Our court system, like most other official systems, has a hierarchical structure. The High Court of Australia (which is the final court of appeal in Australia) is at the top of the structure. The Victorian Magistrates’ Court (which is the court most people are likely to come into contact with) is at the bottom. In between are the County Court of Victoria and the Supreme Court of Victoria. Then there are the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia, which are both Commonwealth courts.
Also, there is the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, which is the Commonwealth equivalent to the Victorian Magistrates’ Court. For the overall structure of state and Commonwealth courts, see the diagram on the next page.
Tribunals are less formal forums for resolving disputes in specialised areas; they have become an important part of the Australian justice system and are discussed later in the chapter.
The court system and COVID-19
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Victorian court system has been significant and has caused delays in the time taken to finalise many cases.
In response to COVID-19, the development of online courts is moving quickly and the use of audio-visual links (AVL) by the courts has increased substantially. It is likely that some of the changes implemented in response to COVID-19 – including online courts and the greater use of AVL – will be adopted by the courts in some form as permanent changes.