Last Updated 24 May 2016

The types of matters that a court or tribunal can deal with are known as its jurisdiction. In effect, the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal is the power or authority to hear cases and make decisions in all of the areas that the court can deal with. Usually, the jurisdiction of the court or tribunal is set down in the Act of parliament that established that court or tribunal. For example, the Family Court has power to deal with family law matters arising under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (Family Law Act). The Family Court of Australia could not, however, deal with environmental law matters because it has no jurisdiction to do so under the Family Law Act.

In the state court system, the court’s civil jurisdiction is generally limited by how much money the claim is for, and a court’s criminal jurisdiction is generally limited by penalty or simply by the type of offence as designated by law. Further, a Magistrates Court will generally only hear matters which have occurred within its district or area unless, in criminal matters, on a plea of guilty. For example, the Sandgate Magistrates Court will normally only hear matters that occur in the Sandgate Magistrates Court district.

Many courts and tribunals are usually open to the public. However, some courts (e.g. the Childrens Court) conduct closed hearings to protect the identity of the people appearing before the court or tribunal.

In Queensland, there are two jurisdictions of courts and tribunals:

  • state courts and tribunals, which deal with matters involving the laws of Queensland
  • Commonwealth courts and tribunals, which deal with the laws of the Commonwealth (e.g. family law and bankruptcy).