Treaties

Treaties are made under international law. Follow the correct style to help people to access titles, series information and detailed citations.

Treaty citations need the correct title and series information

A treaty is an international agreement that is binding under international law. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade explains the different types of treaties and how they are made in the Treaty making process.

Sometimes a Commonwealth Act of parliament is required to give effect to a treaty – for example, the Antarctic Treaty Act 1960.

Treaties also include conventions, international agreements, covenants, an exchange of letters, international instruments, charters or protocols.

Treaties appear in various official series published by countries and international organisations.

Australian treaties are published in the Australian Treaty Series (ATS). Other series include the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS), the United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST) and the United Kingdom Treaty Series (UKTS).

To search for the titles, short titles and series information for treaties that Australia has signed or taken other action on, use the Australian Treaties Database. You can also use AustLII’s Australian Treaties Library.

For other series, use the WorldLII Treaties and International Agreements database catalogue. Alternatively, go directly to the relevant databases. These include the United Nations Treaty Collection, UK Treaties Online and, for the US, Treaties and Other International Acts Series.

Style for treaty titles is roman type, title case

Write titles of treaties in roman type with title case (maximal capitalisation). Follow the full title with the short title in parentheses and use the short title after that.

Example

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (SPNFP) is also known as the Treaty of Rarotonga.

The year the treaty is made does not form part of the title. If you include it, write it into the sentence or add it in parentheses after the short title.

Example

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (1966)

In general publications, citing the title of the treaty is usually enough.

Example

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention). Australian signed the Basel Convention in 1992.
  • The Charter of the Organization of African Unity was adopted by participating governments in May 1963.

Detailed citations for treaties have many elements

You might need a detailed citation for an in-text citation, notes or a reference list.

Write the citation this way:

  • title
  • (place of making, date of making)
  • [year treaty entered into force]  
  • treaty series and volume number
  • page number in the series volume.

Don’t use any punctuation between the elements.

The square brackets follow the style used in the Australian Treaties Database.

(Tip: Use the 'registered' year to search the database for the year a treaty entered into force in the United Nations Treaty Collection.

Example

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel, 22 March 1989) [1992] UNTS 1673 p 57.
  • Singapore–Australia Free Trade Agreement (Singapore, 17 February 2003) [2003] ATS 16.
  • South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Rarotonga, 6 August 1985) [1986] ATS 32, UNTS 1445 p 177; ILM 24 p 1440; NZTS 1986/7.

If a short title has been introduced and used in the text, you can use the short title in the note.

Always use the long title in a reference list.

Example

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) entered into force on 23 March 1976.1 [In-text reference]
  • 1 ICCPR (New York, 16 December 1966) [1980] ATS 23. [Short title in the note that gives the citation]
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (New York, 16 December 1966) [1980] ATS 23. [Long title in reference list entry]

Release notes

The digital edition has considerable advice on how to cite legal material. It includes new material on Commonwealth tribunals and Australian Tax Office rulings. It expands on sixth edition information on treaties.

The digital edition departs from sixth edition guidance about the capitalisation, punctuation and italicisation of citation elements for some legal material. The current edition also recommends the contraction ‘Cth’ rather than ‘Cwlth’.

These departures are informed by legal material and general publications from Australian courts, government agencies working in the legislative context and academic sources. The digital edition style is for general, rather than specialist, legal content.

The Content Guide briefly mentioned legislation in relation to capitalisation. There was no detailed guidance about how to cite legislation.

About this page

References

Attorney-General’s Department (2017) Style guide, Australian Government, Canberra.

DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) (n.d.) Australian treaties database, DFAT website, accessed 16 June 2020.

DFAT (n.d.) Treaty making process, DFAT website, accessed 16 June 20200.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK) (n.d.) UK treaties online, GOV.UK, accessed 16 June 2020.

Hansard (2020) Hansard style guide, Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Australia, Canberra.

Melbourne University Law Review Association Inc and Melbourne Journal of International Law (2018) Australian guide to legal citation, 4th edn, Melbourne University Law Review Association Inc, accessed 16 June 2020.

Moraitis C (2016) Secretary’s review of Commonwealth legal services, Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Government, accessed 16 June 2020.

Office of Treaty Affairs (US) (n.d.) Treaties and other international Acts series (TIAS), U.S. Department of State website, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (Office of Parliamentary Counsel) (n.d.) Drafting directions 3.11: Implementing Commonwealth agreements (including treaties and conventions etc.), OPC website, accessed 16 June 2020.

OPC (n.d.) Glossary, Federal Register of Legislation website, accessed 16 June 2020.

Oxford Libguides (2020) Finding UK treaties, Oxford Libguides website, accessed 16 June 2020.

PM&C (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) (2017) Legislation handbook, PM&C, accessed 16 June 2020.

PM&C (2019) Federal Executive Council handbook 2019, PM&C, accessed 16 June 2020.

United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (n.d.) United Nations treaty series online, United Nations website, accessed 16 June 2020.

University of Technology Sydney and University of New South Wales Faculties of Law (n.d.) Australian Treaties Library, AustLII website, accessed 16 June 2020.

Whitbread D and Leary K (2016a) AGS editorial style guide, Australian Government Solicitor, Canberra.

Whitbread D and Leary K (2016b) AGS style guide: summary, Australian Government Solicitor, Canberra.

This page was updated Thursday 29 April 2021.

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