As the nation’s first law officer, the Attorney-General is responsible for recommending judicial appointments to the Australian Government.
This includes appointments to the:
- High Court of Australia
- Federal Court of Australia
- Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) (Divisions 1 and 2)
The Government’s process for appointing judges to the Federal Court and to the FCFCOA seeks to fill vacancies as soon as reasonably practicable while ensuring a transparent, consultative and merit-based process.
This process may include:
- broad consultation with members of the legal professional community to seek nominations
- seeking expressions of interest from suitable candidates, and
- assessment of candidates by advisory panels comprising of eminent individuals who will provide recommendations to the Attorney-General for consideration.
In relation to the appointment of a High Court judge, the Government is required to consult with Attorneys-General of the States.
The Government may also seek views on a suitable replacement from:
- the Attorneys-General of Territories
- heads of Federal Courts and State and Territory Supreme Courts
- the broader legal community.
Who we are looking for
A person must meet specific statutory criteria in order to be considered for possible appointment as a judicial officer to the federal courts. These requirements are set out in legislation and vary from court to court. There are also certain personal and professional qualities that potential appointees should possess.
Federal Court of Australia
A person is not to be appointed as a Judge of the Federal Court unless:
- the person:
- is or has been a Judge of a prescribed court or of a court of a State; or
- has been enrolled as a legal practitioner of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory for not less than 5 years; and
- the person has appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to deal with the kinds of matters that may come before the Court. (Federal Court of Australia Act 1976, s 6(2))
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA)
A person is not to be appointed as a Judge of the FCFCOA (Division 1) unless:
- the person is or has been:
- a Judge of another court created by the Parliament or of a court of a State; or
- enrolled as a legal practitioner of the High Court, or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory, for at least 5 years; and
- by reason of knowledge, skills, experience and aptitude, the person is a suitable person to deal with family law matters, including matters involving family violence.
(Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021, s 11)
A person is not to be appointed as a Judge of the FCFCOA (Division 2) unless:
- the person has been enrolled as a legal practitioner (however described) of the High Court, or a Supreme Court of a State or Territory, for at least 5 years; and
- by reason of knowledge, skills, experience and aptitude, the person is a suitable person to deal with the kinds of matters that may be expected to come before the person as a Judge of the FCFCOA (Division 2).
- If the kinds of matters that may be expected to come before a person as a Judge of the FCFCOA (Division 2) are family law matters, the person, by reason of their knowledge, skills, experience and aptitude, is a suitable person to deal with those matters, including matters involving family violence. (Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2021, s 111)
Personal and professional qualities
In addition to these statutory requirements, judges must also have the following personal and professional qualities to the highest degree:
- outstanding legal expertise
- conceptual, analytical and organisational skills
- advanced decision-making skills
- excellent written communication skills, demonstrating an ability (or capacity to quickly develop the ability) to deliver judgments in a timely manner
- temperament, integrity, impartiality, tact and courtesy
- interpersonal and communication skills
- a genuine commitment to serving the community
- capacity to work effectively under pressure
- a commitment to professional development
- the capacity to inspire respect and confidence, and
- the capacity to work across several areas of the court’s jurisdiction, or where the appointment is to a specialist jurisdiction (for example, Division 1 of the FCFCOA or to the family law jurisdiction of Division 2 of the FCFCOA), demonstrated specialist knowledge and skill in that jurisdiction.
The Government is committed to seeking applications from suitably qualified persons who reflect the diversity of the Australian community, including:
- people with disability
- people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin
- LGBTQI+ people
- people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
About the role(s)
Judges of the Federal Court and the FCFCOA are appointed by the Governor-General for a term that expires on the appointee attaining the age of 70.
Further information relating to the remuneration and terms and conditions of judicial officers can be found in the Judicial and Related Offices – Remuneration and Allowances Determination on the Remuneration Tribunal website.
To be eligible for appointment, applicants must be willing to disclose all interests, pecuniary or otherwise, that may conflict with the performance of duties.
Applications for judicial appointment to the Federal Court and the FCFCOA (Divisions 1 and 2) have now closed.
On Friday 21 July 2023, the Attorney-General launched a new appointment process for the Federal Court and the FCFCOA (Divisions 1 and 2), which included a public call for expressions of interest via national advertising, as well as collection via an open expression of interest form.
Expressions of interest for appointment to the Federal Court and the FCFCOA (Divisions 1 and 2) closed on Friday 4 August 2023.
Successful appointees will be announced in due course.
The process for appointments to fill vacancies in the Federal Court and the FCFCOA (Divisions 1 and 2) will run as needed.
Please direct further enquiries to JudicialAppointments@ag.gov.au.