Introducing ... rules and laws

Begin your exploration of rules and laws with this short introduction. Find out the differences between rules and laws, and who needs to follow them.

Rules and laws are different types of instructions that are designed to help us understand how to participate safely and fairly in groups and society. Though rules and laws can be similar, the consequences of not following laws are much more serious.

Rules and laws.

Rules and laws.

Parliamentary Education Office (PEO.GOV.AU)

Rules and laws.

Rules and laws.

Parliamentary Education Office (PEO.GOV.AU)


This graphic explains the difference between rules and laws.


  • made by groups and their leaders
  • group leaders make sure members of the group follow the rules
  • there are consequences for people in the group for not following group rules


  • made by parliament and the courts
  • police and courts make sure people follow the laws
  • legal consquences for not following laws include fines and jail time

Both rules and laws

  • keep us safe and tell us what we should do and shouldn't do

Things you need to know

  • Rules are instructions for a place or situation, such as school, home or sports teams. They can be made by people who have authority, such as teachers, parents and coaches. Sometimes they are made with the input of the whole group.
  • Different groups have rules. Group rules only apply to people who are part of that group. Other people don’t need to follow those rules.
  • There can be consequences for group members who break the rules. These consequences may not affect the person who broke the rules anywhere except in the group.
  • Laws are rules that apply to all people at all times and have legal consequences if they are not followed. They are made by parliaments and courts. Laws help us all to behave safely, fairly and respectfully.
  • Examples of laws that students need to follow are wearing a seatbelt, wearing a bike helmet and going to school.
  • There are major consequences for people who break laws such as having to pay a fine or going to jail. The police and the courts are both responsible for making sure the laws are followed.

Did you know?

Australia’s system of law came from Britain. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have customary laws dating back thousands of years. Across the country, different groups have different laws. These laws are not written down, but community members share with each other how to behave and the consequences of not following the laws.