PASS Program

What is Peer Assessment for Street Safety [PASS] ?

The PASS program was born out of the 1997 Sydney City Council’s ban on busking at Circular Quay. This got the street performing community organised and with the help of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance the decision was overturned and an advisory committee formed to oversee policy direction. This group addressed risk management concerns brought up by the legal department by suggesting a peer assessment process. This has been tweaked over the last 17 years to the current arrangement through ACAPTA as the most apt body to administrate this truly national initiative.

The spectacular nature of physical theatre and circus often stems from the perceived danger from the performers’ routines, stunts and dangerous (or dangerous looking) equipment. The PASS program has been developed by the industry to allay the fears of precinct managers and governments concerning public risk.

It seems as street performers, we have done our job too well. In selling the danger of our acts to our audiences, we have also made the governing bodies afraid. As a result, many councils /precinct managers prohibit acts that include perceived danger or dangerous articles, due to a lack of knowledge of the technical aspects of these acts.  It is unreasonable to expect all councils and precinct managers to have highly qualified circus people on their staff and the cost of training up existing staff is prohibitive. Through the PASS program ACAPTA is able to give governing bodies a mechanism to safety check any acts that may wish to perform within that governing bodies jurisdiction.

ACAPTA has assembled a group of the most experienced, competent and safe street performers this nation has to offer as “peer assessors” to check acts wishing to gain a safety go-ahead for public street performance. Currently both Sydney and Melbourne city councils are using the PASS program. Sydney has used a peer assessment process for the last 17 years, in which time they’ve has less complaints about fire wielding, chainsaw juggling performers than they have about the pavement they perform on!

What is assessed?

Acts are only assessed for safety, not entertainment quality or artistic worth.

The basic street craft of defining a performing space, keeping public at safe distances, clear instructions to any volunteers and the actual articles/props to be used are all checked by peer assessors as carefully as the performers’ actual skill with said articles/props. All of the variables that can be reasonably checked are checked, through demonstration by, and questioning of the assessed performers.

What to do if you are an artist wanting to busk in Melbourne or Sydney?

Go to,  Melbourne Town Hall, or any Sydney City Council One Stop Shops, ask for a busking application and talk to the desk staff to determine if you need an ACAPTA PASS or not. If you do, a time will be arranged. You’ll need to bring your full performing kit (including sound system) and a copy of your public liability insurance covering you for street performance.

During your assessment, you’ll be asked to demonstrate the skills within your act as performed on the street / public place. You need to show a competent level of skill and safety in any of the dangerous categories your act includes, and answer the questions the assessors may have about the safety of your act or your equipment.

What to do if you want to get PASS happening in your area?

PASS is slowly rolling our across many areas of Australia, and discussions may already be underway in your area. To avoid confusion, please talk to ACAPTA about introducing the PASS program in your location before speaking to your local council.

The National Coordinator of the PASS program, Hemlock Mejarne, is happy to talk about peer assessor enquiries and help liaising with your local council / precinct management.

Hemlock can be contacted on or 0407 326 966

Supported by the City of Melbourne.