Meaning of ‘used’

University of Melbourne v CSR [2021] VSC 156

This case shows the importance of context and purpose7.  The university leased land to a ‘student village’ operator for 38 years at nominal rent.  It said the land, ‘used by a charitable institution exclusively for charitable purposes’, was exempt from land tax8.

The exemption depended on use rather than occupation, but still required use by the university itself.  Context and legislative history pointed to a wider meaning of ‘use’ than an active physical use.  An occupier necessarily uses the land, the judge said (at [96]), ‘but a user of land need not occupy the land’9.  It was enough that the operator applied the land for a charitable purpose of the university.

This principle is from Episode 72 of interpretation NOW!


7 Thiess [2014] HCA 12 (at [22]), s 35(a) Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984.

8 s 74(1)(a) of the Land Tax Act 2005 (Vic).

9 cf Ryde Municipal Council v Macquarie University (1978) 139 CLR 633 (at 638).