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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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This is the product of the massively automated "markup" software used by AustLII to insert hypertext links. The software is essentially heuristic in nature - that is, it makes 'intelligent guesses' and therefore also makes the occasional mistake, such as a link to the section of an incorrect Act where the context of the case does not make it clear which Act is referred to. Many of these mistakes relate to the nature of the English (and particularly legal) language. Unfortunately AustLII has neither the staff nor the funding to manually fix these incorrect links every time that the data is updated or reprocessed. We do, however, continue to improve the heuristics used by the markup software as resources permit.
Broken links (ie links which produce a file not found message) can usually be fixed and should be reported to AustLII Feedback, with details of the URL of the page where the link is located and what you expected to find.
Note that we cannot fix broken links which are not located on our web site. If the broken link is on another web site, please contact that web site's maintainer and not AustLII.
The software to mark up AustLII's databases was written by Andrew Mowbray. It is the result of a number of years of development. The heuristic rules that it embodies continue to be refined to deal with the nuances of the various databases available via AustLII.
The alphabetic list of cases which is available from the opening pages of some databases is generated automatically from the cases in the database. Unfortunately this may mean that the list of cases is not as useful as it might be, since case names provided by courts and tribunals can include first names and other details. AustLII is progressively attempting to normalise case names. See the HCA database for an example.
If you do not find a particular case name by browsing the alphabetic list:
The simplest way to find an Act or a section an Act is to just type the name and or section reference into the search box on the AustLII opening page. Austsearch will detect this and will diplay a list of matching legislation from all jurisdictions.
If you know the jurisdiction (ie Commnwealth, NSW etc) name of the Act or Regulation for which you are looking, the best approach may be to browse for it by clicking on the relevant jurisdiction from the AustLII Databases page, choosing the appropriate act or regulation database, and then selecting from the alphabetical list.
If you do not know the jurisdiction (ie Commonwealth, NSW etc), but know the name of the Act or Regulation for which you are looking, go to the Search AustLII page, set your find type to this legislation name and select "All Legislation Databases" for the databases to search. If you do know the name of the jurisdiction, then select the appropriate database (eg "NSW: All Legislation").
The reproduction of legal materials on AustLII is always with copyright and data permissions of the Courts or Legislatures. However, this permission should not be read as having granted 'authorised' status to the AustLII published version.
To borrow from the world of information technology marketing, the answer is 'Real Soon Now'. We are always negotiating for the addition of new materials to the AustLII databases. There is a recognised advantage in the use of comprehensive sources when undertaking legal research, and we aim to make AustLII the most comprehensive resource for Australian legal research.
If you work for a court or tribunal that does not have its materials published on AustLII then we encourage you to contact us at AustLII Feedback to discuss arrangements. If you'd like to see a particular court or tribunal on AustLII then contact the court or tribunal and suggest to them that they publish on AustLII.
AustLII does not choose which cases will be reported. For some Courts/Tribunals AustLII holds every case decided, for others we hold significant decisions (as selected by the Court), and in others we hold only reported cases. There are very few databases on any other service (electronic or paper based) which include all the decisions of a particular court.
If AustLII's coverage does not include a case you need, you may be able to get it at one of the commercial legal publishers' online subscriber services, your local public library or your nearest university law library.
This is not an argument with AustLII, but with the nature of our legal system itself. It is a basic feature of our system of justice that courts and tribunals conduct their hearings in public and that they publicly report their reasons for judgment. There are only some very narrow exceptions to this principle (victims of crime in certain types of offences or cases involving children for example).
There are two main reasons for the transparency of the Anglo-Australian system of justice:
AustLII is only one of the mechanisms by which courts and tribunals publish their decisions. Many are also reported in a number of paper-based series of law reports, on subscription CD-ROM by commercial legal publishers, and on commercial legal publishers' own subscription-based websites. These publications are available in most Law Libraries and the legal section of some of the larger public libraries around Australia.
If you still feel that you'd like to have the case removed from AustLII's website, then AustLII has some procedures in place to deal with your request:
First, contact AustLII at AustLII Feedback and let us know the exact location of the case (or cases) that you would like removed.
Without waiting for a reply from AustLII, immediately contact the Registrar of the court or tribunal which handed down the decision (see the WhitePages for contact information). Let them know that you want either a suppression order on the case or for your name to be removed. Provide full contact details as well as case numbers, citation and decision date.
Let us know that you have contacted the court or tribunal.
If the court or tribunal agrees to your request they will contact us directly with a suppression order or a new version of the case with your name replaced by an initial. Please be aware that each court and tribunal will have specific guidelines on the cicumstances in which this will be done.
At present, transcripts of most cases are only generated from tapes on demand, at some cost. We are not currently planning to provide transcripts of cases as a general service.
