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Lawmaking in the Shadow of the Empire: Divorce in Colonial Australia


Finlay, HL, Lawmaking in the Shadow of the Empire: Divorce in Colonial Australia, Journal of Family History, 24, (1) pp. 74-109. ISSN 0363-1990 (1999) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1177/036319909902400105


After the introduction of the English Divorce Act of 1857, the colonial secretary suggested to the Australian colonies that they should follow the English lead with similar legislation. No provision for divorce previously existed in Australia, and this article looks briefly at alternative expedients such as wife sale, bigamy, and unmarried cohabitation. It goes on to sketch the colonial parliamentary debates during the period from 1858 to 1873 leading to the enactment of laws based on the English Divorce Act. Opposition to divorce, based on religious and traditional moral attitudes, gave way in the end to consideration for the plight of deserted wives and children as the chief motivation for reform. In the process, a degree of legislative independence from the mother country also emerges from the debates.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Law in context
Research Field:Family law
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Justice and the law not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Finlay, HL (Associate Professor Henry Finlay)
ID Code:16808
Year Published:1999
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:1999-08-01
Last Modified:2000-05-23

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