Law and land in New South Wales
From 1788 until 1823, the Colony of New South Wales was a penal colony. This meant that there were mainly convicts, marines and the wives of the marines although free settlers started to arrive in 1793. In 1823, the British government established a New South Wales parliament by setting up a Legislative Council as well as a Supreme Court under the New South Wales Act 1823 (UK). This Act is now seen as a first step towards a 'responsible' Parliament in Australia.
It was also intended to establish English law in the colony with the establishment of NSW criminal and civil courts. However, there were significant departures from English law when the first cases were heard in the courts. The first civil case heard in Australia, in July 1788, was brought by a convict couple. The convicts successfully sued the captain of the ship in which they had been transported for the loss of a parcel. In Britain, as convicts, they would have had no rights to bring this case forward.