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Australian Democracy Network

Protect the Right to Protest in Australia

Protect the Right to Protest in Australia

First Nations rights, women’s suffrage, the eight-hour work day and marriage equality. Peaceful protests have shaped today’s Australia. The right to protest ...

15/09/2023 > 30/09/2024



    • General population
    • People impacted by the legal system


    First Nations rights, women’s suffrage, the eight-hour work day and marriage equality. Peaceful protests have shaped today’s Australia. The right to protest is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy.

    “[The protest] gives people something, hope, you know. It’s the hope that somebody is actually listening and wants to hear the cries of the river people.”Barkindji woman Monica Kerwin, Darling River protector.

    In the last 20 years, Australian parliaments have passed more than 12 laws which limit our right to protest. Both Liberal and Labor state governments have responded to climate protests by introducing ever-harsher policing practices and penalties, including jail time for blocking footpaths. In response, the Australian Democracy Network and the Human Rights Law Centre are coordinating a critical joint project, Protect the Right to Protest in Australia. Together we plan to stop the steady erosion of the right to protest in Australia.

    Now is the time to build on the early achievements of our joint campaign and lay the foundations for successful civil society responses in the years to come. Your support will pay staff at the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Democracy Network with the right skills and experience to lead a nationwide resistance against future attempts to limit protest rights.

    We have worked together to hold back anti-protest laws across the country since 2018. Our work in Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia has laid the foundations for a powerful civil-society campaign that is ready to be taken to the next level, enabling us to move from a reactive state-based campaign to a proactive national response.

    Our strategy involves creating the preconditions and infrastructure civil society needs to wind back existing anti-protest laws; to respond effectively when new laws are proposed; and to make it less likely that governments will seek to make anti-protest laws in the first place. While each state will still require its own campaign strategy that is tailor-made to the local political context, the infrastructure we develop will be useful across the country.

    With your support, we plan to build and create:

    1. A system which alerts us to new risks to our right to protest;
    2. Networks of volunteers, lawyers, politicians, grassroots activists and union members in key areas;
    3. Tools, from policy documents to information sheets, that we can quickly share and use with civil society groups and for those who need them.

    We are seeking the first $200,000 we need to fund the next 12 months of campaign activities for Protect the Right to Protest in Australia


    With your support, over the next 12 months we will:
    - Develop a set of 'red line principles' to protect protest, which are supported by diverse networks, to which we will hold the major political parties to account (Note: As of November 2023, ADN has launched the Protest Rights Declaration to this end. The Declaration is grounded in human rights law, was produced in collaboration with grassroots activists and experts across the continent, and has been endorsed by 70 civil society organisations. The Declaration in a line in the sand, which sets out 10 principles which all government agencies must abide by for our democratic rights to be fully realised. You can read and support the Declaration here:
    - Develop shared evidence-based messaging on the importance of the right to protest so partners are able to respond quickly and in a united way during key moments.
    - Get ahead of those who want to shut down protests with public messages which show what is at stake.
    - Build a strategic network of defenders of the right to protest across the country, which will include a mix of recognisable charity leaders and grassroots movements.
    - Focus our efforts in a few states that are most at risk of new anti-protest laws.

    What we will achieve together:

    Women have voting rights today because 100 years ago, people were willing to protest. The Franklin River still flows because people locked arms to protect it. Today we face our biggest threat yet. We have the solutions to climate change, but our politicians want to stop us acting for future generations by shutting down our voice. Our right to protest makes a fair world possible.

    Protest is how ordinary people make their voices heard. Blocking the right to protest makes people with privilege, like the coal and gas barons with a direct line to government, even more powerful.

    “We should take with a grain of salt the views of people who stand atop a mountain of privilege and declare that privilege is irrelevant' (Rachel Ball, CEO, current Reichstein Foundation, previously HRLC).

    Anti-protest laws are sweeping across the country — it is time to up our game. With your support we will make sure that we are acting at the right time, in the right place and with the right people around us. We are inspired by the protestors who have won before us. Together we will not only protect the right to protest but also strengthen our democracy.

    All of our work – in progressive philanthropy, strategic litigation and policy campaigning – depends on a strong democracy. This is an exciting moment for us to be clear, not only on the type of world we live in, but also the structures that support it. Thank you for your support and belief in this work.

    Profile of Australian Democracy Network

    Australian Democracy Network

    The Australian Democracy Network works for a healthy democracy which puts people
    and the planet first. ADN brings people and organisations together to share resources and
    strategy so they can have greater impact.

    The Human Rights Law Centre uses strategic legal action, policy solutions and
    advocacy to support people and communities to eliminate inequality and injustice and build a
    fairer, more compassionate Australia.

    Australian Democracy Network will collect funds for this project on behalf of both organisations. The budgets below reflect our combined funding needs.


    TOTAL BUDGET: $420,573
    Funding sourceAmount
    Funding Gap (unconfirmed)$200,000
    Other philanthropic support (unconfirmed)$220,573
    Expense itemAmount
    HRLC and ADN Staff costs$299,977
    Administrative costs (insurance, accounting, advertising etc.)$67,717
    Campaign expenses$52,880

    Support Protect the Right to Protest in Australia

    Got a question about this project or ready to contribute? Contact us.


    As a broker of change, we invite social change initiatives to apply for funding. Eligible proposals are shared with our giving community via our Granting Opportunities directory.