Not-for-profit organisations — particularly those in the social justice space — often spend time advocating for new laws or policies. This advocacy can include organising a protest or rally. However, before doing so, your organisation should consider a number of legal issues, particularly if you plan to hold the protest in a public space. These issues include:

  • liaising with the local police department;
  • obtaining necessary insurance;
  • ensuring public safety and access to first aid;
  • complying with whistleblowing and defamation laws; and
  • having civil liability protection.

For each issue, this article explains the key points your charity should address before organising a protest.

Liaising with Police

There may not be any laws stating that you have to inform police of a planned protest. However, if you are organising a protest in a public area, we recommend that you give written notice to the police. This makes it less likely that the police will charge you with unlawful assembly or obstructing people in public places. You can provide notice to the police commissioner in your State or Territory.


You may want to consider insurance if you’ll be holding your protest in a public place. Insurance can help if your organisation is sued, including lawsuits arising from a member of the public getting injured during a staged march. The types of insurance that may be suitable for your organisation will vary between different insurance companies but can include:

Safety and Access to First Aid

Besides insurance, you should also consider the safety of both the public and your organisation’s members. You can reduce safety risks by taking specific precautions.


Safety Question Precaution
Will there be adequate access to first aid? Make a first aid worker available at the event.
Have you designated an area for the campaign or protest? Cordon off the area.
How many people will be involved? Ensure that the space is adequate for the anticipated number of people.
Is there a way to warn people participating in the protest of any danger? If possible, have protest participants sign a waiver.


While your main objective should be to ensure no one is injured, taking these precautions may also help limit your liability if someone does get hurt.

Whistleblowing and Defamation Laws

Protest campaigns often draw attention to government corruption. A whistleblower is someone who provides information on corrupt conduct in the public sector or inside an organisation.

Each State and Territory has its own anti-corruption organisation. In NSW, whistleblowers report to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It is a crime to take reprisal actions against someone for giving the ICAC information. If your organisation is taking part in whistleblowing activity in NSW you may need to:

  • report information to the ICAC;
  • keep information confidential while the ICAC conducts an investigation; and
  • keep records of proof of any allegations.

Other states and territories have similar laws protecting whistleblowers.

You also need to be aware of defamation laws if your campaign or protest publishes information about any person. Defamation happens when something you publish about a person causes ordinary members of society to think less of that person. Furthermore, people can be defamed by social media posts, so be aware of all communications made on behalf of your organisation — not just official press releases.

Civil Liability Issues

However, even if you take precautions to prevent defamation and other legal problems, there’s always a risk that someone will sue your organisation. Therefore, you should ensure that your members organising a protest are protected from lawsuits as much as possible.

If you are an unincorporated organisation, your individual members may be legally liable for any action they take on behalf of your organisation. If you get sued, your members may be ordered to pay damages. However, incorporating as a formal legal entity may protect your members from individual liability for actions they take on your organisation’s behalf.

Therefore, you may want to consider incorporating as either an incorporated association or a company limited by guarantee.

Key Takeaways

There are a number of issues to think about when organising a protest. Before you start the protest, ensure that:

  • you have informed the police about your protest;
  • your organisation has appropriate insurance;
  • you have taken action towards protecting the safety of individuals taking part;
  • you have considered whistleblowing and defamation laws; and
  • your organisation has a legal structure that will protect its members.

If you are unsure about what laws apply to your protest or need assistance in drafting a waiver for individuals taking part, contact the ACNC for further information.

COVID-19 Business Survey
LegalVision is conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 for businesses across Australia. The survey takes 2 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. We would appreciate your input. Take the survey now.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

Learn more about LVConnect

Sam Auty
Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Our Awards
  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards
  • 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer
Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at

View Privacy Policy