Hot Topics: Australian legal system

An overview of the elements of our system and how it developed, covering how law is made, what the law deals with and the roles of the legislature, judiciary and executive. 

About the author

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is an independent, non-profit legal and policy centre. PIAC works for a fair, just and democratic society. It empowers individuals and groups, particularly those who are disadvantaged and marginalised. Using legal, policy, communication and training initiatives, PIAC makes strategic interventions in public interest matters.

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How laws are made

Watch these videos to find out how laws are made.

The law governs our lives from the day we are born to the day we die. So where do our laws come from? This video explains how parliaments make law, explaining the process of a Bill to an Act, how legislation changes over time, why the Commonwealth makes some laws and the states others, and delegated legislation such as regulations. 

Legislation is a major source of law. Courts are the other source of law. This video explains the court hierarchy, the jurisdiction of courts and tribunals, and how courts can make new law by interpreting legislation, filling gaps in legislation, and developing the common law when there is no legislation. 


Chapter one


Why do we have laws? - What is a 'legal system'? - Where does the Australian legal system come from? - how laws are made - Who is in the Australian legal system?

Chapter two

Other influences

International law - adversarial and inquisitorial systems - customary law - legal system principles.

Chapter three

How law is made

Delegated legislation - common law - impact of international law on Australian law.

Chapter four

What the law deals with

Criminal law - civil law - administrative law.

Chapter five

Government in Australia

Why do we have government? - our structure of government - legislature - executive - judiciary - limits on the power of the branches of government - states and territories - harmonisation of laws.


Hot Topics 79: Australian legal system. Hot Topics is intended as an introductory guide only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information, the Legal Information Access Centre does not assume responsibility for any errors or omissions.

© Library Council of New South Wales 2011. All rights reserved. Copyright in Hot Topics is owned by the Library Council of New South Wales (the governing body of the State Library of New South Wales). Apart from any use permitted by the Copyright Act (including fair dealing for research or study) this publication may not be reproduced without written permission from the Legal Information Access Centre.