Class Action Research Initiative

Judge hammer with books in the background

What is CARI?

The Class Actions Research Initiative (CARI) seeks to explore and solve key concerns in class actions practice through considered academic research and analysis. CARI operates on the philosophy that novel questions of class actions law and practice are best identified and addressed through collaboration between industry and academia so that knowledge can be developed and shared.

CARI will disseminate the research outputs from the research projects through conferences, seminars, discussion papers, published articles and its website.

What is a Class Action?

Class actions (also known as group proceedings, collective actions or representative actions) can take many forms. A straightforward definition is that a class action is ‘a generic term for a procedure whereby the claims of many individuals against the same defendant can be brought or conducted by a single representative’: Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), Grouped Proceedings in the Federal Court, Report No 46 (1988) [1]. 

A more detailed definition is provided by Rachel Mulheron, The Class Action in Common Law Legal Systems: A Comparative Perspective, Hart, 2004, 3:

… a legal procedure which enables the claims (or part of the claims) of a number of persons against the same defendant to be determined in the one suit. In a class action, one or more persons (‘representative plaintiff’) may sue on his or her own behalf and on behalf of a number of other persons (‘the class’ [or group]) who have a claim to a remedy for the same or a similar alleged wrong to that alleged by the representative plaintiff, and who have claims that share questions of law or fact in common with those of the representative plaintiff (‘common issues’). Only the representative plaintiff is a party to the action. The class members are not usually identified as individual parties but are merely described. The class members are bound by the outcome of the litigation on the common issues, whether favourable or adverse to the class, although they do not, for the most part, take any active part in that litigation.

While the above description provides the broad contours of a class action, it must be remembered that in Australia class actions are statutory creations which operate according to their enabling legislation.  Careful attention to the legislation is central to understanding how a class action operates in a particular jurisdiction:  Michael Legg and Ross McInnes, Annotated Class Actions Legislation, LexisNexis, 2014.

Gilsenan and Legg, "Australian Class Action Settlement Distribution Scheme Design", IMF Bentham Class Action Research Initiative Research Report No. 1, 1 June 2017.

Legg, "A Comparison of Regulatory Enforcement, Class Actions and Alternative Dispute Resolution in Compensating Financial Consumers" (2016) 38(3) Sydney Law Review 311.

Degeling and Legg, "Fiduciary Obligations of Lawyers in Australian Class Actions: Conflicts between Duties" (2014) 37(3) University of New South Wales Law Journal 914.

Legg, "Class Actions and Regulating Culture in Financial Organisations: Observations from a Comparison of US and Australian Bank Class Actions" in O'Brien and Gilligan (eds), Integrity, Risk and Accountability in Capital Markets, Hart (2013).

Legg, Reconciling Litigation Funding and the Opt Out Group Definition in Federal Court of Australia Class Actions - The Need for a Legislative Common Fund Approach (2011) 30 Civil Justice Quarterly 52.

Legg, "Shareholder Class Actions in Australia - The Perfect Storm?" (2008) 31 (3) UNSW Law Journal 669.


Michael Legg (ed), Resolving Civil Disputes (LexisNexis, 2nd edition, 2023)

Michael Legg and Ross McInnes, Australian Annotated Class Actions Legislation (LexisNexis, 3rd edition, 2023)

Michael Legg and James Metzger (eds), The Australian Class Action - A 30 Year Perspective (Federation Press, 2023)

Michael Legg, Case Management and Complex Civil Litigation (Federation Press, 2nd edition, 2022)

Michael Legg, Public and Private Enforcement of Securities Laws - The Regulator and the Class Action in Australia’s Continuous Disclosure Regime (Hart, 2022)

A complete list of Michael Legg's publications are available here.

Class Actions Legislation

Class actions were introduced into Australia through the enactment of the Federal Court of Australia Amendment Act 1991 (Cth) which provided for “representative proceedings” through inserting Part IVA into the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) (‘FCA Act’).  Part IVA commenced on 4 March 1992. Access Part IVA here.

In Victoria, a procedure for ‘group proceedings’ was inserted in Part 4A of the Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic) with effect from 1 January 2000 by the Courts and Tribunals Legislation (Miscellanous Amendments) Act 2000 (Vic).  Access Part 4A here.

In New South Wales, a procedure for ‘representative proceedings’ was inserted in Part 10 of the Civil Procedure Act 2005 (NSW) by the Courts and Crimes Legislation Further Amendment Act 2010 (NSW). Part 10 commenced from 4 March 2011.  Access Part 10 here.