In Carson v John Fairfax & Sons Ltd (1992) 178 CLR 44; [1993] HCA 31, Brennan J said:

“The chief purpose of the law in creating a cause of action for defamation is to provide vindication to counter the injury done to the plaintiff in his or her reputation ….”

The principal remedy for a person who has been defamed is damages. The court awards money as compensation for the harm done to a person’s reputation and injury to their feelings.

As at 1 July 2021, damages for non-economic loss are limited to a maximum of $423,500. They are indexed annually. It is quite possible for people to show that they have been defamed but still not receive substantial damages.

The maximum damages amount is to be awarded ‘only in a most serious case’ [s 33(2)]. The Court can, however, award aggravated damages, if warranted in the circumstances, and this is made separately to any award of damages for non-economic loss above [s 33(2a), 33(2b)].

Compensation for actual economic loss may be awarded separately and is not capped.

The state of mind of the defendant generally is not relevant in awarding damages but an apology or correction are factors that can be taken into consideration.