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On Anti-Protest Laws in Australia

By Betty Wolkenstein

In recent years, in response to the increase in activist groups and protest movements, the Australian Government has swiftly passed multiple anti-protest laws.

This particularly started in 2018 with the Crown Lands Act, which restricted peaceful protests, empowered police to break up public gatherings, and potentialise the criminalisation of acts of legitimate protest. The broad list of activities prohibited includes displaying signs, distributing printed material, climbing a fence, seat, tree or other structure, etc…

This legislation spotlighted for the public the harsh penalties and punishments applicable for peaceful protests, for example, fines of up to $11,000.

Protest regulations have continued to be passed within states. The New South Wales Government reacted to the climate protests blocking Sydeny’s port Botany by passing the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Act 2022 No.7, supported by Labour and claimed “undemocratic” by The Greens. Punishments include fines of $22,000 and up to two years of jail time.

There is a historic trend that “some of the most successful and celebrated non-violent protests in history have focused on economic disruption,” as Luke McNamara Co-Director of the Centre for Crime, professor at UNSW Sydney, explains. The act applies to those who wish to “wreak economic chaos and shut down major economic activity,” as Attorney-General Mark Speakman says.

An argument can be made that there is a linear relationship between the increase in anti-protest legislation and climate action particularly against mining, of which these states accrue much of their income. Another argument can be made that the small scale of the port-blocking which inspired this draconian response would not in fact “wreak economic chaos” and does not warrant the disproportionate penalties.

However, there is still hope to protest.

Annual and common protests include*:

  • Invasion Day (Belmore Park CBD, 26th January 9:30am)

  • School Strike 4 Climate Change/ Global Climate Strike Actions (Town Hall, 3rd March 12:00pm-3:00pm)

Stay aware of local protests currently unscheduled by subscribing to activist group emailing lists and school-run events.

*May be subject to change. To be certain of time and date research closer to these suggested times.

When preparing for protests:

  • Research demonstrations

  • Go in pairs and/or groups and/or notify a trusted person

  • Pack a bag and sign

  • Encrypt your phone or turn it on aeroplane mode

  • Dress appropriately

  • Follow the lead of organisers



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