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Researching Legislation


An Act is a law made by Parliament. A Bill which has passed all three readings in each house, and has received the royal assent becomes an Act.

Commonwealth legislation is read and debated in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In Victoria, the legislation is read and debated in the Legislative Assembly, the Lower House of the Parliament of Victoria and the Legislative Council, the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament.

An Act can be commonly referred to as either :

  • a statute
  • an act
  • a law
  • a piece of legislation

Principal Acts
When an Act is passed by Parliament it is complete in itself, and has been enacted for a particular purpose. These are known as principal Acts.

Amending Acts
If a provision within a principal Act is to be changed, there are two ways to achieve this:

  • Parliament can pass an amending act. The word 'amendment' will be in the title of the later Act (e.g. Civil Aviation Amendment Act (Cth). These Acts identify specific provisions of the principal Act that are to be changed and specify the new provision.
  • Parliament may also pass an act that will amend more than one act. For example, the Statute Law Revisions Act 1996 (Cth) made amendments to more than 100 acts.

Legislation expresses government policy in addition to prescribing social and corporate behaviour. Community lobby groups may call for laws to be introduced, or existing laws may be criticised by a judicial statement.

Is the Act current?

Ensuring that you are using the most current version of an Act is very important.


Acts are amended over time to reflect changes in government policy, societal attitudes, and the outcomes of court cases. Some Acts (for example those dealing with taxation) are amended frequently, others much less frequently. Usually, the majority of Acts passed by a Parliament in any year are amending Acts to alter an original (or principal Act).

See the 'Finding Acts & Amendments' page to learn how to locate the must current version of an Act, and view amendments, from an authorised Government website.


Be Aware! You may wish to check the current Bills Activity to find any Bills that have recently passed or may soon pass and affect your Act.
Use Victorian Legislation  or  in Lawlex Premium.