The first Act of Parliament was passed in England in 1235 and it's form has been developing and changing for over 780 years.
Acts of Parliament are formal documents containing set elements and usually follow an established form.
Whilst, at first glance, an Act may seem complex and difficult to understand you will quickly learn how to read and understand it.
Below we have listed some of the elements that you will find in an Act of Parliament;
- Number: New South Wales Acts are numbered in chronological order, commencing with the number one for each calendar year.
- Short Title: The short title is specified in an Act and is used to conveniently identify an Act.
- Long Title: The long title sets out the subject, scope and purpose of the Act. It is important because it can be used by the Courts to interpret the Act.
A major part of our law is the concept of intent.
The long title can help determine the precise intent of our Legislators.
Preamble: A preliminary statement explaining why the legislation was considered desirable, though rarely used in modern legislation.
Table of Provisions: This is the index of contents and plays no real part in the interpretation of an Act.
Headings and Sections: Acts are set out as a series of statements (sections), divided and subdivided clearly with each subdivision easily identified by it's own number. These divisions will be noted as, say, Part 5, Section 23, sub-section (1), paragraph (a). The abbreviation would be Pt. 5 s.23 (1) (a).
Schedules: Many Acts have schedules attached at the end which generally add more details (such as methods, maps and schedules of fees), give examples of the various forms that will be used or list sections of other Acts amended by it.
Now you can pick up an Act of Parliament and find out just how easy it is to work out what a law really means, your rights and obligations under a law (legislation far too often takes rights rather than gives them, by the way) and how we are expected to act within it's framework.