Victoria Legal Aid

In Australia, laws are made by:

  • politicians in parliament
  • judges making decisions about court cases.

Parliament-made law overrules judge-made law if both apply to a case.

Acts of Parliament

Laws made by parliament are called Acts, statutes or legislation. To create new laws a Bill (a draft Act) is debated in parliament. If it is passed by a majority in both houses of parliament it is sent to the governor for formal approval. After approval it becomes an Act. Approval by the governor is called royal assent.

Victorian Acts apply to people living in Victoria and to courts and judges in Victoria. Commonwealth Acts apply to the whole of Australia and to federal courts and judges.

Some Acts may outline broad guidelines or principles but leave the detail to be defined in regulations, rules or local laws. This is known as ‘delegated legislation’ and may be made by government departments, local councils, public authorities or authorised public servants.

See the Parliament of Victoria websiteExternal Link for detailed information about how parliament makes laws.

The Parliamentary Education OfficeExternal Link has fact sheets about how Commonwealth Acts and Bills are made.

Judge-made law

Judge-made law – known as common law – is law that has developed from judgments handed down in court. It is most often used to make decisions about areas that are not included in Acts of parliament.

When using common law judges decide cases along the lines of earlier decisions made in similar cases (‘precedents’).

Judges are also required to interpret legislation if there is a dispute about the meaning or how to apply an Act in a case. These interpretations then become part of the common law.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for courts and the legal system.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at

Reviewed 11 April 2022

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