Last Friday AustLII launched a new model for the publication of free access texts about the law and legal issues in Australia with the publication online of the second edition of Capacity and the Law by Nick O’Neill and Carmelle Peisah. Capacity and the Law is the definitive text on this important area of law and medicine and is now available on the AustLII Communities publishing platform at

Nick O’Neill was formerly President of the Guardianship Tribunal of NSW and a Professorial Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Law, UNSW. Professor Carmelle Peisah is an old age psychiatrist, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, UNSW, Clinical Associate Professor in the Discipline of Psychiatry Sydney University, and formerly a Professional Member of the Guardianship Tribunal of NSW. Both are Directors of Capacity Australia.

The first edition of Capacity and the Law was published in September 2011. The authors have updated the text to take account of recent scientific, legislative and policy developments and have made use of the AustLII Communities platform to do so. The use of this publishing platform enables them to easily update the text in the future as frequently as they wish. The platform also automatically creates links to the legislation and case law sources they cite that are located on AustLII. This important and significant work will be highly discoverable through general search engines such as Google, as well as through searches over AustLII.

O’Neill says that the book concentrates on how the law responds to adults who do not have decision-making capacity. It sets out in detail for each State and Territory how people may appoint others to make personal and financial decisions for them when they have lost the capacity to do so and what directions they can give to those they have chosen to make those decisions. The book also describes the system in each State and Territory for appointing guardians and financial managers (administrators) for people who lack the capacity to make decisions about their personal or financial affairs. He adds, “The great thing is that AustLII makes all the information in our book available, free of charge, to anyone who has access to the internet.”

Peisah notes that this edition promises to be bigger and better than the first edition due to the significant advances in both law and medicine that have occurred since 2011. She says, “If Edition One had almost 100,000 hits to it during its tenure because of AustLII’s amazingly accessible platform, I can’t imagine how this edition will perform.”

AustLII’s Executive Director Philip Chung says that the AustLII Communities platform aims to enable legal authors of many types to easily create and update very sophisticated online legal resources, linked automatically to the sources they cite, both on AustLII and on participating international LIIs, and to citation information in other cases and that the linkages will be two-way between AustLII content and AustLII Communities content. He adds, “AustLII welcomes expressions of interest from organisations or groups that wish to provide free access legal information content to the community through the AustLII Communities platform.”

AustLII is Australia’s largest and most popular online legal research facility. AustLII publishes more than 770 Australasian legal databases include current and historical case law, legislation, law reform reports, law journals and the largest national treaties collection on the Internet. AustLII receives over 750,000 accesses per day, and is regularly rated as Australia’s most used legal website. Since its inception AustLII has provided free access for the Australian public to the essential legal information needed for the rule of law and democracy to function effectively. AustLII's broad public policy agenda is to improve access to justice through better access to information.