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This paper explains some of the fundamental characteristics of the Australian legal system, from representative government to federalism. It considers historical aspects of the development of law and legal institutions, with reference to the English origins of the common law and the adversarial approach to litigation and fact finding. It also explains some current issues and debates in Australian law, such as the trend towards federal uniform legislation, and the constitutional question: monarchy (as at present) versus republic (for the future?). The paper is intended as an introduction to the Australian legal system for civil lawyers, in particular from France, and therefore also contains some comparative references.