AustLII

AustLII
Graham Greenleaf
Professor Graham Greenleaf
Professor Graham Greenleaf outside the Darlinghurst Courthouse in Sydney.
AustLII revolutionised access to justice and the rule of law by making a wealth of legal material freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

In the legal sector, getting your hands on key information is essential for access to justice, democracy and the rule of law. AustLII – the Australasian Legal Information Institute – has made legal material freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

In 1995, UNSW’s Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray from the University of Technology, Sydney, were frustrated by government and commercial monopolies that meant computerised texts of legislation and cases were not freely available for their teaching and research. They decided to use the new medium of internet publication to change Australian legal publishing.

“Before AustLII there was no free public access to legal information,” Professor Greenleaf says. “We decided to cause a fundamental change by insisting on free access to primary materials, and it took us the first five years of AustLII's operations to have the idea accepted.”

Today, AustLII has become the law’s most popular online free-access resource. Boasting upward of 700,000 hits each day, it is used by every kind of legal practitioner from university students and suburban solicitors, to government office-bearers, ombudsmen and police.

AustLII provides access to information from all nine Australian jurisdictions, including decisions of almost all courts and tribunals, legislation and all treaties to which Australia is a party. There are also more than 55,000 items of scholarship, primarily from 80 Australasian law journals.

In fact more than 500 databases, AustLII’s innovation includes an open source search engine, massive automation of legal texts, and data mining to produce an automated citator. 

“AustLII has put high-quality legal research within everyone’s grasp, and both legal research and practice are the better for it,” says AustLII Executive Director Philip Chung.

It’s a sentiment reinforced by those at the very top. In 2013, in comments launching the publication of NSW State Reports on AustLII, Chief Justice of New South Wales T.F. Bathurst expressed the gratitude of an entire industry. “Thank you AustLII. You have done a great service to legal research in this state and country and to the administration of justice generally,” he said.  

The AustLII system continues to expand, adding a new database roughly every two weeks. It is now digitalising legislation and reported cases back to the start of Australia’s colonial period.

AustLII has also helped establish free access to legal information internationally. Since 2000, similar systems have been launched in the Pacific Islands, southern and eastern Africa and also in the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Quote: 
"Thank you AustLII. You have done a great service to legal research in this state and country and to the administration of justice generally."
Author: 
The Honourable T.F. Bathurst, Chief Justice of New South Wales