Skip to main content

Introduction to Legal Research

This guide is an introduction to legal research at the University of Melbourne. This guide is intended for law students in the JD, MLM , Breadth programs who are new to legal research. Students in other disciplines who may need to conduct legal research

Finding Point-in-time Legislation 

Legislation evolves and amendments can be made to a principal Act leading to new provisions being incorporated or some being removed. Sometimes you might need to know what the law was at a particular point in time. This is known as point-in-time or historical legal research. 

It's important to note that not all sections of an Act necessarily commence or take effect at the same time. For Commonwealth and Victorian legislation, the notes at the end of the compilation will list the commencement dates for all sections and amendments, and provide additional information to work out what the law was on a particular date.

Victoria 

Go to the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website and click on the section called Victorian Law Today. Victorian Law Today provides all consolidated Principal Victorian Acts and Statutory Rules currently in force and at a particular point in time. 

From Victorian Law Today find the current version of the Act you are researching. To do this you can search or browse. Make sure you select the radio button 'Acts' or 'Statutory Rules' - select the option that is relevant to the type of information you are looking for: 

Victorian Law Today

Once you have found the Act you are looking for click on the link 'Show Version History.' This will provide a list of versions and a corresponding 'Effective From' date. The archive has consolidations dating back to 1997. Select the version that corresponds with the point-in-time you are researching. Following is an example of the Stamps Act 1958 (Vic): 

The margins of the Act will include information about amendments. Go to the Endnotes or Notes section at the end of the Act to find the table of amendments. 

Commonwealth

Go to Federal Register of Legislation and navigate to the Act you are researching, by selecting either 'Acts in Force' from the menu or searching for the Act: 

Once you have found the Act you are researching click on the link 'View Series': 

This will give you a list of the Act at different points in time. The archive has consolidations dating back to 1997. Using the information in the the “Start Date” and “End Date” columns, find the version of the legislation for the point-in-time relevant to your research.  Select the link to the relevant version. 

Once you have opened the Act, go the endnotes section and look at the amendment history to see the exact commencement dates for certain provisions.