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Foreign Law - Countries and Regions: Australia


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Australia is a federation within the British Commonwealth and includes six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia) plus two territories (Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory).  Like the UK, Australia is a common law jurisdiction.

The Australian Constitution can be found at:

with additional Constitutional commentary in print available at the MacMillan Law Library

  • Anthony Blackshield and George Williams, Australian Constitutional Law and Theory: Commentary and Materials (4th ed., 2006), KU1750 .B53 2006.
  • H.P. Lee and George Winterton, Australian Constitutional Landmarks (2003), KU1750 .A928 2003 and online for the Emory community.
  • R.D. Lumb and Gabriel Moens, The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia Annotated (6th ed., 2001), KU1744 .L86 2001.

Further information on the legal and political background of Australia can be found at:

  • Print resources available at the MacMillan Law Library
    • David P. Derham, Francis Kevin Heathcote Maher and Peter Lewis Waller,An Introduction to Law (8th ed., 2000), KU68 .W35 2000.
    • Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia:  Foundations of the Legal System (2005), KU120 .V56 2005.
    • Irene Nemes & Graeme Coss, Effective Legal Research  (2nd ed., 2001), KU47 .N47 2001.
    • Robert Watt, Concise Legal Research (5th ed., 2004), KU47 .W37 2004.
    • Richard A. Haigh and Poh York Lee, Researching Australian Law (1997), KU47 .R47 1997.

Australian Case Law

At the federal level, there are four principal courts:

  • The High Court of Australia is the highest court and the final court of appeal in Australia. 
  • The Federal Court of Australia handles matters on a range of different subjects and hears appeals from decisions (except family law decisions) of the Federal Circuit Court.  
  • The Family Court of Australia is Australia’s specialist court dealing with family disputes and hears appeals from the Federal Circuit Court dealing with family issues.
  • The Federal Circuit Court of Australia, formerly known as the Federal Magistrates Court, hears less complex disputes.

Court decisions from the federal courts can be found on WestlawLexis and the following:

  • AUSTLII (including High Court from 1903-present; Federal Court from 2002-present; Family Court from 1988-present; and the Federal Circuit Court/Federal Magistrates Court from 2000-present).
  • In print at the MacMillan Law Library:
    • Commonwealth Law Reports (for the High Court, 1903-2010) Range 371 in the Granger Hansel Room (3rd Floor).
    • Federal Law Reports (for the Federal Court, 1957-2010), Range 371 in the Granger Hansel Room (3rd Floor).

Limited coverage of State Court and Territory Court opinions can be found on Westlaw and Lexis with the following reporters available in print at the MacMillan Law Library (Range 371 in the Granger Hansel Room - 3rd Floor):

  • New South Wales Law Reports (1862-2010)
  • Queensland Reports (1876-2010)
  • South Australian State Reports (1867-2010)
  • Tasmanian Reports (1897-2010)
  • Victorian Law Reports (1861-2010)
  • Western Australian Reports (1899-2000)

Australia Legislation

The federal government in Australia has a bicameral legislative body consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate.  Documents from these entities can be found at:

  • Parliament of Australia - Bills and Legislation (includes numerous documents including bills, debates and committee reports).
  • Comlaw is managed by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and is the official Commonwealth legislative database.  it contains the full text of all recent Australian Government legislation, details of the lifecycle of individual laws and the relationships between them, and related documents.
  • AUSTLII provides free internet access to Australasian legal materials including primary legal materials (legislation, treaties and decisions of courts and tribunals); secondary legal materials created by public bodies for purposes of public access (law reform and royal commission reports for example) and a substantial collection of law journals. 
  • Westlaw and Lexis do not provide access to Australian legislation in most academic packages
  • In print at the MacMillain Law Library, you can find:
    • Acts of the Parliament (1901-2010; Range 372 in the Granger Hansel Room)

For individual state legislative information, see:

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