary values can also be decided in State Superior Courts – as are appeals from lower Courts.
Intermediate and Lower State Courts also deal with civil and criminal matters although on a decreasing scale of seriousness. The Coroner’s Court investigates unexplained deaths or fires and has the power to commit a person for trial if foul play is suspected.
The Children’s Court deals in matters involving children – who are defined as individuals under the age of 18 at the time of offending. Children are separated from adults in the legal system because of the issues of culpability and punishment – that are seen as fundamentally different to adults.