Our structure

The Commission comprises the President, Members, General Manager, and administrative staff across four branches.

Figure 1: Organisational structure

Figure illustrating the Commission's organisational structure, which is explained in the text below.


The Commission is headed by the President, the Honourable Justice Iain Ross AO, who is also a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. Commission Members perform quasi-judicial functions under the Fair Work Act, including conducting public hearings and private conferences for both individual and collective matters. They also perform certain functions under the Registered Organisations Act, including determining applications for registration and cancellation of registration and for alterations to eligibility rules of employee and employer organisations.

Commission Members are independent, statutory office holders appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Australian Government of the day. They are appointed until the age of 65 on a full-time basis, although they may perform duties on a part-time basis with the approval of the President. Members of state industrial tribunals may also hold a dual appointment to the Commission. Expert Panel Members are appointed on a part-time basis for a specified period of not more than five years.

Commission Members come from a diverse range of backgrounds including the law, unions and employer associations, human resources and management and the public service. Expert Panel Members must have knowledge or experience in one or more fields specific to their panel.

Members often share their expertise and engage with the community by participating in a range of presentations, speeches and events in Australia and internationally. For a full list of Member activities see Appendix C.

Retirements and resignations

During the reporting period Deputy President McCarthy and dual-appointee Commissioner Steel retired, while Commissioner Deegan resigned her appointment from the Commission.

Shortly after the close of the reporting period Deputy President Smith resigned his appointment, while Justice Boulton, Commissioner Lewin and Commissioner Blair retired from the Commission. A full list of Members is contained in Appendix A.

The Panel system

The Commission's work is allocated through a panel system. There are five industry panels as well as specialist panels dealing with anti-bullying, termination of employment, organisations and major resources/infrastructure projects. A Panel Head is responsible for allocating the work of a panel to other panel members. The panel system will be reviewed in 2015–16 to ensure that workload allocation operates efficiently and equitably.

There are two Expert Panels which have particular functions in relation to annual wage reviews and assessing superannuation default funds. In addition to Commission Members, the Expert Panels include part-time Expert Panel Members with knowledge or experience in specialised fields. A full list of panel assignments is contained in Appendix B.

Administrative staff

Headed by the General Manager, Ms Bernadette O'Neill, Commission staff members are public servants who administratively support and facilitate the work of the Commission.

Staff are organised into four branches:

  • Client Services handles the majority of the Commission's public inquiries, both by telephone and at offices in each state and territory. Staff members receive and process applications, prepare files, coordinate hearing and conference rooms, maintain the case management system, arrange and conduct conciliations and mediations and publish documents including decisions and orders.
  • Corporate Services is responsible for corporate governance and reporting, legal services, financial management and resources, payroll, media and communications, human resources and information technology.
  • Regulatory Compliance assists in administering the functions of the Registered Organisations Act. Staff members oversee compliance by federally registered employee and employer organisations with legislative obligations, conduct inquiries and investigations into the compliance of organisations and individuals, and process applications for right of entry permits by officials of federally registered employee organisations.
  • Tribunal Services provides research, project management and administrative support to Commission Members. Staff members coordinate the day-to-day support in Members' Chambers and undertake high-level research activities. They also assist with management of large statutory reviews, such as those associated with modern awards, default superannuation funds and the minimum wage. In addition, they coordinate arbitration hearings for unfair dismissal matters, provide research for individual Members, maintain a workplace relations library and oversee national and international engagement activities.