Civil and human rights

This Group covers a broad range of civil liberties and human rights issues, focussing on those that don’t naturally fall within the other groups. Priority areas in the last few years have included: a Human Rights Act for NSW, along with the ongoing campaign for an Australian Charter of Rights; climate justice; LGBTIQ+ rights, women’s rights; anti-discrimination law; freedom of expression; and achieving better and more democratic governance through balanced and effective anti-corruption bodies and reform of the framework for delegated legislation.

We also track Australia's human rights violations.

A current focus area is our right to protest

Submission: Inquiry into Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws

This consultation paper, produced by the ALRC is in response to a referral from the Attorney-General
Mark Dreyfus, in November 2022, for the ALRC to review the exception provisions in the Sex
Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) that apply to religious educational

These provisions have been of concern to NSWCCL and many other community, civil liberties, human
rights and legal groups for a long time. Calls for their review are correspondingly longstanding. The
ALRC previously commenced a review of the provisions which was regrettably suspended by a
previous Government. NSWCCL commends the current Attorney-General for moving quickly to
establish this review. It is a very significant law reform initiative of great importance particularly to
children and young people, in particular, who are connected with in religious educational institutions.

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Policy: LGBTQI+ rights

Adopted at the 2022 AGM


Since 1963, NSWCCL has been at the forefront of arguments to advance the human rights and civil liberties of all. While NSWCCL has strongly supported LGBTQI+ rights in its advocacy, it does not have an updated formal policy. The purpose of this policy is to set out the framework for our advocacy in that regard.

This policy adopts the acronym LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and others) for ease, but recognises that there are a myriad of other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions to which this policy also relates.

Our first recorded policy on the issue was passed on 6 May 1970, which stated ‘That the policy of the Council for Civil Liberties be that sex relations between adults in private shall not be a criminal offence.’ In October 1973, NSWCCL reasserted that policy and further added, amongst other things, ‘there should be no discrimination against homosexuals on the basis of their homosexuality and that State and Commonwealth governments should act to ensure full and substantive equality to homosexuals’. NSWCCL also made submissions in support of marriage equality in both 2009 and 2017.

On 26 October 1994, the AGM passed a resolution which stated ‘That [ NSWCCL] calls on the Department of School Education to develop and implement a component of the curriculum on the social and cultural constructions of gender within a framework of Gender Studies’.

NSWCCL has also consistently made submissions which opposed attempts to further protect religious rights at the expense of LGBTQI+ rights. This included submissions to federal inquiries in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and state inquiries in 2020 and 2021.

Healthcare and education continue to be pressure points for the LGBTQI+ community where discrimination is particularly felt. As Sydney hosts World Pride in 2023, it is past time NSWCCL reaffirm support for the LGBTQI+ community.


That NSWCCL supports the LGBTQI+ community in their demands for equal rights and substantive equality. NSWCCL strongly opposes the privileging of other rights, including religious rights, so as to erode or deny the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. NSWCCL reaffirms our commitment to advocate for a human rights act or charter at both a NSW and Commonwealth level which conclusively resolves conflicts of rights.

In particular NSWCCL:

  • Supports a ban on LGBTQI+ conversion practices. These are practices which attempt to ‘suppress, cure or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For example ‘gay cure therapy’ or gay exorcism.[1]
  • Strongly opposes recent attempts by religious groups and some governments to unwarrantedly privilege religious rights at the expense of LGBTQI+ rights.
  • Opposes any discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in healthcare and educational settings.
  • Supports a ban on the performance of unnecessary medical procedures on people born with innate variations of sex characteristics without their consent.
  • Supports calls for an LGBTQI+ Commissioner being appointed to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
  • Recognises conflicts of human rights must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis using the framework of international human rights law as a best practice guide.


[1] The Cooper Report 2021 - Ozanne Foundation


Submission: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) is grateful for the opportunity to make a submission to the Committee's Inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Climate Trigger) Bill 2022 [No.2].

