On behalf of the Tasmanian profession, especially the profession located on the North West Coast, the Law Society of Tasmania is disappointed and deeply concerned to have been advised that the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia will not have a North West Registry. Until recently, the Court had been utilising the Burnie Arts and Function Centre for premises. For the ‘foreseeable future’ all Burnie Circuits will occur from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, Launceston Registry.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia mostly deals with divorce, children, separation, property and other family law matters. This means that families based on the West Coast and/or the North West are affected by this news and will need to travel some distance to Launceston to attend court events in person. This places a significant financial burden on litigants.

In addition to the concerns for Tasmanian families, the Law Society has concerns regarding the costs to clients, legal aid, and the private profession. Public transport from the North West Coast to Launceston is limited by bus and there is not a readily available service with hours between departures. The increase in travel costs will undoubtedly see an increase in legal aid grants being sought, putting pressure on an already strained system. The impact on families in the region will be widespread, with some people having to already travel more than an hour to attend Court in Burnie. Not all matters can be dealt with by electronic means and not everyone has readily available access to technology. It is additional stress for families who are already navigating the legal system. We must remember for parties, especially children, going through the family law process can be an extremely emotional and expensive time. Adding extra time and cost to proceedings will undoubtedly cause extra pressure during an already difficult period.

The Law Society also has concerns that this will decrease the work of solicitors on the North West coast who will be required to brief Launceston practitioners or, even worse, will result in clients bypassing North West Coast practitioners altogether to seek legal assistance elsewhere in the state. This in turn will no doubt affect attraction and retention of practitioners on the North West Coast, which has already been decreasing for several years.

Amanda Thompson
0400 457 080

29 May 2023