The function of the courts is to hear and decide disputed matters, in accordance with the existing law.
Cases brought before the courts are characterised as either civil or criminal matters. Breaches of the criminal law are prosecuted by the state (in the name of the Crown) to protect the interests of society as a whole. Civil cases involve private disputes between individuals or corporations.
Australia has an extensive system of courts staffed with professional legal decision makers variously called judges, magistrates or Justices of the Peace. There is a separate system of courts for the Commonwealth, and for each state and self-governing territory. These courts are established under provisions in the relevant constitutions and other legislation. Section 71 of the federal constitution provides an example of provisions that create courts of law.