is the area where the law applies and is administered. This area can be geographic, a country or state and/or a defined area of law.

It is an official power, granted by law for legal bodies to make decisions and judgements in legal disputes.

Jurisdiction is a power that is primarily invested in the courts. The key courts in Australia are:

The High Court

The High Court is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. It was established in 1901 by Section 71 of the Constitution. The functions of the High Court are to interpret and apply the law of Australia; to decide cases of special federal significance including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws and to hear appeals, by special leave, from Federal, State and Territory courts. The High Court

The Federal Court

The Court’s jurisdiction is broad, covering almost all civil matters arising under Australian federal law and some summary and indictable criminal matters. The Federal Court 

The Family Court

The Family Court of Australia, through its specialist judges and staff, assists Australians to resolve their most complex legal family disputes. The Family Court 

The Federal Circuit Court

The Court was established to provide a simple and accessible alternative to litigation in the Federal Court of Australia (Federal Court) and the Family Court of Australia (Family Court). The Federal Circuit Court 

The State Supreme Court and  Courts of Appeal 

Supreme Courts are a State’s highest court, with responsibility for both criminal and civil matters and is the main appeal court.

The State District Courts

District Courts are the intermediate courts in their  state’s judicial hierarchy. They are usually  the largest trial court and act as an appeal court. They deal with indictable  criminal offences, appeals from lower courts and intermediate civil cases. 

The State Local/Magistrate Courts

The local/magistrates courts are the lowest courts in the state’s judicial hierarchy. They are usually the busiest court in the state and deals with summary criminal cases,  civil cases, committal hearings and coronial inquests. Many cases start in the local court.

 Federal and State Tribunals

Tribunals deal with administrative law cases at a federal level and small civil and administrative disputes at the state level.



Jurisdiction Teaching Resource


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More about Australia’s  jurisdictions  can be found here