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The Australian legal system shares much of its history with the English legal system and English institutions continue to have an important influence.  Shortly before the First Fleet left England, legislation was passed to create a criminal court in New South Wales.  They were usually staffed by military officers and run on military lines.

Under the Australian Constitution (1901) a federal system of government was established where power is shared between a national  Government (the Commonwealth) and the six states.  The Constitution defines the boundaries of law-making powers between the Commonwealth and the states and territories.

There are two main sources of law in Australia:

  • Cases: the decisions made by judges in the courts; and
  • Legislation: the legal rules made by parliament