The Australian government terrorism public alert level is at ‘probable’. There is an underlying threat of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Crime remains relatively low in Australia but you should take sensible precautions.
- Do not carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together – leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- You do not legally have to carry your passport with your at all time in Australia so leave it in a safe place unless absolutely necessary to avoid loss, theft or damage. Leave a copy of the biography page (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Always get local advice about safe places to socialise. If you are staying in cheap accommodation, be aware that the good value may be due to an undesirable location. Be careful in certain ‘party’ areas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and take sensible precautions.
- If you are arrested or detained, you are entitled to request that the local police notify the Embassy or Consulate General of your detention.
Lost or stolen passport
If your passport is lost or stolen while in Australia, the Embassy in Canberra, Consulate General in Sydney or the Honorary Consulate in Perth can, in emergency situations, issue an emergency travel document or temporary passport. You will need to submit a completed application, duly witnessed and with all supporting documents and the appropriate fee. Proof of identity and citizenship will be required.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Australia, you should report it to the local police immediately. If you need consular assistance, contact us at the Embassy or Consulate. Each State and Territory have their own Victim Support helplines.
Reporting sexual assault
In the event of sexual assault, the Australian Police have specialised sexual assault teams, and many hospitals have dedicated sexual assault units. There’s also a national 24-hour telephone counselling service for cases of sexual assault and domestic violence – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
As well as protecting yourself against crime while in Australia, you have a responsibility to ensure that your own behaviour is orderly and respectful and does not bring you to the attention of the police.
Despite Australia’s reputation as a laidback and relaxed country, the police and the courts take a very strict approach to law and order. The laws on ‘street offences’ such as public nuisance, drunk and disorderly behaviour, and on common assault are thoroughly enforced. You should follow the instructions of Australian police officers immediately and without argument.
A significant number of Irish nationals (particularly in the 20 to 30 age bracket) come before the Australian courts each year. They should expect no flexibility or leniency to a foreign national not familiar with Australian law.
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death and serious injury to Irish visitors in Australia so if you’re planning to drive, remember the basics:
- Traffic drives on the left.
- Bring your full Irish driving license and carry it with you – this is compulsory for all drivers in Australia
- Make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance on your vehicle, especially if it’s borrowed. Some ‘open’ Australian insurance policies carry age restrictions and may cover only certain drivers
- Be aware of Australia’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, which are generally lower than in Ireland; and street parking, which is strictly regulated. These laws are strictly enforced and hefty on-the-spot fines are applied
- