Public safety laws are in place to provide a safe environment for duck hunters to undertake their legal recreation while allowing members of the community who disagree with duck hunting to express their views safely. There are a number of offences under the Wildlife Act 1975 that are designed to prevent potentially dangerous interactions between hunters and protesters on wetlands.
The following restrictions apply to unauthorised people who enter and remain on specified hunting areas during the open season for ducks. Specified hunting areas are all State Game Reserves and hunting areas listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012. An unauthorised person is someone who does not have a valid Game Licence endorsed for duck and a Firearm Licence.
It is an offence for an unauthorised person to enter or remain in a specified hunting area between the following hours:
- From midnight of the first day of duck season until 10 a.m. of that day
- From 2 hours before sunset of each day of duck season (including the first day) until 10 a.m. of the following day
- From 2 hours before sunset of the last day of the duck season until 30 minutes after sunset of that day (Note: These restrictions only apply to the waterbody and extend out to 25 metres from the water’s edge.)
It is an offence for an unauthorised person to approach within 10 metres of a person who is carrying a firearm or actively hunting ducks in specified hunting areas during the duck season.
It is an offence for anyone to hinder, harass, interfere with, or obstruct a person engaged in hunting at any location and time.
Authorised Officers and the Victoria Police can issue a banning notice to a person whom they suspect on reasonable grounds is committing or has committed any of the above public safety offences. A banning notice prohibits the alleged offender from entering or remaining in a specified hunting area or areas for the period specified in the notice. The length of the banning notice is at the discretion of the Authorised Officer or police member. However, it cannot extend beyond the length of the duck season in which it was issued. It is an offence to contravene a banning notice. The penalty is a maximum of 20 penalty units for a first offence and a maximum of 60 penalty units for a second or subsequent offence.
An exclusion order is a court order that prohibits a person from entering any or all of the specified hunting areas for a period of up to 12 months. The courts can impose an exclusion order if a person is found guilty of committing a specified offence (i.e. one of the three public safety laws). It is an offence to contravene an exclusion order. The penalty is a maximum of 60 penalty units for a first offence and up to 120 penalty units for a second or subsequent offence.
These offence provisions do not prevent people from protesting in a safe and lawful manner. At restricted times in specified hunting areas, people may protest as long as they remain at least 25 metres from the water’s edge. They may enter wetlands after restricted times have ceased, but still cannot hinder, harass, interfere with, or obstruct hunters at any time.