Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

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Reading Acts, Regulations and other laws requires an understanding of the structure of Australian Government legislation.

Frequently asked questions

How are laws normally identified?

How are laws normally laid out?

How is text in the body of a law usually identified?

Why don’t all laws look the same?


How are laws normally identified?

The Acts and instruments found on the Legislation Register and in print can usually be referenced in one of two ways:

  • by its (Short) Title - this normally includes a financial or calendar year, and may include a number if a law with a similar title has been published in that period. For example: Appropriation Act (No. 3) 2009-2010.
  • by its Series Year and Number - as Acts are made each year, each one is numbered with 1 being the first Act of the year. The above Appropriation Act is Act No. 24, 2010. Other types of laws may use other periods and numbering systems as a reference.

All law published on the Legislation Register will also have a unique Register ID number that can be used to find it using the search field at the top of every page of the website. The ID number of a document is found on the relevant webpages and in URLs, and on every page of authorised pdf versions of documents.

There are a number of other ways to find laws on the Legislation Register. For more information see How to use the Legislation Register (PDF 1.1MB).

How are laws normally laid out?

While their content varies enormously, most Acts and instruments on the Legislation Register are laid out in the same way.

The first few pages of a law generally provide information about the law and an overview of the document such as the title page and table of contents. The middle section contains the provisions that make up the body of a law and are numbered sequentially, with chapter, part, division, subdivision and schedule headings, and cross-headings, to assist the reader. The final pages usually contain the endnotes, information on the history of the particular law, details of amendments that been incorporated, and other process information. To fully understand a particular provision in a law it is usually necessary to read several other related provisions, general provisions such as commencement, application and definitions and in many cases the whole law and possibly related laws.

How is text in the body of a law usually identified?

The text in the body of a law is organised into provision units that make it easier to read the document. The most commonly used are as follows:

Acts Regulations and other instruments Rules of Court
section section rule
subsection subsection subrule
paragraph paragraph paragraph
subparagraph subparagraph subparagraph
sub-subparagraph sub-subparagraph sub-subparagraph

As the provisions are numbered sequentially, if new material is inserted later, a letter or letters may be added to a number, to keep the numbering system flexible. For example, 5A may be inserted between 5 and 6.