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Legislation: Acts

Key points

  • also known as statutes
  • Acts are legislation that has passed through Parliament
  • all Acts are numbered (eg. 12 of 2014)
  • Acts can only be amended by Parliament
  • an Act might even expressly repeal another Act which means that the earlier Act is no longer in force

Types of Acts


  • the major Act dealing with a particular area of law
  • the original Act (if it is an Act which deals comprehensively with an area of law) so as to distinguish between it and the later amending Act/s.


Firearms Act 1977 (SA)


  • make changes to other Acts or Regulations
  • changes can range from substituting words or whole paragraphs adding, replacing or removing entire sections, changing the short title of an Act or repealing a whole Act
  • usually has the word 'amending' in the title


The Firearms Act 1977 (SA) is a principal Act which has been amended by a number of later Acts including the Firearms Amendment Act 1986, and the Statutes Amendment (References to Banks) Act 1997. The title of amending Acts do not always give direct reference to the principal Act which it amends, as an amending Act might easily amend a number of Acts. Such Acts are known as omnibus Acts.


The Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA) was previously called the Wrongs Act 1936 (SA), until it was amended by section 5 of the Law Reform (Ipp Recommendations) Act 2004 (SA).


  • incorporates all amendments up to a certain date
  • multiple versions of compilations of an Act are available providing “snapshots” of the Act at particular points in time
  • the current compilation version is current as at the date of viewing
  • these compilations are not re-enacted by Parliament (unlike consolidated Acts) and are done to keep the legislation in a particular area of law more readily accessible, rather than scattered between principal and amending Acts.

  • an Act which repeals existing law on a particular subject then re-enacts provisions of the repealed statutes incorporating all amendments
  • historically, all Australian jurisdictions have created complete consolidations of their statute law
  • useful useful when you want to look at legislation on a particular subject at a particular historical point in time. 
South Australian consolidations Commonwealth consolidations
1837-1936 consolidation 1901-1911 consolidation
1937-1975 consolidation 1901-1935 consolidation
1901-1959 consolidation
1901-1973 consolidation
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Structure of an Act

Short title The short title of the Act usually appears on the title page of the Act, in addition to appearing in the text of the body of the Act itself. The short title is the Act title which is used to cite the Act.
Long title

The long title states the purpose of the Act. So, for example, the long title of the Murray-Darling Basin Act 2008 (SA) is:

An Act to facilitate the operation of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory to promote and co-ordinate effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of the water and other natural resources of the Murray-Darling Basin; to make related amendments to the Development Act 1993, the Ground Water (Qualco-Sunlands) Control Act 2000, the Natural Resources Management Act 2004, the River Murray Act 2003 and the Waterworks Act 1932; to repeal the Murray-Darling Basin Act 1993; and for other purposes.

Number All Acts when they are passed by Parliament are numbered with a sequential number and the year of the Parliamentary session. This sessional number in turn helps us to find the Act as it was originally passed.
The Murray-Darling Basin Act 2008 (SA) is Act No 41, 1998. Which may be found in print form in the Law Library in the 2008 annual volume of South Australian statutes.

The Act number is not included when citing an Act.
Sections An Act is commonly divided into sections, which may sit within Parts and Divisions if the Act is particularly long. (See, eg, Native Title Act 1993 (Cth))
Interpretation There is usually an interpretation section in an Act which defines terms used within the Act, and appears in a early section of the Act.

Schedules to the Act are akin to Appendices to provide such detail as:

  • legislative history to the Act, including lists of all amending Acts included, if it is a reprinted Act
lists of Acts amended or repeal by the Act, etc.