Acts and other legislation

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The phrases statute law, legislation and parliament-made law are also interchangeable.

You can often tell whether an Act is a Commonwealth or state Act as a reference to a Commonwealth Act usually has (Cth) written after it. References to Victorian Acts should have (Vic) written after them. Acts and delegated legislation are printed in statute books.

An Act has a name and a date, for example, Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). The name indicates the contents of the Act while the date specifies the year the Act was made in Parliament. Both pieces of information are needed to find an Act in a library since Acts will be organised in alphabetical order by year.

Reading an Act is made easier if the Act has a contents list at the front with sections, parts and divisions, each with its given title. There is usually a definition section at the front of each Act, which explains what is meant by some of the words used in the Act. The definitions are crucial to understanding the Act.

Sometimes, at the back of an Act there are Schedules, which may contain tables, forms for court documents and other information.

The period within which changes (called amendments) to the Acts, Regulations and Ordinances have occurred will sometimes be indicated in the date part of the title, e.g. The Family Law Act 19751977. To find an up-to-date Act, Regulation or Ordinance you can either search the Parliamentary statute books for the various amendments, or use reprints. Reprints are usually produced more rapidly by private publishers (e.g. CCH) rather than by government printers. Obviously, it is very important to make sure that the copy of an Act is as up to date as possible.

A copy of any Act, Regulation, or local law can be bought from the appropriate government bookshop, or online. Subscription services for online access are one way of making sure the document you are relying on is totally up to date. However, these services are expensive for the occasional user. The government sites may not be updated as quickly as subscription sites, but are free and extremely useful for most purposes. If you do not have online access at home, your local library will assist with getting access.