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Tasmania - Concept

Law in Tasmania (1825 - )


The way laws have been made and implemented in Tasmania has varied over time and been significantly impacted by Tasmania's convict past.


A number of groups and institutions have been responsible for the creation and amendment of law in Tasmania over time, these include:

  • The Colony of New South Wales
  • The Colony of Van Diemen's Land
  • The Colony of Tasmania
  • The Tasmanian State Government

The Colony of New South Wales, 1788 - 1825

Until 1825 New South Wales included Tasmania. This means that the New South Wales government was responsible for the creation and amendment of much of the legislation in what is now called Tasmania.

The Colony of Van Diemen's Land, 1825 - 1855

In 1825 the Colony of Van Diemen's Land gained administrative independence from New South Wales. Between 1825 and 1855 the Colony of Van Diemen's Land was run by multiple Governors. The colony at this time was made up primarily of convicts and laws were made and implemented with this in mind. Laws where intentionally harsh and there was no representative government until 1850 when a partially elected Legislative Council was created. This means that the institutions that had the power to create laws, the Governor and Legislative Council were not elected by the people of Tasmania but appointed by those already in powerful positions.

The Colony of Tasmania , 1856 - 1901

In 1856 Tasmania was granted self-governance and changed its name from the Colony of Van Diemen's Land to the Colony of Tasmania. The name change was accompanied by the establishment of a two house Westminster system of government made up of some elected members. Although most legislation was still adopted directly from Britain new legislation had to pass through two houses of parliament. Furthermore it limited the power of the Governor to bypass or ignore the advice of parliament. During this period the attitude to the nature of the state itself changed, Tasmania did not want to be seen as a giant prison, but a colonial state of settlers entitled to the rights of other British subjects. Laws were no longer as harsh, and power was more decentralised than in previous times.

The Tasmanian State Government, 1901 -

In 1901 the Colony of Tasmania became a State of the newly federated Australia. The new Tasmanian State Government shared some of its power, including the authority to make laws, with the Commonwealth Government of Australia. This meant that the Commonwealth of Australia could make laws that the people of Tasmania had to follow. Tasmania could also still pass its own legislation through the Tasmanian Parliament. Federation into the Commonwealth also meant that Australian States and Territories could receive some funding and financial support from the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

Related Legislation


Online Resources

Prepared by: Elizabeth Daniels