NSWCCL Action Groups

Much of CCL's work is done through Action Groups. Groups come together around current issues and to support the capacity of CCL to continue its work as one of Australia's leading civil liberties organisations 

Action Groups develop policies and strategies, run targeted campaigns, contribute to government reviews, advocate law reform, lobby government and other organisations, provide speakers and generally act to raise awareness of civil liberties issues in the community. 

Action Groups focused on building CCL’s communications, support networks and financial resources are absolutely critical to our capacity to sustain and expand our civil liberties advocacy.


All Action Groups welcome participation from interested members or supporters 

  Join an Action Group


Policy Issues

National security and counter-terrorism


NSWCCL has consistently engaged with the Australian Government‘s responses to the threat of terrorism since 9/11 and the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002. The sheer volume of new legislation in this area has been extraordinary - such that Australia has the most extensive body of such laws in the western democratic world.

Some of these laws are appropriate and necessary responses to terrorist and other threats to public safety but a disturbingly high proportion of legislation in this area has been driven more by short term electoral politics. Many of the laws now in place are unnecessary and excessive and seriously undermine core liberties and rights and pose a significant real threat to democracy. They routinely include extraordinary provisions that would have been inconceivable and unacceptable  pre 9/11.  There is no indication that this hyper-legislating trend around counter-terrorism and national security issues is exhausted. And there is a dangerous trend for spill-over of the extraordinary legal provisions from C-T and national security areas to general criminal and border protection law.

It is difficult for CCL and civil society bodies to respond effectively to the volume of new legislation and policies and the determined consensus on almost all national security issues across the major parties undermines the capacity for robust critical analysis of such legislation in the Parliament.   Consequently neither civil society nor Parliament have  been able to stop or significantly amend much in this now large body of law.

For these reasons the Action Group will in 2019 give high priority to exploring -in collaboration with other civil society groups - a more strategic approach to our advocacy and intervention in this difficult area. We will still continue to respond to Government proposals as necessary.

This group covers counter-terrorism and national security laws and policies including surveillance and data collection, secrecy and foreign influence laws, the powers of and oversight of intelligence and security agencies and - in recent times-the role of the Department of Home Affairs.

Convenor: David Bernie Join

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Australia’s current asylum seekers policies and practices are a gross breach of human rights and decency. CCL gives very high priority to helping bring about fundamental reform to these policies. Current priorities are advocacy for the restoration of Australia’s commitment to respect and fulfil our international human rights obligations- especially in relation to the Convention for the Security of Refugees which the Australian Government has so shamefully repudiated in law and in practice. Specific priorities include the reinstatement of  a pathway to permanent visas,  an end to indefinite detention of refugees resulting from ASIO adverse security assessments, clear policy separation of ‘border security’ and ‘national security’   and an ongoing update of CCL policy in response to the latest Australian Government policies and practices.

Convenors: Dr Martin Bibby and Angela Catallo  Join

Freedom of speech and censorship; privacy and data retention; open government and whistle-blower protection

This action group works across several clusters of issues around free speech, privacy and open government.

Protecting free speech, free media and the right to protest from unwarranted censorship and constraint and promoting open government and whistle-blower protection are core concerns for this group.

The extraordinary growth in technological capacity in the digital age has transformed the reach of surveillance and the capacity for governments and corporations to collect store and analyse vast quantities of personal information.  The right to privacy is seriously threatened. Priorities include reform of the Privacy Act 1988, strong regulation of digital and emerging technologies such as AI and biometrics, advocacy for a personal privacy tort, strong privacy policies regulating use of sophisticated surveillance technology.  The group also grapples with complex issues posed by the spread of web based social media and the tensions between free speech, access to information, privacy and the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Governments are winding back their commitment to open government and systematically undermining whistle-blower protections. A priority for this group is to resist and reverse these trends.

In relation to data retention and surveillance this group works closely with the National ASIO and Counter-Terrorism Campaign.

Convenor: Michelle Falstein   Join

Right to Protest

This action group works to protect the legal right to protest as a fundamental role in our democracy. Only after tireless, sustained protest did Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people win the right to vote, did LGBT+ people achieve marriage equality, and did unions secure the eight hour work day.

Right now, the right to protest is vital for minority groups and supporters who continue to rally against state violence and injustice. Historically, overturning injustice of this kind requires incredible public momentum and visibility, which can only be sustained through protest. State and Federal Governments have a democratic responsibility to facilitate safe and peaceful protests in accordance with their obligations under international law.

Convenor: Felicity Graham and Craig Longman  Join

Criminal justice, police powers and mental health

This group focusses on the laws, policies and practices relating to the criminal justice system, police powers, and the legal rights of persons with mental illness.  In broad terms the group advocates for the protection of the fundamental rights and liberties of citizens (eg presumption of innocence; right to a fair trial) in the justice system. These liberties and rights are currently under pressure from governments.

Current priorities include: NSW Government proposals to impose mandatory minimum sentences for a range of drug and alcohol influenced assault crimes in public places; monitoring the operation of unwarranted amendments to the NSW Bail Act and advocating their repeal; resisting excessive law and order policies which unwarrantedly infringe civil liberties in the coming NSW election In relation to police powers a major priority is the improvement of public confidence in the NSW Police by establishing an independent review process for serious police critical incidents ). Other priorities include the growth in warrantless police powers, indiscriminate and dangerous use of tasers and inappropriate and ineffective use of sniffer dogs in relation to illicit drugs.

Convenor: Dr Lesley Lynch Join

Civil and human rights

This group focuses on a range of civil liberties and human rights issues. Our current priority is the campaign for a Human Rights Act for NSW- along with the ongoing campaign for an Australian Charter of Rights. Other priority issues include women's rights; climate justice, LGBTIQ rights including limiting the ability of schools to discriminate against students and teachers and resisting pressure to weaken anti-discrimination laws.

Convenor: Jared Wilk  Join

First Nations Justice

Support for Indigenous rights including negotiation of a NSW treaty with NSW Aboriginal people and at a national level the implementation of the 2017 Statement from the Heart. 

If you are interested in joining our First Nations Justice Action Group, please email [email protected] with an expression of interest. 

Convenor: Rebecca McMahon


Organisational Issues


The communications group manages the CCL website including its people database, produces a regular digital newsletter The Civil Source , manages social media sites  and builds linkages with external media. The group's continuing priorities are to improve our communication with our members and supporters, expand the NSWCCL’s utilisation of digital content and social media, and, as an overall strategic priority, improve its digital campaign skills. 


Fundraising and Events


Apart from membership fees, CCL is dependent on its own fundraising to support its work. Activities planned for this year include a celebratory party for the awarding honorary life membership to Cameron Murphy, several parliamentary lunches and the annual civil liberties dinner. Priorities include attracting donations to support major campaign activities.


Membership and Supporters


The core focus of this group is to build the membership and supporter base for CCL and to expand opportunities for their engagement with and involvement in the work of CCL.


  Join an Action Group