eBulletin | August/September 2021: Lockdown laws in NSW

Our August/September e-bulletin canvasses work to raise awareness about laws to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but also to support communities with legal assistance, particularly where fines further entrench disadvantage.

e-Bulletin | August/September 2021

Lockdown laws in NSW 

Since the introduction of public health orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, lockdown laws in NSW have changed over 60 times. Not only has this resulted in confusion among the public, RLC is concerned that police are enforcing the rules inconsistently.

Our August/September e-bulletin canvasses work to raise awareness about the laws to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but also to support communities with legal assistance, particularly where fines further entrench disadvantage.

We also announce RLC's inaugural First Nations Cadetship program and a new employment law service, run in collaboration with Kingsford Legal Centre and Inner City Legal Centre. Plus we link to a range of new webinars, factsheets and resources.


Working for change

RLC calls for unlawfully issued COVID-19 fines to be revoked

Under current COVID-19 laws, people in NSW living outside of LGAs of concern are lawfully able to undertake exercise and outdoor recreation with one other person, members of their household, or their nominated person. Outdoor recreation includes sitting for relaxation, eating, drinking, or reading outdoors. 

Despite this, RLC's free statewide COVID-19 fines advice service has been contacted by numerous people issued with penalty notices for lawful recreation activities such as sitting in parks away from others, not gathering, and not in an area of concern.

Up until 12 August 2021, those living in areas of concern could also undertake recreation.

RLC is calling on the NSW Government to revoke all COVID-19 fines that have been wrongfully issued by NSW Police to people undertaking lawful recreation.


See RLC media releases

Call to revoke unlawfully issued COVID fines (25 August 2021)

Need for greater police caution in response to COVID-19 public health order breaches (13 August 2021)


NSW-wide COVID-19 fines advice 

RLC is providing free, confidential legal advice to people issued with a COVID-19 fine across NSW.

Visit rlc.org.au/contact or call us on 02 9698 7727 for advice about appeal and payment review options. We can also arrange for a free interpreter if required.


Want to share your story?

RLC is working with media outlets to raise awareness about unjust COVID-19 fines. If you would like to share your story, contact RLC's communications manager Finn O'Keefe at finn@rlc.org.au  



COVID-19 lockdown rules in NSW


NSW's COVID-19 public heath orders are complex, and continue to evolve rapidly, and it is important to stay informed about ongoing changes.

RLC's newly updated COVID-19 Lockdown Laws factsheet applies to residents across NSW.

Our factsheet aims to help people stay abreast of their rights and responsibilities to keep the community safe and avoid financial penalties that apply to breaches of public health laws.


RLC in the Media

Opinion: Why $5000 COVID fines might backfire

New public health offences and increased penalties for breaches are now being enforced by NSW Police. The on-the-spot fine for breaching self-isolation orders has risen from $1000 to $5000, while breaching the two-person outdoor exercise rule has increased from $1000 to $3000.

But increased COVID fines could have unintended consequences for people already experiencing disadvantage, including a potential breakdown in community trust at a time when it is most needed. 


It is no doubt a time of tremendous public health concern, but will such fines help or hinder the attempt to curtail the spread of COVID-19? And will they have an inequitable impact on people who are already struggling?

Dr Elyse Methven (UTS) and Samantha Lee (RLC) write for Sydney Morning Herald.



Police powers and your rights


RLC's police accountability practice has released new factsheets on police powers and your rights. 

The nine factsheets examine a variety of important policing issues and provide information and tools to assist with self-advocacy. Topics include: 



The factsheets include information on when police have the right to film or search you, what you are required to do when you are stopped by police, and what to do if you feel you were treated unfairly. 

Each factsheet provides an overview of the law, procedure, and any steps you can take to implement your legal or complaint options.



Quick Tips: Police Powers & Your Rights  


Police can caution, fine or arrest you if you breach the new COVID-19 laws.

If you are approached by the police, or asked to undergo a search, it is important to be informed about your rights. RLC's sharable graphic provides some quick tips.

  • Police must tell you why they are stopping, searching, fining or, or arresting you
  • Ask police for their name and police station
  • Ask police to turn on their Body Worn Video and have someone film from a distance
  • You do not need to provide ID, unless something illegal is found or you are being fined/arrested
  • The COVID-19 law requires those 16 and over, to carry around proof of place of residence and show to police if requested. 



