The judiciary branch of Australia is represented by the High Court of Australia and federal courts. The State courts became formally independent from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council when the Australia Act was passed in 1986.
The High Court is the highest court in Australia. It was created by section 71 of the Constitution. It has appellate jurisdiction over all other courts. It also has some original jurisdiction, and has the power of constitutional review. Prior to 1975, when appeals were abolished, a route of appeal lay from the High Court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
The Federal Court has some original and appellate federal jurisdiction. Decisions of the High Court are binding on the Federal Court. There is a "Full Court" of the Federal Court which consists of several judges, perhaps three or five.
The Family Court, established in 1975, has jurisdiction over family law matters. Appeals are heard by a Full Court of the Family Court (three to five judges). Appeals from the Full Court lie to the High Court of Australia.
The Federal Magistrates 'Court of Australia was established in 1 999 to ease the large caseload on the Federal and Family Courts. Decisions of the Full Court of the Federal and Family Courts are binding on Federal Magistrates, as are single judge decisions of Federal and Family Court judges when deciding an appeal from a Federal Magistrate.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the AAT) was established in 1975. Strictly speaking it is not a court in that it does not exercise judicial power under the Australian Constitution, but an administrative method of review. However, it operates in a similar manner to an informal court. Its responsibility is to hear appeals against administrative decisions of the Commonwealth Government and its departments.
Each state has a court hierarchy of its own, with the jurisdictions of each court varying from state to state. Each state has a Supreme Court, the highest court of original jurisdiction in that state. There is a Full Court or Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court. Decisions of the Full Court of the High Court (but not decisions of a single High Court judge) are binding on the Full Court of the Supreme Court.
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