- 1913-01-01 - 1936-01-01 (Creation)
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A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.
The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).
Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.
In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.
The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
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The Mining Act (No. 15 of 1904) repealed the 1895 Goldfields Act, and hence apparently discontinued the Court of Mining Appeals which had previously heard appeals on decisions of Wardens' Courts. The 1904 Act provided for appeals to the Supreme Court on matters of fact or law from decisions of the Wardens' Courts on the Goldfields. They could be dealt with by re-hearing, or on the evidence and proceedings before the Warden, depending on the nature of the appeal.
Matters excluded from appeal were:
- cases where the parties previously agreed that the decision of the warden should be final.
- where the matter at issue was valued at 200 pounds or less.
- any decision on an application for a mining tenement or the forfeiture thereof.
- exemption from labour or other conditions.
Appeals in these files concern:
- applications for leases
- appeals on orders from Wardens' Courts
- caveats against leases
- the transferral of shares in leases.
State Archives does not hold registers for these files, so control numbers have been allocated for use when requesting files. Consignment lists give control numbers, names of parties concerned and file dates.