Law Reform Commission of Western Australia
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Project 73 - Absconding Debtors Act 1877

 Project No. 73

Commenced: 1978
Completed: 1981

The Absconding Debtors Act 1877 (WA) was originally enacted because of difficulties encountered with the assisted passage scheme to colonial Western Australia. It was intended to enable the colony to claim the cost of passage from those who departed the colony within three years’ of arrival. Broadly, the Act enabled a person who had a legitimate claim in debt or otherwise to prevent another from leaving the state without first paying the debt or meeting the claim. The issue for the Commission was whether the Act was so infrequently used as to warrant its repeal or replacement. The question whether the Act infringed s 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which protected free trade and intercourse between the states, was also in issue.

Terms of Reference

In September 1978, the Attorney General asked the Commission to review the use and operation of the Absconding Debtors Act 1877 (WA).


The Commission’s recommendations were substantially enacted by the Restraint of Debtors Act 1984 (WA), which commenced on 11 July 1986.

Last updated: 31-Jan-2017

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