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

Climate Bill report

The rejection of Independent MP Zali Steggall's climate action legislation by a Government-dominated parliamentary committee shows how far out of touch the Government is with most Australians' views on climate action.

Polling routinely shows the majority of Australians support climate action: for example, a recent Essential Report shows support ranging from 62% to 81% in support of a range of propositions including preventing new coal mining, zero-carbon targets and developing green industry.

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NSWCCL statement on Sydney's weekend protests

This weekend saw some disturbing incidents playing out in Sydney during protests against the current lockdowns.

NSWCCL has reviewed some of the footage with concern.

We support the right to peaceful protest - irrespective of whether we agree with the demands of those protesting.

But rights are not absolute and protest should be made in a responsible way that takes account of prevailing circumstances.

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Are lockdowns unconstitutional?

We've fielded many queries in the past weeks about the impact of the recent COVID19 lockdowns on our civil liberties. With some help from George Williamsan Australian academic specialising in Australian constitutional law, here are some answers.

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Letter: Bring Julian Assange home

Though he is not convicted of any offence under UK law, Julian Assange continues to be held as a prisoner in the same conditions as convicted murderers. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Australian Government to bring home Julian Assange and exert its diplomatic influence to end his unjust prosecution.

Similar letters were sent to the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group. 

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Submission: Inquiry into environmental planning instruments (SEPPs)

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Regulation Committee Inquiry into Environmental Planning Instruments (SEPPs).

NSWCCL makes this submission for a number of key reasons:

a. To ensure that adequate safeguards are in place for the creation of SEPPs in recognition that parliament is the supreme law making body in the state;

b. In recognition that the climate change poses a significant and increasing threat to the ability for citizens’ and others residents’ civil liberties and human rights, and that any decisions made which concern the environment should be appreciative of the adverse effects of climate change; and,

c. In recognition that First Nations communities voices should be recognised and afforded significant weight in the development of environmental and planning policy.

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Legal challenge to travel bans

Statement from President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties on Legal Challenges to Travel Bans

NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomes the significant separate legal challenges commenced today to the travel bans.

Both the harsh criminal penalties facing returning Australians and the authoritarian exit bans are causing great distress for tens of thousands of people.

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India Travel Bans Unconscionable and Inhumane



The federal Government’s move to criminalise Australians travelling home from India, including massive fines and penalties of up to 5 years’ imprisonment is an extraordinary move and likely to infringe international human rights law. This will abandon Australian citizens to their fate in an utterly overburdened health care system in India. It is inhumane and unconscionable.

It is certainly not the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health. A less restrictive and intrusive way of protecting Australians would be to improve quarantine systems instead of criminalising our citizens who are doing nothing more than wishing to come home.

The Government’s move also looks discriminatory. While there can be no denying that the situation in India is critical, no such measures were taken for Australians returning from the United States, the United Kingdom or Europe during the height of their dire pandemic crises.


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NSWCCL - Lift the travel ban and clarify process

29 MARCH 2021                                    


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Federal Government to end the ban on leaving Australia and introduce clear and transparent rules for who gets to enter Australia.

This week marks a year since the imposition of both inward and outward travel bans. The government has adopted an authoritarian approach to the issue of incoming and outgoing travellers rather than improving the hotel quarantine system. This approach must now end.

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Intervention on behalf of Australian citizen Julian Assange

NSWCCL has sent an open letter from Nicholas Cowdery AO QC, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties to the Prime Minister urging the Australian Government to intervene to support Julian Assange and do all that can be done to stop his extradition to the USA and enable him to return to Australia. 

The Council urges Senators and Members of Parliament to consider supporting Julian Assange by ensuring he receives appropriate and effective support from the Government to end the politically motivated attempt to extradite him to the USA.

More information: read the full letter.


Submission: Inquiry into Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020

NSWCCL made a Submission to this Inquiry

Executive Summary:

  1. The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Education Committee concerning the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 (“The Bill”). 
  2. NSWCCL considers that the Bill should not be passed. Not a single aspect of the Bill improves upon the law as it currently stands in NSW. Moreover, the Bill is an appalling contribution to public debate and education policy in this State.
  3. In this submission, NSWCCL will argue that the Bill should not be passed for the following compelling reasons. The Bill:
    a. is plainly bigoted, discriminatory and cruel;
    b. is likely unconstitutional;
    c. is injurious to fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression;
    d. would harm education in NSW;
    e. is unnecessary; and
    f. violates the principle of coherence.
  4. This is a remarkable combination of defects. Residents of NSW deserve better from their lawmakers.
  5. We are happy to expand upon our submission if invited to provide evidence before the Committee.

Recommendation 1: NSWCCL recommends that the Committee and the NSW Parliament reject the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020 in its entirety.

More information: