Staff at the National Library of Australia are not able to provide legal advice.

Every effort is made to provide accurate and relevant information, but this does not constitute qualified legal advice.


A consolidated Act repeals and re-enacts existing legislation and statutory instruments relating to a particular subject.

The main purpose of a consolidation is to draw together different enactments on a topic into a single Act and so simplify the presentation of the law. The Act usually replaces provisions in different Acts (and often statutory instruments) passed over a period of years.

A consolidated Act contains only those sections that are in force at the time of consolidation. Consolidations also include schedules (list of all changes made to the legislation since it was introduced). This is very useful when tracing the history of a pre-1973 Act.

Consolidations are a large undertaking, so do not occur often. Commonwealth Acts were consolidated in 1973. This is the most recent multi-volume consolidation of Commonwealth Acts, in 12 volumes, containing the latest revisions of all laws, as they were in force in 1973. Earlier consolidations had been published in 1911, 1931, 1935 and 1950.

Online resources

Current and recent legislation (Acts and regulations) is freely available online through two major websites.

Federal Register of Legislation

The Federal Register of Legislation (the Legislation Register) is the authorised whole-of-government website for Commonwealth legislation and related documents. It provides not only the latest versions of Commonwealth law but also gives access to the acts as they were passed each year from 1901. Recent bills and explanatory memoranda (EMs) are available from 1996 onwards. Consolidated reprints are also available; to find these choose the ‘View Series’ tab within an act. You will also find tabs for 'Compilations' and 'Principals + Amendments'.

A list of key type of contents and dates available can be found on the Legislation Register. Some historical material may not be available online.


AustLII includes both legislation and law reports from all states and territories and the Commonwealth. It also provides links to overseas law sites. This site contains a wealth of legal information. However, due to the large amount of content it is not always completely up-to-date.

To find Commonwealth legislation, go to the tab for Commonwealth (Cth) found on the AustLII home page and then the tab for Cth Legislation. 

Print resources

Older Australian legislation (Acts and regulations) is also available in print. It can be found at the Library, as can most officially published current legislation. Use the online catalogue to find and retrieve material using your library login.  

Key resources include:

Finding ‘point-in-time’ Commonwealth legislation

‘Point-in-time’ legislation allows you to access a version of the law as it appeared at a particular point in the past.

If you are researching a legal issue from ten years ago you will need to use the legislation as it was ten years ago, not the legislation as it is today – as it may have been amended.

You will need to track changes to the legislation in order to reconstruct its history to find the relevant ‘point-in-time’ version of the legislation for the issue you are researching. 

To locate the most recent version of the act prior to the date you are researching:

  • Visit the Federal Register of Legislation website. Some Acts have compilations going back as far as 1973 but many are more recent (1980s).
  • With any Act choose the 'View Series' tab to see what compilations are available online. You will see tabs for both 'Compilations' and 'Principals + Amendments'.

If you are researching earlier dates than those available on the Federal Register, you will need to consult the paper copy of the original Act (see 'Print resources' above).

Once you have located the most relevant version of the Act, you will then need to consider any subsequent amendments prior to the date you are researching.

  • Try Federal statutes annotations (or its earlier titles) to trace amendments to an Act from the date of the reprint to the date relevant for your research.
Photograph of Canberra buildings from 1930s
Canberra buildings, West Block, 1930s / R.C. Strangman http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-140358666

Reprints and compilations

Reprinted Acts will incorporate all amendments to an act at the point of reprinting. 

Acts of the Parliament, Commonwealth of Australia: [reprints of laws in force] (reprinted Acts) is the series of pamphlet reprints of the revisions of individual Acts. They include all amendments in operation at the date shown on the reprint.

When requesting to view in the Library ensure you include the title of the Act and the date of reprint in your request.

Reprinted Acts are similar to online compilations except that they can become out-of-date over time if subsequent amendments are made to the Act.

Online compilations of Acts incorporate all amendments up to the present time. They are available online from 1973 on the Federal Register of Legislation. New compilations are produced every time an amendment is made to the Act. Both current and historical compilations are available. Use the historical compilation to track the legislative history of the Act.

Not sure where to start?