Promoting people's rights and civil liberties. It is non-party political and independent of other organisations.
Civil Liberties Australia

Who we are

About Civil Liberties Australia

CLA Board

Kris KlugmanPRESIDENT: Dr Kristine Klugman OAM

Dr Klugman’s PhD in Politics at ANU analysed the two-way communication flow between MPs and electors. Earlier degrees were in Community Studies, and History. Kris previously served on the NSW Legal Aid Commission, was a foundation member of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, and a researcher with the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, helping to establish the Criminal Justice tertiary course for police and prison officers in NSW. Her OAM was for ‘services to education and the community’. She was the first-ever female President of the board of Australia’s oldest museum, The Australian Museum. She was also the first female board member and full-time Deputy President in the 100-year history of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW, running the NSW Fire Brigades, and a member of state bushfire and rescue governing councils. She was co-founder of Civil Liberties Australia, and served as President from its outset in 2003.

VenkataramanVICE PRESIDENT: Rajan Venkataraman

For nearly 20 years, Rajan was a federal public servant in the Foreign Affairs, Attorney General’s and Prime Minister’s departments. His diverse career spanned foreign and domestic policy, trade negotiations and national security. He did a three-year diplomatic posting to Chile and also worked in a ministerial office in Parliament House. In 2006, Rajan was appointed a member of the Australian Film and Literature Classification Board. He is currently based in Tasmania where he works as an independent consultant and freelance editor, and volunteers as a tutor for adult literacy and numeracy. Rajan is CLA’s main media spokesperson.

VICE-PRESIDENT: Margaret Howkins

Margaret returned to WA in the early 2000s, after more than 30 years away in Canada and England, where she worked in communications before gaining formal qualifications in sociology and psychology. She ran training and management programs for the Trades Union Congress and British police among others. Back home in Perth, she was surprised to find some attitudes, training and actions of authorities antiquated by comparison: she set about becoming a change agent to ensure better monitoring of police and bureaucracies, and to boost understanding for how citizens must stand up for themselves to retain civil liberties. Recently she has tutored students to prepare them for final high school exams and university early-year courses. Her major areas of concern are police and prison matters.

SECRETARY – TREASURER: William (Bill) Rowlings OAM

Bill’s career included journalism on Australian, UK and PNG daily and Sunday newspapers, as well as being editorial director of a monthly business and sports publishing house. In PR, he was media adviser to a senior federal politician and consulted to major corporates, federal departments and agencies and NGOs, as well as co-authoring an Australian tertiary PR textbook. In 2013 he received an OAM for services to civil liberties and human rights. From the co-founding of Civil Liberties Australia (in 2003, with Dr Kristine Klugman), he has managed the organisation’s affairs day-to-day, and edited the monthly CLArion newsletter. For a brief period in 2021, he served as President.

Frank CassidyDIRECTOR: Frank Cassidy

Frank is a journalist and publisher, with qualifications in advertising, accounting, public administration and professional writing. He is currently founder-editor of the online newspaper PS News – and its network of editions covering the Commonwealth Public Service and separate state equivalents. In the 1970s, he managed marketing of the national ‘Life. Be In It’ health and fitness campaign. Frank was inaugural Secretary of the National Australia Day Council and represented the ACT at the Constitutional Convention in 1998. He is a former Convenor of the Australian Republican Movement in the ACT, and was a member of the AFL for Canberra Committee, Chairman of Tuggeranong Community Arts for 12 years from 1998 until recently. Frank received a Centenary of Federation Medal in 2000.

Richard GriggsDIRECTOR: Richard Griggs

Richard, born and raised in Hobart, qualified from the University of Tasmania with majors in law and sociology, then worked in Canberra as police and legal affairs advisor to a politician. He returned home to work as an in-house corporate lawyer and again enjoy having a choice of wilderness bush walks starting virtually from his back-doorstep. After working in-house with UTAS, he is now in private practice with a long-standing, Hobart-based law firm. Richard is Tasmanian Director of Civil Liberties Australia.

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Ashton  OAM

Jennifer is ‘retired’ from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after two decades operating from Zambia to Kazakhstan, including two years with UNAIDS in Myanmar. During both 2015 and 2016 she was called back to UNHQ in Geneva to help kick start urgent refugee relief projects. Her career started with the then-AUSAID and with Australian NGOs (in Cambodia from 1986-1989, work for which she received an OAM). Her first qualification in social work was followed by a Masters-by-correspondence through Deakin Uni as a nightly respite from the harsh daily realities of remote refugee camps. She is now a keen gardener.

