Restoring Territory Rights

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Why do we need Territory rights?


It's a matter of equity and fairness. Five Australian states already have Voluntary Assisted Dying laws, but a federal law from the 1990s prevents the ACT and Northern Territory from passing their own law. This means more than 600,000 Territorians are being treated differently to the majority of other Australians.

Why are the Territories blocked from passing their own Voluntary Assisted Dying laws?

Back in 1995, the Northern Territory was actually the first place in the world to pass an assisted dying law. It was called the Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act and gave terminally ill people who were suffering intolerably the right to seek medical assistance to die.

However, the historic law was only in operation for nine months before a federal politician called Kevin Andrews - a minister in the Howard Government - successfully campaigned to have it overturned in 1997.

Not only was the Northern Territory's law repealed, but a gag order was also imposed on both the NT and ACT to stop them from ever debating or introducing future assisted dying laws. This unjust federal law still blocks the Territories today - despite five Australian states having passed laws.

It has made the more than 600,000 people living in the NT and ACT second-class citizens in their own country.

What can we do to restore Territory rights for Voluntary Assisted Dying?

To restore Territory rights, we need to get this federal law repealed.

If we manage that, then the Territories will have the right to decide for themselves on the issue of Voluntary Assisted Dying.

They can choose whether to follow in the footsteps of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland in passing compassionate voluntary assisted dying laws.

With New South Wales likely to pass a law in 2022, the Territories cannot be left behind.

Will you help us get this discriminatory law repealed so the Territories can join the rest of Australia in giving dying people a choice?


Judy and Bob Dent

Bob's story

In 1996, Bob Dent became the first person in the world to die using a voluntary euthanasia law. He was one of only four people able to access the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act before it was overturned by the federal government.

Bob, a former pilot and carpenter from Darwin, had prostate cancer. He lost 25kg and both testicles. He had a recurring hernia and a collapsed lung. The cancer had infiltrated his bone marrow. He needed a catheter and leg-bag to urinate and was on 30 tablets a day. With his doctor and loving wife Judy by his side, Bob decided it was time to die - but not before writing a letter to all federal politicians:

I read with increasing horror newspaper stories of Kevin Andrews’ attempt to overturn the most compassionate piece of legislation in the world. (Actually, my wife has to read the newspaper stories to me as I can no longer focus my eyes.)

If you disagree with voluntary euthanasia, then don’t use it, but don’t deny me the right to use it if and when I want to.

Thankfully, Bob was able to have the autonomy and death he desired - but Territorians since have not had the same choices. As laws have passed in almost every other state, Bob’s widow Judy and others in the Territories have asked: Why must we be treated as second class citizens when it comes to deciding how we die?



Better Off Dead - Season 2
Listen to Andrew Denton's podcast

Andrew Denton investigates the stories behind Victoria’s landmark Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law.

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Get the facts on Voluntary Assisted Dying laws.

GGA Resources

For more content including documentaries, publications and resources on end-of-life in Australia, head to our resources page.



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