Glossary: What these words mean

Word Meaning

When something happens that you did not plan or want to happen. For example, I had a car accident when I crashed into a wall.


Also called ‘ads’ for short. Ads are on TV, the radio, and billboards, or in newspapers, catalogues, and magazines. Sellers pay for ads. Ads tell you things about what they are selling: a product (thing) or service. A seller makes an ad so that people will buy the thing they are selling.


Someone who is looking after the house for the landlord and collecting rent money.


When you do not agree with a decision made by a government department or court, you can ask a more senior person to check if the decision was right and fair. This is called an appeal.


When a police officer thinks a person broke the law, the police officer stops that person and makes that person go with the police officer. Police will hold that person so that they cannot leave. This is called arrest.


An auction is a way of buying and selling things (goods). In a shop, the price of a thing is fixed and you have to pay that amount. In an auction, you tell the seller how much money you want to pay for the thing.How much you want to pay is called a ‘bid’ or an ‘offer’. The person who makes the biggest offer will be the person who buys the thing. There might be a minimum price called a ‘reserve’. If the biggest offer is smaller than the reserve, the seller does not have to sell the thing.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) gives information to individual people and small businesses who use telecommunications services (like telephones and the internet) and have a problem with those services.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) makes sure that businesses and shops are fair with their customers (people who buy things). They make sure that everyone follows the laws about buying and selling things.

Australian Consumer Law

Australian Consumer Law protects you when you buy things in Australia. These laws say when a company has to repair (fix), replace, or refund (give back money) something that the company sells. The laws also tell companies that they have to advertise properly and give people true information about the things the company sells.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission makes sure that Australia’s financial markets are fair and transparent.

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) collects tax for the government. They also look after the tax and superannuation systems.


stop someone from being able to phone you or see your online profile 

blood alcohol

This is a number that measures how much alcohol is in your blood. Police use this number to decide if someone is drink driving. The law allows you to drive when this number is less than 0.05%.


Money your landlord asks you to pay when you first move into the house. This is different to rent money. The bond is a type of protection for the landlord. The landlord can use this money to fix anything you break or damage, or if you don’t pay your rent.

Your landlord can’t ask you to pay more than four weeks rent for the bond payment.


This means to break a law, an agreement or an order (rule) made by the court. You breach something when you don’t do what it says.

breath test

Also called a breathalyser. Police test the amount of alcohol you drank by asking you to breath or blow into a tube. Police use this to decide if they will charge a person for breaking the laws about drink driving.

business day

Any week day (Monday to Friday) that is not a public holiday. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays are not business days.


The CDP (Community Development Programme)  helps people looking for jobs in remote Australia.


When police think a person broke a law, they might charge that person. This means the police write down what law/s they say that person broke on a court-paper and give it to the person. The charge is the law that police say the person broke.



A charity is an organisation that raises money and provides help for people in need. A charity does not make a profit like a business does.

checking in

showing people your location when you are on social media

child protection

Child protection can mean two things;

  1. the laws that protect children and make sure that people are looking after children properly. These laws say when a child might be taken away from their family.
  2. the government workers who investigate when they think a family or person is not looking after a child properly.


community work

Community work is one way that a judge might punish a person who breaks the law. Community work might include picking up rubbish, cleaning, or doing gardening.



A company is a commercial business that is registered with the Australian Government to sell something or provide a service. For example, a store or an airline.

You can check if something is a company by asking to see their registration number. This is called an Australian Business Number (ABN).


Making a complaint means telling a service provider that you are not happy with something they have done. Many services have rules that say that when a person complains, the service will check if they did the wrong thing.

condition report

When you move into a rental property, it is good to write down anything that is damaged or broken in the house. You might also want to take photos of the damaged things. Usually, you write these things down on a paper (form) called a condition report. This way the landlord cannot ask you to pay for something that was already damaged when you moved in.



A person who buys something from a shop or business. A consumer is also someone who pays for a service (like paying for a mechanic to fix a car).

consumer guarantees

The law says that you have rights when you buy things. If the thing doesn’t work or do what it is supposed to, you can get it repaired (fixed), replaced (changed for a new one the same) or refunded (your money back).


A contract is an agreement between two or more people. People agree that they will do something in exchange for money or another favour (action). Contracts can be written down or spoken. For example, when you buy something at the store you are agreeing to pay for the things and they are agreeing to give it to you, so it is a contract.

cooling-off period

Sometimes when you buy something or sign a contract there is a cooling-off period. This is a set period of time where you can cancel the purchase or contract and get your money back. Usually cooling-off periods are for expensive things (like houses or cars), or contracts that mean you will have to pay for a long time (like gym memberships).