DIRECTOR: Caitlin Perry

Caitlin has worked mostly in the public sector in management, project coordination and service delivery, as well as being a member of advisory and ethics boards. For 14 years she headed the Darwin Community Legal Centre, before taking on a senior policy role in 2017 with the NT Council of Social Service. Earlier she gained experience in North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service as well as with Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney. She also has worked in tenant, homeless and health/safety organisations, and with the federal electoral commission. Caitlin has a BEc from Sydney U. and Australian Institute of Company Directors post-graduate qualifications.

DIRECTOR: Dr Tony Murney

Tony has a lengthy experience in government and international organisations having held positions in the Commonwealth Parliament, Australian Capital Territory Policing, the Australian Federal Police International Deployment Group and several appointments with the United Nations.  He has served three tours in Afghanistan and two in Somalia with various organisations and held several key positions including Chief Technical Adviser on Police Professionalisation in Kabul and Deputy Commissioner of the UN integrated Police Team in Mogadishu.  Tony is a committed advocate for international police development and reform with a strong interest in civil liberties, balanced security solutions and good government.  He speaks regularly on these subjects both domestically and internationally.  Tony has a PhD in anthropology and undergraduate qualifications in regional development.

Last updated 30 August 2021

CLA Constitution

A copy of the current constitution of Civil Liberties Australia Incorporated (Association No. A04043) can be found by clicking here. The current version (v6.0) incorporates changes arising from the 2020 Annual General Meeting, which is the last time the constitution was altered (information correct at 15 April 2020).

CLA Background

Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) is a national organisation headquartered in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. CLA stands for people’s rights, and goes in to bat for our civil liberties…basically, for a fair go. It is non-party political and independent of other organisations, and funded by its members and donations – CLA does not receive funding from government.

CLA monitors police and security forces, and the actions and inaction of politicians and bureaucrats as well as reviewing proposed legislation to make it better. Actions and activities are reported in a monthly newsletter, CLArion; yearly in a published annual report; and regularly on the website  The website also carries articles of general interest in the field of liberties, rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

The organisation aims to keep Australia the free and open society it has traditionally been, where you can be yourself without undue interference from ‘authority’. CLA was first registered on 10 December 2003. Current office bearers are located under the ‘The Board’ tab associated with this page, as are Policies and the Constitution. 

Join us You can join or renew membership to Civil Liberties Australia by clicking here.

Donate to Civil Liberties Australia To make a donation to Civil Liberties Australia, please click here.


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 January 2022, all 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


The state where the fight for rights and liberties began in Australia has seen several civil liberties groups born, change ’shape’ and rise and fall over 80 years of somewhat rocky progress. It claims the ‘father of civil liberties’, Brian Fitzpatrick, among its number, and has also produced numerous notable campaigners, advocates, political and judicial figures of state and national significance.

Click to download the Victorian chapter


New South Wales:

Frequently the most-quoted liberties group (many national media outlets are Sydney-based), NSW for three-quarters of its 60-odd years focused closely on state laws and problems, rather than national issues. Like all such groups, it depended on one mainstay, Ken Buckley, for 45 years. Now, as society, media and the organisation itself changes, the NSWCCL is starting to put greater emphasis on federal matters.
Click to download NSW chapter


The Sunshine State saw dark days for 20 years to the late 1980s, when undemocratic politicians combined with crooked police to institutionalise corruption and rort citizens of their personal and group rights. For decades, through very thin governments and some thick, the local civil liberties council has fought possibly the most active, real-life battles in the national ‘war’ for freedoms, particularly and notably for the very right to march on the streets of the capital, Brisbane, as countless university student marches have shown.
Click to download QLD chapter

South Australia:

Founded without convicts, the state was at one stage ruled by police who bashed homosexual men for sport and dumped them in the river running a long stone’s throw from State Parliament. But once-strong civil libertarians – led by a freedom-loving Premier – helped to regain rights for their fellow citizens. The modern challenge is just as great, if the fight back not so strong.
Click to download the South Australian chapter

Western Australia:

Through internal and external political turmoil, there has been a civil liberties body in WA since 1936. Skullduggery, thuggery and bashings – some by police and their mates – have helped shape it. Perth still exudes a frontier feel, dominated by moneyed elites, old boys’ clubs, and power brokers operating on the fringes of legality to ‘get things done’. The culture demands citizens keep close watch on people’s liberties and freedoms…not least because of the dreadful things done by the government and corporations to WA’s Indigenous people.
Click to download WA 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

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


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, Jon Stanhope, was responsible for introducing Australia’s first Bill of Rights.

