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Research Guides


Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia


Legal services

The Attorney-General's Department provides legal advice to all Commonwealth Government departments and authorities. It has been responsible to attorneys-general for legislation under their administration, and deals with law and justice; human rights; civil liberties; legal services; bills of exchange and promissory notes; censorship; marriage; family law; recognition of laws, public Acts and records, and judicial proceedings of the states; execution of the civil and criminal process and the judgements of the courts of the states; censorship; legal aid; and copyright.

The main functions of the South Australian office of the Attorney-General's Department was to provide personnel and finance services to all branches of the department in South Australia, such as the Commonwealth Reporting Service, Deputy Crown Solicitor, Industrial Registrar, Registrar in Bankruptcy and Legal Services Bureau.

In 1903 the Commonwealth established the Crown Solicitor's Office in Melbourne to provide legal services to Commonwealth departments and authorities. This legal work was of a similar nature to that performed by solicitors engaged in private practice on behalf of their clients.

When proceedings were held in a state other than Victoria, private firms of solicitors were engaged as agents. In South Australia it would appear that the agent was initially William Culcross of Cavendish Chambers, Grenfell Street, Adelaide. This was then transferred to the firm of Fisher and Powers in 1908. This firm ceased to act as an agent in 1942, when a branch of the Crown Solicitor's Office opened in Adelaide.

In 1948 the Crown Solicitor's Office became a division of the central unit of the Attorney-General's Department and was a separate organisation in name only. However the Crown Solicitor's Division continued to control the Deputy Crown Solicitor's Offices and to establish further state offices.

The Crown Solicitor was responsible for the conduct in federal, state and territory courts of civil litigation in which the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority was a party or an intervener. These functions included prosecutions for offences against Commonwealth laws; appeals in revenue cases; employees' compensation cases; drafting of contracts and agreements, including agreements between the Commonwealth and states; and conveyancing and property work, including drafting transfers and mortgages, leases, licences and tenancy agreements.

In 1984, the Attorney-General's Department was reorganised and the business of the Deputy Crown Solicitor was then conducted under the name of the Director of Legal Services (Australian Government Solicitor).

Records held by the Archives relating to legal services in South Australia include correspondence and administrative files, and film classification certificates.

Selected series relating to Commonwealth legal services in South Australia
Canberra, Sydney
Recorded by: Attorney-General's Department, Adelaide Office, South Australia
Administrative files, 1966–92 D1638
Sydney
Recorded by: Attorney-General's Department, Adelaide Office, South Australia
Certificates of cine film registration, 1981–84 D2330
Adelaide
Recorded by: Deputy Crown Solicitor, South Australia
Correspondence records relating to legal matters in which the Commonwealth Government is concerned, 1908–42 AP314/1
Sydney
Recorded by: Deputy Crown Solicitor, South Australia
Property files relating to legal matters in which Commonwealth Government is concerned, 1943–62 AP784/1
Property files relating to legal matters in which Australian Government is concerned, 1965–75 AP981/3
Correspondence files relating to Commonwealth prosecutions or civil debt recovery, 1980– D4346
Correspondence files pertaining to legal matters in which the Commonwealth Government was involved, 1979–84 D489
Correspondence files re common law matters in which the Commonwealth was involved, 1964–79 D740
Correspondence files relating to legal matters in which the Commonwealth Government was involved (civil), 1964–79 D741
Correspondence files pertaining to legal matters in which the Commonwealth Government was involved (property), 1964–79 D742
Correspondence files pertaining to legal matters in which the Commonwealth Government was involved (railways), 1964–79 D743
Correspondence files, 'AP' (property), 1942–64 D848
Correspondence files, 'AC' (civil), 1942–64 D849
Correspondence files, 'SEC' (secret), 1949–55 D2757
Canberra
Recorded by: Deputy Crown Solicitor, South Australia
Correspondence files, 1967–77 AT3010/1
Sydney
Recorded by: Deputy Crown Solicitor, South Australia
Correspondence files relating to Commonwealth prosecutions or civil debt recovery, 1980–96 D4346
Sydney
Recorded by: Australian Government Solicitor, South Australia
Correspondence files re common law matters involving the Commonwealth, 1984–87 D2073
Film classification approval certificates (ACT Ordinance), 1984–92 D2331
Administrative files (policy and procedures), 1985–87 D3623

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Chapter 12
Law