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Law: Legislation: How to find legislation

A Library Guide to support students of the University of Newcastle in finding Legislation.

Legislation databases

  • Statute law or legislation is the law made by Parliament; the words statutes and Acts are interchangeable. 
  • Acts commence upon receiving Royal Assent; some sections of the Act may commence at different times.
  • Schedules show the history of the Act, Table of Amendments and the dates of the second reading speeches.
  • The principal Act is the original Act passed by Parliament. Also known as numbered or sessional Acts.
  • An amending Act makes changes to the principal Act and should be read together with the principal Act.
  • Consolidated Acts incorporate all the changes made to the principal Act by amendments. 
  • Repealed Acts have been superseded by more recent Acts and are no longer law.
  • Delegated or subordinate legislation is made by the authorities to whom Parliament has delegated power. 

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

  • Delegated or subordinate legislation is law made by the bodies to whom Parliament has power. 
  • Each principal act specifies the bodies responsible for creating these laws and how to provisions will operate.
  • Regulations are the most common delegated legislation, these are made by a minister. By-laws and Ordinances are made by local government authorities and apply to people living in that area. Rules commonly describe court procedures.

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

  • Bill is a proposed Act of Parliament or 'draft' legislation.
  • The explanatory memoranda or explanatory note explains the Bill clause by clause in plain English.
  • The second reading speech is delivered to Parliament to explain the purpose or rationale of the bill.
  • Hansard is the official transcript of all Parliamentary proceedings and debates. 
  • Extrinsic materials are materials that are external to legislation which can be used for statutory interpretation as they assist researchers to understand the objectives, purpose and motivation behind the proposed enactment.


Key Australian resources

Key international resources

Citing Australian Legislation in AGLC4 style

This is an example of an Act citation:

Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 99

The elements of an Act citation are:

Element Example Note
Short title

Crimes Act                       

Act citations should include the title of the Act. Only the short title of the Act needs to be cited, and it should be written in italics.


The year in which the Act was passed. Like the title of Act, it should be written in italics.


The jurisdiction that the Act was passed in abbreviated format, in round brackets.

s 99

The pinpoint reference is for the section of the Act you are citing. It is usually comprised of an abbreviation and a number, separated by a space.

Bills are cited in the same way as Acts except that the title is not italicised. 

This is an example of a Bill citation:

Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment Bill 2016 (NSW) cl 253B

Let us know what you want

Is there anything more you would like us to include in this guide? Let us know by going to our Feedback page and we will do our very best to add the resources you want.

Search Tips

Legislation by title 

  • Use the browse function or title search box when you know the name of an Act or regulation. 
  • Check the currency of the Act and take note of any unincorporated amendments.  

Legislation by topic​

  • Use secondary sources to find relevant legislation.
  • Find a relevant textbook or subject specific commentary service identifying key legislation.
  • Use the advanced search option in legislation databases.
  • Think of relevant keywords and subject headings.
  • Use the connector AND to narrow a search; example assault AND battery.
  • Use the connector OR to broaden a search; example youth OR adolescent.
  • Apply search limits like jurisdiction or date.

Tracing the history of legislation 

Statutes annotations 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
  • when the Act commenced
  • how the Act has been amended since commencement
  • whether an Act has been repealed

Your Subject Librarians

This guide has been created by University of Newcastle Librarians who work with your schools to make sure you have access to the resources you need. The Librarians supporting the School of Law and Justice are:

Research Liaison Librarian

Jennie Skulander