Explainer: protesting at Parliament House

Protests are regular events around Parliament House, but what are they about and is it ok to protest?

A protest at Australian Parliament House.

This photo shows a large group of people standing outside with protest signs, such as 'let us vote for a legitimate government'.

Parliamentary Education Office (peo.gov.au)

Description

This photo shows a large group of people standing outside, with tall trees in the background. Some people are holding signs, including one that says 'let us vote for a legitimate government'. There is a camera tripod in the foreground and some people are also using cameras.

Mar 15, 2021

What do people protest about?

People may choose to protest about any issue that they feel needs more attention. Recent protests on Federation Mall – out the front of Australian Parliament House – have been about violence against women, the treatment of the Uighur people in China, and climate change.

Do we have the right to protest?

The right to protest is not written explicitly in the Australian Constitution. However, the High Court tells us the right to freedom of political communication is implied in the Australian Constitution. Australia has also signed up to international treaties that give the people the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Are there rules about protesting outside Parliament House?

Protests in designated areas, such as Federation Mall, do not require approval, but protesters can let the Australian Federal Police and Parliament House security know if they are expecting a lot of people to attend in order to ensure the protest is safe and orderly. Protesters who are planning to put up a structure such as a tent or a stage need approval from the National Capital Authority.

Do protests work?

Historically protests have been a part of many effective campaigns for change in Australian history, including extending voting rights to women and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ending Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and achieving marriage equality. While a single protest may not directly lead to a change, they can be successful in bringing people together, informing them about an issue and raising awareness of that issue in the wider community.