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. 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?

National Capital Authority

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

The NCA can assist with:

  • ensuring your arrangements do not clash with other planned activities
  • arranging any necessary closures of roads or public places
  • adjusting land maintenance programs, including irrigation and mowing
  • arranging 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, Curtin and Red Hill. The NCA also manages Lake Burley Griffin.

Australian Federal Police

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

Roads ACT

Tel: (02) 6207 6601
You should advise Roads ACT 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 assist with road closures and traffic management.

Security Investigations Diplomatic Liaison

Tel: (02) 5126 9066

Parliament House Security Controller

Tel: (02) 6277 5855
Tel: (02) 6277 5999 (after hours)
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
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.

Translating and Interpreter Service

Tel: 13 1450
For assistance with translation and interpreting, the Service operates 24 hours each day.

Guidelines for Protests

The following Guidelines have been prepared by the NCA and the Presiding Officers for the conduct of protests and demonstrations within the Parliamentary Precincts and on adjacent land, including Federation Mall.

These Guidelines are intended to enhance public safety, facilitate fair and equal access to public areas, and protect the operations of the Parliament. Exemptions may be granted for events of Parliamentary or National significance where safety or access would not be unduly compromised. Breach of the Guidelines may lead to the removal of structures by police and, possibly, police investigations and prosecution.

  • All NCA Works Approval Assessment Criteria apply to the Parliamentary Precincts, Federation Mall and Adjacent Areas
  • Protests and demonstrations within the Parliamentary Precincts are restricted to the authorised area
  • Participants should arrive at and depart from the area in an orderly manner without obstructing traffic or otherwise preventing access to the Parliamentary Precincts, Parliament House, or any public area
  • Sound equipment may be permitted within the authorised area of the Parliamentary Precincts but must be directed away from Parliament House and must not be offensive, harmful, or unreasonably interfere with the activities of other people
  • Vehicles must not be used within the Parliamentary Precincts as part of a protest or demonstration without the approval of the Presiding Officers
  • Food, beverages, or other items must not be sold, and alcohol must not be consumed, within the Parliamentary Precincts without the approval of the Presiding Officers
  • Participants must observe lawful directions issued by Parliamentary Security Service, Australian Federal Police Uniform Protection officers or the Australian Federal Police. Failure to do so may result in arrest.

The NCA will only approve structures within the Parliamentary Precincts, on Federation Mall or in Adjacent Areas when the Presiding Officers have advised the NCA in writing of their support for the application. In this regard the NCA will conduct all liaison, on behalf of the applicants, with the Presiding Officers.

Marches

If you wish to organise a march, procession or convoy using public roads, you should contact the Australian Federal Police, Roads ACT and the Department of Territory and Municipal Services, to ensure the safety of participants and the public.

Here are some suggestions for your march:

  • Assemble in a well-known place where parking is available
  • When planning your route, seek advice on safety and access from the Australian Federal Police and Roads ACT
  • Where possible, use footpaths
  • Do not make the march too long, as water, shade or shelter may not be available
  • Remember, Canberra experiences sub-zero temperatures in winter and can be very
  • hot in summer.

Structures on National Land

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, O’Malley, Forrest, Curtin and Red Hill, 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 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 public access to the site of the protest or demonstration (e.g., barricades, closely spaced banners and flags, smoking fires etc)
  • Structures must not be erected in the general vicinity of other events (e.g., 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 (e.g., mowing, irrigation etc)
  • 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 (e.g., tents) will be approved overnight (sunset to sunrise)
  • 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
  • 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 Works Approval page for information on how to submit a Works Approval application.