See also:

Know Your Rights with NSW Police – A guide for interacting with police during the COVID lockdowns in Greater Sydney (Legal Observers NSW)

Information available in Vietnamese, Arabic, Turkish, Italian and Mandarin: https://legalobserversnsw.org/resources/


RLC in the Media

Protesting a pandemic: do we have a legal right?

LSJ Online speaks to a range of legal experts about the 'grey areas' of law during COVID-19, asking whether NSW citizens have a right to publicly march against government action in such unprecedented times.

Redfern Legal Centre’s Police Accountability solicitor Samantha Lee says that most of the penalty infringement notices issued to protesters will not be tested in court.

Image: LSJ Online


“At the heart of the issue is a technical legal question over whether leaving home to protest is a reasonable excuse amid public health orders,” Ms Lee says. “We don’t really know the answer to that yet.”



Case Study

Sydney University professor 'leg swept' by police during student protest

On 9 October 2020, Sydney University Law Professor Simon Rice was observing a ‘National Day of Action’ about funding cuts to education, which commenced on the university campus. Prof Rice stood on the sidelines and had no intention of participating in the event. 

While observing the crowd, Prof Rice saw a police officer push a young woman. He went to assist the woman and was grabbed by police, having his leg swept from underneath him, which caused him to fall quickly to the ground. Prof Rice was detained and issued with a $1000 fine for breaching a public health order. 

RLC took on the matter as a public interest case. The matter was contested at court, but after making submissions the police eventually withdrew the charge before hearing.  


Image: 9 October 2020 (photo by Honi Soit)

RLC is concerned by the excessive use of force by police at public protests, and the potential for unlawfully issued public health fines. The public health laws are complex making the legal thresholds police are required to meet difficult to interpret and to appeal. 

We are also concerned that COVID-19 fines are also not means-tested, making them particularly onerous for people already experiencing financial vulnerability.

It is unfortunate that Mr Rice’s matter was not heard before a court, as few individuals elect to appeal COVID-19 fines at court.

Read more:

Vast majority of COVID-19 fines remain unpaid (Sydney Morning Herald (May 2021)


Webinars and other resources

Reporting a Sexual Assault – NSW Police and NSW Health Procedure

RLC and Women's Legal Service NSW recently teamed up to produce a webinarexamining what is NSW Police and Health best practice when someone reports a sexual assault.

An expert panel provides practical tips and discusses best practice in responding to a sexual assault, and what to do if best practice is not being followed.





  • Assistant Commissioner, Stacey Maloney –NSW Police Force 

  • Lisa Simpson – Manager Community Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Counselling Service, Sydney Local Health District.

Facilitated by:

  • Liz Snell – Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator, Women's Legal Service NSW
  • Samantha Lee – RLC Police Accountability Solicitor.

Responding to financial abuse issues: Telecommunications

RLC's statewide Financial Abuse Service provides legal help to people who have experienced domestic abuse and have money problems. 

Financial abuse issues are commonly identified in connection with telecommunications services. Resolving practical issues around debts/bills, handset contracts, access to services and privacy is important to help remove barriers that can prevent victim survivors from gaining financial independence.

Presented by Will Dwyer from RLC's Financial Abuse Service NSW, this webinar provides practical guidance to assist caseworkers in advocacy with telecommunications companies and industry ombudsman schemes.

The webinar also explores hardship policies and other practical supports which can be utilised when disclosures of domestic violence and financial abuse have been made.



Other webinars in RLC's Financial Abuse webinar series include:

  • identifying financial abuse in intimate partner relationships, and supporting victim survivors

  • Resolving Financial Abuse Legal Issues: Consumer Credit Law

  • Resolving Financial Abuse Issues: Two Roads Diverged: Credit, Debt and Consumer Law, or Family Law, or both? Your questions answered​





Other News... 


Redfern Legal Centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cadetship Program

Applications for an exciting new cadetship program at Redfern Legal Centre are now open!

The Redfern Legal Centre First Nations Cadetship program will provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students with opportunities to gain valuable legal experience while undertaking their law degree.

This program is generously funded by the incredible Chair of RLC’s Board, Kerry O’Brien for the first year, and law firm McCullough Robertson for the second year of the program.


Pictured left:: Justice For All (2020). Sharon Smith. Artwork commissioned for Redfern Legal Centre with funding support from the City of Sydney

The position will support cadets to develop the skills, experience and confidence to achieve their career aspirations in law.

In addition to being mentored by highly skilled, passionate and creative lawyers, cadets will be provided with opportunities to learn about a range of career paths and provided with appropriate networking opportunities.

