Discontinuities such as fault planes, joints and bedding planes in a rock mass may be filled with different types of fine-grained material that are either transported or accumulated as gouge due to weathering or joint shearing. Previous laboratory studies have mainly examined the role of saturated infill that exhibits the minimum shear strength. However, in practice, the infill materials are often partially saturated generating matric suction within the joint that can contribute to increased shear strength. To the authors' knowledge this is the first study to examine the influence of compacted (unsaturated) infill on the joint shear strength. A series of laboratory triaxial tests on idealised model joints and imprinted natural joint profiles was carried out, with constant water contents of the infill being maintained. From the laboratory results, it is observed that the peak shear strength of infilled joints increased with the decrease of degree of saturation from 85% to 35% for both idealised joints and replicated natural joints. Based on the laboratory observations an empirical model for describing the infilled joint shear strength was developed.