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About Royal Commissions

What are royal commissions?

A royal commission is a public inquiry. In Australia, royal commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. A royal commission has broad powers to gather information to assist with its inquiry, including the power to summons witnesses to appear before it and the power to request individuals or organisations to produce documents as evidence.

Royal commissions are a form of non-judicial and non-administrative governmental investigation that are only established in rare and exceptional circumstances. Commonwealth royal commissions are established through the issuing of Letters Patent by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth). Commonwealth royal commissions can only inquire into matters that relate to the Commonwealth’s responsibilities.

Royal commissions have terms of reference which set out the key areas of investigation as well as the timeline by which the inquiry must be completed.