Protests can sometimes involve police, or authorised officers (such as, in the case of forest protests, employees of the Department of Sustainability and Environment). Potentially, people can be arrested and charged with offences. In addition to many of the common offences and legal issues described elsewhere, there are a range of special legal issues that are directly relevant for activists.
The management and protection of forests on public land in Victoria is controlled by the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (“DSE”) under Section 18 of the Forests Act 1958 (Vic) (“ FA ”). Section 83 of the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987 (Vic) (“CFLA”) enables the Secretary to appoint government employees (usually DSE employees) as authorised officers. VicForest employees may also be appointed, however authorised officers are prohibited from trading in forest produce, or having any interest in any A document of agreement between a landlord and a tenant, for rental of premises., licence or permit for land or the working of any forest produce.
Other types of authorised officers can include:
- VicRoads employees appointed under the Road Management Act 2004
- Council employees appointed under the Local Government Act 1989 (“ LGA ”)or the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
- Department of Primary Industries officers appointed under the Prevention of Cruely to Animals Act 1986
- An officer appointed under the Water Act 1989.
If an authorised officer attempts to exercise their powers, you should ask them to identify themselves and what their official status is. Authorised officers often work in coordination with police, who will look on and may assist if necessary (for example, with arrests).
Authorised officers are empowered to enforce the applicable laws and regulations in State forest including as provided under the FA, the CFLA, the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 (Vic) (“SFTA”) and, most commonly, the Safety on Public Land Act 2004 (Vic) (“SPLA”).