The "Australian Courts Act of 1828" established courts possessing summary jurisdiction in certain types of civil matters involving the payment or recovery of small debts, known as Courts of Requests. The "Small Debts Recovery Act of 1846" and subsequent Queensland legislation of 1864 provided for Courts of Petty Sessions to administer such actions.
Small Debts Courts were ultimately legislated in Queensland under the "Small Debts Courts Act of 1867". Under this legislation, Courts of Petty Sessions were deemed to be Small Debts Courts.
Under this Act and the "Justices Act 1886", the establishment by the Governor in Council of a place for the holding of a court of petty sessions was deemed to establish a small debts court. The Small Debts Court, Mareeba was proclaimed by the Governor in Council on 8 November 1893.
Under the "Magistrates Courts Act 1921", from 3 April 1922 onwards all small debts courts were deemed to be magistrates courts and all officers of small debts courts were deemed to be officers of magistrates courts. Under this legislation, the Small Debts Court, Mareeba was deemed to be the Magistrates Court, Mareeba.
Under the "Small Debts Courts Acts 1867-1894" and further amending legislation, small debts courts were granted jurisdiction to hear claims under a specific amount in the following civil actions: personal actions, actions for the unliquidated balance of a partnership account, actions for a distributive share under an intestacy or for a legacy under a will, equity suits for recovery of money or damages, actions for replevin concerning distress for rent, summary actions for ejectment between lessors and lessees, and complaints for maintenance.