The National Capital has many public places where people can exercise their right to communicate their opinions and ideas through peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Our democracy recognises this right which is subject to the general law and must be balanced against the rights and interests of others and of the community as a whole. Of paramount importance are the protection of public safety, the maintenance of peace and the facilitation of fair and equal access to public areas.

An information booklet has been prepared by the Federal Government to assist organisers to carry out their protests safely, peacefully and without unduly impacting on other legitimate interests and can be found here.

You do not require formal approval to conduct a protest or demonstration within the National Capital. However, the erection of structures associated with a protest or demonstration do require approval. In either case, it may be in your interests if you are planning a protest or demonstration to discuss your plans with the relevant authorities.

National Land in the National Triangle and the diplomatic areas is managed by the National Capital Authority (NCA). The Presiding Officers have the discretion to approve or not approve the conduct of protests, demonstrations or public assemblies including public activities within the Parliamentary Precincts. Most public land outside these areas within the Australian Capital Territory is managed by the ACT Government. Information about Territory land is available from the Department of Territory and Municipal Services.

You are required to comply with any lawful direction given by Parliamentary Security, Australian Federal Police or Australian Protective Service officers.

Who to contact

The Events Coordinator

National Capital Authority
GPO Box 373
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Tel: (02) 6272 2888
Email: events@nca.gov.au

The NCA can help:

  • ensure your arrangements do not clash with other planned activities;
  • arrange any necessary closures of roads or public places;
  • adjust land maintenance programs, including irrigation and mowing; and
  • arrange access to utilities such as electricity, water, rubbish bins and public toilets.

You must have written approval from the NCA before erecting any structures on National Land. This includes the land in the National Triangle and in the diplomatic areas of Yarralumla, Deakin, O’Malley, Forrest and Red Hill. The NCA also manages Lake Burley Griffin.

Australian Federal Police

You should contact ACT Policing on 131 444 when planning a protest. They can provide advice on, and assistance with safety and security matters and traffic controls.

  •  Security Investigations Diplomatic Liaison Tel: (02) 5126 9066

Parliament House Security Controller

  • Parliament House
    Tel: (02) 6277 5855
    Tel: (02) 6277 5999 (AH)
    Fax: (02) 6277 5726

You should contact the Security Controller before using land within the Parliamentary Precincts.

Canberra Urban Parks and Places

  • Tel: (02) 6207 0494 or 13 2281
    Fax: (02) 6207 6872

The ACT Government is responsible for managing the land outside the national areas. To discuss the use of unleased Territory land, contact the above telephone numbers.

Roads ACT

  • Tel: (02) 6207 6601
    Fax: (02) 6207 6872

You should advise ACT Roads if you wish to organise a march using public roads. The ACT Government is responsible for roads in the ACT, which are outside the national areas. ACT Roads can provide assistance with road closures and traffic management.

Translating and Interpreter Service

  • Tel: 13 1450

For assistance with translation and interpreting, the Service operates 24 hours each day.

If you are planning a protest or are uncertain about your rights or obligations when using public land in the National Capital, please contact:

  • National Capital Authority (02) 6271 2888 or e-mail events@nca.gov.au
  • ACT Policing Operations: 131 444
  • Security Investigations Diplomatic Liaison (02) 5126 9066
  • Parliament House Security Controller (02) 6277 5855 or after hours (02) 6277 5999
  • Canberra Urban Parks and Places (02) 6207 0494 or 13 2281
  • Roads ACT (02) 6207 6601
  • Translating and Interpreter Service 13 1450

Structures

If you are planning to conduct your protest in a Designated Area as defined in the National Capital Plan and intend to erect a structure as part of your protest, you must apply to the NCA for Works Approval under the provisions of Section 12(1)(b) of the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988. The Designated Areas include the National Triangle, the diplomatic areas of Yarralumla, Deakin and O’Malley, most Commonwealth Government offices, the main avenues and approach routes to Canberra, and Civic Square. The National Triangle is the area between Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin bounded by Commonwealth and Kings Avenues.

Works Approval Assessment Criteria

The key criteria which will be used by the NCA when considering any application for a Works Approval associated with protests and demonstrations anywhere within a Designated Area (as defined in the National Capital Plan) are as follows:

  • Structures
  • Public access and/or safety
  • Duration of a protest
  • Permanence of structures
  • Impact on the landscape
  • The use of vehicles
  • The Australian Government's international obligations

What is a structure?

  • For approval purposes the broadest definition of a structure applies and includes anything that is built, including a fire. Structures therefore include any element fixed to (or staked in) the ground;
  • Blankets on the ground, individual chairs and/or individual tables (not fixed to the ground) do not require approval. Although where chairs or tables form a barricade or delineate a space they will be considered as structures and will require approval;
  • Signs, flags or banners that are handheld are not regarded as structures and do not require approval.

Public access and safety

No structure that impedes public access and/or affect safety will be approved. This means that:

  • Structures must not form a barrier that would restrict general public access to the site of the protest or demonstration (eg. barricades, closely spaced banners and flags; smoking fires etc);
  • Structures must not be erected in the general vicinity of other events (eg. festivals and/or other protests) which have had prior approval;
  • Generally structures will not be approved where it is proposed that they remain overnight (sunset to sunrise) to avoid potential hazard to the public and/or potential theft of the structures;
  • Structures must not impede land management and maintenance activities (eg. mowing, irrigation etc); and
  • Language or messages associated with any approved banners (or similar) are the sole responsibility of the protesters. Approval does not imply endorsement of the content of the banner by the NCA. The NCA is not a censor. Protesters should, however, be aware that Australia has an obligation to protect the premises of a diplomatic mission and to prevent the impairment of the mission’s dignity.

No long-term or permanent structures will be approved. This means that:

  • Generally the maximum duration of the approval will be for 3 days;
  • Further applications will not be considered within 30 days for the same (or similar) protest in the same general vicinity, to avoid a cumulative effect resulting in the perception of permanence;
  • Generally structures will be required to be removed each evening by sunset, and may not be replaced the next day before sunrise (for the period of the approval) in order to avoid public hazard, theft or perceptions of permanence;
  • No camping structures (eg. tents) will be approved overnight (sunset to sunrise); and
  • Camping is not permissible in other than Gazetted camping areas.

No structures that damage the landscape or built elements will be approved. This means that:

  • Fires on the ground will not be approved;
  • Generally structures attached to landscape (trees etc) or other Commonwealth assets such as walls, bollards, flagpoles or other items of street furniture will not be approved;
  • Excavation for structures will not be approved. This does not include single poles or banners staked in the ground which would be considered for approval provided they do not (in combination) create the appearance of a more substantial structure.

Vehicles

  • Vehicles driven or parked on public landscaped areas are not acceptable as they are likely to damage the landscape and pose a potential hazard to the public;
  • Vehicles must be legally parked; and
  • Immobilised vehicles are regarded as structures and will not be approved.

Diplomatic Areas - Vienna Convention Obligations

  • Australia is a signatory to the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations which require Australia to take special steps to protect the premises of foreign missions against any intrusion, damage, disturbance or impairment of dignity.
  • In accordance with Australia’s international obligations, structures which impair the dignity of foreign missions will not be approved.

Works Approval Applications

Please visit the WAeL webpage for information on how to submit a Works Approval application.