Click to download ACT chapter

Attempts to form a national body:

Several attempts to form a national civil liberties body, representing all the state-based entities, have failed. Often-unstated jealousy over which council was bigger, which state should be predominant, which person should head a combined organisation was enough to scuttle cooperation, often sought by the smaller states because they knew the value of a larger, combined voice singing the same tune. Oddly, a bid to bring the groups together in the early 2000s resulted in the first truly national civil liberties body ever.
Download the ’National Attempts’ chapter


A massive task faces Australia if we are to be truly a nation of equal rights by 2050. In such a future recharged Australia, the powerless could enforce their freedoms against the political and corporate elite, and Aborigines would be full and equal members. To get to this more enlightened state involves reining back panicked laws produced after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA, reframing what personal rights are in the face of a dire emergency like a pandemic, recasting our ‘justice’ system from the ground up, introducing effective personal privacy legislation and – ultimately – creating our own bill of rights, infused with and informed by our Aboriginal heritage. Photo: National Liberty Tree, Canberra 2019

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

The Annual Report for 2020 and other papers for the 2020 electronic Annual General Meeting are:

The Annual Report for 2019 and other papers for the 2020 electronic Annual General Meeting are:

The Annual Report for 2018 and other papers considered by the 2019 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2017 and other papers considered by the 2018 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2017 and other papers considered by the 2017 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2016 and other papers considered by the 2016 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2014 and other papers considered by the 2015 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2013 and other papers considered by the 2014 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2012 and other papers considered by the 2013 electronic Annual General Meeting were:


The Annual Report for 2011 and other papers considered by the 2012 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2010 and other papers considered by the 2011 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2009 and other papers considered by the 2010 electronic Annual General Meeting were:

The Annual Report for 2008 and other papers considered at the 2009 electronic Annual General Meeting were:


The Annual Report for 2007 delivered to the 2008 AGM (5 Apr 08). Also an audio of the keynote speaker at the 2008 AGM of CLA, Professor George Williams, is below, outlining why Australia needs a charter of rights and responsibilities.

Click to listen to the 2008 AGM keynote address by Prof George Williams Note: This is a 34mb streaming file in total [player id=41381]


The Annual Report for 2006 delivered to the 2007 AGM is available here.


The Annual Report for 2005 delivered to the 2006 AGM.


The Annual Report for 2004 delivered to the 2005 AGM.

CLA Policies

We stand for people’s rights, and go in to bat for everyone’s civil liberties. We monitor police and security forces, and the actions and inaction of politicians. We review proposed legislation, to make it better, and keep watch on government departments and agencies. We work to keep Australia the free and open society it has traditionally been, where you can be yourself without undue interference from ‘authority’. Over 2020-2025, we expect our main activities to be:

  • promoting civil liberties – a fair go for everyone – in Australia;
  • seeking reform of parliamentary processes and systems;
  • improving draft laws and contributing to parliamentary hearings;
  • correcting the worst excesses of anti-terrorism laws;
  • monitoring Australia’s ’spook’ agencies as closely as possible
  • helping to safeguard people’s data and privacy, especially in health;
  • cooperating with similar groups, for example (privacy, prisons, refugees, mental health, drug law reform, aboriginal rights, migrant rights,
  • whistleblowers, voluntary euthanasia, etc)
  • campaigning against the death penalty;
  • monitoring prisoners’ and detainees’ rights in jails, especially juveniles;
  • helping legal students research and analyse national and international issues;
  • producing a monthly email newsletter CLArion on key issues; and
  • creating a larger, more robust national civil liberties organisation

When you join Civil Liberties Australia, while we expect your support generally, we recognise that you don’t have to advocate every policy. You are free to disagree on particular issues: that’s freedom of choice. Below are the topics on which we have formalised policy positions. Please click if you wish to see them:

Charter of RightsPolicyArticles
Constitutional RightsPolicyArticles
Criminal JusticePolicyArticles
Death PenaltyPolicyArticles
Drugs and AlcoholPolicyArticles
Freedom of InformationPolicyArticles
Freedom of speechPolicyArticles
Genetics & DNAPolicyArticles
Government ReportsPolicyArticles
Health AccessPolicyArticles
Human RightsPolicyArticles
Justice AccessPolicyArticles
Young PeoplePolicyArticles
Your RightsPolicyArticles

Commenting …our policy

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