Jury fails to reach verdict in trial of prison officer who shot shackled Wiradjuri man dead

The jury in the murder trial of a New South Wales prison officer who shot a shackled Wiradjuri man dead has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict. Dwayne Johnstone, 43, had his hands and ankles in cuffs when ‘Officer A’ shot him dead outside Lismore Base Hospital on 15 March 2019.

At the beginning of the trial Crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC said Mr Johnstone was “posing no risk to any person at the time he was shot”. By the count kept by NSWCCL, there have been at least 502 indigenous deaths in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

For more information, read the full article.


Labor to boost whistleblower protections

The attornery general, Mark Dreyfus, has revealed that Labor plans to boost whistleblower protections by introducing a new bill in the final sitting fortnight of the 2022 parliament. The Albanese government will introduce amendments to deliver “immediate improvements” to whistleblowing laws, The Guardian's Paul Karp writes. 

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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


Media Statement: NSW Council for Civil Liberties supports the crossbench push for public hearings for the National Anti-Corruption Commission

The national anti-corruption commission inquiry handed down its findings this week. While supporting all of the report’s recommendations the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned that the proposed model will greatly constrain the Commissioner’s power to hold public hearings even when the commissioner is satisfied that a public hearing would be in the public interest.

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Green Left: Josh Pallas: 'fight for the right to protest as if our lives depended on it!'

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Josh Pallas recently made a presentation on anti-protest laws and the right to protest at Ecosocialism 2022 on a panel titled "Winning our right to protest and building the environment movement" in Sydney (October 9).

It's great! Watch the full video


John Waters SC speaks out about the appalling culture and regulatory practices of NSW Fisheries

John Waters SC say that there is an urgent need to look at the behaviour and regulatory practices of NSW Fisheries, particularly in relation to the departments attitude towards Aboriginal Fishers. Mr Waters is extremely concerned about the level of damage inflicted by compliance actions on Aboriginal people whose lives and culture are expressed and defined by their cultural fishing practices. We think these actions are racist and unfair.

For more information, listen to ABC radio interview Mr Waters.


The Guardian: Labor faces resistance in push to expand police access to GPS data in missing person cases

NSWCCL spokesperson Stephen Blanks, spoke to The Guardian about the introduction of the telecommunications legislation amendment (information disclosure, national interest and other measures) bill to parliament today. 

The changes will allow emergency services more opportunity to apply for a warrant to request location triangulation data from phone companies to find missing people at risk. The current legislation allows disclosure of such information, under section 287 of the act, if emergency services believe “on reasonable grounds that the disclosure or use is reasonably necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of a person”.

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Report for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill Released

The report of Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment, entitled 'Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (Culture is Identity) Bill 2022' has now been released to the NSW parliament website. The report and its recommendations are now with the government for consideration. The government is required to respond to the recommendations within three months.

For more information regarding the bill, read our overview and submission


No recommendations for change: Report released into discrete parts of the Bail Act (2013)

The findings of the NSW Law Reform Commission into the inquiry of discrete parts of the Bail Act 2013 (NSW) have supported the NSWCCL submission concluding that no changes should be made to the Bail Act 2013 (NSW) in relation to the issues raised by the terms of reference. 

Bail laws exist to keep victims and the community safe until criminal proceedings are finalised, while safeguarding the presumption of innocence and general right to be at liberty until a matter is determined by the courts.

Given their significant potential to limit individual liberty, changes to the Bail Act must be justified by a clear and compelling policy rationale. Any such changes must be supported by appropriate evidence. NSWCCL's submission supports this. 

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Damning findings in Commencement of the Fisheries Management Amendment Act 2009 Report

The New South Wales Government parliamentary inquiry examining the 13-year-delay in commencing legislation to protect Indigenous cultural fishing has handed down its findings.

In 2009 the Fisheries Management Act was amended by the NSW Government to acknowledge Aboriginal people's unique cultural connection to sea and inland waters and to protect and promote Aboriginal cultural fishing. A special provision, section 21AA, was also introduced which was intended to protect Aboriginal people from compliance actions for fishing offences if they were undertaking cultural fishing. The Chair's forward sums it up. "Thirteen years later, section 21AA has still not been commenced, and extraordinarily, the will of the Parliament has failed to take effect." 

