Planning an efficient research process involves knowing the resources which are available to help you find the law. Constitutions, legislation and cases are known as primary sources of law. Custom is another primary source of law in some South Pacific jurisdictions. The Emalus library has the most complete collection of Pacific primary law materials in the world. Full details of its holdings, as well as links to selected materials available in full text, can be browsed by jurisdiction from the page Pacific Law Collection on the Emalus web site.
To have an awareness and knowledge of the contexts within which Pacific Island legal systems are located and operate, a depth of contextual knowledge and understanding is also required that includes not only analysis of the legal frameworks operating in the Pacific but also of the social, cultural and historical contexts in which they are placed. To assist staff and students in locating resources on Pacific law 'in context' the following pathfinder has been prepared.
All the countries of the USP region have a written constitution, except Tokelau, and all of these written constitutions are stated to be the supreme law in their respective countries. The written constitution of most countries in the University region is to be found in the first volume of the revised laws of the country. Usually it appears as the first law in that first volume. In the revised laws of Samoa however the written constitution appears in the first volume but in strict alphabetical order under the letter "C"; and the constitution of Nauru is to be found in the collection of laws, 1965-1972, amongst the laws enacted for 1968, about halfway through the volume.
If you do not have easy access to a set of the revised laws of a country you will find that the constitutions of the 12 member countries and territories of the USP Region: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa are gathered together in Don Patersons Constitutions of the South Pacific. This is a primary reference source, with the law stated as at 1/1/97 (but includes the 1997 Constitution of Fiji which came into force in 1998). A subsequent volume published in 2000 (Selected constitutions of the South Pacific / Don Paterson, editor. Suva, Fiji : IJALS & USP, 2000. Location: KP14 Pat 2000) updates the Constitutions of the region but omits the Fiji Constitution due to political instability and uncertainty in Fiji at the time of publication.
The earlier two volume set Pacific Constitutions published by the University of the South Pacific in 1983 is another possible source. The first volume contains the constitutions of Polynesian; volume 2 the Independent States of Melanesia and Micronesia.
Constitutions of the region can all be found online from the legislation sections of the Pacific Law Collection page.
Analysis and commentary on the sources of law in the Pacific can be found in the following two publications:
Corrin Care, Jennifer
Pacific courts and legal systems / editors, Guy Powles and
Mere Pulea Pacific courts and justice . [Suva,
Fiji] : University of the South Pacific in association with the Faculty of Law,
Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, 1988
For the countries that make up the USP Region if you go to the multi-volume Revised Laws of each country you will find that there are detailed indexes by subject to the legislation of that country. To find legislation that has been enacted after the publication of the Revised Laws it is necessary to examine the legislation year by year. In the Emalus Campus Library for most of the countries of the region the legislation has been bound into yearly volumes and each has a table of contents indicating the legislation that was enacted in that year. Full details of all holdings of the Emalus Library can be browsed from the Pacific Law Materials page.
Many of the countries in the Pacific Islands region have published consolidations of their statutes. The following consolidations are held in the Emalus Campus Library:
Cook Islands Laws (1994)
The following South Pacific law reports series are held in the Emalus Campus library. It should be noted that publication of the various reports is often sporadic. Although the publication of the various reports is continuing, there can be lengthy gaps between volumes.
Fiji Law Reports (FLR) 1876-
Also of note:
The Emalus Law School web site is the most complete repository of Pacific materials on the Internet. The website of the Emalus Campus contains not only the course materials for the legal courses offered by the Emalus Law School (and accompanying discussion groups for each course) it is also the home of the Journal of South Pacific Law and access to the Emalus Library website.
Follow the link marked
Collection on the
Emalus Library's Law Resources page. The site contains
legislation and judgments from around the region. The site also
includes detailed notes as to sources of law for each USP member country and
includes detailed holdings of Pacific materials held in
hardcopy in the Emalus Campus Library, plus
links to full text materials on the PacLII
(*The following selected materials help
place Pacific law within its social, cultural, and historical context.
This section of the pathfinder has been prepared with the generous assistance of
Prof. Guy Powles.)
Elliott, Jacqueline D.
The Pacific Islands : an encyclopedia /
edited by Brij V. Lal and Kate Fortune. Honolulu, Hawaii : University of Hawai'i
Pacific Islands Yearbook
/ edited by Norman & Ngaire Douglas 17th ed. Suva,
Fiji : Fiji Times Ltd., 1994
The Far East and Australasia 2001.
32nd ed. London [England] : Europa
Click here to view a list of resources that contain general reference materials including geography, population, economic indicators etc.
Pacific Law Journal Index
The following countries are covered in the index.
Articles covering all Islands of the Pacific can also be browsed.
In addition to
keyword searching, the Pacific Law Journal Index has a number of powerful
'visual search' options as follows:
Pacific Law - Contextual articles (Land, Custom, History (incl. colonialism), Constitution, Politics and government, Leadership and governance, Economic and social conditions, Environment and natural resources, Women, Electoral systems, Marine and fisheries, Rights and Special topics (The Fiji coups and Colonialism in the Pacific) ;
The Pacific Law Journal Index is an absolutely essential access point for journal articles on Pacific law.
