In the city of Sydney, housing is increasingly expensive and increasingly scarce. This is changing the way we live.

While this can be positive — for example, community spaces, housing cooperatives and emerging communities — living with more people, in closer proximity can also erode the safety of our communities.

The following story is an example of neighbour harassment.

Kelly is a gay man living in an apartment building. Kelly’s neighbours regularly shout homophobic insults through the walls of the house. These insults have become more and more graphic and violent and are accompanied by banging on the walls.

Kelly is sometimes so scared that he believes his neighbours will come through the walls. He is more and more anxious about these behaviours but felt stuck because ‘surely there is no law about shouting through walls’.

In this case Kelly would be able to contact his local court to apply for an Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO). An APVO is a court order designed to protect people in Kelly’s situation from physical assault, stalking, harassment, intimidation or damage to property. An APVO can restrict the behaviour of the person who is harassing you — in this case shouting homophobic insults.

In order to get an APVO, Kelly would have to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities that he fears physical violence, harassment, intimidation or stalking. Kelly would also need to show that it is reasonable for him to be fearful under the circumstances.

The Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC) regularly offers advice on safety issues including Apprehended Violence Orders. If you have been harassed on the basis of your sex, sexuality or gender identity, you can call the ICLC for advice.

The Inner City Legal Centre is a specialist legal centre for the gay, lesbian and bisexual, and transgender and intersex communities. We provide free legal advice for GLBTI communities across NSW. We also provide free advice and representation for people experiencing economic or social disadvantage living in the city of Sydney.

info: Amy McGowan is a solicitor at the Inner City Legal Centre. Call ICLC on 02 9332 1966 or visit

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