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Harvard Referencing Guide

Citing legal sources

Legal sources are usually included in a list of references only if they are important to an understanding of the work.

  • Legislation - Acts, Regulations, rules and by-laws, should be cited exactly - avoid altering spelling or capitalisation to suit the reference style.
  • Most Acts have a short formal title that can be used for citation purpose.
  • Case - The name of the case is italicised and the year is placed in brackets.

Make it obvious in the text, e.g. Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act 1995 prohibits' or place the abbreviated information in brackets after the date, (use Cth for Commonwealth Acts),e.g. the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) ...

Units of division (Pinpoint reference)
The basic units of division for Acts are sections. The abbreviations s., ss. can be used but should never appear at the beginning a sentence. The AGPS manual recommends the following style for citing divisions of Acts:
   Section 4 of the Commonwealth's Copyright Act 1968 ...
   In ss. 4-7 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) ...
   The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), s. 4, ...

Cite legal material consistently and accurately

It’s important to cite legal sources in a consistent and accurate way across government.

The Style Manual gives common guidance for different types of legal material, including:

In-text citations

Add detail to citations with notes
  • Writing about the law and legal matters requires careful citation.
  • You can use in-text citations and footnotes or endnotes (notes) to provide accurate and complete details.
In-text citations
  • For general content, in-text citations often give people all the information they need.
The Major Bank Levy Act 2017 imposes a levy on authorised deposit‑taking institutions.
In South Australia v Commonwealth (First Uniform Tax Case), Chief Justice Latham of the Federal Court ...
  • Always list the legislation or case name first in a basic note.
  • Explanatory notes might vary. They can be a useful way to add extra information that would otherwise clutter the content.
  • Each note has the corresponding superscript reference marker before it. Users find the note by matching the number.
  • In digital content, the reference markers can be hyperlinked to help users access the note. Use hyperlinked endnotes in digital content. 
The levy threshold is indexed quarterly.1 [A superscript reference marker for the first note]
The legislative basis for parliamentary remuneration and entitlements is complex.2 [A superscript reference marker for the second note]
1 Major Bank Levy Act 2017, subsection 4(3). [A basic note corresponding to the first reference marker]
2 Section 48 of the Australian Constitution provides for the payment of members of parliament. Commonwealth Acts include Remuneration and Allowances Act 1990Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973Ministers of State Act 1952... other Acts and associated delegated legislation. [An explanatory note corresponding to the second reference marker]

Pinpoint citations use 'at' for page/ paragraph numbers

  • Pinpoint page numbers for citations using 'at [page number'].
  • You can follow the page number with the number of the relevant paragraph as it appears in the judgment. Write the paragraph number in square brackets.
  • Use a comma to list separate pinpoint citations.
1 Ruddock v Vadarlis (2001) 110 FCR 491 at 1191. [The pinpoint citation is on page 1191.]
2 Rojoda Pty Ltd v Commissioner of State Revenue (2018) 368 ALR 734 at 737 [10] .. [The pinpoint citations are at page 737 (paragraph 10)].


Legal cases are only included in a list of reference if they are important to an understanding of the work. In that case, it is preferable to list cases separately in alphabetical order under the subheading of "Cases". 

Elements of the reference
Name of the case (Year) Reference details (including vol number, Abbreviated Reference Series, Starting page number)
In-text citation
  • The name of the case is italicised and the year is placed in brackets.
  • Often cases are known by an abbreviated title. On first mention of the case name, follow with an abbreviated title, subsequent references can use the abbreviation.
The State of New South Wales v The Commonwealth (1915) ..
.. the State of New South Wales v The Commonwealth (Wheat Case). The Wheat Case ..
Reference list
  • The case name is in roman type, not italicised.
The State of New South Wales v. The Commonwealth (1915) 20 CLR 54


Acts & Regulations

Legislation is only included in a list of reference if it is important to an understanding of the work. In that case, it is preferable to list separately under the subheading of "Legislation".

  • The titles of pieces of legislation (Acts, Regulations, rules and by-laws should be cited exactly - do not alter spelling or capitalisation.
  • Use roman type for the titles of Acts in reference lists and other long lists.
Elements of the reference
Title of the Act Year (abbreviation of the jurisdiction)
In-text citation
  • The first time you name the Act in text, use the short title in italics and the jurisdiction in parentheses roman type.
The Currency Act 1965 (SA) established ..
  • If there are subsequent mentions of the Act, use the short title in roman type without the year.
... as convicted of federal offences under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth). The Crimes Act specifies …
Reference list
Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

Titles of Acts from other countries are in roman type

  • In-text, write all legislation from foreign countries in roman type, followed by the country abbreviation.
  • If you’re not sure of an abbreviation, write the sentence to make the jurisdiction clear.
In-text citation
Digital Economy Act 2017 (UK)
Arms Legislation Act 2019 (NZ)
Fiji's Foreign Investment Act 1999 ..


  • A bill is a draft Act introduced into parliament. Write the titles of bills in roman type, not italics.

Elements of the reference
In-text citation
Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2017 (Cth)
Reference list
Migration Amendment (Regulation of Migration Agents) Bill 2017 (Cth)

Shortened form of jurisdictions

Use these shortened forms:
  • Cth (the Commonwealth)
  • ACT (Australian Capital Territory)
  • NT (Northern Territory)
  • NSW (New South Wales)
  • Qld (Queensland)
  • SA (South Australia)
  • Tas (Tasmania)
  • Vic (Victoria)
  • WA (Western Australia).