The state has played a conspicuous role in the history of labour in Australia and New Zealand both as a focus for struggles and where the labour movement achieved a degree of influence that garnered the interest of progressives in other countries. The state is a complex institution and its relationship to labour has been equally complex, especially when the differential impacts on particular groups, such as women, are considered. This article traces state regulation of work arrangements (broadly defined) in both countries over the period of European presence. Although there are significant similarities, a number of differences are identified. We also indicate how recent research and debate on the historiography of the state can provide new insights.