Stalking and harassment
If you're being harassed by someone you're not in a relationship with, you can apply for a restraining order.
How restraining orders work
You can apply for a restraining order if you're being stalked or harassed by someone and fear for your safety. A restraining order legally prevents that person from contacting you. It can also be used to protect your children if you're worried about their safety.
If you fear for your safety from a partner, family member, ex, friend, carer or someone you live with, apply for a protection order instead of a restraining order.
Harassment has a legal definition — on at least two separate occasions within a period of 12 months, the harasser needs to have committed "specific acts", like:
- following you
- entering your property without your permission
- unwanted or threatening phone calls or letters
- giving you offensive material
- doing something that makes you fear for your safety.
Harassment is limited to intimidating behaviour — if the person has attacked you or destroyed your property, talk to the Police about criminal charges.
Conditions in a restraining order
The standard conditions in a restraining order are that the person the order is against must not:
- do (or threaten to do) any "specified act" to you or your children
- encourage anyone else to do any "specified act" to you or your children.
You can also ask for other conditions to be included, like orders to prevent the person from coming within a certain distance of you, your family or property.
Each order only applies to one person — if you're being harassed by more than one person, you'll need a restraining order against each of them.
Restraining orders are in force for 1 year, unless the court orders a different time period.
Applying for a restraining order
If you're being harassed or have been harassed by someone, you can apply to the District Court for a restraining order. There is no application fee, but if you ask a lawyer to help you, you'll need to pay their fees.
If you're under 17 and not married, you must have someone to represent you.
You can't apply for a restraining order against someone who's under 17, unless they are married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship. If you're being harassed by someone under 17, speak to the Police.
To apply for a restraining order, you need to:
- complete an application, notice of proceeding and affidavit in support
- sign the forms, or get your lawyer to sign the forms, in front of a Justice of the Peace or Deputy Registrar
- take the documents to your local District Court.
If you don't know the person who's harassing you
If you don't know the name or address of the person harassing you, you can make a complaint to the Police with any information you have that could help them find and identify the harasser, like what they look like or where you've seen them.
If the Police have reasonable grounds to believe they've identified the harasser, they can make them give their name and address. If the person refuses or gives false information, they can be:
- fined up to $500, and
- arrested if they continue to refuse after the Police have warned them.
You can then ask the Police to give this information to the court registrar so that you can complete your application.
Lawyers and legal aid
You can apply for a restraining order on your own or ask someone else to act on your behalf, but it's recommended that you use a lawyer.
If you're on a benefit or low income, you might be eligible for civil legal aid. This means the government will pay for some or all of your legal costs.
Breaching a restraining order
If any of the conditions of a restraining order are breached, the person the order is against can be:
- fined up to $5,000
- imprisoned for up to 6 months.
If the same restraining order is breached three times in a three-year period, the maximum sentence goes up to 2 years in prison.
Protecting your privacy
You can keep your address confidential by filling out a form you can get from the court — this means the court will know your address, but the person the order is against won't get a copy.
Once you have a restraining order, you can choose not to have your name published on the electoral roll.