Finding Australian legislation

Find Commonwealth, Victorian and state Acts, bills and explanatory memoranda.

Find Commonwealth legislation

Legislation online

Current and recent legislation (acts and regulations) is freely available online through two major websites:

Printed legislation

Older Australian legislation (acts and regulations) is also available in print. It can be found at the Library, as can most officially published current legislation.

The Library holds a complete set of the Acts of the Parliament, Commonwealth of Australia.

Consolidations

A consolidation occurs when all current legislation and statutory instruments:

  • have any necessary updates or corrections made
  • have any obsolete or unnecessary parts removed
  • are reintroduced to parliament and assented to again.

This makes the newly printed set of the legislation much easier to read and understand.

The consolidations also include schedules (list of all changes made to the legislation since it was introduced). This makes them very useful when tracing the history of a pre-1973 act.

This is a large undertaking, so consolidations do not occur often.

Commonwealth acts were consolidated in 1973. Acts are consolidated when  the government has run all current acts and amendments back through parliament to produce a clean, unified act. Previous consolidations of Commonwealth acts were in 1950,  1935 and 1911.

Reprints or compilations

Reprinted acts will incorporate all amendments to an act at the point of reprinting.  These are available online through the ComLaw website (see above) as far back as 1973. Not all acts have versions going back that far.

Finding 'point in time' Commonwealth legislation

The law that applies when something happens is the 'law as it is at that time'.  You will need to track changes to the law and find the right historical version of the law at the time relevant to the issue you are researching. 

As an example, a legal issue from five years ago needs to be researched using the legislation as it was five years ago, not the legislation as it is today as this may have been amended.

To locate the most recent version of the act prior to the date you are researching:

  • reprints or consolidations are available online at the Federal Register of Legislation website. Some acts have compilations going back as far as 1973 but many are more recent (1980s).
  • With any act choose the View Series tab to see what consolidated reprints are available online. There are tabs for Compilations and Principals + Amendments.
  • if you are researching earlier dates the Library will hold a paper copy of the original act (see 'Printed legislation' above).

Once you have located the most relevant version of the act, you will then need to take into account any subsequent amendments prior to the date you are researching:

  • try Federal statutes annotations to trace amendments to an act from the date of the reprint to the date relevant for your research.
  • in this way you can reconstruct the act as it applied at the date relevant to your research.

Disclaimer

Staff at the State Library of Victoria do not offer legal advice.

Every effort is made to provide up to date, accurate and relevant legal information but this is not intended to replace qualified legal advice.

State Library Victoria

LIBRARY CLOSURE  

In line with the stage 3 restrictions announced by the Premier, State Library Victoria closed on Thursday 9 July.

We will advise when there is any update to this situation.

Our Ask A Librarian  reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.