Right to protest
What is public assembly?
Under the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 (Qld) (the PAA), you have the right to hold peaceful public assemblies in Queensland.
Public assembly is any rally or demonstration held in a public place, whether or not it is held in just one place or it moves between an assembly point and another location.
A public place includes a road, a place usually open to or used by the public, or a place that is temporarily open or being used by the public.
Restrictions on your right
Your right to peaceful public assembly is subject to restrictions that are ‘necessary and reasonable’ for:
- protecting public safety
- maintaining public order
- the protection of others' rights and freedoms, including their right to:
- enjoy the natural environment
- carry on their business.
How to get your public assembly approved
Any public assembly must be authorised by the police and other relevant local authorities. To get a public assembly authorised, you must:
- give the relevant authorities a notice of intention to hold the assembly (assembly notice)
- ensure that the assembly is approved.
You don’t have to pay any fees to get a public assembly authorised.
Giving an assembly notice
To apply for approval, you must first send an assembly notice to the commissioner of the police service.
If you’re holding the assembly in, or passing through, a park, reserve, pedestrian mall, square or other public space, you must also give the notice to any local authority in these areas–address the notice to the clerk of the local authority.
The notice must be in writing, signed and addressed to the commissioner or relevant local authority.
The notice must contain:
- your name (as organiser)
- your postal address
- the name and address of the person giving the notice
- the day, time and place of the proposed assembly
- starting and finishing times of the assembly
- the expected number of people who will attend
- the purpose of the assembly
- a description of any sound amplifying equipment to be used during the assembly.
If the assembly is a procession, the assembly notice must also state:
- the assembly point and the starting time of the procession or march
- the proposed route with the final destination and how long it will remain there
- any places the procession will stop on route and how long it will stop for.
Give more than 5 working days notice
If you can, you should give the police and local authority more than 5 working days notice of your public assembly or demonstration.
Your assembly can then go ahead if:
- you receive a notice of permission saying that the police, and any relevant local authority do not oppose the assembly
- the local Magistrates Court has not made an order refusing to authorise the assembly.
If you give less than 5 working days notice
If you give the police and local authority less than 5 working days notice of your assembly, you must also apply for approval to the Magistrates Court nearest to where you hope to hold the assembly.
Find the Magistrates Court nearest your proposed assembly.
The Magistrates Court may then make an order authorising the assembly. If you gave less than 5 working days notice of the assembly and the Magistrates Court has not made an order authorising it, your assembly can not take place.
The Magistrates Court may authorise the assembly to take place either outright or with conditions.
A notice of permission may have conditions that you must agree to in writing, such as how large placards may be, how you may distribute leaflets and whether amplification is allowed.
Before setting conditions, the commissioner or local authority must try to consult with people with an interest in the assembly location, such as business people or groups who use the area. They may also hold public consultations in the area.
When your assembly is refused
The police commissioner or local authority can apply to a Magistrates Court for an order refusing to authorise the assembly if the notice of permission was given 5 business days or more before the proposed assembly.
The court can either refuse to authorise the assembly or set conditions for the assembly.
If it refuses authorisation you can not re-apply; however, you may be able to request a review of the magistrate’s decision. You should seek legal advice if you are considering reviewing a magistrate’s decision.
There’s no fee, charge or other amount payable for a licence, permit or other authorisation for a public assembly.
If there are court proceedings, you must pay your own costs, such as any filing fees and legal representation.
Being arrested during an assembly
If the public assembly is authorised, peaceful and held in line with any conditions, you can’t be prosecuted for offences such as obstructing a public place (under the Traffic Act).
However, you can still be arrested for offensive, indecent or obscene behaviour; public drunkenness; vagrancy; breaches of peace; riot; trespass; and damage to property. All these offences still apply, whether or not the assembly has been authorised.