Acts and other legislation
When parliament writes laws they are called “Acts” or “Acts of Parliament”. The phrases “statuteA law made by Parliament (state or Commonwealth). law”, “legislation” and “parliament-made law” all mean the same thing.
If an Act was written by the Federal Parliament, it will have (Cth) written after it.
If it was written by a state Parliament, it will have an abbreviation of the state after it. For Example: (Vic) or (Tas).
An Act will have a name and a date, for example: Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
- The name will tell you the topic or area of law the Act covers.
- The year is the year the Act was first made.
Each Act will have a contents list at the start.
There will also be a definition section. Sometimes a word or phrase will have a special meaning in an Act, different to its normal meaning. The definition section will set out all words or phrases that have special meanings for the Act.
Sometimes, at the back of an Act there are Schedules. Schedules can have tables, court forms, and other information.
Over the years, Acts will have lots of changes made to them. These are called ‘amendments’. Make sure you are looking at the most up to date version of an Act. The most up to date version will be called ‘in force’ or ‘consolidated’.
You can find all Acts online, including previous versions.
- Federal legislation – www.legislation.gov.au
- Victorian legislation – www.legislation.vic.gov.au
- All state and federal legislation – www.austlii.edu.au
If you do not have internet access at home, your local library will assist with getting access.
Reading and understanding Acts can be difficult, even for lawyers. It can help to also look at legal information resources to help you make sense of an Act – see online information.