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Protecting Protest in Australia – Strengthening Democracy Learning Circle

Profile of Australian Communities Foundation
Hosted by Australian Communities Foundation
10 August 2023

The right to protest is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy. Protest rights are also fundamental to justice. For those of us with the least political and social power, protest can sometimes be the only avenue we have to get issues on the political agenda and have our voices heard.  

Since 2019, there has been a series of anti-democratic laws passed across Australia, including recent anti-protest laws in South Australia that threaten the right to peaceful protest. However, protests are likely to increase in scale and number as the climate crisis unfolds. We are on a collision course where governments will respond to dissent by criminalising activism, which will impact everyone – not just the climate movement. 

These laws which attempt to suppress and erode our democratic right to protest are slowly shrinking open civic space in Australia, in ways that can be very hard to reverse, and civil society is struggling to respond effectively to resist or wind back these regressive laws.  

If we don’t change how we work in this space, we’ll keep losing, and our democracy will keep eroding.  

Philanthropy plays a powerful role in supporting civil society’s ability to prevent new anti-protest laws from being legislated and in campaigning to wind back the worst of the existing laws through building policy alignment, consistent messaging, and stronger civil society networks. 

Join us at our next Learning Circle, presented in partnership with Mannifera, the Reichstein Foundation, and Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, to:

  • Understand the passage of recent anti-protest laws that have spurred greater public engagement, creating the preconditions for a national civil society-led movement 
  • Learn about Australian Democracy Network and Human Rights Law Centre’s plan to create the infrastructure and coalitions needed to stop new anti-protest laws passing, and wind existing ones back 
  • Hear how philanthropy and civic engagement can work together to strengthen our democracy.

We’ll be joined by Saffron Zomer (Executive Director, Australian Democracy Network), Ray Yoshida (Democracy Campaigner, Australian Democracy Network), David Mejia-Canales (Senior Lawyer, Human Rights Law Centre), and Jill Reichstein OAM (Chair, Reichstein Foundation).

Please note: This event will take place online via Zoom and in person at our Community of Giving, 6/126 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne, 3002 at 12.30pm on 10 August.

Event information

Thursday 10 August
12:30pm – 2:00pm AEST

This event will be held in person at our Community of Giving and online. Online registrants will be sent a link on the day to join via Zoom.


Saffron is a lawyer, campaigner and political strategist with more than a decade of experience leading law reform campaigns. Prior to the Australian Democracy Network, Saffron was Government Relations Manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation. She spent several years living and working in the US, where she held a range of campaign and government relations roles. In 2017, Saffron co-founded and led the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance which secured critical changes to the 2017 Electoral Act amendments to protect the rights of civil society organisations to engage in advocacy.

Ray is an experienced organiser, campaigner and changemaker with a decade of experience in Australian social movements. Previously he was the co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Australia’s largest youth advocacy organisation. More recently he played a leading role in the Hands Off Our Charities alliance where he successfully coordinated a campaign to stop draconian attempts to silence Australian charities.

David Mejia-Canales joined the Human Rights Law Centre in August 2022 as a senior lawyer focusing on defending the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum and on protecting democratic freedoms. Prior to this, David was a policy adviser in the Commonwealth Parliament working on legal system reform and on justice issues impacting First Nations people, including ending deaths in custody, raising the age of criminal responsibility, and protecting Country.

Jill’s involvement with social change philanthropy grew from her early involvement with the first women’s refuge in Victoria and with the community childcare movement. As chair of the Reichstein Foundation since 1987, Jill has been active in developing strategic partnerships and alliances towards growing progressive philanthropy as well as mentoring and resourcing new donors who are seeking to clarify their own philanthropic direction. Jill has sat on the boards of the Trust for Young Australians, Igniting Change, the Australian Women Donors Network and the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network.


This session is open to Australian Communities Foundation fundholders and our friends in the philanthropy sector. Contact us to register.