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Defamation concerns false information conveyed through words, photographs, broadcast, telecommunications, internet, illustrations or other means. Defamation can be damaging to your reputation and make people want to avoid you which may have implications on your work or profession. The law protects your reputation and restricts defamatory material from being published. If it can be proven that you have been defamed, the court may award you damages and compensate you for the damage done to your reputation resulting from the defamatory statements.

Before January 2006, the law governing actions in defamation varied from state to state across Australia. For this reason, the Uniform Defamation Laws were implemented to ensure continuity across all states and territories. The uniform laws adopted and adapted a number of statutory provisions from old laws but still retain the basic principles of common law, which traditionally define defamation as:

  • The publication of any false imputation concerning a person, or a member of his family, whether living or dead, by which (a) the reputation of that person is likely to be injured or (b) he is likely to be injured in his profession or trade or (c) other persons are likely to be induced to shun, avoid, ridicule or despise him; and
  • Publication of defamatory matter can be by (a) spoken words or audible sound or (b) words intended to be read by sight or touch or (c) signs, signals, gestures or visible representations, and must be done to a person other than the person defamed.

The applicable legislation in New South Wales is the Defamation Act 2005(herein “the Act”). The Act came into force on 1 January 2006. The Act relates to the tort of defamation at general law. The Limitation Act 1969 and the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) also apply to defamation actions.

Prior to commencing defamation proceedings, the relevant jurisdiction to hear the matter must be correctly identified. Once the jurisdiction of the court has been effectively invoked, it has ‘accrued jurisdiction’ to determine the whole ‘matter’ or controversy between the parties.

The defences available include the defence of justification, absolute privilege, honest opinion, qualified privilege, offer of amends, illegality and triviality.

The Act preserves the defences available for defamation at general law and in some cases extends the defences available including justification, absolute privilege, qualified privilege and comment.

An experienced Defamation Lawyer may be able to advise you on the various avenues potentially available to you and assist you in resolving disputes and litigation relating to defamation. If you have been defamed, you must seek urgent legal advice as there is a limitation period for commencement of an action in Court and certain elements that you must be able to prove.

If you require assistance with an action in Defamation, you should make an appointment to see one of our Media Law Solicitors, who see you in our Sydney City Office. We have branch offices conveniently positioned across the Sydney metropolitan area including Sydney CBD. For a full list of our office locations, with complete addresses, click on the "Locations" tab or contact our main office line on (02) 9233 4048 or email