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The laws in force in the ACT derive from two main sources: laws made by the Legislative Assembly (legislation and instruments made under legislation) and the decisions of the courts (the common law). A third source is the Ordinances made from time to time by the Governor-General under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 (Cwlth). Finally, the ACT inherited a body of legislation (mainly NSW and the Commonwealth). (The Commonwealth Constitution and various Commonwealth Acts, regulations and instruments also apply in the ACT, but this site is concerned only with laws made under authority given by the Legislative Assembly under the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cwlth) (the Self-Government Act)).
For more information on legislation in the ACT, see the ACT Legislation Register.
In 1908 the Commonwealth Parliament chose the site for the capital of Australia and in 1911 the 'Territory for the Seat of Government' was established. It was called the Federal Capital Territory until 1938 when it officially became the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT was administered by the federal government until 1989.
In the period prior to self-government, the Federal Minister for Territories made all decisions relating to the ACT. Advisory bodies were set up to inform the Minister about matters of concern to the residents of the ACT. The first of these advisory bodies was the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, established in 1920 which was comprised of appointed officials. The first elected member on the advisory committee took up responsibilities in 1928. In 1930 an ACT Advisory Council was established to advise the minister.
The first fully elected body—the Legislative Assembly consisting of 18 Members—began operating in 1974, changing its name to the House of Assembly in 1979. However, the Federal Government was under no obligation to heed the advice given by any of the appointed or elected bodies.
In the late 1980s the Federal Government decided that the Australian Capital Territory, with a population of 270,000, needed its own system of self-government. The Federal Parliament passed the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988, along with other related legislation which established self-government in the ACT.
Source: ACT Legislative Assembly