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NSW Greens voice their concerns over recent police actions

The NSW Greens have written to the NSW Police Minister, Police Commissioner and Attorney General to voice great concern about the recent activities of NSW Police. It has been report over the last week, over 40 people across Australia have been visited, searched or questioned by police in relation to protests around the IMARC Conference in Sydney.  

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NSW Police Escalate Pre-Protest Visits to Indimidate Activists

When three NSW police officers turned up unannounced at rights activist Seth Dias’ home on 26 October to drill him about whether he’d be attending a protest this week, they made “explicitly clear” that they’d switched on their body cams before asking a list of questions, Paul Gregoire writes. 

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2022 Annual Dinner and Excellence in Civil Liberties Journalism Awards

We thank Councillor Yvonne Weldon for taking the time to attend our dinner to Welcome us on behalf of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. It was an honour to have Cl Weldon join us on Gadigal Country and invite us to work with the local Aboriginal community in the important work that is do be done to bring about positive change through truth telling and a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

We also thank Senator The Hon. Jenny McAllister for attending our dinner and introducing Mr Mayor.  Senator McAllister has been a long time friend of NSWCCL and constant defender of human rights and civil liberties.

This year our committee decided that the Council should use our Annual Dinner as a platform to publicly endorse both the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a YES vote in the upcoming referendum enshrining a First Nations voice to the Parliament.

What better way to do this than invite Thomas Mayor, Torres Strait Islander man born in Garramilla (Darwin) and a passionate advocate for the Uluru Statement to deliver our keynote.

Mr Mayor said “I know I’m among friends here tonight. I invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

Forged from more than two centuries of hardship and struggle, the Uluru Statement gives hope to a nation born from many nations, that we may find our collective heart.

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NSWCCL adds our voice to reject a proposed amendment to fisheries law

NSWCCL adds our voice to the call on the NSW Parliament to reject a proposed amendment to fisheries law, declaring it an attack on Aboriginal people’s fundamental human right to practice their culture and fish in accordance with their law and custom.

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NSWCCL: Calls on NSW Police to cease the intimidation of activists

NSWCCL understands that in a disturbing NSW Police operation over recent days, activists from a range of groups and networks have received unannounced visits by police to their homes. These visits have been occuring in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. People have been questioned about whether they plan on attending any protests connected with the International Minerals and Resources Conference scheduled to be held in Sydney over 2-4 November. The purpose of these visits, it appears, is to pressure people against participating in peaceful protest.

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NSWCCL condemns NSW decision to refuse access to the visiting United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

The President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Josh Pallas, today condemned the actions by prison officers at a Queanbeyan facility that prevented the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from making an unannounced visit to the facility. 

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Submission: National Anti-Corruption Commission Bills 2022

Update: The advisory report on the provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022 was published on Thursday of last week. Read our statement here.

Read our submission to the inquiry here.
Read the final report from the inquiry here. (Link no longer available.)

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the National Anti-Corruption Commission Legislation Committee's inquiry into the provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill 2022 and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2022, which seek to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

NSWCCL has long advocated for the urgent need for a strong national anti-corruption body and has engaged with the various proposals for such a body over the last decade. In doing so we have built on our close observation of the NSW ICAC and engagement with numbers of reviews of that body; as well as various proposals for a national-anti-corruption body over the last decade.

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City Hub: NSW Labor sticks to supporting harsh anti-protest laws

NSW Labor maintained its support for harsh NSW anti-protest laws at its state conference last weekend, disappointing a broad coalition of civil liberties and environmental groups.

A motion by the Australian Services Union to scrap the laws was defeated by a majority of conference delegates. If it had passed, Labor would have taken a policy to repeal the laws to the state election in March 2023.

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Greens criticise facial recognition plan for all NSW pubs and clubs

A plan to roll out facial recognition technology in every pub and club in New South Wales has been criticised by the Greens, who say the “invasive” measure is an attempt to avoid further crackdowns on poker machines.

The Australian Hotels Association NSW and ClubsNSW say they are developing a state-of-the-art system to be rolled out across all clubs and hotels next year to keep people who have self-imposed bans away from poker machines.

Everyone in the gaming area will have their face scanned and the images will be cross-checked with people who have signed up for the self-exclusion system. 

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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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