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Since 1990, the Federal Court has been self-administering, with a separate budget appropriation and reporting arrangement to the Parliament.

Under the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, the Chief Justice is responsible for managing the Court’s administrative affairs. The Chief Justice is assisted by the CEO and Principal Registrar.

The Act also provides that the Chief Justice may delegate any of his or her administrative powers to judges, and that the CEO and Principal Registrar may exercise powers on behalf of the Chief Justice in relation to the Court’s administrative affairs.

In practice, the Court’s governance involves two distinct structures: the management of the Court through its registry structure, and the judges’ committee structure that facilitates the collegiate involvement of the judges of the Court. Judges also participate in the management of the Court through formal meetings of all judges. The registries and the judges’ committees are discussed in more detail in this part.

Judges' committees

There are a number of committees of judges of the Court. These committees assist with the administration of the Court and play an integral role in managing issues related to the Court’s administration, as well as its rules and practice.

An overarching Operations and Finance Committee, chaired by the Chief Justice, assists the Chief Justice with the management of the administration of the Court. The Chief Justice is also assisted by standing committees that focus on a number of specific issues. In addition, other ad hoc committees and working parties are established from time to time to deal with particular issues.

An overarching National Practice Committee assists the Chief Justice in the management of the business of the Court and on practice and procedure reform and improvement. There are also a small number of standing committees that focus on specific issues within the framework of the Court’s practice and procedure. All of the committees are supported by senior court staff. The committees report to all judges at the biannual judges’ meetings.

Judges' meetings

National meetings of all judges are held on a biannual basis. A national judges’ meeting was held in November 2019, which dealt with matters such as reforms of the Court’s practice and procedure, amendments to the Rules of the Court, management of the Court’s finances and updates on the Court’s digital initiatives, including the progress of digital hearings. The national judges’ meeting scheduled for April 2020 did not proceed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

External scrutiny

The Court was not the subject of any reports by a Parliamentary committee or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Court was not the subject of any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals regarding its operations as a statutory agency for the purposes of the Public Service Act 1999 or as a non-corporate entity under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.