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If your organisation is organising a campaign or protest, it is worth spending a short amount of time (before your campaign or protest starts) to understand the laws that might apply to your activities.
Laws to consider are:
- defamation - to make sure that you are not liable for defaming someone during your campaign or protest
- safety - to make sure that everyone involved is safe and understands laws that apply, and
- council or city regulations about large public gatherings or activities that may disrupt traffic or public transport.
Below you will find information for organisations thinking about organising a campaign or protest in each of Australia's states and territories.
If you are planning to hold a protest in Victoria, you should contact the relevant local council. The council may require you to hold a permit. Different councils have different requirements, including that they may consult with Victoria Police in relation to the planned protest.
You should contact VicRoads to see if a permit is required where your protest is likely to impact major roads and freeways.
An unlawful assembly in Victoria is any group of three or more people who come together to commit a crime, or breach the peace. Be aware that protesters in Victoria can be charged with obstruction, trespass, offensive behaviour, assaulting, resisting or hindering police, rioting, or damaging property. Further information on these charges can be found here.
Although there is no obligation to inform police of a planned campaign or protest, it is recommended that you do. In order to inform the police, you need to send a notice addressed to the Commissioner of Police at Police Headquarters, 1 Charles Street, Parramatta NSW 2150.
Provided you give the police at least 7 days’ notice of the campaign or protest, the police cannot oppose it unless they apply to a Court to prohibit the public assembly. Once the police have been notified, and provided that the campaign or protest is held substantially in line with the notice, a person cannot be guilty of participating in an unlawful assembly or obstructing any person, vehicle or vessel in a public place by taking part in the campaign or protest.
An unlawful assembly is any group of five or more people, with the aim of compelling any other person to do, or refrain from doing, any action by intimidation or injury.
Queenslanders have the right to peacefully assemble with others at a protest, rally or demonstration in a public place. However this right can be restricted in certain situations, such as when it’s necessary for public order or safety or to protect others.
An assembly needs to be approved by the police. You must send a notice of assembly to the closest police station to where the assembly will be held (the notice must be addressed to the Commissioner of Police). Provided the notice was sent at least 5 working days before the assembly is held they will give approval, which may or may not include certain conditions, such as the size of placards and whether loudspeakers and microphones can be used. The police can only oppose an assembly if they apply to the Court for an order that prohibits the assembly from taking place.
You should also send a notice of assembly to the local council responsible for the place where the assembly will be held.
For more information please see the Queensland Government’s Right to Protest.
When more than three people in Western Australia come together in public for a protest, meeting or procession they must obtain a permit. Applications for a permit need to be made to the Commissioner of Police at least 4 days prior to the event. The application form can be found here. It can be lodged at a local police station (in WA). If a protest or procession passes through several police districts the application can be lodged directly with the State Traffic Intelligence, Planning and Coordination Unit (STIPCU). Contact details for STIPCU can be found here.
The Commissioner may approve a permit, but subject it to certain conditions (which must be followed). A permit cannot be refused unless the Commissioner believes the protest will damage property, create a public nuisance or obstruction, or place people in danger. If the Commissioner grants a permit on conditions you think are unreasonable, or refuses the permit you can apply to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) to have the conditions removed or approval granted.
For more information please see the Environmental Defender’s Office WA’s factsheet on protests, rallies and marches.
When a protest or demonstration will be held in, or will move through, a public space in South Australia a notice of assembly must be approved by either the local council or the local police (where the event will be held). You can contact the local council or the police (either through the SA Police enquiries email or by contacting the local police station directly) to see what details should be included in the notice of assembly. The notice must be given to the relevant authority at least four days before the protest or demonstration is held. The police or local council are only able to object if they think the event is contrary to the public interest. If an objection has been made you can apply to a Court to have the objection removed.
For more information, contact the South Australia Police or your local council.
A permit is required to hold a protest, demonstration or other event on a public street in the Northern Territory. Permits will need to be approved by both the NT Police and the relevant local council at least 7 days before the event will be held. The application form can be found here.
If you are planning to hold a protest or demonstration in a public location other than on a public street, such as a local park you should contact the local council to see whether a permit is required.
For more information please see the Environmental Defenders Office NT factsheet on protests, demonstrations, rallies and marches.
Different circumstances apply for the holding of a protest or demonstration in the ACT, depending on where the protest or demonstration will take place.
In relation to ‘national land’, the National Capital Authority (NCA) is the relevant body. The NCA has developed the Right to Protest Guidelines to assist organisers with carrying our protests or demonstrations safely and legally. These guidelines also include a map of the ‘national land’ for which the NCA is responsible. Generally, if you are planning a protest or demonstration on national land a permit is not needed unless you plan to erect a structure. If you plan to put up a structure as part of your event you must get a Works Approval from the National Capital Authority. You can contact the NCA here.
Different requirements apply if you plan to hold a protest or demonstration within the Parliamentary Precincts. You you will need to obtain approval. Enquiries about holding an event in the Parliamentary Precincts can be made to the Parliament House Security or the Australian Federal Police.
For other areas in the ACT you should contact Access Canberra to see what is required. For further information you can visit their website.
A permit must be granted to hold a protest or demonstration on a public street in Tasmania, and you can be fined for not having one. A written application for a permit needs to be made to the Commander of the nearest District police headquarters. Their contact details can be found here. A permit can be granted with certain conditions that must be followed.
Caution: In Tasmania there are a number of restrictions on protesters and protesting activity in relation to businesses. A recent High Court decision (October 2017) challenged the legality of these restrictions, especially in relation to forestry land. The laws may change. You should check with the Tasmanian Police for further information.