Identity area

Reference code

AU WA S167




  • 1899-01-01 - (Creation)
  • 1899-01-01 - 1917-01-01 (Accumulation)

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Name of creator


Administrative history

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.

Archival history

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The Bankruptcy Act Amendment Act 1898 made provision for debtors to enter into compositions, schemes of arrangement or deeds of assignment outside of bankruptcy. It is the first comprehensive code for these types of proceedings and matters could proceed without the approval of the court so long as the requirements of the Act were observed.

Debtors could "trade-out" of their insolvency through one of the following:

1. Scheme of Arrangement - where debtors' affairs are arranged to "trade out".

2. Deed of Assignment - where all assets are assigned to Trustee who liquidates them and disperses them to creditors after all fees are taken out. Debtor walks away with nothing.

3. Composition - creditors agree to take a certain percentage in the pound and debt is then written off.

These indexes record which of the above processes was selected, whether "scheme", "composition" or "deed". They record file numbers and are the way in to the files under the Bankruptcy Act Amendment Act (Record Series No. 166).

The first index 1899-1909 was transposed into the second index 1899-1917. Index(es) for 1917-1928 are missing and the only entry to the files is through indexes at front of Deeds of Assignment registers (Record Series No. 168) and registers of Compositions or Schemes of Arrangement (Record Series No. 169).

Where later pages of these registers have not been indexed it will be necessary to browse registers for name required in order to locate a file number.

In addition index (Record Series No. 178) gives comprehensive coverage of names 1899-1928; however, while file numbers referred to are those of the Official Receiver and not those of the Supreme Court (Record Series No. 166) it is worth checking for a name if not located in sources listed above.

Indexes to Government Gazettes are another source of information and may give petition numbers (or file numbers).


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Open access

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Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1899-01-01 - 1928-01-01


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1899-01-01 - 1928-01-01


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1899-01-01 - 1928-01-01


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1899-01-01 - 1928-01-01

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Description control area

Level of detail




Archivist's note

Range Control Symbol = 1 - 2
Copies: Micorilm copies of the first index (Cons 3526) are available in the State Records Office of Western Australia

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