What are court records?
Court records include unpublished decisions, transcripts of proceedings (a verbatim account of statements given during proceedings), letters, lists of trials, depositions, circulars, and bench books et cetera, and may cover the topics of wills (grants of probate or letters of administration); divorce; bankruptcy; civil and criminal cases; naturalisation; newspaper registrations; and conscientious objectors.
Accessing court records
When it comes to recent cases, records may not be accessible for privacy reasons. Original court records are usually closed from time of creation for 75 years for adults and 99 years for children. Many original court records are held at the relevant National or State/Territory archives.
Summaries of court proceedings are sometimes reported in daily newspapers. You can search for newspaper reports in Australian historic newspapers on Trove, generally up to 1954. For more recent reports go to our eResources portal, click on “browse eResources” and click on Newpapers & Media under category to find a list of online full-text newspaper databases to search.
If you’re finding it difficult to find court records, check to see if a law report (a summary of the judge’s decision) exists, as it may provide some details. Only legally significant cases are reported on.
What you can find in the Library
The Library does not hold original court records. However, some indexes and transcriptions of historic records can be found online and/or at the Library.
You can’t browse the Library’s shelves in person, but you can use the Catalogue to browse by title, author, subject or Dewey number.
To search for indexes and transcriptions of court records, select the Browse alphabetically tab, then subjects. Some examples are:
Related subject headings include