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Legal Research

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  • Acts can also be repealed and replaced or be subject to judicial consideration.

Types of Acts

Principal Act + Amending Act = Consolidated Act

A Principal Act deals with a new area of law or additional Acts on a previously legislated area.

An Amending Act identifies specific sections of the Principal Act that are to be released, and can insert sections by amendment.

The Consolidated Act is the Principal Act including any amendments that have occurred since it was passed.


There is also delegated legislation (subordinate legislation)

"Delegated legislation" or "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.

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