Counselling is when you talk with a counselor. They are a person who is trained to listen and help you work through relationship problems or other problems in your life.


A law-place where a judge decides about legal problems.

(Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)


Credit can mean two things:

  1. when a bank gives you money and trusts you to pay it back by a certain date. For example, you might have a credit limit of $1000 on your credit card. This means that you can spend up to $1000 because the bank thinks you will be able to pay it back.
  2. when you have paid more money for something than you needed to. Credit is the extra money you paid.

A criminal is someone who a court decides has broken a law.

criminal offence

When a person breaks a criminal law, that is called a criminal offence.

criminal record

A law paper that shows every time a judge has said the defendant was guilty of breaking the law.

crisis payment

A crisis payment is a single payment to help people who are experiencing difficult or extreme circumstances.


Custody is when police hold you so you can’t leave. This is usually in prison while you wait to go to court. * this term is not used in children’s matters in court anymore

(Modified from the Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)

customs fees

When you buy things overseas (either in person or online), if they are over $1000AUD you need to pay taxes just like you would if you bought them in Australia.


Damage is injury or harm that makes something less valuable or useful because it needs to be fixed. For example, scratching the paint on the walls of a rental property is damage.

death benefit

Super that is paid after a person dies.

death certificate

A paper signed by a doctor that tells why, when, and where a person died.


Debt is owing someone money.


The person who the police say broke the law. In domestic violence orders, this is the person whom the order tells not to be violent.


When talking about super, your dependents can be:

  • your partner
  • your kids
  • people you support with money 
  • people who were in a special kind of relationship with you (called an interdependency relationship).

An interdependency relationship means that two people

  • have a close personal relationship
  • live together
  • give each other financial help, domestic help, or personal care.

Deposit can mean two things:

  1. to pay money into an account.
  2. to pay a part of the total money owing. This is called a deposit.

When a licence is disqualified, you are not allowed to drive.


Divorce happens when you and your partner decide to end your marriage by going to court and having a judge legally separate you.

domestic and family violence

When one person uses violence, threats, force or intimidation to try and control another person in a domestic relationship. Domestic violence includes:

  • what someone says
  • what someone does
  • what someone threatens to do.

Domestic violence can include damaging property, controlling money, or controlling where a person goes and who they see.

domestic relationship

Domestic relationships are relationships covered by domestic violence law:

  • husband or wife
  • boyfriend or girlfriend
  • partner or ex-partner
  • sister or brother
  • aunt or uncle
  • grandparent or grandchild
  • nephew, niece, or cousin
  • carer
  • any person who lives in the same house.
domestic violence order (DVO)

A domestic violence order (DVO) is a law-paper from the police or a judge. A DVO has rules to protect people from domestic violence. A DVO can make rules about what a person can do. For example, a no-contact DVO means no going near, calling, texting, or contacting the person protected by the order. A non-intoxication order means no alcohol or drugs.

If someone breaks the rules of a DVO they are doing a crime.

When the police make the DVO it only lasts until a judge talks about it in court. The judge decides if the DVO keeps going and what rules it has.

drink driving

Driving a car after drinking too much alcohol. The law says if you have more than a certain amount of alcohol in your blood (more than 0.05%), you are not allowed to drive.

Drink driving is also called DUI (driving under the influence).



drug driving

Driving a car after taking drugs. The law says this is not allowed.

duty lawyer

The duty lawyer helps with legal advice and representation when you first go to court for criminal charges. The duty lawyer is at the Darwin Local Court and the Alice Springs Local Court every day. Duty lawyers also go to the Local Court in Katherine and Tennant Creek.

A duty lawyer can also help people in the Family Courts. The duty lawyer can help with negotiations, filling in simple forms, asking for adjournments, legal advice and information.

If you are in Darwin, go to the duty lawyer office at the Family Court on the day you go to court.  If you are outside Darwin, call the duty lawyer on 08 8982 0821 from 8.30 am on the day you are going to court.


An employee is someone who works for another person, organisation or business. The other person is called the employer.


The person or business you work for.

end date

The date you and the landlord or agent agreed that you will move out of the place you rent. This date will be written on your lease.


When the landlord or agent tells someone they have to leave the place they are renting. The Northern Territory’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal can also order them to move out of the house, unit or flat.


An exception is something that does not follow the general rule. For example, you may not park your car in some places EXCEPT after 6pm.

family dispute resolution (FDR)

When two people are separating, family dispute resolution (FDR) can help them decide what happens with children, property and money. It is cheaper than going to court.

