State’s early legislation goes online

The first 43 years of South Australia’s lawmaking can be viewed and searched online by researchers, thanks to an initiative by Flinders University.

With funding from the Law Foundation of South Australia, Flinders has set up an online database that allows researchers free access to digitised versions of all South Australian Acts of Parliament from 1837 to 1880.

The statues offer fascinating insights to the early legal and social history of the colony: Aborigines, for example, were exempt from the laws regulating fishing and hunting, while women with sufficient property had voting rights in 1867, long before female suffrage.

The database will be demonstrated at its launch in the Noel Stockdale Room of the Central Library by Justice Tom Gray of the Supreme Court of South Australia today (October 15).

Flinders University’s Law Librarian, Helen Culshaw, who worked on the project with Flinders law academic Professor David Clark, said that the two or three full sets of the legislation existing in hard copy are difficult for researchers to access and are increasingly fragile because of their age.

The project saw each of the statutes scanned and converted into a PDF file, and the creation of a database that has the capacity to be searched by date, title and by key words.

“The statutes will be relevant to all people interested in legal-historical research, but also to anyone interested in the early history of the State,” Ms Culshaw said.

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