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Case law

Over hundreds of years judges have been deciding cases. Their decisions have developed a body of legal principles known as 'common law'.

Courts can publish decisions in the form of an unreported judgment, sometimes referred to as medium neutral citations.

Significant cases that reflect important points of law are published in law reports. These can either be:

  1. Authorised - reviewed by Judges for accuracy and are recognised as the most authoritative source of a court's judgment. 
  2. Unauthorised - may be published more quickly and can appear in a specialised report series on a particular area of law e.g. torts, criminal law.

A case may be published in several law report series, and when a case has multiple citations you should always use the most authoritative version of the decision.

Citation hierarchy in order of preference:

  1. Authorised
  2. Unauthorised
  3. Unreported

This video explains the importance and value of authorised law reports.

Authorised Law report series in Australia

Court Law Report Title Abbreviation
High Court

Commonwealth Law Reports 1903-

Westlaw (1903- )

Federal Court

Federal Court Reports 1984-

Westlaw (1984- )

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Administrative Law Decisions 1976-

Lexis Advance (1976- )


Australian Industrial Relations Commission; 

Fair Work Australia; 

Fair Work Commission;

Industrial Relations Commission of NSW

Industrial Reports 1981-

Westlaw (1981- )

Supreme Court of New South Wales

New South Wales Law Reports 1970-

Westlaw (1970- )


New South Wales Reports 1960-1971

NSW Law Reports (1960-1971) (view on screen only - pay download)

Hardcopy St Benedict's R/KH/75/NSWR


New South Wales Law Reports 1880-1900

AustLII (1856-1900) (scanned copies of originals)

Supreme Court of Victoria

Victorian Reports 1957-

Lexis Advance (1957- )


Victorian Law Reports 1875-1956

AustLII (1875-1956) (scanned copies of originals)

Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory Law Reports 2008-

Westlaw (2008- )


Australian Capital Territory Reports 1973-2008

Lexis Advance (1973-2008)

Supreme Court of the Northern Territory

Northern Territory Law Reports 1991-

Westlaw (1991- )


Northern Territory Reports 1979-1991

Lexis Advance (1979-1991)

Supreme Court of Queensland

Queensland Reports 1958-

Lexis Advance (1974- )

Supreme Court of South Australia South Australian State Reports 1971- SASR

State Reports South Australia 1921-70

AustLII (1920-1950) (scanned copies of originals)

Supreme Court of Tasmania

Tasmanian Reports 1979-

Westlaw (1992- )

AustLII (1979-1991) (scanned copies of originals)

Tas R

Tasmanian State Reports 1941-1978

AustLII (1941-1978) (scanned copies of originals)

Tas SR

Tasmanian Law Reports 1904-1940

AustLII (1904-1940) (scanned copies of originals)

Tas LR
Supreme Court of Western Australia

Western Australian Reports 1960-

Westlaw (1960- )


Western Australian Law Reports 1899-1959

AustLII (1899-1959) (scanned copies of originals)


Finding a case from a citation

Citation elements

You can look up a case citation to find out what it stands for by using an abbreviations guide:

Finding cases on a topic

Use secondary resources to find cases on a particular area of law:

Westlaw organises case law by Key Numbers that identify points of law in cases and organises them by topic and key number. This is another good way to find case law on a particular legal issue.

Case Citators

Case citators provide basic information about a case such as:

  1. Citations with links to full text where available 
  2. Name and date of judgment
  3. Presiding judge/s
  4. Litigation history
  5. Summary of judgment and outcome
  6. Cases and legislation considered by a case
  7. Links to later cases that have considered this case

Many case citators have additional features that can be used to help improve your research efficiency and can be used to:

  • Track litigation history (link to appeals and first instance decisions)
  • Find journal articles that refer to the case
  • Create alerts to be notified when a case has new judicial treatment or appeals
  • Search for cases on a particular point of law or legal topic
  • Help work out whether a case is still good law by viewing it's subsequent treatment

Lexis+ CaseBase symbols let you quickly identify whether a case has had positive, neutral or negative treatment:


Australian case citators

Australian law reports

You will find most Australian law report series on either Lexis Advance or Westlaw AU.

Unreported judgments

Unreported judgments are judicial decisions that have not been published in a law report series. These are some commonly used databases to locate unreported judgments. 

Australian courts

You will also find recent unreported judgments on government websites.

Western Australia: Courts and Decisions


International case law

Subscription databases
Open access resources