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Secondary Sources for Law

A guide to help you locate and use secondary sources for Australian legal research.

Each State and Territory has it own law reform commission or agency responsible for law reform in each jurisdiction. These agencies conduct inquiries into areas of law at the request of the Attorney-General and based on research and consultations makes recommendations to their government, with the ultimate aim of changing the law.

Commissions may produce discussion papers, reports and journals.

Commonwealth

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) website has information about ALRC inquiries and publications such as final reports and consultation papers. 

The Australasian Law Reform Library on AustLII also has a collection of ALRC publications and materials. 

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council was established in 2009 as a collaboration between the ACT Government and the ANU College of Law. The council ceased to operate in November 2018 when then ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay closed the Council. No current law reform body exists in the ACT.

Reports of the council are available via AustLII

Reports of previous bodies are available on AustLII

New South Wales

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission website contains details of current projects and completed projects from Report 1 (1966) onwards.

The publications page includes reports, consultation papers, question papers, annual reports and other publications. 

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Law Reform Committee is a non-statutory committee established to advise the Attorney-General on the reform of law in the Northern Territory.

The Reports page contains the full text reports from 1999 to current. 

Queensland

The Queensland Law Reform Commission is an independent statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1968. It makes recommendations on areas of law in need of reform, and submits reports to the Attorney-General which are required to be tabled in Parliament.

The website provides access to current reviews, recently completed reviews and historical reviews from 1991 onwards. Working papers and annual reports are also available.

South Australia

The South Australian Law Reform Institute was established in December 2010, by an agreement between the Attorney- General of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and the Law Society of South Australia. Past and current projects, reports, papers and annual reports are available on the website.

Prior to the current Institute, the Law Reform Committee of South Australia operated from 1968 to 1987. The reports from this committee are available on the University of Adelaide website.

Tasmania The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute was established in 2001 by agreement between the State Government, the University of Tasmania and the Law Society. The website contains reports and issues papers for completed and ongoing projects and annual reports.
Victoria

The Victorian Law Reform Commission was established in 2000 with the passing of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic). The Commission's website includes all projects dating back to 2002 with links via All Projects to project consultation papers and final reports. Access a list of all publications, including annual reports via the publications link. 

Reports of the Victorian Law Reform Commission's predecessor, the Law Reform Commission of Victoria, are available on AustLII from Report 1 (1985) to Report 50 (1992). 

Western Australia

The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia website includes all Reports and Papers from Project 1 (1970), discussion papers for current projects, and annual reports (from 1998/1999).

Reports and other grey literature in legal research include government reports, policy statements, and reports created by organisations, industry bodies, NGOs or special interest groups outside the commercial publishing space.

Some journal databases and catalogues include reports, for example the Library CatalogueCapital Monitor and TROVE. Reports on government and industry specific websites may also be retrievable via search engines such as Google.

Government Documents

There are a variety of government documents that are produced in conjunction with statutes. These include bills, explanatory memoranda, second reading speeches and committee reports. These are also known as extrinsic material. For more information about locating government documents, see the Australian Legislation Research Guide.

Parliamentary Papers

Parliamentary Papers are documents that are presented to the Houses of Parliament and are ordered by one or both of the Houses to be printed. They include reports from government departments, Royal Commissions, committees of enquiry and other documents. See Commonwealth of Australia Parliamentary Paper Series and the Victorian Government Publications Guide for further information. 

There are also some other sources you can use to locate reports:

Capital Monitor (UniMelb staff & students)

Capital Monitor provides legal news, press releases, and reports released by the Australian federal, state and territory governments.

Various Government Websites

If you know who produced the report, try searching their website, such as the Australian Parliament House website for a copy. Often the organisation's website will include a publications page where the report may be located.

Google

Due to the indexing and search power of Google, you may be able to locate a copy of the report you are looking for by searching in Google.

WayBack Machine

A not-for-profit internet archive that takes snapshots of websites at particular points in time. If you are unable to locate a report on the 'live' website, try putting the URL into the Wayback Machine to see if it has captured the content of the site at other points in time.

Pandora

The Australian web archive established by the National Library of Australia to collect historic online publications and webpages relating to Australia and Australians with the aim of keeping the information available for use into the future (1996 - present).