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189 community members oppose Victoria’s anti-protest laws the day they came into effect

Media release from Goongerah Environment Centre, Wombat Action Group, and Extinction Rebellion, 21 May 2023

Forest defenders in Wombat State Forest - Photo by Matt HrkacVictoria’s anti-protest laws targeting forest protectors were contested through a state-wide survey action for threatened flora and fauna yesterday. Under new laws that came in yesterday, people conducting surveys within a safety harvest zone may receive fines up to $11,095.20, which they could receive in the mail anytime within the next 12 months. All surveys were conducted in areas where a “Timber Harvesting Safety Zone” (public exclusion zone) is either already in place or where one could be applied any day.

The new laws also increase the maximum penalty to $22 120 or 1 year gaol term if found with a prohibited device within a THSZ. Flora and fauna surveys took place at five sites across Victoria: in Wombat State Forest, Toolangi, Alberton West, Powelltown, and Colquhoun forest in East Gippsland. Surveyors found endangered Greater Gliders, koalas, endangered Tree Geebungs (an old growth understory plant) and a critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum. Over 130 plant and fungi observations were recorded on the iNaturalist app.Forest defenders in Wombat State Forest - Photo by Hrkac

All of today’s surveys were conducted in areas where a “Timber Harvesting Safety Zone” is either already in place or where one could be applied any day. Police were present at the protest in Wombat but did not issue on-the-spot fines. Four Greens MPs were among those who illegally entered a THSZ in Wombat State Forest to survey for plant species.

Amy Calton from Wombat Action Group states: “Protest must be protected, especially within a climate crisis. The government must repeal these outrageous laws and take meaningful action to protect the environment.”

Tuffy Morwitzer, from the Goongerah Environment Centre states: “We must end logging immediately and invest in conservation efforts to build back everything the industry has destroyed - exactly the kind of work citizen scientists were doing today by surveying.”

Felicity Law from Extinction Rebellion states: “At this critical time as we face climate catastrophe and as forest species plummet towards extinction we need forests protected.”

Media contact:

Tuffy Morwitzer - [email protected] - 0493 524 913
Campaigner for the Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO)
GECO ran the longest forest blockade in Australian history (Goolengook), and has run citizen science camps for the last 8 years.

Amy Calton - [email protected] 
Facilitator of the Wombat Action Group (WAG)
WAG is a grassroots advocacy group campaigning to protect Wombat State Forest by engaging, educating and empowering the community to take direct action for forests.

Felicity Law - 0423 109 765
Spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion


Harsh new protest laws pass the Victorian upper house of Parliament

Environmental, legal and social justice organisations dismayed by passing of harsh new laws against forest protectors

The Andrews government has steam-rolled ahead with dangerous changes to the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 which could see peaceful protesters fined up to $21,000, or face 12 months in jail. The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 passed the Victorian Upper House yesterday.

Sufficient evidence has not been provided to justify the harsh and heavy-handed new penalties that have been introduced. The laws will impact citizen scientists and whistleblowers monitoring logging and searching for endangered wildlife like the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum in forests under imminent threat from logging. 

Over 4,000 people signed an online petition or emailed the Premier calling for the Bill to be scrapped, and we joined 67 human rights, legal, environment, and climate organisations calling for the harsh amendments to be withdrawn. The Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Services Union, and the United Workers Union also delivered a joint letter to Premier Andrews criticising the new laws.

“This blatant attack on community members protecting native forests is unjustified, extreme, and fails to address the real crime - the ongoing lawless destruction of forests. There have been countless breaches to environment laws, illegal logging, and alleged-corruption by state-owned VicForests. Yet the government is punishing the very people holding this rogue agency accountable.

Peaceful forest protests have been used for decades to protect important areas of forest - many significant environmental protections were won off the back of protests. The right to protest has never been more important given the extinction and climate crisis we face - fuelled by continued logging of native forests. The Andrews government must act now to end native forest logging, not pass draconian laws that the Victorian public don’t support.” said Victorian Forest Alliance spokesperson Chris Schuringa.

"The new laws are disproportionate and lack sufficient safeguards and oversight. The Andrews government says it will end native logging in Victoria this decade but, instead of enforcing existing laws against its own logging operator, it is further criminalising peaceful protest and punishing concerned citizens, whistleblowers and citizen scientists.

In the wake of devastating bushfires, and as we witness ecosystems collapse and the continued destruction of First Nations’ country, legitimate political expression is more important now than ever. This is essential for the protection and conservation of our incredible forests and precious wildlife.” said Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Natalie Hogan. 

Media contacts for comment:

Chris Schuringa

Victorian Forest Alliance (VFA)

Campaign Coordinator

0418 912 625

[email protected]


Volunteers hit Northcote with VFA post cards calling out draconian protest laws

VFA volunteers and Northcote locals have hit the street to gather signatures from concerned community members, calling on the Northcote Labor MP Kat Theophanus to withdraw the dangerous proposed protest laws set to hit the upper house of Parliament in early August. Locals also visited the Peacock hotel for 'Politics in the pub' with Kat so that people could hand deliver the cards to her!

In the lead up to the November state election there is strong support for protection of forests - particularly to tackle climate change. Northcote locals have expressed strong support for an immediate end to logging and the protection of forests - not draconian protest laws which have been slammed by human rights, climate, legal, and environment groups as "unnecessary" and "undemocratic".

We are ramping up our on the ground campaign in the lead up to the November state election. Sign up to here volunteer and get involved!


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More than a hundred people rally at Parliament to oppose draconian protest laws

On Tuesday June 28 more than a hundred people gathered on the steps of Parliament to oppose draconian new protest laws which have now passed the lower house of Parliament. The laws are set to find community members up to $21,000 for disrupting logging, or face 12 months imprisonment. VFA President Nic Fox read from a joint statement from environment, climate, legal and human rights groups calling the laws unnecessary and undemocratic, and for the bill to be withdrawn.

You can take action by emailing your local member and asking for the Sustainable Forests Bill (2022) to be withdrawn - and for forests to be protected from logging.

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VFA joins legal, climate and environment voices against Andrews' draconian anti-protest laws

The Victorian Forest Alliance has joined a number of legal, human rights, climate, and environment groups to call on the Andrews government to withdraw disturbing changes to laws which could see community members peacefully protesting logging face fines of up to $21,000 or 12 months imprisonment.

The joint letter to the Premier and Minister for Agriculture Mary-anne Thomas, and Work Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt states;

Victorians have a long and proud history of peaceful protest. The freedom to protest sits at the heart of our democracy. It allows those without financial means or access to politicians and platforms to be able to be heard and effect change. In the context of a climate crisis, continued destruction of First Nations Country, and collapsing ecosystems, we need to protect this right more than ever.

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