25 August 2015
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are under considerable stress all over the country. Their workloads are high while their resources are low.
There should be 65 Federal Circuit Court judges in Australia, but there are only 61. As judges retire they are not being replaced.
The Family Court is not much better. The Attorney-General took 560 days to replace Justice Fowler of the Sydney Registry earlier this year. Justice Bell from the Brisbane Registry retired in February but has still not been replaced.
In Newcastle the Federal Circuit Court is now short a senior judge. Judge Coakes served on the Federal Circuit Court for eleven years and was a hardworking and valued judge. He retired on 30 June, yet still no replacement has been appointed.
Just two judges are left and delays for cases to even be mentioned in the court have stretched from six to eight weeks to four months. This has an enormous impact on families trying to make arrangements for their children.
“Families are suffering in Newcastle,” said Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon.
“Newcastle litigants and their lawyers are complaining that it is taking far too long to get a hearing and then even longer to eventually get a decision.
“The complexity and volume of cases here in Newcastle is well known and I have written to the Attorney-General further outlining the issues being faced locally.”
Labor’s Family Law spokesperson, Graham Perrett says, “This is an access to justice issue. People are hurting, many of them children, because the Attorney-General is not doing the job he is paid to do!”
“The dates for most judicial retirements are known years beforehand. The Attorney-General has known about these retirements for quite some time. Judges do not retire out of the blue. There is no excuse for the Attorney-General’s tardiness in replacing judges, who are essential parts of our judicial system.”
Ms Claydon encourages anyone who has recently faced delays through the Newcastle Federal Courts to contact her office so she can present more direct evidence about the issues to the Attorney-General.