In 1979 the federal government asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to inquire into a comprehensive rationalisation and reform of the law of evidence.
The ALRC produced a series of research reports and discussion papers; an Interim Report, Evidence (ALRC 26) including draft legislation in 1985; and a final report, Evidence (ALRC 38) in 1987, which also contained draft legislation.
In 1991, the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments each introduced legislation substantially based on—but differing in some respects from—the ALRC’s draft legislation. In the same year, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General gave in-principle support to a uniform legislative scheme throughout Australia.
The Commonwealth and New South Wales parliaments each passed an Evidence Bill in 1993 to come into effect from 1 January 1995. The Acts were in most respects identical and are often described as the ‘uniform Evidence Acts’.
In 2001, Tasmania passed legislation that essentially mirrors the Commonwealth and New South Wales Acts. In 2004, Norfolk Island passed legislation that essentially mirrors the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW). Victoria has joined the uniform evidence scheme with the Evidence Act 2008 (Vic), and the ACT has also passed its own legislation, Evidence Act 2011 (ACT)
In July 2004, the Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the ALRC to examine the operation of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth).
The ALRC worked closely with the New South Wales Law Reform Commission (NSWLRC) and the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), who were conducting similar inquiries into the operation of the Uniform Evidence Act.
At the conclusion of the reference a final report, Uniform Evidence Law (ALRC 102), completed jointly by the ALRC, NSWLRC and VLRC, was submitted to the Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Attorneys-General on 5 December 2005.
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