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University of Wollongong Australia

Law: Legislation

Australian Legislative Material

Australian Legislation Databases

Bills

Upcoming amendments or Bills can affect an Act or area of the law you are researching.*

Bills, Amendments and associated Explanatory Memoranda are located on government websites and databases.

Legislative updates are available through customisable alert services.

Lexis Advance and Westlaw AU allow you to create a search alert. From the search results page Select the bell icon and follow the prompts. Alerts will be delivered to you via email or RSS.

Lawlex allows you to create "Legislative Alerts" delivered via email. "My Legislative Alerts" box > create a profile by selecting "Subjects of interest", "Legislation" or "Bills".

ParlInfo provides a tracking service which provides email updates to specific Bills. Select "Track" within a Bill and follow the prompts.

To find legislation on a specific issue or topic

TIP: Many Acts are amended multiple times. It is important to identify and access the various versions of legislation and refer to the current and authorised version or the version in force during the time period you are researching.
TIP: Secondary sources such as legal dictionaries and encyclopedias, texts, legal commentaries, and journal articles are useful for identifying legislation to research and provide useful commentary and context.

To find Legislation by Jurisdiction

TIP: Many Acts are amended multiple times. It is important to identify and access the various versions of legislation and refer to the current and authorised version or the version in force during the time period you are researching.

 

TIP: Secondary sources such as legal dictionaries and encyclopedias, texts, legal commentaries, and journal articles are useful for identifying legislation to research and provide useful commentary and context.

You can also find legislation in legal databases

Judicial Consideration of Legislation

Judicial consideration of legislation is where the legislation has been applied, discussed or interpreted in court.*

Legislation Citators are research tools that locate cases which have referred to an Act or section thereof:

Legislative Instruments

Subordinate Legislation or Delegated Legislation (also known as Statutory Instruments) covers a number of specific types of legislation which are enacted by delegated bodies rather than parliamentary process.*

  • Regulations
  • Rules
  • Orders
  • By-laws

Statutory Instruments are available on government legislation websites:

Local by-laws are located on council websites.

Court procedures are located on government or court websites or published in commentary services.

Assent and Commencement Dates

Assent and Commencement dates can be located in the Notes or EndNotes section within an Act. These dates can also be located in Commencement or Legislation Tables located on government websites or Subscription databases:*

Amendments & Legislative History

TIP: For a list of government legislation websites and legal databases see Finding Legislation by Jurisdiction.

Amending Acts:

Information about amending Acts can be located in the Notes or Endnotes section of a principle Act under the terms "Legislation History", "Table of Acts" or "List of Legislation". Further information about how each section has been amended is located under "Amendment History" or "Table of Amendments".*

Amending Acts are located in legal databases and government legislation websites.

Search by the title of the amending Act or click on the hyperlinks to amending Acts located in the principle Act.

Historical Versions of an Act:

The original version of an act can be found on government legislation websites by searching the "as made", "as enacted", "as notified" or "as passed" option. See Finding Legislation by Jurisdiction above for links to government legislation websites.

Lexis Advance Pacific Research and Lawlex include links to historical compilations of an Act.

Repealed Acts or Acts no longer in force can be found on government legislation websites or in databases such as Lexis Advance or Lawlex.

Historical legislation from pre 1900 colonial era to 2000, the AustLII - Australian Legal History Libraries, includes:

  • Australasian Colonial Legal History Library (pre-1901)
  • Australasian Federation Law Library (1901-1950)
  • Australasian Modern Law History Library (1951-2000)
TIP: If you can't find the Act online the UOW Wollongong Campus Library has extensive hardcopy holdings of older government bills and acts located in the Law Library.

Bills and Pending Amendments:

Upcoming amendments or Bills can affect an Act or area of the law you are researching.*

Bills, Amendments and associated Explanatory Memoranda are located on government websites and databases.

Legislative updates are available through customisable alert services:

Lexis Advance Pacific Research and Westlaw AU allow you to create a search alert. From the search results page Select the bell icon and follow the prompts. Alerts will be delivered to you via email or RSS.

