26 Finding Northern Territory Legislation

Current Northern Territory (‘NT’) legislation can be quickly found by browsing or searching the NT Legislation site.

Structure, history, and finding legislation before self-governance

The NT Legislative Assembly is a unicameral parliament formed in 1978. Information about the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, board case and meeting date, and other information papers can be found on the Legislative Assembly of the NT website.

From 1863 to 1911, the NT was annexed from New South Wales to South Australia. If you are looking for legislation from this period, refer to South Australian Legislation. From 1911, the NT was transferred to the Commonwealth control with an Administrator and by 1948, a new NT Legislative Council was created; further power was granted to the Council in 1962. In 1974, the Legislative Council was replaced by a Legislative Assembly, and in 1978, the NT was granted self-governance; acts are assented to by the Administrator of the Territory.

Finding Acts and Subordinate Legislation in Force

All current NT Legislation and Subordinate Legislation in force can be found on the NT Legislation website. You can browse acts by title alphabetically, or search using keywords.

If you search using keywords, you can limit your search to the full text or only the title. For example, if you search for ‘summary offences’ in the title, you will get two pieces of legislation: Summary Offences Act 1923 and Summary Offences Regulations 1994. If you search for ‘summary offences’ with full text, you will get many more results as you will find legislation that mentions summary offences in the text. The advanced search function will allow you to search for acts and subordinate legislation; you can also search by status, such as to limit your search by legislation in force, historical or as assented/ made. You can also search by point in time, date, or agency.


A search box that shows the title summary offences typed into a search box. The box labeled Acts, In Force and title only are ticked.
Figure 4: Searching by Title for a current act in force in the Advanced Search option of the Northern Territory Legislation Database

Boolean operators work on the site. The two main ones are;

  • AND  This will search for legislation that contains both words e.g., Fence AND house. This will find legislation with the words fence and house used.
  • OR  This will search for legislation that contains one or the other words e.g., accommodation OR house OR building. This will find legislation that uses any of these terms.

You can find subordinate legislation in a similar manner; you can browse by title or search by keywords. Alternately you can also find subordinate legislation attached to its principle. For example, if you search for the Firearms Act 1997, you will see a link to the Firearms Regulations 1997 under the title ‘Subordinate Legislation’.

Another thing you can do on the website, is to sign up and to create an account. By creating an account, you can select legislation to receive notifications. When using the website, you will see an ‘envelope’ symbol next to legislation, click on this to get notified. You can also use this service to unsubscribe or change your notifications.

In addition to the NT Legislation site, you can also find legislation in Austlii, for example:

Finding Historical Legislation

Here is a quick summary of finding historical legislation:

  • 1863-1911- refer to South Australian legislation.
  • 1911-1960- NT Numbered Ordinances, available only in hard copy bound volumes, the National Library of Australia, and many academic and court libraries provide access.
  • 1960– Consolidated reprint of NT Ordinances as of 1 January 1961, available on Austlii.
  • 1960-1978– NT Numbered Ordinances, available on Austlii.
  • 1978- current can be found on the NT Legislation website, however, historical consolidated version area only available from 1 July 1997.

Finding point in time legislation

There are several different ways to search for historical and point in time legislation. See above for historical legislation pre-self-governance. From 1978 onwards you can search the NT Legislation site which gives you two options:

  1.  Firstly, on the NT Legislation find the legislation you want as it is in force.  Open the legislation and under the heading ‘Related’ to select ‘View History Listing.’ This will provide you will a reprint history with start and end date.
  2. Secondly, you can use the Advanced Search to search by title and then set a specific time period. For example, you could search for the Criminal Code Act in Advanced Search using the title only from the radio buttons then in the point in time field select the dates 1/01/2001 – 2/01/2002. This will bring you back the acts and bills that correspond to that time period.

Another useful way of breaking down how the legislation was at a specific point in time is to explore the Endnotes in the legislation. The Endnotes will provide you with information about when the principal act was assented to and commenced, it is also where you will find the gazette details. The Endnotes will show you when the act was amended, which sections or parts were amended and point you to the amending legislations title, number and year.

In addition, the Chorological Tables on the NT Legislation Website will assist you with locating legislation number, year, title, and commencement date.

Using Secondary Sources for NT Legislation

When searching for information on NT legislation, understanding the history can assist you in tracking down sources. Several books can assist you:

  • Mildren, Dean. Big Boss Fella All Same Judge : A History of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory (Federation Press, 2011)- this book provides the NT Supreme Court’s history and useful information on legislative developments.
  • Cross, Jack. Great Central State : The Foundation of the Northern Territory (Wakefield Press, 2011)- this book is useful for information on the early stages of South Australia’s administration of the Northern Territory.
  • Gray, Stephen, Jenny Blokland and Ben Grimes, Criminal Laws Northern Territory. (Federation Press, 3rd ed., 2021)- this book is useful for finding and tracing criminal laws over time.

Similarly, NT Law Reform Committee Publications also cover topics that include information on legislation development, history, and reform.

Finding bills

The NT Legislation site has bills as introduced and as passed from 1975 onwards. You can search for a bill, by session, sponsor, title, or those bills that are currently before the Legislative Assembly. You can also search for bills in a similar way to acts in force, simply use the Advanced Search, and then under style select bill by ticking ‘As Introduced’ and/or ‘As Passed’. In addition you can also find NT bills:

Finding explanatory statements

Have been produced from February 2005 onwards, they are available on the NT Legislation website or Austlii.

To find the speech on the NT Legislation site, first select find the bill from the NT Legislation site, then under the title ‘Related’ you will find the Explanatory Statement.

Finding second reading speeches/explanatory speeches

Second Reading Speeches are available in Hansard and from Austlii.

For example, if we wanted to use Hansard to find the second reading speech for the Teacher Registration (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2009. First, we would need the introduction date on the bill from the NT Legislation website, then we can use the Hansard site to find it. On the bill we can see that it was introduced on 26 November 2009. In Hansard we can use the date to find that this comes under the 11th Assembly. You can then search by the date 26 November 2009 to find the second reading speech.

Finding gazettes

From 2017 to present Gazettes are available from the NT Legislation website.

Older Historical Gazettes can be found on the Territory Stories website, and the Northern Territory Times and Gazettes from 1873-1927 are available in Trove.

It is also possible to search by series for example:

You can also subscribe to the Gazettes.

Finding Hansard

The parliamentary record, Hansard, is available from the Legislative Assembly of the NT website, there is a short guide on How to search information.


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