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I want to know more about a particular case. I've seen it referred to a couple of different ways:

  • Tame v New South Wales [2002] HCA 35
  • Tame v New South Wales (2002) 211 CLR 317

How can I access information about these cases?

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The quickest way to get the text of Australian judgements is through AustLII.

Reading the citation

Parties:

Tame v New South Wales

In this case, the parties are (Clare Janet) Tame and (the State of) New South Wales.

Year:

[2002]

or

(2002)

There is a subtle distinction between the above years: in brackets [] is generally (but not always) the year that the judgement was made, which may or may not be the year that the case was reported, which appears in parentheses ().

This case was both decided in, and reported in this law report, in 2002.

Court

HCA

Where the citation includes brackets - [] - the abbreviation that follows is the unique court identifier of the court where the judgement occurred. This case was decided in the High Court of Australia. For a list of courts and abbreviations, see AustLII's table of Australian case law. This is called a medium-neutral citation.

Some reports are organised by year - unfortunately, there is no pattern to this - and they will have the year in brackets also. If more than one volume of a report of this kind is produced in this year, the volume number will appear between the year and the abbreviation as below.

Report number and series

211 CLR

Where the year appears in parentheses - () - and a number, then an abbreviation follows, these are the volume and abbreviation of the law report. In this case, it is the 221st volume of the Commonwealth Law Reports.

Pinpoint reference

  • Tame v New South Wales [2002] HCA 35
  • Tame v New South Wales (2002) 211 CLR 317

The final number is the pinpoint reference. In a medium-neutral citation, this is the judgement number - the nth judgement that year.

In all other cases, it is the page on which the judgement commences in the law report.

Authorised and authoritative law reports

All law reports are authoritative and can be employed in court, however the authorised law reports of a court are the official law reports - there is only one for each court. Judgements that highlight a novelty or a particular point of law are generally reported in the authorised law report.

How to use a citation

The practical upshot of this is that AustLII provides LawCite, which is a free case citator - you can search for cases.

All you need is either:

  • The year, court abbreviation, and judgement number, or
  • The volume, report abbreviation, and page number

In the above examples, these would be

  • 2002 HCA 35, and
  • 211 CLR 317

... respectively. This is referred to in the citator as the citation (which is confusing because the entire thing is a citation).

LawCite provides, for your convenience, a table of:

  • Cases that cite the case your case,
  • Law reform reports referring to your case,
  • Law journals referring to your case
  • Legislation cited in the case your case, and
  • Cases and articles cited in your case.

These are extremely useful in finding related cases during your research.

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