Finding Australian legislation

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

Explanatory memoranda

What is an EM?

In recent years, each bill that is introduced into the Victorian or Commonwealth parliament has an 'explanatory memorandum' (EM) that explains what the bill is about. EM's are far more common now than in the past and their number was quite small before 1985. In simple terms, the EM provides a plain language rewriting of each section of the bill.

How do I find Victorian EM's?

Most Victorian EMs from 1911 onwards are now available on the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) website on the Victorian Bills Explanatory Memoranda page.

Victorian bills and EMs from about 1996 can also be found at the Victorian legislation and documents website. Click on the Bills link on the left of the page, work through finding the individual bill using the year and alphabetic list tools, and then look for the link to the EM that should be on the same page as the bill.  

Since 1999 printed yearly volumes of the Acts of Victorian Parliament include the EM at the front of the relevant act. (This only includes EMs for bills enacted into law).

Commonwealth EM's

The AustlII website has Commonwealth EMs from 1959.

Older EM's

Older Commonwealth EM's are listed in the Index to Explanatory Memoranda, 1901-1982. This site also includes copies of selected EMs from 1983 onwards.

Most older EMs, both Victorian and Commonwealth, are rarely available electronically. They can be located in print form by requesting the relevant bill at the State Library. The State Library does not have a complete set of older EM's.

See the 'Bills' tab for more regarding ordering printed bills (and associated EMs) to view within the Library.


If you cannot locate an EM for a specific bill, check the Parliamentary debates (Hansard) for Victoria or Australia. The Hansard will include a record of the second reading of the bill, where the responsible member will outline the bill's purpose. This is not the same as the information contained in an EM but can often be more useful. 


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.