Family Tax Benefit (FTB)

The Family Tax Benefit (FTB) is paid to families to help with the cost of raising a child.


If you are at fault, you have responsibility for something that happened. For example, if an accident was your fault, you made it happen.


Money you pay in exchange for a service (something that a company or person does for you).

full licence

A full licence is also known as an open licence. If you have a full licence you can drive without the restrictions of a learner (L) or provisional (P) licence


Things you buy that you use at home and not for work (like a car, washing machine, TV, computer, or fridge).


When a person is guilty, it means that a judge or jury decided that he broke the law.


Financial hardship is when you want to pay your bills and debts, but you don’t have enough money because of changes to your situation. For example, you might have lost your job, separated from your partner, gotten sick, or had something else happen in your life.  

instant messaging

a type of online chat


A way to protect people from losing money. You pay money to a company and if something happens—like an accident or injury—they pay for the costs.


An interpreter is someone who can help you understand English, especially when you are seeing a lawyer or a doctor, or if you have to go to court.


The person or company who owns the place that you pay rent to live in.


A lawyer is a person who has special training to help people with legal problems and talk for them in court.

(modified from the Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)


The written agreement about the property that you are renting that you make with your landlord or agent. It’s signed by both of you.

A lease is also called a tenancy agreement.

letter of demand

A letter asking for payment because someone owes money or did something wrong. After a car accident, one person might send the other driver a letter of demand asking for money to pay for the damage to their car.


A licence lets you do something that other people without a licence can’t do. For example, a driver licence is a card or paper from the government that says you can drive. It says the kind of car, motorbike or truck that you can drive. You can use the licence until the expiry date. After the expiry date you need to renew it.

A gun licence (also called a firearm licence) is a card or paper from the Government that says you can use a gun. It says the kind of gun you can use and where you can use it.



Local Court

The Local Court makes decisions about crimes committed by adults. It also makes decisions about some civil law cases.

The Youth Justice Court makes decisions about young people (under 18 years old) who have committed crimes.

location services

technology that can show your location

mandatory reporting

In the Northern Territory, it is mandatory (compulsory) for any adult to tell the police if they think a child (person under 18 years old):

  • has been harmed, exploited, or a victim of a sexual offence
  • will be harmed, exploited, or a victim of a sexual offence.

This is called mandatory reporting.

Harm also includes seeing and hearing domestic and family violence. Under Northern Territory law, all adults must report serious domestic and family violence to the police.


Mediation is a process where you and your partner try to work through relationship problems with someone who can help direct the conversation. This person is called a mediator. A mediator is an independent person. This means they are not on your side or your partner’s side.


A mediator helps people who are in a dispute make an agreement.

A mediator is an independent person. This means they are not on your side or your partner’s side.

medical certificate

If you can’t work, a medical certificate is a letter from a doctor that shows this to your boss or employer.


Migration is when you move to live in another country. For example, if you have come to live in Australia but were not born here, you have migrated from your home country.


myGov is a secure way to access government services online with one login and one password.


Your neighbour is a person living next door to or very near to your home.

Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT)

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) is a special kind of court that helps people quickly solve problems that might take a long time in other courts. It tries to be low-cost, easy, quick, and informal; to use plain language; and to help people with special needs. It helps with problems like disputes between tenants and landlords, and other kinds of problems.

Northern Territory Consumer Affairs

Northern Territory Consumer Affairs looks after your interests when buying goods or property.


Northern Territory

NT Legal Aid

NT Legal Aid is a free service that provides legal advice to people in the Northern Territory.


An offence is doing something that breaks a law.


Any country that is not Australia. For example, Fiji is overseas. Tasmania is not overseas.

parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is the responsibility to decide big things in children’s lives, such as where they live and where they go to school.

parenting plan

A parenting plan is an agreement that separated parents make about how their children will be cared for and supported.


The court can give the person a penalty for doing something wrong. This can be a fine (paying money), prison time, or a court order that tells you how to behave.

Personal violence restraining order (PVRO)

A personal violence restraining order (PVRO) is a law-paper made by a judge. It tells one person the rules about contact with another person. A PVRO tries to protect people who are not in a domestic relationship (like neighbours and work mates). A PVRO can make rules like: Don’t go near the other person; don’t call or text them; don’t make any other contact with the person.


Phishing is where someone will pretend to be an official, such as Centrelink or a bank, to get your personal details, such as identity and credit card details.


