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Case Law: Case citations

This Guides provides information relating to how to look for specific Cases, using different methods. It also includes links to various databases, to enable you locate Australian Case Law and Cases from other Jurisdictions.

Report case citation

Cases are cited in a systematic style designed for exact identification and easy retrieval. Case citations include the party names, sometimes called the name or title of the case, and a unique reference which you can use to locate the case.

A similar set of conventions is used when you cite cases in your assignments using the Australian Guide to Legal Citation

Example of a reported case citation:
Koowarta v Bjelke-Peterson
 (1982) 153 CLR 168

Citation Element Description Comments
Koowarta v Bjelke-Peterson  Party names Plaintiff v Defendant - the "v" is pronounced "and" in civil cases and "against" in criminal cases
(1982) Year Round or square brackets? see below for more information
153 Volume number  
CLR Law report abbreviation See the Abbreviations Guide for more information
168 Beginning page number  






Polly Peck Holdings Plc v Trelford [1986] 2 WLR 845

Square brackets enclosing the year in the reported case citation indicates that the year of publication is the volume number. In this example, you would need to locate the 1986 volume of the Weekly Law Reports in order to locate the case. If more than one part is published in the year, they are identified with seqential part numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.) In this example, the case cited is published in the 2nd part for 1986. The part number is not unique, every year may have parts 1 and 2. The law reports are arranged on the Library shelves by year.

Wright v Grasweld P/L (1991) 22 NSWLR 317

Round brackets enclosing the year of publication indicate that the case can be found in the volume represented by the volume number in the citation. In this example, volume 22 of the New South Wales Law Reports contains the case.  The year of publication is also included in the citation but the round brackets indicate that the year is secondary to the volume number. If more than one volume is published in a year each will have its own unique volume number. These reports are arranged on the Library shelves by the volume rumber.

Abbreviations in Case Titles

  • "Re" - in the matter of
  • "Ex parte" - is used for someone who is involved in the case but is not a party, or someone who has made an application in the absence of other parties
  • "R" - Rex or Regina. Latin for King or Queen. Used in cases pertaining to criminal law matters

For example: Re Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Ex parte Fejzullahu and Others (2000) 171 ALR 341

Unreported Judgement Citation

When a judgment is handed down by a court the text of the decision is usually published very quickly on the court webpage. Soon afterwards, decisions from Australian courts are also published in a variety of legal databases, including AustLII, Lexis Advance and Thomson's Westlaw AU.

These decisions are referred to as unreported judgments because they have not been published in a law report series. An unreported judgment may subsequently be reported in one or more law report series. Although there is debate about the precedent value of unreported decisions, in practice and in academia they are heavily used as they may contain the only statement of the law on a particular subject

The unreported judgment below is an example of a medium neutral citation.

This method of citing unreported judgments was devised in the late 1990s by the High Court of Australia in order to accommodate the citation of judgments when they were first made available online. As they dont have page numbers, pinpoint references are managed by sequentially numbering all paragraphs in the online judgment. All unreported judgments from the late 1990s are available online.

Example of a medium neutral unreported judgment citation:
Browne v Dunne [2000] HCA 23 at [4] 

Citation Element Description Comments
Browne v Dunne Party names Plaintiff v Defendant - the "v" is pronounced "and" in civil cases and "against" in criminal cases
[2000] Year Always use square brackets
HCA Court abbreviation See the Abbreviations Guide for more information
23 Judgment number The 23rd judgment published by the High Court of Australia in 2000
at [4] Pinpoint reference Sequential paragraph number within the judgment






Before 1999 unreported judgments were published as paper pamphlets and cited to reflect this format. In pre-1999 works you will see unreported judgments cited like this:

Example of a pre-1999 unreported judgment
Browne v Manning (Unreported, Supreme Court of Western Australia, Hawkins J, 3 September 1992) p. 23

Citation Element Description Comments
Browne v Manning Party names Plaintiff v Defendant - the "v" is pronounced "and" in civil cases and "against" in criminal cases
(Unreported, Judgment form Unreported, Court, Judge and Date enclosed in round brackets
Supreme Court of Western Australia, Court name in full  
Hawkins J, Judges name/s  
3 September 1992) Date of delivery  
p. 23 Page number  

Australian guide to legal citation cover image


The Australian Guide to Legal Citation specifies a citation format for unreported judgments that is slightly different from the standard legal citation format described above.

Medium Neutral Citation
Osborne [2001] VSCA 228 (Unreported, Winneke P, Buchanan and Vincent JJA, 14 December 2001) [18] (Winneke P)

Without Medium Neutral Citation (pre-1990s documents)
Bruinsma v Menczer (Unreported, Supreme Court of NSW, Santow J, 16 November 1995)

The UWA AGLC Referencing Guide offers more information on citing unreported judgments using the AGLC style. 

Banner images: Image 1 retrieved from Pixabay. Image 2 by UWA Library. Image 3 retrieved from SBS. Image 4 retrieved from SL Blogs. Image 5 retrieved from Wikimedia.


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