Other types of laws


Various kinds of law exist in Australia. Because of the wide-ranging nature of laws, it's easier to think of the law grouped into categories. Classification by type makes it easier to understand laws. It helps lawyers, judges and other legal personnel to interpret the law. It also makes it easier to recognise when similar situations arise, so that similar solutions can be achieved.

The type of law also determines in which court a complaint will be heard. To find out more about the different courts in Victoria, visit our 'Courts & tribunals' page.

Different classifications of law

  • Public Law vs. Private Law: Public laws are those laws that are relevant to matters affecting your entire community (e.g. laws about criminal activity or the environment). Private laws are laws that are most relevant to individuals (e.g. laws dealing with property ownership or employment contracts).
  • Civil Law vs. Criminal Law: This is almost the same as the public vs. private classification. Civil laws are those that deal with the enforcement of the rights of individuals (e.g. laws that deal with families or defamation). Criminal laws relate to matters affecting the stability and peacefulness of your wider community (e.g. the laws against theft and murder).
  • Common Law vs. Statute Law: A law that is developed by parliament is known as a statute law. A law that is developed in response to the rulings of the court is known as a common law. To find out more about the Victorian Parliament, visit our 'Parliament & the law' page.
  • State vs. Federal Law: State laws operate within the boundaries of the state whose parliament or courts developed the law. Federal laws apply throughout Australia. Whether a law is state or federally based determines which court will consider the breaking or alleged breaking of that law. An example of a state-based law is the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (PDF, 1198KB). An example of a Federal law is the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (new window), which deals with consumer law throughout Australia.

Some examples of different types of law:

  • Equal opportunity law deals with issues relating to all forms of discrimination, both in the workplace and in society in general
  • Tort laws are those laws that relate to issues of trespass, nuisance, defamation and negligence
  • Industrial law deals with issues arising in the workplace, including long service leave entitlements, employer-employee relations, and occupational health and safety
  • Family law deals with laws that relate to marriage, divorce, separation, adoption, guardianship of minors, access to and custody of children, division of property and maintenance payments
  • Consumer law is concerned with issues relating to your rights as a consumer
  • Taxation law is a federally based law. It relates to the amount of money that organisations and individuals are required to pay to the government each year
  • Environmental law relates to the impact that the behaviour of individuals and organisations has on the environment


Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents
A list of Victorian laws, as well as a list of bills currently under consideration in the Victorian Parliament.

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission
Deals with issues related to equal opportunity, including advice on the complaints process.

The Family Court of Australia
The Family Court is the body that deals with family law disputes in Australia. Includes a step-by-step guide to Family Court proceedings and an information page for children.

Consumer Action Law Centre
An independent non-government organisation providing advice and information about consumer rights and consumer legislation. Includes a useful FAQ list.

WorldLII - AustLII: Listing by Subject
The Australasian Legal Information Institute has a long list of areas of legislation with links to further information and case studies.