Applications close 30 September 2021 at 5pm. READ MORE>


Employment Rights Legal Service NSW launched

A free statewide employment law service is increasing access to justice for migrant workers and other vulnerable employees across NSW.

The Employment Rights Legal Service (ERLS) is a collaboration between Kingsford Legal Centre, Inner City Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre.

The service is providing casework and representation to migrants and other vulnerable workers in NSW, and is offering training and capacity building supports to other legal and community organisations working with this client group.


ERLS is accepting enquires and referrals by phone on 02 8004 3270 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) and online at www.erls.org.au.

​ERLS is funded by the NSW Government through the Community Legal Centres Program​

Follow ERLS on Facebook>


COVID-19 disaster payment

If you’ve been in a COVID-19 hotspot or are subject to a period of restricted movement you may be eligible to recieive the COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

This NSW Government COVID-19 Factsheet is available in 59 languages.



Image: Unsplash

There are lump-sum payments for people who lost work and income due to New South Wales COVID-19 public health orders. 

Read more

COVID-19 Disaster Payment (Service NSW)


Short-term moratorium on evictions extended

In June 2021, the NSW government announced a 60 day stop on evictions for COVID-impacted renters who have lost significant income and cannot pay rent in full. This ‘eviction freeze’ has now been extended to 11 November 2021, and will be followed by a transition period ending on 12 February 2022.

However, impacted tenants protected from eviction may still continue to build up significant rent arrears during the moratorium.

From the end of the moratorium until 12th February 2022, tenants cannot be evicted because of arrears accrued during the moratorium, with some exceptions.



Image: Alex Proimos (CC 2.0)

Further info 

Renters' Guide to COVID-19 (Tenants' Union of NSW [TUNSW])

Stop on evictions and financial supports for impacted renters (TUNSW, 13 July 2021)

New short term moratorium on evictions (Fair Trading, July 2021)



Putting a lawyer in students' pockets


My Legal Mate is RLC's interactive legal resource for NSW international students. ​The app is available by subscription to education providers for use by their students.

To protect the wellbeing of students during COVID-19, My Legal Mate is also currently available to all NSW international students for free, thanks to support from Study NSW and City of CIty.


Advice is offered in English, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Thai, and Vietnamese and is delivered on demand in an interactive video format.  



Join our team!

Two solicitor roles at RLC are closing soon!

Solicitor | Health Justice Partnership

Work with RLC's innovative Health Justice Partnership supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across NSW at the Dalarinji Oral Health Clinic.

Applications close: Friday 19 September at 9am. APPLY NOW>

Credit & Debt Solicitor | Financial Abuse

RLC's Financial Abuse Service NSW is seeking dynamic Credit and Debt solicitor to work within our groundbreaking financial abuse practice.

Applications close Monday, 13 September at 9am. APPLY NOW>



Redfern Legal Centre Board Director

RLC is looking for an experienced Board Director to join our eight-person strong Board. 

This position requires a Director with a background in one or more of the following areas: government, fundraising, not-for-profits. 

Expressions of interest close Tuesday 5 October at 5pm. APPLY NOW>


Fundraising News...

End of financial year fundraiser 

A huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to our fundraiser to raise $35K in 35 days.

Thanks to an overwhelming response, we exceeded our fundraising target raising almost $50,000 to support communities in need!

This incredible result has allowed RLC to scale-up legal support across the organsation by enabling an additional four days of solicitor hours each week for six months.

We are preparing for our end-of-year fundraiser to continue to meet the ever growing demand for legal help into the new year.

Comedy fundraiser postponed

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in NSW, we've regrettably postponed our annual comedy fundraiser for the foreseeable future. Refunds are available through our venue partner, Giant Dwarf.

Keep an eye out for when we announce a new date once it is safe to do so.


Check out our new RLC merch!

At RLC, we believe that the best fashion trend is showing your support for social justice. And now that's become even easier with our expanded range of RLC merchandise!  

Not only will you look more stylish, but your purchase will also help support the work of RLC!

Check out our great range of:

  • t-shirts
  • tote bags
  • water bottles 
  • coffee mugs
  • coasters
  • and stickers (yay!)  

Choose between two designs for sale at our online store:

Truth, Justice & the Redfern Way – RLC's 40th-anniversary commemorative design (illustration by Fiona Katauskas).

Safe and Sound - our campaign to change strip search law.


Help us achieve lasting change for our community. Donate today