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Legal Research

Legislative history

When you have located an Act, it's important to verify that's it's "in force" (i.e. the most current version), or if the relevant provisions were operating when the offense occurred.

To find more information about the history of a legislation you can look at:

  • the assent and commencement dates 
  • the consolidation date (are there any upcoming amendments in parliament since the consolidation?)
  • amendment history
  • historical compilations.

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 and legislative history

Sometimes a state or federal parliament will amend (make changes) or repeal (get rid of) an Act. It is very important to ensure that you are referring to the most correct version of the Act for your needs.

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. See Finding Legislation. 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 for a list of government legislation websites.

Historical compilations of an Act are available from Lexis Advance Research and Lawlex. See Australian Legislation Databases.

Repealed Acts or Acts no longer in force can be found on government legislation websites or in legal databases, such as Lexis Advance or Lawlex.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

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 University of Wollongong Campus Library has extensive hardcopy holdings of older government bills and acts located in the Law Collection.

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. See Bills & Legislative Instruments for information on finding Bills.

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.