Just as Australians live with two sets of law, federal and state, these laws are administered and adjudicated by two separate court systems. Attempts to integrate the two systems have had only limited success. Both federal and state systems have ‘tribunals’, ‘boards’ and ‘commissions’ which deal with specialized areas of law. Another way of saying this is that tribunals, boards, commissions and courts have different jurisdictions. Jurisdiction basically means ‘area of power’. For example, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with family law. The Family Court’s area of power is family law.
Most courts and tribunals are open to the public, although access is sometimes restricted – the most important example being the State children’s courts (now the ‘Youth Justice Division’ of the Magistrates Court) where only the child, the child’s parents and lawyer are allowed into the court.
There is an increasing use of video hook-ups in the courts to avoid the costs and inconvenience of ‘live’ appearances and to protect some witnesses e.g. children, or rape victims.