If you are charged with an offence and go to court, the just will ask you whether you agree with the charge(s) or not. the answer you give is called a plea. There are two basic types of plea: guilty and not guilty. If you agree with the charge, and that you broke the law, you plead guilty. If you disagree, you plead not guilty.

preservation age

The age when you can access your super. This age is 55-60 years old, but depends when you were born.  

privacy settings

let you control who can see your social media profile.

private seller

Someone who sells things, but not as part of a business. For example, someone who is selling their car on Gumtree or Carsales who doesn’t work as a car seller.


Property is something a person owns. It can include:

  • real estate: family home, investment property or commercial property
  • vehicles: cars, trucks, caravans, boats, trailers and motorbikes
  • money: cash or in bank accounts
  • shares or stocks: in a business or partnership, or a family or public company
  • insurance policies
  • superannuation
  • jewellery
  • furniture and household items
  • debts: mortgages, loans, credit cards and personal debts.
protected person

The person protected by the domestic violence order (DVO).


Getting your money back for something you bought.


Registration (also called rego) allows you to drive a car on public roads. Your number plates are the registration plates. You have to pay registration money to the MVR every six months or every year.


Rent is money that you pay to use something that belongs to someone else. You might rent a house, a car, a DVD, or household appliances.


To stop working.


If a car is roadworthy that means it’s safe to drive on a public road. The car has to be checked by an inspector , who makes sure it follows all the rules.

safe house

A place women and children can stay to be safe from domestic violence.

safety plan

A plan for how to keep yourself and your children safe when someone is being violent.


A scam is when someone lies to get money or information from you.


In criminal law, sentence means ‘to punish’ or ‘punishment’. The punishment comes from a judge in a court.


When two people who are married, partners, or in an intimate relationship split up or end the relationship it is called separation.


Services are things that you pay for someone to do for you. For example, you might pay a hairdresser to cut your hair, a plumber to fix your toilet, or a mechanic to fix your car.

small claim

When someone owes you money, goods or services up to $25,000 in the Northern Territory, you can go to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal to ask them to pay it back.


An SMS is a text or written message you get or send, usually using your mobile phone. SMS stands for standard messaging service.

social media

websites and apps that let you share photos and messages or meet people on the internet


statutory declaration

A statutory declaration is a form that you use to write down what has happened. You have to sign it in front of someone to say that you believe it’s true. Only people in certain jobs can sign your statutory declaration.


A subpoena is a law-paper from the Supreme Court telling a person that they must come to court or bring something to court (like documents).


To summon means ‘to call a person to come to a place’. A summons is a law-paper from a court telling a person they must come to court or bring something to court (like documents).

(From the Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)

super company

A company that manages super accounts for lots of people.

super fund

A special account that your super is paid into. 


Superannuation (super) is money your employer has to pay to a special account, where it is saved for you until you reach a certain age.

Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT)

The SCT helps with complaints about super.


This means different things for different laws.

  • In criminal law, a suspended sentence is a type of punishment where the judge says if you are good you won’t have to do all or part of the punishment.
  • In traffic law, a suspended licence is a driver licence that is stopped so you are not allowed to drive for some time.



making a link to another person’s profile on social media


apps, social media, phones, smartphones, tablets, computers, GPS or location services, instant messaging.

technology abuse

when someone threatens, harasses, bullies or stalks you with technology.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) can help you if you have a problem with your phone or internet service. They are an independent agency who work with the phone and internet providers to help you.

temporary domestic violence order (DVO)

If the police think someone isn’t safe they can make a temporary (also called interim) domestic violence order (DVO). For example, the police might make a temporary DVO when someone calls them because there is violence. A temporary DVO only lasts until it is talked about again in court. A judge can also make a temporary DVO. See also Domestic Violence Order (DVO).


Someone who pays money (called rent) to live in a house, flat or unit that belongs to someone else.


Saying or doing something that makes someone feel like they are going to be hurt.


Not registered. If your car is unregistered you are not allowed to drive on a public road.

unsolicited consumer agreement

When someone tries to sell you something that you haven’t asked for and you agree to buy it. The person might call you on the phone, visit your house, or come to you in a public area.

vacate order

A judge can make a vacate order to remove a violent person from a house, even if they own the house or are on the lease.


This means something is still good to use. For example, having a valid licence means you are allowed to drive. The licence has not finished or been cancelled.


A victim is the person who an offender hurt when the offender broke the law.



When someone uses their actions or words to hurt someone else.


A person who goes somewhere for a short time. For example, anyone who comes into your house with your permission is your visitor.


A warrant is  law-paper that a judge gives to police. This paper gives police the power to do things the judge writes on the warrant.


A witness is a person who sees or hears anything that helps a magistrate or a jury decide if the defendant broke the law.

(Plain English Legal Dictionary 2015)


Someone who is not yet 18 years old. Once a person is 18 years old they are an adult.

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