Australia’s Legal System

The Australian legal system is based on an essential belief in the guideline of law, justice and the self-reliance of the judiciary. Everyones– Australians and non-Australians alike– are helped with similarly prior to the law and safeguards exist to ensure that individuals are not helped with arbitrarily or unfairly by governments or authorities.

Principles such as procedural fairness, judicial precedent and the separation of powers are essential to Australia’s legal system.

The common law system, as developed in the United Kingdom, forms the basis of Australian jurisprudence. It is distinct from the civil law systems that run in Europe, South America and Japan, which are stemmed from Roman law. Other nations that utilize variations of the common law system are the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia and India.

The chief feature of the common law system is that judges’ choices in pending cases are notified by the decisions of previously settled cases.

The Australian Constitution of 1901 developed a federal system of government, under which powers are distributed in between the federal government and the states. It defined unique powers (investing the federal government with the special power to make laws on issues such as trade and commerce, tax, defense, external affairs, and immigration and citizenship) and simultaneous powers (where both tiers of government have the ability to enact laws). The states and areas have independent legal power in all matters not specifically appointed to the federal government. Where there is any disparity between federal and state or area laws, federal laws prevail. Federal laws apply to the entire of Australia.

In effect, Australia has 9 legal systems– the 8 state and area systems and one federal system. Nevertheless, it is the state and territory criminal laws that generally have an effect on the daily lives of a lot of Australians.

Each of the federal and state systems incorporates three different branches of government– legislative, executive and judicial. Parliaments make the laws, the executive government carries out the laws, and the judiciary separately translates and uses them.