Hot Topics 79: Australian legal system

An overview of the elements of our system and how it developed, covering how law is made, what the law deals with and the roles of the legislature, judiciary and executive. Information on the Australian legal system is rarely to be found in a single publication and in a reader-friendly accessible format.

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The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is an independent, non-profit legal and policy centre. PIAC works for a fair, just and democratic society. It empowers individuals and groups, particularly those who are disadvantaged and marginalised. Using legal, policy, communication and training initiatives, PIAC makes strategic interventions in public interest matters.

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Why do we have laws? - What is a 'legal system'? - Where does the Australian legal system come from? - how laws are made - Who is in the Australian legal system?

Other influences

International law - adversarial and inquisitorial systems - customary law - legal system principles.

How law is made

Delegated legislation - common law - impact of international law on Australian law.

What the law deals with

Criminal law - civil law - administrative law.

Government in Australia

Why do we have government? - our structure of government - legislature - executive - judiciary - limits on the power of the branches of government - states and territories - harmonisation of laws.


Federal Parliament - statute law - delegated legislation.


The executive's involvement in making laws - the executive's role in law reform - the executive and the legal system.


The judiciary's role in making law - alternative dispute resolution - courts and tribunals - precedent - appeals.

The legal profession

Barristers - solicitors - Who pays for solicitors and barristers?

Hot Topics 79: Australian legal system. Hot Topics is intended as an introductory guide only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information, the Legal Information Access Centre does not assume responsibility for any errors or omissions. 

© Library Council of New South Wales 2011. All rights reserved. Copyright in Hot Topics is owned by the Library Council of New South Wales (the governing body of the State Library of New South Wales). Apart from any use permitted by the Copyright Act (including fair dealing for research or study) this publication may not be reproduced without written permission from the Legal Information Access Centre.

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