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Colonial Cases

Western Australia

Western Australia and the Swan River colony are poorly served by law reports before 1900. The present site is designed to begin to rectify that weakness. A very large effort is needed to recover the colonial case law of this jurisdiction.

There was no Supreme Court in Western Australia until 1861, but in 1832 the colony's first legislative Act established a Civil Court with all the powers of the superior common law courts of England plus some of those of the ecclesiastical courts. As can be seen in cases such as Harris and Gresswell v. Bignell, 1833, the Civil Court also exercised equitable jurisdiction. Early criminal cases were heard by the Court of Quarter Sessions which began operation in 1826. There was also a Court of Requests for small civil matters. (On the earliest courts, see A.C. Castles, An Australian Legal History, pp 299f.)

The source of the earliest cases online here is the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, which began publication on 5 January 1833.

Transcriptions on this site repeat the mis-spellings of the original newspapers, but not the obvious typesetting mistakes.

Fortunately, the Austlii team which is developing the Australasian Legal History Library is now working on the unpublished case law from Western Australia. For details of the project, see its description of the project. Case law from 1840 to 1849 is now online at Austlii.

 As a result of the development at Austlii, this Macquarie University Colonial Cases site on Western Australia will not be developed further in the near future.


1800s 1810s 1820s
1830s 1840s 1850s
1860s 1870s 1880s


Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School