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Government and Parliamentary publications: Legislation and Regulations

Australian state and federal governments and parliamentary publications

South Australian Legislation

Initially, the laws of South Australia were made by the Governor and the Council of Government, and then by the partly elected Legislative Council until 1857 when the bicameral Parliament came into being. More information about this history can be found on the website of the South Australian Parliament.


Copies of Acts and Ordinances of South Australia enacted in the British Parliament prior to 1857, as well as a full set of Acts and Regulations thereafter, are available on open access in the Government Publications Collection.

Current and some historical consolidated South Australian Acts and Regulations are available online at South Australian Legislation.

Current Acts and Regulations can also be found on Austlii. 2003 to present

The South Australian Legal History Archive joint venture of the Flinders University School of Law and Law Library contains a complete collection of South Australian Acts and Ordinances 1837 - 2002.

An index to South Australian legislation can be found in the back of the annual volumes of Acts of the Parliament of South Australia from 1937 to 1989 and as a separate volume entitled Index of South Australian legislation since 1993. The latest index is available online. It includes a table of the Acts in force, amendments, regulations and case annotations.


Current versions of South Australian regulations can be found online.

Historical Regulations, as published, can be found online. 2005 to present

Hard copies of Regulations can be found in the Government Publications Collection or onsite storage, depending on the year, and all Regulations are published, at the time of their release, in the South Australian Government Gazette


A Bill is a proposed Act that has been introduced into Parliament. A Bill becomes an Act when it is assented to by the Governor after passing through both Houses of Parliament. If it is not passed by both houses it cannot become a law. Read more about the process here

Bills can be searched on the Government of South Australia website 2005 to present

Previous South Australian Bills are held in onsite storage at the State Library. They are organised, and can be requested by, year.

Commonwealth Legislation

The State Library maintains a set of Acts, Bills, Explanatory Memoranda, Legislative Instruments and Statutory Rules of the Australian Parliament. Options for accessing these publications in the Library and online are outlined below. 

Acts and Regulations

The Federal Register of Legislation is the authorised whole-of-government website for accessing Commonwealth legislation and regulations. Current and historical legislation, dating back to 1901, can be accessed on the Register, as well as all in-force, and some historical regulations.  

The legal databases, Austlii also contains legislation, regulations and case law for the Commonwealth of Australia (and all States and Territories). 

Hard copy versions of historical acts can be located and retrieved via the State Library catalogue, see: 

The acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. 1901-2017

When placing a retrieval request it is helpful to provide the Act's title, year and number. For example. Dairy Produce Act 1986, No. 54. 
If you are unsure of the year of the document you are seeking, consult Wick's Subject Index to Commonwealth Legislation. An index was published for the years between 1979 and 2005, and can also be found with each bound annual volume.

Hard copy versions of historical regulations can be located and retrieved via the State Library catalogue, see:

Statutory rules made under Commonwealth acts during...1915-1972 
Statutory rules made under acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia during the year 1973-2004 
Select Legislative Instrument... 2005-2014

When placing a retrieval request it is helpful to provide the Regulation's title, year and number. For example. Fair Work (Building Industry) Regulation 2015, No. 150.


This page on the Australian Parliament House website is a great place to start when looking for a Commonwealth Bill.

Many historical Bills can be found on the Federal Register of Legislation. Coverage is excellent for some years, but not complete and the site is still being added to.

Since Bills may originate in either House of Parliament, when using the State Library's hard copy collection it may be necessary to retrieve Bills from both the the House of Representatives and the Senate to find a particular Bill and its corresponding Explanatory Memoranda.

Explanatory memoranda explain the content of the Bill in plain language and give a useful insight into the original intentions and purposes of each section of the Bill. Memoranda for recently introduced Bills can be found on the Australian Parliamentary House website, along with information about the passage of the Bill. 

Not every Bill has an explanatory memorandum and they have only been in use routinely since 1978-82.The Second Reading speech of a Bill, contained in Hansard, also outlines its purpose.

Legislative instruments

It is common for an Act of Parliament to allow some other person or body to make a law on matters of detail under an Act. Such a law is called a legislative instrument. The Legislative Instruments Act 2003 requires legislative instruments to be registered and published on the Federal Register of Legislation and tabled in Parliament. 

South Australian Parliamentary Library

B 8877. Parliamentary library, 1939.

Interstate Legislation

Access to recent interstate legislation is available via the database Austlii, or on the website of the relevant Parliament.  

Ordinances for the Australian offshore Territories are best located via the Federal Register of Legislation .Go to 'Filter results' 'Classified as' and select from drop down menu e.g. Ordinances/Norfolk Island

Northern Territory

NT legislation between 1863 and 1911, when the NT was administered from SA, have been gathered in a volume entitled Acts relating to the Northern Territory 1863-1907 or can be found separately in the Acts of the Parliament of South Australia.

Current legislation is available at the Northern Territory Legislation website.

Between 1901 and 1940, Territory ordinances were published in full in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.