Lawlex Premium allows you to create "Legislative Alerts" delivered via email. "My Legislative Alerts" box > create a profile by selecting "Subjects of interest", "Legislation" or "Bills".

ParlInfo provides a tracking service which provides email updates to specific Bills. Select "Track" within a Bill and follow the prompts.

Finding the Purpose, Scope and Intention of Specific Legislation

TIP: See the Government Information Guide for more detailed information on how to find and access extrinsic materials.

"Purpose" and "Interpretation" provisions are sometimes available within the text of an Act, Bill or regulation to determine the purpose and scope of the legislation.

Sources outside the Act used to interpret and understand the purpose or intention of legislation are called Extrinsic Materials*, and includes:

  • Explanatory Memoranda (or Explanatory Notes)
  • Second Reading Speeches (available in Hansard)
  • Parliamentary debates (Hansards)
  • Parliamentary and Government Reports
  • Government Gazette

Extrinsic material are available from parliamentary and government websites and through databases such as Lexis Advance, Lawlex and AustLII. Explanatory Memoranda and Second Reading Speeches are often linked from the Act or Bill within databases. Older material may only be available in print sources.*

Law Reform Bodies

Law reform bodies review, develop and reform the law and can be a rich source of information about a specific aspect of the law.*

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International Legislative Material

International Legislation Databases

New Zealand Legislation

United Kingdom Legislation

Canadian Legislation

United States Legislation

European Union Legislation

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Legislation Tutorials

What is Legislation

Legislation is a general term covering laws enacted by Parliaments, plus laws made by persons or bodies granted law-making powers by the Parliament. It is also referred to as Acts or Statutes.

  • Before an Act is passed, it is presented to Parliament as a Bill.
  • Once an Act has been passed by Parliament it becomes law.
  • Many Acts are amended multiple times. It is important to identify and access the various versions of legislation and refer to the current and authorised version or the version in force during the time period you are researching.
  • Acts can also be repealed and replaced or be subject to judicial consideration.*

There are three main ways to find legislation:

  • Topic search (using search words, phrases, and catchwords)
  • Legislation title search (when you have the title of the Act - you can also search for specific sections of the Act)
  • From within a Case Record (when you link from a case to related legislation using a citator, such as FirstPoint or CaseBase)
TIP: Ask yourself: Is this the current version of the Act? Do I have the version of the Act that was effective and in force at the time of the offence or act?*


The 3 types of Acts

Principal Act   Amending Act   Consolidated Act
Deals with a new area of law or additional Acts on a previously legislated area. + Identifies specific sections of the Principal Act that are to be repealed, and can insert sections by amendment. = The Principal Act including any amendments that have occurred since it was passed.

Delegated Legislation (Subordinate Legislation)

Refers to laws made under delegated authority of the Parliament.

These laws:

  • take the form of by-laws, rules, ordinances or regulations
  • are usually made by the Executive
  • come from an Act; they contain details necessary to carry out specific matters relating to the Act

There are three main ways to find legislation:

  • Topic search (using search words, phrases, and catchwords)
  • Legislation title search (when you have the title of the Act - you can also search for specific sections of the Act)
  • From within a Case Record (when you link from a case to related legislation using a citator, such as FirstPoint or CaseBase)

TIP: Ask yourself: Is this the current version of the Act? Do I have the version of the Act that was effective and in force at the time of the offence or act?*

Sarah van Straalen, 2016. How laws are made in Australia.

The structure of Acts within all Australian jurisdictions follows a common pattern.
Note the important parts in the consolidated Act below, including the compilation information as this makes you aware of any amendments.

How to use Lexis Advance:

How to use Westlaw AU:

How to use Lawlex Premium:

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Source

* Jay Sanderson and Kim Kelly (eds), A Practical Guide to Legal Research (Thomson Reuters, 4th ed, 2017).

** Enid Campbell, Lee Poh-York and Joycey Tooher, Legal Research; Materials and Methods, (4th ed, 1996) 97.

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