History of Civil Liberties in Australia

The people and organisations fighting for freedoms and liberties

 A new book in production, by Dr Kristine Klugman* and Bill Rowlings**

Please feel free to download a chapter:  (NOTE: at 8 Mar 18, six chapters ‘completed’: corrections/additions welcome)

If you enjoy reading the history, please make a donation to CLA.


‘Liberties’ have changed dramatically in the tens of thousands of years people have occupied Australia. Now, worldwide, there’s universal surveillance, vast identity databases and mandated uniform behaviour enforced by machine gun-toting, armour-wearing, black-helmeted, shield-carrying storm troopers operating under “anti-terror” rules of their own devising. The battle to retain civil liberties has never been sharper, harder or more important.
Click to download the Introduction chapter


Did – do – Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders have a different notion of ‘civil liberties’ than other Australians? It seems that liberties and rights, along with responsibilities, were and are intricately woven into their working, communicating and religious life. Other Australians have a long way to go in allowing them to lead us into a better understanding of what living in peace, harmony and mutually-respectful freedom really means.

Click to download the Aborigines chapter

Civil Liberties Australia:

The youngest of the Australian freedom-fighting entities, with a reputation for ‘punching above its weight’, according to Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary, Senator John Faulkner. Read how a failure to lodge annual returns in the ACT led to the founding of what quickly became an active national organisation, represented through all states and territories.
Click to download the CLA chapter

Northern Territory:

Read how the police tried to take over the inaugural meeting of the Council for Civil Liberties in Darwin, but God wouldn’t let that happen! By the time of the 2nd meeting, the few police left were too busy on general duties to try to control the liberties of Territorians, who have remained frontier in place and spirit ever since.

Click to download NT chapter


Andrew Inglis Clark

A state noted early for its model prison (which became the slaughterhouse site of an over-armed madman) has much to tell about freedoms. Almost certainly Australia’s most successful rights-claiming and negotiating entity, Tasmania still doesn’t have the bill of rights that its most famous liberty-lover, Andrew Inglis Clark, wanted constitutionally for both state and nation.

Click to download Tasmanian chapter


For 40 years the ACT’s civil liberties body held the line for liberty in the national capital, until a bid to make it more active and influential ultimately had the entirely opposite effect, and the organisation died. The last long-term President was barrister Laurie O’Sullivan (photo), now deceased. One short-term President, John Stanhope, was responsible for introducing Australia’s first Bill of Rights.

Click to download ACT chapter

*    Historian, author and President of Civil Liberties Australia
**  Journalist, author and CEO of Civil Liberties Australia