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Defamation means causing serious harm to a person’s reputation by publishing material about them that changes the way people feel about them. Not-for-profits and small businesses with fewer than 10 staff can also sue for defamation. Publishing includes speaking, writing, drawing, photographing or blogging.

You can defame a person without mentioning their name. You can also defame someone without meaning to cause any harm.

We don’t give legal advice about defamation, but there are other organisations that can help.

A person who claims to have been defamed can go to court to get compensation for the harm caused. Compensation could be money or a public apology. That person has to prove that what was published would tend to lower a person’s reputation in the eyes of an ordinary, reasonable person.

People accused of defamation may be able to defend themselves in court by proving that what they said is true or showing that they were expressing an honest opinion.

It is expensive to begin court proceedings for defamation and also to defend an accusation.

Get legal advice if you are thinking about suing for defamation or if you get a letter demanding that you ‘offer to make amends’ for defaming someone.

Other organisations that can help

Arts Law Centre of Australia

The Arts Law Centre of Australia is a community legal centre for the arts. The centre only gives legal advice to artists and arts organisations on a range of issues, including defamation. It also has a low-cost mediation service. The website has information about defamation law.

Fitzroy Legal Service

The Fitzroy Legal Service's Law Handbook has information about defamation.

Law Institute of Victoria

You can find a private lawyer near you through the Law Institute of Victoria’s Legal Referral Service. All law firms included in the Legal Referral Service provide a free 30-minute interview. You can use this interview to understand more about the legal issue and discuss the available options and how much they will cost. Note that the free interview is not 30 minutes of free legal advice. 

Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria

The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria has a free telephone service that will work with you to try to resolve your dispute. The centre will talk with you about your problem, discuss options, suggest negotiation strategies and organise mediation if required.

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