Last Updated 1 August 2016

The High Court of Australia was established by the Australian Constitution, and the power to administer its own affairs is governed by the High Court of Australia Act 1979 (Cth). It is the highest court in Australia and comprises a Chief Justice and six other judges.

The High Court hears a range of matters of Australian law. The subject of such matters include arbitration, contract, company law, copyright, insurance, personal injury, trade practice and family law. In particular, the High Court deals with matters involving the interpretation of the Constitution, where the court may be invited to depart from one of its previous decision or where the principle of law involved is one of major public importance (refer to the High Court of Australia website).

It also serves as a Court of Appeal for parties to cases decided by state supreme courts, the Federal Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia.

An appeal can be brought only with the leave of the High Court. Before it will give leave, the High Court must be convinced that an important point of law or serious injustice is involved.

The appellate jurisdiction is exercised by the Full Court of the High Court of at least two justices. For applications for leave to appeal and less important appeals, the bench may consist of only two judges. Normally, all seven judges sit to hear cases of constitutional importance. The High Court of Australia is based in Canberra, but it does visit state capitals to hear appeals and uses video links in some instances.