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Right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association

Section 16 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) protects your right to gather for a common purpose or to pursue common goals, such as protesting, gathering or meeting, whether in public or in private. The Charter applies to public authorities in Victoria, such as state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of the government.

How does the law protect me?

Democracy relies on people being able to gather peacefully to share their beliefs and opinions. This section of the Charter includes two related rights. 

The right to peaceful assembly

Under the Charter, you have the right to assemble peacefully. Often this right is connected to the idea of protest or demonstration, but it also applies to people gathering for social, cultural, religious and professional purposes. It applies to people meeting in private or in public. 

The right to freedom of association

Under the Charter, you have the right to meet with other people – for example, to form a trade union or similar group – to protect your common interests. This could cover economic, professional, cultural or recreational interests.  This right does not automatically allow you to join an established group. Each group has the right to determine its own membership rules. 

Can this right be limited in any way?

In some circumstances, one person’s right may come into conflict with the right of another person or group. In these circumstances, it can be necessary to limit or restrict these rights. Under section 7(2) of the Charter, rights may be limited in certain circumstances, but it must be reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate.

In certain situations, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to association could be limited to ensure the safety and security of a prison. The right to freedom of association could be limited through the Victorian Parliament passing laws to prevent groups involved in criminal activity from gathering together. 

How we can help

We can give you information about Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities but we do not handle complaints related to the Charter.

If you would like more information about the Charter and your rights, please contact us.

For information about the legal history of this right, case law or Australia’s human rights framework, you can read more in our Policy and Legal sections of our website.

How to make a human rights complaint

If you think your human rights have been breached, you should contact the Victorian Ombudsman.

If you want to make a complaint about police conduct, contact the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.