Military justice system

The military justice system is a framework underpinning Defence military discipline and command structures. The system is crucial to maintaining command, reputation, retaining people and operational effectiveness, while complying with Commonwealth laws.

The military justice system provides the appropriate balance between discipline and the rights of individuals, and ensures ADF members work in an ordered and equitable environment. It:

  • complies with Commonwealth laws
  • applies to Australian Defence Force (ADF) members of all ranks
  • pertains to military operations in Australia and overseas
  • operates in times of peace or war.

ADF members are also subject to the same laws that apply to all Australians.

Discipline system

Under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, Defence prosecutes accused Australian Defence Force (ADF) members for committing serious offences, such as fraud, sexual assault and acts intended to cause injury.

Director of Military Prosecutions

The Director of Military Prosecutions is an independent statutory officer appointed by the Minister for Defence, who makes decisions on whether or not to prosecute. It is a matter for the DMP to choose the mode of trial for each accused.

Judge Advocate General

The office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) is defined in the DFDA. Functions of the JAG include:

  • making procedural rules for service tribunals
  • providing the final legal review of service tribunals proceedings within the ADF
  • participating in the appointment of Judge Advocates, Defence Force Magistrates, Presidents and members of courts martial, and legal officers for various purposes
  • reporting on the operation of the DFDA annually to the Minister for Defence.

Superior service tribunal proceedings

There are two types of superior tribunal proceedings: Courts Martial (general or restricted) and Defence Force Magistrate.

Superior service tribunal proceedings are governed by the following practice notes:

Practice Note 1 — Publication of court martial and Defence Force magistrate lists and outcome (PDF, 449.8 KB)

Practice Note 2 — Filing of material, and tendering and handing up documents (PDF, 224.17 KB)

Practice Note 3 — Summonses (PDF, 224.36 KB)

Practice Note 4 — Suspension from duty after conviction orders (PDF, 179.49 KB)

Practice Note 5 — Pre-trial Direction Hearings (PDF, 223.9 KB)

Practice Note 6 — Sentencing (PDF, 417.29 KB)

Practice Note 7 — Witness Availability (PDF, 185.03 KB)

Practice Note 8 — COVID-19: Pandemic Measures in Response (PDF, 193.35 KB)

Practice Note 9 — Witnesses warranting special consideration (PDF, 241.39 KB)

These lists are published regularly by Defence:


The military justice system provides safeguards for ADF members, including an automatic review of convictions and punishments and the right to an internal and external appeal.

ADF members can submit redress or other appeals through their commanding officer or chain of command. If this course of action is not appropriate then members can seek other avenues for complaints.

Administrative inquiries

Administrative inquiries support informed decision making by command about complex incidents, by providing accurate, reliable and timely information.

Administrative inquiries have the ability to compel the production of evidence and enable robust and thorough investigations providing the facts and circumstances associated with an incident or circumstance.