  1. NSWCCL supports laws that strengthen Australia’s mitigation efforts as a crucial step towards protecting human rights from the impacts of climate change.
  2. We believe the Bill fills an important gap in Australia’s climate change framework which currently leaves the Commonwealth unable to properly manage the development of emissions intensive activities. By giving the Minister the power to ensure further development of such activities occurs in line with a carbon budget, the Bill provides a way towards ensuring Australia’s newly legislated emissions target is achievable.
  3. While we welcome the Bill as an improvement on the current state of affairs, this submission contains six recommendations which we believe will further its aims.
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Submission: United Nations Committee against Torture

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) in regard to the Sixth Periodic Report of Australia.

Under Article 19 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention) the CAT is mandated to examine reports on the measures that State parties are taking to implement the provisions of the Convention. The CAT has a dual mandate:

  1. To undertake confidential inquiries when reliable information is received with well-
    founded indication that torture is being systemically practiced in a State party is received
    (Article 20, the Convention).
  2. To consider individual complaints in relation to the implementation of the Convention
    (Article 22, the Convention).
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Submission: United Nations Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT)

The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) will be visiting Australia for 12 days from 16 Oct 2022 – 27 Oct 2022.

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Submission: Inquiry into the Appointment of the Former Prime Minister to Administer Multiple Departments

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a joint submission to The Hon Virginia Bell AC in response to the Inquiry into the Appointment of the Former Prime Minister to Administer Multiple Departments

NSWCCL strongly condemns the former Prime Minister Morrison's practice of secret ministerial appointments and welcome the seriousness with which Prime Minister Albanese is treating this issue. We applauded Prime Minister Albanese's announcement upon releasing the Solicitor General’s advice that his department was taking immediate steps to implement a practice of publishing in the Commonwealth Gazette future appointments of ministers to administer departments.

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Submission: Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022

NSWCCL recently made a submission to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee regarding the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022.

After a decade of inaction on climate change, the Climate Change Bill 2022 (Bill) represents welcome
progress. While we support the Bill as an improvement on business as usual, it is our view that:

  • the target it enshrines in law is woefully inadequate; and
  • beyond setting a target, the Bill fails to do any work towards achieving that target.

This said, through a few amendments the Bill has potential to provide a proper bedrock for Australia’s
ability to respond to the climate emergency and contribute towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

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Submission: Consultations with NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC

NSWCCL is a Non-Government Organisation in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). We sought this special status because we believe that NGOs provide meaningful contributions to the work of ECOSOC by ensuring that states are accountable in their reports to the body. NGOs also augment state reports and call out poor state conduct through their ability to speak from experiences which are closer to the ground and embedded within states.  

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Submission: Application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) seeks to provide protection to First Nations peoples worldwide. It establishes guidelines setting minimum standards for individual, cultural, and collective rights.  The UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 and was adopted by Australia two years later in 2009. 

On 29 March 2022, the Senate referred an inquiry into the application of the UNDRIP to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee. NSWCCL has welcomed the opportunity to present a submission to the Committee, declaring that more can be done to better incorporate the principles and aims of UNDRIP into Australian law.

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Submission: Inquiry Into The Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis Exemptions From Offences) Bill 2021

Update 11 August 2022:

The parliamentary inquiry has published its report here and recommended that the Legislative Council proceed to debate the Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis-Exemption from Offences) Bill 2021.

The committee elected not to take a position on the bill, despite substantive witness evidence relating to the impact of the current law, broad community support for the use of medicinal cannabis and the availability of exemptions in other jurisdictions.

NSWCCL made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice Inquiry Into The Road Transport Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis Exemptions From Offences) Bill 2021

NSWCCL supports the passage of the Bill, which addresses discriminatory, inequitable and out of date presence-based drug driving practices targeting medical cannabis patients. NSWCCL agrees that those patients in Australia who are legally prescribed medicinal cannabis should be exempted from prosecution for driving with Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system, unless there is clear evidence of impairment.

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