The information below is from the Community Activism section of The Law Handbook from the Fitzroy Legal Service. Each of the bulleted lists here have further details on the Fitzroy Legal Service site – click on the relevant heading to access all of the information.
Community campaigns need to be planned, structured and financed. The right to protest is internationally recognised, but police have move-on powers, and protesters may end up under arrest and in detention. Repeated confrontations can lead police to apply for exclusion orders preventing a particular person engaging in particular public conduct, or seek to impose bail conditions. Protesters may be charged with a range of offences against police and other law enforcers. Anti-terrorism legislation adds another layer of law that can impede legitimate protest.
Mounting an effective community campaign requires significant planning and careful consideration of many organisational, political and legal issues.
Legal issues permeate the many and varied aspects of campaigning and are not limited to your rights when attending a demonstration. Nor do they simply affect “the usual suspects” who seem to capture the headlines during high-profile protests.
Whether you are expressing concern over freeways, advocating for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, protesting against war or globalisation, or seeking to protect your local park or school, legal issues need to be considered.
This chapter is intended as a basic overview of the legal issues confronted by activists engaged in community campaigning.
Parts of this chapter are drawn from the Activist Rights website (www.activistrights.org.au) published by Fitzroy Legal Service. This website is a comprehensive source of legal information. The site also contains a study of the broader contextual issues to consider when mounting an effective community campaign.
Structure, finances and insurance
Group activism requires campaign planning and funding as well as insurance. There are questions about corporate structures, liability, tax, and gift status.
- What structure works for your group?
- Public liability insurance for not-for-profit organisations
Protesting: your rights and the police
Although protesting is a right, protesters may be charged with obstruction, trespass, unlawful assembly, offensive behaviour, besetting, assault, resist or hinder police, riot or affray. Property-related offences include property damage as well as burglary. A range of criminal offences can apply to forestry protests.
- Your rights
- Protests and the police
- Move-on powers
- Designated areas, weapons and face coverings
- Bail issues
Common charges associated with protests
- Unlawful assembly
- Anti-mask laws
- Offensive behaviour
- Offences against emergency workers
- Violent disorder
- Property damage
- Other possible offences
Protests and non-police officials
At protests, police officers are increasingly being assisted by other officials. For example, officers from the Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning assist police at forest protests, and security firm personnel attend demonstrations where private property is at risk. The powers of government or quasi-government officials are specified in the relevant legislation.
- Protective service officers
- Private security guards
Remember if you would like the full information for the bullets above, click on the headings to be directed to the relevant parts of The Law Handbook.
© Fitzroy Legal Service 2021
- Civil disobedience
- Civil resistance
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- Legal rights