A thriving democracy needs protest. And yet, peaceful protesters in Australia carry heavy and increasing personal and legal risks. It is essential to uphold and defend the right to peacefully protest, especially as more and more everyday people find their voices on the key issues facing us all, such as climate change.
In 2019 Caxton Legal Centre and the Honourable Dean Wells successfully represented climate activist Nada Loiterton in the Brisbane Magistrates Court. Nada was charged with contravening a police move-on direction that was given to her while she was attending an Extinction Rebellion protest.
Nada was found not guilty on the basis that she was participating in a lawful peaceful assembly under the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992.
Nada is an aged pensioner from the bushfire affected region of northern New South Wales, and has become increasingly worried about the impact of climate change on our environment. In a note to the court she provided the following explanation of her reasons for protesting:
“The urgency to act upon the findings of an overwhelming majority of climate scientists has never been greater, especially as the impacts of emissions – Australia’s and worldwide – are already felt indiscriminately by most peoples, nations and life forms.
I consider it my ethical duty of care to point out to the Australian authorities the imminent need to implement changes in environmental politics now in order to save our natural world, its biodiversity and humanity from ecological collapse.”
A copy of the Magistrate’s decision is available to read here.
The case builds on Caxton’s body of work in the areas of police powers and protesters’ rights. It was a privilege for staff to work with former Attorney-General Dean Wells, who himself introduced the Peaceful Assembly Act in 1992.