Journals that give particularly good coverage of Pacific legal issues include:
The University of Hawai'i maintains an
excellent index of Pacific journals held in its collection and this is freely
available over the Internet. This is an absolutely essential access point
for journal articles on the Pacific.
**Journals which will be of particular interest and well worth browsing include the following:
The Contemporary Pacific: a Journal of
Island Affairs (Centre for Pacific Studies, UH)* ~ see
also abstract archives.
**Of particular note in Contemporary Pacific are the regional legal / political
summaries that are included yearly.
eg. Selected Constitutions of the South Pacific / by Don Paterson. Location: KP14 Pat 2000.
The full collection of Pacific law texts can be searched by author, title, and subject from the Emalus library catalogue (see link below) . The collection can also be browsed using the visual search button 'Pacific law' on the library catalogue. Please ask one of the librarians for assistance in making best use of the library catalogue. Many Pacific law texts will have one copy available from the Library Reserve Collection if none are available on the open shelves.
In addition to books and papers specifically on Pacific law the library holds many contextual materials located mostly in the general collection that are important in gaining a full understanding of Pacific Law. To locate these materials use the library catalogue and do subject searches using the country that you are interested in plus a subject descriptor from the following list:
eg Vanuatu and Social life and customs
For materials that cover
the whole region use the terms:
eg Oceania and Land tenure
*The Library has created some topical
bibliographies to assist you in locating contextual materials:
click here for details. Browse buttons include the following broad
History (incl. colonialism),
Politics and government,
Leadership and governance,
Economic and social conditions,
Environment and natural resources, and
The list of materials below has been selected by Prof. Guy Powles as particularly useful in gaining a fuller understanding of the contexts of Pacific law. Follow the hypertext links to browse chapter titles:
Governance and Reform in the South Pacific, P. Lamour ed, ANU, 1998
Collective Human Rights of Pacific Peoples, Nin Tomas ed, NZHRC, 1998
Fiji and the World, B. Lal and T. Vakatora eds, USP, 1997
Fiji in Transition, B. Lal and T. Vakatora eds, USP, 1997
Confronting Fiji Futures, Akram-Lodhi Haroon A (ed) Australian National University, Canberra, 2000
Land Issues in the Pacific, R. Crocombe & and M. Meleisea eds, USP, 1994
Developing Cultural Criminology: Theory and practice in Papua New Guinea Banks, Cindi (ed) Sydney Institute of Criminology Monograph Series No.13, Sydney, 2000
Public Administration and Management in small states: Pacific Experience Yash, Ghai (ed) IPS, USP, Suva 1990
Leadership in the Pacific islands: tradition and future, Donald R; Lamour, Peter and Von strokirch, Karin (eds) National Centre for Development Studies, RSPAS, ANU, Canberra, 1998
South Pacific Land
Tenure Conflict Symposium
Reflections on Violence in Melanesia, S. Dinnen & A. Ley eds, ANU, 2000
Governance in Samoa, E. Hueffer & A. So’o eds, ANU, 2000
Culture and Sustainable Development in the Pacific. A. Hooper ed, ANU, 2000
Chiefs Today: Traditional Pacific Leadership and the Post-Colonial State, G. White & L.
Lindstrom eds, Stanford, 1997
Custom at the Crossroads, J. Aleck & J. Rannells eds, UPNG Law, 1995
Land, Custom and Practice in the South Pacific R.G.Ward & E.Kingdon,eds Cambridge, 1995
Customary Land Tenure and Sustainable Development: Complementarity or Conflict?, R. Crocombe & ors eds, USP, 1995
New Politics in the South Pacific, W. von Busch & ors eds, USP, Suva, 1994
Tides of History: the Pacific Islands in the 20th Century, K.Howe & ors eds, Allens, 1994;
South Pacific Islands Legal Systems, M.Ntumy, ed, Uni of Hawaii Press, 1993;
Resources, Development and politics in the Pacific Islands, S.Henningham & R.May eds Crawford House, 1992
Tu Galala: Social Change in the Pacific, D.Robie ed Wellington, 1992
South Pacific Foreign Affairs Handbook, S.Hoadly, Allen & Unwin, 1992
Heads of State in the South Pacific, Y.Ghai & J.Cottrell eds, USP, Suva, 1990
Pacific Courts and Legal Systems, G.Powles & M.Pulea eds, USP, Suva, 1988
Law, Politics and Government in Pacific Island States, Y.Ghai ed, USP, Suva, 1988
Class and Culture in the South Pacific, A.Hooper & ors eds, USP, Suva, 1987
Land Tenure in the Pacific 3rd ed R.Crocombe,ed IPS, USP, 1987
Land Tenure in the Atolls R.Crocombe,ed IPS, USP, 1987
Legal Pluralism, P. Sack & E. Minchin eds, ANU, 1986
LAWASIA Conference Proceedings: Prospects for Human Rights in South Pacific, LAWASIA, 1985
Melanesia: Beyond Diversity Vols I & II, R.May & H.Nelson eds ANU, 1983
Pacific Constitutions P.Sack ed, ANU, 1982
Emalus Library Pacific Law Online
Pacific Law in Context: a selective bibliography