However, the High Court provides AustLII with transcripts of proceedings. The transcripts date from 1996 and can be found at the High Court of Australia Transcripts database page.
Where a citation in a decision of a Court or Tribunal is missing the medium neutral version, AustLII uses an automated system based on LawCite to insert the medium neutral citation. This results in the occasional insertion of an incorrect medium neutral citation. For more details, see the LawCite help documentation
After search results have been returned, pick the document you want to look at. At the top of the page will be a link called [Context] -- if you click on it, it should indicate where in the document your search term occurred. Click on the up and down arrows next to each highlighted search term to navigate through the document to see where else your search terms appear.
In the case of legislation and High Court cases, persistent references allow you to easily find links to the document you are viewing. This is accomplished simply through the use of the [Noteup] link at the top (or bottom) of the document you are viewing. The use of this link will generate a search for references to the document you are viewing.
In 99.99% of cases that someone has suggested that the search engine is broken or not working properly when using the "all of these words", "phrase" or Boolean find types, the problem is that the person either (a) has forgotten about the existence of the common word list, or (b) is not aware of the common word list. For an explanation of the common word list, see the answer to Q2.4 below. To include common words in searches, prefix these with a '+' or '#' character.
"Common words" are words that are not indexed by the search engine as they occur so often as to be practically useless search terms. As common words are not indexed, you cannot search for them. Common words are stripped from searches before they are undertaken to improve speed and efficiency. The current list of common words is available at the common words help page. To include common words in searches, prefix these with a '+' or '#' character.
The SINO search engine was written by Andrew Mowbray especially for AustLII. It is a free text retrieval engine intended for use with httpd and other embedded applications. It was written to fulfil a number of goals, including the following:
SINO is Free Open Source Software. If you'd like a copy, contact Andrew Mowbray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are usually two bottlenecks between AustLII and Australian end users ...
It is common practice in the ISP business to oversell bandwidth. This means that your ISP is trying to cram as many users as possible onto their connection to the Internet. This usually means that your connection slows down.
For the technical souls out there, AustLII equipment is connected to the outside world via the University of Technology, Sydney which is also the home of the Sydney Regional Network Organisation. This means that AustLII has very fast access to the AARNet 2 Backbone.
We have completed network traces on numerous occasions to determine the source of bottlenecks and invariably these are beyond our control.
See generally, the Downloading files help pages.
AustLII materials can be displayed with virtually any browser. Most users currently use Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer.
We are not currently providing the capability to download entire acts or databases marked up in HTML. There are number of reasons for this, including copyright in our markup and the technical issues created by the distribution of hierarchies of files. Size and network bandwith are also concerns. Some of our databases are hundreds of megabytes in size and are not suited to an already overloaded Australian backbone (especially when update frequencies are considered).
Entire Acts and regulations are available in a single file by using the [Download] link available at the at the top (and bottom) of the Table of Provisions and at the top (and bottom) of each section of the Act or Regulation. See further Legislation Help.
No; HTTP provides a similar level of functionality to anonymous FTP and is implemented more securely. FTP of AustLII materials is not planned for the future.
No; AustLII provides web access to its materials. Z390.50 access to AustLII materials is not planned for the future.
No; AustLII does not provide database access via CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Materials distributed via CD-ROM/DVD-ROM are expensive to produce, cannot be updated as frequently as online and create further technical problems. AustLII is a small organisation with few resources and the World Wide Web provides the most suitable method of distribution for our materials.
No; AustLII has neither the staff nor the funding to be able to offer a service to fulfill requests for the printing and mailing of copies of legislation, decisions or other materials. Please print your own copy of these materials from the downloadable or online copies which we make available on the website.
Check your system very carefully. Chances are that the virus did not come from AustLII.
Microsoft Word contains a feature called Macros. Macros are small programs that you can attach to your documents. Sometimes this feature is abused, and a virus is attached to the document. The virus may replicate itself and spread to other documents.
While MS-Word is not the only program that has a macro feature it is the most commonly abused. However, not all file types are capable of containing a macro virus. For example, plain text and RTF files cannot contain macros -- they simply do not support it. AustLII only distributes plain text or RTF versions of cases or legislation from the "Download" page. You cannot get a virus this way. If your IT department assures you that the virus came from AustLII via an RTF file then they are flat wrong. It is simply not technically possible. It's like blaming AustLII for your cat's cold.
If further information is required then feel free to contact us at AustLII Feedback.
The medium-neutral citation is based on the following format:
(parties) [year of decision] (Court abbreviation) (sequential judgment number)
For example the sixth decision of the High Court of Australia in 1998 appears as:
Gould v Brown  HCA 6
Where necessary, a specific location within the judgment can be identified with the additional reference to the applicable paragraph number. For example, the seventeenth paragraph in Gould v Brown would be cited as:
Gould v Brown  HCA 6 at 
We have no problem with people establishing links into the AustLII pages (in fact we encourage this, and make sure that there is a well established naming scheme). For more details, please see our Linking Policy.
