The term ‘legislation’ can refer to a single law or a collection of laws.

In South Australia legislation consists of Acts of Parliament (Acts) and legislative instruments (sometimes called 'subordinate legislation') made under Acts.

The general layout of South Australian legislation is:

  • The short title (the name of the Act, regulation, rule, policy, proclamation)
  • [For Bills or Acts] the long title, which describes the scope or purpose of the Bill/Act
  • A section defining terms used in the legislation
  • The body of the legislation, which may be divided into Chapters, Parts, Divisions and Subdivisions (Chapters are generally only used in very long or complex legislation)
  • Schedules, which may contain provisions that:
    • deal with the repeal or amendment of other legislation
    • set out the text of agreements referred to in the legislation
    • deal with procedural, transitional or administrative matters
    • provide definitions of terms used in the legislation.

Text contained in individual provisions follows strict naming/numbering conventions.

  • In Acts these provisions are called 'sections'
  • in regulations they are called 'regulations'
  • in rules they are called 'rules'
  • in policies, proclamations and notices they are called 'clauses'.

Provisions in a Schedule are also usually called 'clauses'.

Provisions can be further divided to help communicate complex ideas clearly. It is not uncommon for a provision to have multiple sections, paragraphs or subparagraphs or for it to move back and forth between these levels of structure.

Legislation is a special kind of writing that is framed to convey ideas precisely.

In some cases this can make legislation seem unusual or overly formal compared to the way people speak or write in everyday life. However, while some pieces of legislation may be quite long, understanding the contents may not necessarily require any special expertise.

When reading legislation, a 'common sense' approach should be applied to interpretation (an approach that has judicial support). Like most written documents, it will probably also be necessary to read a piece of legislation in full before an individual part can be understood.