Establishing law and order | State Library of New South Wales

Establishing Law and Order - NSW General Standing Orders

In 1802 Governor Philip Gidley King authorised the printing of a compilation of the government orders issued in the colony between 1791 and 1802. Titled New South Wales General Standing Orders it was the first book published in Australia and included orders covering such diverse topics as 'the punishment of restless and turbulent characters' and the granting of emancipations and pardons to convicts. It was Governor King's hope that this book would help standardise colonial regulations.

New South Wales General Standing Orders and General Orders

Detail from New South Wales General Standing Orders and General Orders,
1802, printed by George Howe

Governor King also authorised the publication of Australia's first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette, which was launched on 5 March 1803. As well as shipping news, town gossip and commercial news, the newspaper was used to circulate and publicise government proclamations and regulations.


A second Charter of Justice, under Letters Patent of 4 February 1814, established three new colonial courts of Civil Judicature - the Governor's Court, the Supreme Court and the Lieutenant Governor's Court.


By the 1820s there was general dissatisfaction with the legal system in the colony. The existing courts were abolished, according to the Third Charter of Justice in 1823, and were replaced by a Supreme Court in New South Wales with both civil and criminal jurisdictions.

Rules and Orders of the Supreme Cour

Detail from Rules and orders of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, June 22nd, 1825

With a rapidly increasing population, and a resulting increase in criminal activities as well as civil offences, purpose-built courthouses and gaols were required for the administration of law throughout the colony.

Quick Links

Law and Justice in Australia
Made possible through a partnership with Law Society of NSW, Public Purpose Fund, Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers, Henry Davis York Lawyers