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Role of New South Wales Courts and Tribunals                


Each court or tribunal is founded on the basis of legislation and has specific legal matters over which it has authority or jurisdiction.  

Here is a brief overview of the role of the fourteen courts and tribunals supported by Courts and Tribunal Services.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in New South Wales. It has unlimited civil jurisdiction and handles claims of more than $750 000. It deals with the most serious criminal matters, including murder and treason. 

Image of the old Supreme Court building in Sydney
The old Supreme Court building in Sydney.

The Court of Criminal Appeals hears appeals from the District Court and Supreme Court plus certain Land and Environment Court appeals. 

The Court of Appeal is the highest civil court in the state and hears appeals from the Supreme Court, District Court, Land and Environment Court and some tribunals.  

District Court

The District Court is the 'middle court' in the state justice system. It is a trial court which deals with indictable criminal offences, except murder, treason and piracy. Its civil jurisdiction deals with civil claims from $100 000 to $750,000 and all motor accident cases. 

Appeals from the local court are heard in the district court.

Local Court

All criminal cases and more than 90 percent of civil cases begin in the Local Court. The Local Court civil jurisdiction deals with civil claims up to $100,000. It deals with most criminal matters including summary offences, which are crimes such as stealing, assault and possession of drugs.  

More serious offences are referred to the District or Supreme Court after a committal hearing in the Local Court.

Land and Environment Court

The Land and Environment Court of New South Wales is a specialist environmental and planning court, which is responsible for interpreting and enforcing planning and environmental law in the state. It deals with a wide range of civil disputes including appeals against government decisions; breaches of environmental and planning laws; mining disputes and disputes between neighbours in relation to trees.

The court has the same status as the Supreme Court of New South Wales and appeals are taken to the New South Wales Court of Appeal.  

Industrial Relations Commission and Industrial Court

The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) of New South Wales is the industrial tribunal and industrial court for the state. The commission has the power to make or alter the conditions of employment of state and local government employees; resolve industrial disputes and deal with unfair dismissal and other work-related matters. 

When convened as the Industrial Court, it can determine prosecutions for criminal offences or other civil matters that must be heard by a judge.

Chief Industrial Magistrate's Court

The Chief Industrial Magistrate's Court deals with a range of civil and criminal matters under commonwealth and New South Wales State legislation. These matters including recovering money owed under industrial awards, enterprise agreements and statutory entitlements. 

It handles prosecutions for breach of industrial instruments and appeals from various administrative licensing decisions and prosecutions for statutory breaches.

Children's Court

The Children's Court is a specialist court which deals with matters related to the care and protection of children and young people. It also deals with criminal cases concerning children and young people, who were under 18 years old when they committed the crime. Children's Court proceedings are not open to the public or the media. 

Coroner's Court

Coroners investigate certain kinds of deaths in order to determine the identity of the deceased and the date, place, circumstances and medical cause of death. Coroners also investigate the cause and origin of fires or explosions. 

In some cases, inquests are held and witnesses are called to give evidence. After an inquest, coroners may make recommendations to government and other agencies with a view to improving public health and safety. 

Drug Court

The Drug Court is a specialist court that deal with offenders who are dependent on drugs. A program for each offender is established to assist with treatment and monitoring to help break the drug dependency and criminal behaviour.

Youth Drug and Alcohol Court

The Youth Drug and Alcohol Court aims to reduce re-offending by helping young people overcome drug and alcohol problems. Administered by the Children's Court, it offers an intensive program of rehabilitation to young people with drug or alcohol problems before they are sentenced. 

Dust Diseases Tribunal

The Dust Diseases Tribunal is a specialist court that hears claims for damages by people who have been affected by dust diseases, including illness caused by asbestos exposure. The tribunal also hears claims for contribution or indemnity from individuals who may have committed a civil wrong, either intentionally or negligently, and insurers.  

Administrative Decisions Tribunal

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) reviews administrative decisions made by New South Wales government agencies, resolves discrimination and retail lease disputes, and regulates a range of professional and occupational groups. 

Guardianship Tribunal

The Guardianship Tribunal has a key role in protecting and empowering adults who have disabilities that affect their ability to make decisions. It has a protective jurisdiction and has the power to appoint guardians and financial managers, and consent to medical and dental treatment for such people.  

Victims Compensation Tribunal

Established in 1996, the Victims Compensation Tribunal hears appeals against determinations and makes orders for the recovery of money from convicted offenders. It determines compensation claims from victims of crime and approves counselling applications. 

It also provides administrative support for matters such as compensation and counselling claims, appeals and the restitution process.