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Finding legislation

Finding legislation by title

If you know the title of your Act use the resources below to find a current full-text copy.

Note: These examples only deal with current, Principal Acts (also known as Reprints), i.e. Acts that have had amendments incorporated. If you need help finding Acts as Passed, repealed legislation or delegated legislation, please contact the library.


Federal Register of Legislation (formerly ComLaw)

Q: Find a current copy of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth)

Select Acts on the Home page > Navigate to Ev (OR type evidence in the Filter results box) > Scroll down and select the title Evidence Act 1995.

Note: The icon  indicates that this is an authorised version of the Act.

View the Act online or select the Download tab to save a PDF or Word version.

Tip: Make sure you check the currency statement at the top of the page and take note of any unincorporated amendments.

Tracing the history of legislation

Statutes Annotations are research tools which enable you to trace the history of an Act, including:

  • its Bill form;
  • the date/s of the Second Reading speeches;
  • when the Act was passed and when it commenced;
  • how the Act has been amended since it was originally passed;
  • whether an Act has been repealed; and
  • other technical information concerning the legislation.

Federal Statutes Annotations

Q: Find the history of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

At the Table of Contents page expand the Annotations section, then use the alphabetical listing to browse to F > FA > select Fair Work Act 2009.

Browse the listings on the left-hand side to find more information about the Act, including:

  • Amending Acts in Reprint
  • Amending Acts after Reprint
  • Amended sections and annotations
  • Regulations, Rules etc
  • Miscellaneous Instruments
  • Articles, Books etc

Structure of legislation

Australian Acts or Statutes have a layout which includes:


Every Act has two titles, the full or long title and the short title. The short title is the most frequently used. A full title may be similar to a statement of purpose:

Long title: An Act to establish the Australian Human Rights Commission, to make provision in relation to human rights and in relation to equal opportunity in employment, and for related purposes.       

Short title: Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 No. 125.


Although there may be some variation in numbering systems, in the main each Act is given a sequential number, as it is introduced into a Parliament for a calendar year.


Different sections of an Act may commence at different times. Acts often commence upon Royal Assent - the date when it is signed and approved by the Queen's representative.

Definitions or Interpretation

Many Acts include a section which defines words used in the Act.

Body of the Act

The body of the Act is divided into numbered sections, which may be further divided into subsections, paragraphs and subparagraphs:

3. (1) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears -
         "act or practice" means -
          (a)  an act done or practice engaged in -
                (i)    by or on behalf of the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth;

In longer Acts a number of sections may be treated as a group or part. Parts may be divided into smaller parts or divisions and then further divided into numbered sections.


These appear at the end of the Act.  They are like an Appendix and may include tables and lists that usually specify detailed provisions for the working out of the Act. 

The history of the Act may also be included here, along with information about the second reading speech (including the date/s delivered to Parliament).

Finding legislation by topic

If you don't know the title of an Act or need to find legislation on a topic, use the resources below.



Q. What federal legislation deals with the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians?

Select Browse by Subject Area > Indigenous Australians > Cultural Heritage > there are 2 results - a Principal Act and its Regulations.

Select Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 > select Current Consolidation to view the full-text or download a PDF of the Act.

Tip: If you need to know more about what is and isn't included in a subject area click the 'I' button next to a heading.

Types of legislation

There are different types of legislation:

Principal Acts are the original Act passed by a Parliament.

Amending Acts make changes to the principal Act. Such an Act should be read together with the principal Act.

Reprinted Acts incorporate all the changes that have been made to the original Act by subsequent amending Acts. They are current up to the date specified on the reprint. This term is commonly used for printed version of legislation.

Consolidated Acts also incorporate all the changes made to the principal Act by amendments. This term is commonly used for electronic versions of legislation.

Repealed Acts have been superceded by more recent Acts.  They may be of historical interest.

Delegated or subordinate legislation such as regulations or by-laws. These allow other authorities to administer relevant rules and regulations in a particular area. For example:

Macquarie University By-Law 2005

Noxious Weeds Regulation 2008

Finding legislation by jurisdiction


Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory


South Australia



Western Australia