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

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: 


NSWCCL at House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy hearing, Climate Change Bill 2020

On 1st February 2021, NSWCCL Vice-President and Convenor of the Civil and Human Rights Action Group, Jared Wilk, appeared at the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy hearing on the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 and Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2020.

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Senate Committee Interim Report - Oversight of emergency-related delegated legislation

Senate committee calls on Parliament and government to remove barriers to oversight of emergency-related delegated legislation

The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation has today tabled the interim report of its ongoing inquiry into the exemption of delegated legislation from parliamentary oversight, repeatedly referencing the NSW Council for Civil Liberties submission.

The interim report makes 18 recommendations to government and the Parliament to address systemic barriers to parliamentary oversight of delegated legislation made in times of emergency.

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Statement: NSWCCL welcomes introduction of Climate Change Bill 2020

9 November 2020

NSWCCL warmly welcomes the introduction to Parliament of the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”) by the independent member for Warringah Zali Steggall.

We are living in a climate emergency. Calling the multifaceted and serious crises a warming planet is precipitating “global warming” or “climate change” no longer does justice to the urgency of our circumstances. As we gradually move out of one global emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, we should reflect on the value of rapid, high-quality emergency governance in defeating large scale, complex problems facing our societies. We should ask why we have not seen similar quality governance in Australia with respect to the climate emergency.

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Submission: Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020

NSWCCL submission to the Joint Select Committee Inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2020 - 22 August 2020

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties [NSWCCL] considers it is very important to respond in some detail to this Joint Select Committee’s inquiry into the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 [the Bill].

The issues encompassed by this Bill religious freedoms and protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion - are of great significance in a democracy such as ours. They are also extremely complex and potentially deeply contentious issues. Legislation on human rights must always be carefully considered and balanced, and this is especially so in relation to religious rights and protections. If all rights are not considered in a fair and balanced way the outcome is likely to be discriminatory and harmful to some groups and individuals and to over-privilege the rights of others.


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NSWCCL joins public statement opposing NSW One Nation Education Bill


We represent a vast group of community and civil society partners and leaders in New South Wales (NSW) who place on the public record our strongest opposition to NSW One Nation’s Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020. This legislation, introduced to the NSW Parliament by One Nations Mark Latham, aims to outlaw the teaching of gender diversity and the acknowledgement of trans and gender-diverse students and their families and seeks to strip professional accreditation from any teachers and school staff breaking such a law.

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