The Federal Court of Australia performs a fundamentally important role within Australia’s democratic system. It has served as a site for the disputation, negotiation and resolution of issues fundamentally important to Australian society. It does so in the context of a constitutional system affirming the principle of separation of powers and the rule of law, as a means of preserving and enforcing the rights of individuals and navigating the boundaries of the powers of the state. In that context, its records, gathered both through the internal workings of the court and through the cases that come before it, contain a narrative shaping our contemporary understanding of the rights of the individual and the role of the state. Despite the importance of its records in that narrative, the preservation and access to the Federal Court’s records continues to be seen through the lens of traditional understandings of the management of litigation. This paper explores the Federal Court’s role within the broader context of constructing our understanding of the roles and responsibilities of citizenship and illustrates the importance of the Court’s records as an archival resource. In doing so, it highlights the parallels and inconsistencies between traditional archival institutions and the Court in relation to selection, preservation and access to records.
Research theme: Administrative Law, Constitutional Law and Theory, Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, Legal History and Ethnology, Migration and Movement of Peoples, The Legal Profession