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Court Etiquette in the Federal Courts

Written by Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

The High Court of Australia, the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court sit in all the capital cities of Australia and follow the same code of etiquette as other courts in Australia. Anyone who attends the Federal Courts will need to follow the etiquette to show the required level of respect to reflect the seriousness and formalities of the federal legal system.

If you do not show an adequate level of respect, the judicial officers may ask you to leave or find you in contempt of the court.

What to expect in the Federal Courts

To ensure you know what to expect in the Federal Courts, you should get to know the court system before attending your matter. This is because the court system can be confusing for first-timers. You can familiarise yourself with the courts by reading information about the Federal Courts.

You can also attend and observe a court hearing before your own matter to understand the general process of a court hearing. When observing a hearing, sit quietly in the public gallery at the back. To check the date, time and location of a court proceeding, you can search the online daily lists. Do note that some court matters will not be open to the public to observe.

It is customary in the Federal Courts to bow your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial offices when leaving the court as a sign of respect.Dress etiquette in the Federal Courts

In the Federal Courts, you need to dress in a tidy and conservative style to demonstrate respect for the court system. If you are dressed inappropriately, the judicial officers may ask you to leave.

Examples of appropriate dress style for the Federal Courts:

  • Subtle coloured clothing such as white and dark colours;
  • Collared button up shirt, ensuring that it is buttoned to an appropriate point;
  • Pants or a skirt that sit at or below knee level; and
  • Clean closed in shoes.

Dress style that is inappropriate:

  • Sleeveless and see-through tops;
  • Clothing with offensive slogans or graphics;
  • Denim;
  • Pants or skirts that sit above knee level;
  • Thongs;
  • Sunglasses; or
  • Hats or caps.

Entering the court

You should arrive early to court to allow enough time to check the time and location of your court hearing and to allow for any last-minute changes. You can check the time and location of your hearing prior to attending by checking the online daily lists. You can also check inside the court by looking at the daily lists located in the foyer or outside the courtrooms.

Prior to entering the courtroom for your hearing, you should stop at the doorway and bow your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officers as a show of respect prior to finding your seat.

The Sheriff’s Officer will bring you to the correct courtroom if you are being held in custody.

Etiquette during the court hearing

During the Federal Court hearing, you will need to maintain the appropriate standard of behaviour and dress. You should also wait silently in the public gallery in the back until the judicial officer calls upon your matter.

When you are in the courtroom, you should ensure the following:

  • Switch off all your electronic devices;
  • Address the judicial officer as ‘Your Honour’;
  • Stand whenever the judicial officer calls upon you;
  • Bow your head and stand whenever the judicial officer enters or leaves the room; and
  • Follow all of the judicial officer’s directions.

You should not do any of the following:

  • Speak, unless you are called upon by the judicial officer;
  • Eat, drink or chew gum; or
  • Record or publish any of the proceeding.

Leaving the court

Just as you did when entering, it is proper etiquette in the Federal Courts to bow your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officers when leaving the court.

Further Assistance

If you still have queries about court etiquette, you can ask court staff at the Federal Courts.

If you need further legal advice, call Go To Court Lawyers on 1300 636 846 or request a call-back at

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