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How to Find

What are legal materials?

Materials used in legal research are often divided into broad categories:

  • Primary legal materials
  • Secondary legal materials

This page focuses on primary legal materials, which are those which communicate the law, including both legislation and case law. Primary legal materials are created by parliament (governments), the courts, and other official bodies:

  • Legislation, which is created by Parliaments
  • Case Law, which is created by the Courts
  • Regulations and by-laws which are created by Government bodies

Secondary legal materials are  based on primary legal sources, helping to explain, analyse, and interpret the law. These include journal articles, books, legal dictionaries, commentaries, and newspapers. Secondary legal materials can be helpful in the identification of relevant primary sources.

Why use legal materials?

Legal materials are fundamental to the practice of law; however the need to locate legal materials is not contrained to those studying or working in that particular field. The law impacts every facet of our society, governing what individuals and organisations can and can't do. For that reason, it may be necessary to locate legal materials across a number of topics or subject areas.

How can I find case law?

To locate a case, it can be helpful to understand the elements of citation to a law report.

Commonwealth v Tasmania tells you the platiff and defendent respectively. Next comes the year of the decision, in this case 1983. 158 is the volume number of the law report series the case appears in which is presented next in its abbreviated form. Finally you have the starting point of the report.

Most cases will not be freely available on the Internet, so it will be necessary to search for them within the Library's databases.

Search via the Just Cite tool, using either keywords (such as the name of the plaintiff and defendant), or the entire citation, as shown above. The tool will then let you know if the case you are trying to locate is available in one of the Library's databases. You will need to click on the correct case name, and then select one of the full text links. 

Keyword or Citation Search

If the Just Cite tool is not able to locate the case you are looking for, search the library catalogue for the name of the law report series the case appears in. You can discover the unabbreviated form of the law report series via the guide produced by Monash University Library

If the library has access to the law report series in question, you will be able to link to the appropriate database via the catalogue search.

Locating Australian legislation

Acts, Amending Acts, Bills, and subordinate legislation are found freely online on official Commonwealth and state websites. If you're interested in a particular Act, you can perform a Google search to locate it. Otherwise, try the links below.

Using the Federal Register of Legislation, you can look up Commonwealth legislation by its title and explore any amendments, including those that are unincorporated or were never commenced. You will also have full text access to the Act itself.   

Western Australian Legislation allows you to search for WA Acts, Subsidiary legislation, and Parliamentary Bills. Looking up acts (either in-force or ceased) by title or browsing alphabetically will connect you to the full text, any available versions, as well as subsidiary legislation.  

Legal databases

The following are a selection of databases which include legal materials. For more legal databases, see the Databases A-Z page.