Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Law)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Emeritus Professor Gabriel Moens


This Thesis examines the work of the Land Commissioners of Van Diemen’s Land during the years 1826 - 1828, in light of the doctrine of ultra vires and the underlying principle of the Rule of Law. Ultra vires occurs when those invested with power act beyond the parameters of their given powers, which can result in their actions being rendered unlawful. Ultra vires is a fundamental doctrine in law today. It has evolved over a long period of time and was received into the Australian legal system with colonisation. However, the historical origins, development and application of the ultra vires doctrine, are less well known.

This Thesis therefore critically examines the evolution with a specific focus on how this doctrine was applied in the early colonial period. The formation of the Land Commissioner of Van Diemen’s Land between 1826 and 1828 was chosen as the subject of the research because the development of the institution that identified and allocated land between citizens and government entities provides insight into how executive and administrative power was exercise in practice, and whether that power was exercised outside of the bounds that were set when the power was conferred.

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Law Commons