DM & Longbow v Willoughby [2017] NSWLEC 1358

Judges often say things about statutory definitions.  That they are no more than an ‘aid to construction’ is a common observation.  This case (at [33]) reinforces the point that the ‘meaning of a definition turns on the context in which it appears, considered as a whole’8.  This is consistent with the broad theme that parts of statutes (including definitions) are not to be read in isolation – see Episode 26

It is a rookie error to focus on the linguistics of a definition found at one end of an Act or the other without inserting it into your provision and construing the resulting whole in context.  The High Court tells us that to do this only ‘invites error’9.     

This case is from Episode 27 of interpretationNOW!


8 Cranbrook [2006] NSWCA 155 (at [39]), Bay Simmer [2017] NSWCA 135.

9 Kelly [2004] HCA 12 (at [103]), Telstra [2017] FCAFC 4 (at [58]).