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Primary sources of law

This guide will assist you in locating the two most common primary sources of law - case law and legislation.


Using this guide

Understanding case citations

A case citation can refer to a "reported" or "unreported" full-text version of the case. A case may have parallel citations, which means there is more than one full-text version of the case. Use the 'Understanding case citations' page to break down and understand all the elements of a case citation.

Researching cases

A citator is used to “Note-up” a case, which essentially looks at the present status and history of the case. Noting-up is a good way to research information about cases, including whether it is still good law.

When noting-up a case up you will often find: parallel citations, case history, journal articles or other secondary sources referring to the case, lists of subsequent citing cases and the judicial treatment of those citing cases.

Where there are parallel citations, it is important to choose the best, or “most authoritative” version of a case. Using a citator will help you work out which version of the case should be cited.


Accessing law reports and cases: Full-text A-Z list

A case citation contains all the information needed to locate a case. Use the 'Accessing law reports and cases' page to find out where to access a particular version of a case from its citation. This page also contains resources for discovering what a law abbreviation stands for, including abbreviations for law reports, courts & tribunals, and law journals.


Researching and accessing legislation

The Commonwealth and State governments have created repositories where they make legislation and legislative materials available. These are the preferred sources when citing legislation.

Legislation Citators are also available to “Note-up” an Act, which essentially looks at the present status and history of the Act.
When noting-up an Act you will often find: Amending legislation, Act history, journal and other secondary sources referring to the Act, lists of cases that have considered the Act and provisions within the Act.


Accessing bills and extrinsic material

Bill: A legislative document in the form of a proposed Act of Parliament that has not yet been passed by parliament or received royal assent.

Extrinsic material: Material that does not form part of an Act but that may assist in the interpretation of that Act. Such material includes explanatory memoranda, reports of law reform commissions and parliamentary committees, and second reading speeches.

Introductory books