The Victorian Government has announced the lockdown for greater Melbourne has been extended, with some small changes, until 11:59pm Thursday, 10 June.
Different lockdown rules apply to greater Melbourne and regional Victoria – for more information on how restrictions will apply to Victorians, please click here.
Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia
In light of these restrictions, it is important to reiterate that the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) are essential service providers, and the Courts will remain open to continue to provide access to justice in a timely and responsive way, whilst balancing this against the public health directions and necessary restrictions to protect our staff and our community.
The Courts remain open by conducting most trials and other hearings electronically via telephone or Microsoft Teams. This notification is to advise the legal profession and all court users that face-to-face hearings in the Melbourne and Dandenong registries (for the next seven days) will continue only if expressly authorised by the Chief Justice or presiding Judge, and only in exceptional circumstances. If matters cannot proceed electronically and must proceed face-to-face, the Courts will ensure that only the minimum necessary participants are to attend the registry or are present in the courtroom and other social distancing and other requirements are adhered to.
Chief Justice Alstergren has previously raised the expectation that during these exceptional times, parties should cooperate and ensure that the best interests of the child are addressed by complying with court orders. If strict adherence to parenting orders is not possible, it is imperative that any revised arrangements reflect the spirit of the orders.
The Courts have previously issued information in relation to parenting issues that may be of assistance:
- National COVID-19 List – National court list dedicated to dealing exclusively with urgent family law disputes that have arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Border restrictions and parenting orders – Guidance in relation to border restrictions and shared parenting, and
- Parenting orders - Statement from Chief Justice, the Hon Will Alstergren.
Further information is available from the Courts’ websites here and here.
The Supreme Court of Victoria has published a joint jurisdictional statement from the Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, on behalf of the Victorian Courts and VCAT. The statement is in response to the recent extension of circuit breaker restrictions in Melbourne, and the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria, and is available here.
On Thursday, 27 May 2021, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and Chair of Courts Council, Anne Ferguson, issued an update on behalf of the Victorian courts and VCAT:
- In accordance with the public health advice, matters will be held in person only where it is not practicable for them to be held remotely and it is essential that they proceed.
- The courts and VCAT will continue to hear as many matters as possible remotely. Some matters may be adjourned for a period of time.
- Criminal jury trials which are already underway will continue, following COVID-safe plans, although a few may be adjourned. No new criminal jury trials will begin until restrictions ease. Every effort will be made to re-list any vacated trials as soon as possible.
For the full statement, please click here.
Supreme Court of Victoria
In accordance with public health advice during the Circuit Breaker Restrictions, physical attendance for hearings in the Supreme Court will be limited to essential matters that cannot proceed remotely.
The arrangements under the Notice to the Profession issued on 17 May 2021 are suspended for this period.
Please see Judicial Support Contacts to contact the chambers of the presiding judicial officer regarding the arrangements in individual matters or contact Registry on 8600 2000.
COVID-Safety measures are in place across all buildings for any onsite attendances that are authorised. Public entrances will be open. QR recording systems remain in place at each building’s security screening area.
Face masks are required to be worn in all Supreme Court of Victoria (SCV) buildings, as well as outside, subject to the exemptions. Masks can be provided at the security screening point if required.
The Supreme Court Registry and Probate Office remain operational. Please telephone the Registry Services team or the Probate Office to discuss alternatives to in-person attendance or to make an appointment if attendance is essential. The Registry Services team and Probate Office can be contacted on 8600 2000.
If you are subject to a requirement to isolate, feel unwell or have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, do not attend at Court and notify the Registry by calling the Prothonotary on 03 8600 2023 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Court of Victoria
Melbourne jury trials
New Melbourne criminal jury trials listed to commence between Friday, 4 June 2021 and Thursday, 10 June 2021 will not commence.
Parties in these trials will be contacted by the Court regarding a new listing date. The Court will make every effort to offer new trial dates during the Third Term this year.
The Court will consider resuming new jury trials at Melbourne listed from Friday, 11 June 2021, subject to the easing of restrictions and health and safety advice. The manner of resumption will be dependent on any health and safety limitations at the time.
Those criminal jury trials which commenced before Thursday, 27 May 2021, and which are still underway, will continue to proceed to conclusion with the current trial arrangements and procedures in place, unless otherwise advised.
Melbourne judge alone trials
Judge alone trials that commenced before Thursday, 27 May 2021, and have continued, will continue to proceed to conclusion with the current trial arrangements and procedures in place, unless otherwise advised.
Melbourne non-jury trial work
Non-jury work will continue to be conducted, if possible, with practitioners, parties and other court users all participating remotely, subject to the determination of the presiding judge.
Onsite attendance by parties will only be approved by the presiding judge where remote participation is not practicable. These decisions will be guided by what is necessary rather than by what is convenient or preferable.
Criminal circuits (jury trials and non-jury trial work)
Criminal circuits, including jury trials and non-jury work, will recommence at Ballarat, Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Mildura, Warrnambool, Shepparton and Wodonga on Monday, 7 June 2021.
The current empanelment and trial procedures for circuits will remain in place unless otherwise advised.
Mask wearing at Melbourne and Circuits
Mask Setting 2 will be in place at Melbourne and on Circuits for all work. That is, mask wearing is required by all trial and hearing participants in a non-speaking role including jurors (save for particular points in time for callover, excuses and the striking of the jury during the empanelment process). Those in a speaking role (judges, counsel and witnesses) will not be required to wear a mask.
See the County Court notice below for more information about the Criminal Division update on the Appeals List and Zoom Registrations.
Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
Please find attached Practice Direction X of 2021 that commenced operation at 11:59pm on Thursday, 27 May 2021.
The purpose of this Practice Direction is to outline arrangements that will apply during the circuit breaker lockdown as directed by the Chief Health Officer on Thursday, 27 May 2021. It applies statewide, to all venues of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, until 11:59pm on Thursday, 3 June 2021.
The Practice Direction is intended to reduce the need for physical attendances at Court by maximising the use of remote hearings. It provides, where possible, for the listing of all matters remotely via the Online Magistrates’ Court or on WebEx, rather than at a physical court venue.
It confirms that all physical attendances at court venues are to be by prior arrangement with the Court – except in the case of urgent family violence interim applications and first remand hearings, where they are unable to proceed remotely.
Specific directions are provided with respect to first remand/bail hearings, in custody matters, summary hearings, committal mentions, family violence applications, Personal Safety Intervention Order applications, VOCAT and urgent civil applications.
For up-to-date information about the Courts’ responses, please visit their websites:
- Federal Court of Australia – see here.
- Family Court of Australia – see here.
- Federal Circuit Court of Australia – see here.
- Supreme Court of Victoria – see here.
- County Court of Victoria – see here.
- Magistrates’ Court of Victoria – see here.