Note 1 Do not link to cases which have are named using unrepXXX.html as the final component of the location. These cases are not yet maintained at a fixed location.
Note 2: When linking to pages in WorldLII, use the canonical URL given at the bottom of the page (ends in a number, followed by ".html"). Do not use the "hierarchical path" that you might see elsewhere. There are exceptions. See our Linking Policy.
See 5.4 for further details on the structure of links.
Please refer to the AustLII Usage Policy.
In general, the paths to AustLII databases are very carefully structured within a hierarchy that provides easily followed naming conventions. For example, Commonwealth Consolidated Acts are at </au/legis/cth/consol_act> and the High Court of Australia cases are at </au/cases/cth/HCA/>.
Yes. See the pages at the Web Developers pages for documentation and examples.
Yes, subject to the conditions of the Robots Exclusion Protocol as defined in our robots.txt file. Please do not index material excluded by robots.txt or your access will be blocked. Material is not excluded arbitrarily.
If you wish to index material currently excluded by our robots.txt file, you should contact AustLII Feedback.
Yes. We log access for a number of reasons, including research, development, security, maintenance and for statistics generation. We currently log accesses using a slightly enhanced version of the Common Logfile format which produces logs similar to the following:
184.108.40.206 - - [24/May/2004:09:24:42 +1000] "GET /au/cases/nsw/supreme_ct HTTP/1.0" 200 2329 "http://www.austlii.edu.au/databases.html" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"
Every time you make a request for a document on the World Wide Web, your web browser reveals information about your computer so that the document can be accurately returned ... most of this information is discarded, but some is logged (see 6.1 above).
You can get more information on what your web browser reveals about you from the Privacy Analysis of your Internet Connection page run by privacy.net. Users who are genuinely concerned about such issues can use the anonymizer (free and subscription versions available) for privacy protection.
We are probably far more concerned about this than you are! One of our main system administration tasks is the maintenance of a fairly tight hold over security. It is for this reason that our services are split between multiple servers, and also why some services are simply not available from the AustLII sites.
Further information about security may be provided for legitimate queries. Contact us at AustLII Feedback.
See question 1.10.
AustLII is a jointly operated "research infrastructure facility" of the Faculties of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney and the University of New South Wales (UNSW). AustLII now also has an extensive research group and a broad public policy role.
See AustlII Personnel.
Further details about the AustLII research group are also available there.
AustLII Feedback is the most closely monitored and preferred contact channel, used for making queries, reporting problems or asking for new features / databases. A reply can generally be expected the same day if made during normal business hours Monday-Friday (NSW public holidays excluded).
Contact AustLII provides telephone (answering machine), fax and (snail) mail details for when email is not appropriate. Note that all user assistance (help using the website, content queries etc) is handled by email only.
To contact individuals, see Personnel.
Subscribe to the AustLII News mailing list. This is used to provide news, announcements and updates regarding the AustLII service. Further details on subscribing and copies of all back issues are available here.
AustLII was established using funding from the ARC and the two host Universities (University of Technology, Sydney and the University of New South Wales). It is now predominately stake-holder funded.
Ongoing support comes from a variety of organisations. Acknowledgements are given on the Funding Sources page.
AustLII aims to improve access to justice through better access to legal information.
AustLII aims to put on the Net "public legal information": primary legal materials (legislation and decisions of courts and tribunals); and secondary materials that are (or ought to be) in the public domain or able to be licensed for free. AustLII's public policy agenda is to convince governments, courts, law reform bodies and other publicly-funded organisations to make legal materials they control available free via the Internet.
AustLII is one of many organisations aiming to ensure that some part of cyberspace is public space, where no one is denied use of resources because of financial considerations. Its aim is to create a public law library on the internet.
AustLII is involved in extensive policy development regarding these and related issues. In addition, AustLII's researchers and staff are involved in many other legal technology issues.
See AustLII...some technical details.
See AustLII...some technical details.
Most of the software used by AustLII to "mark up" our HTML documents has been written by Andrew Mowbray. He is also the author of the SINO search engine (see 2.4 above).
The CGI scripts are all written in Perl, with the help of a number of Perl modules (especially the LWP and CGI libraries).
Our web server software is currently Apache, a public domain Unix HTTP server.
If you are a member of the public:
If you are a legal practitioner:
If you are a student or staff member in a University:
If you work for an organisation that produces "public legal information", contact us so that we can co-operate!
From time to time we do have positions available to work with the AustLII team. For current positions available, and general information about employment with AustLII, see our employment page. For ongoing updates, subscribe to News from AustLII.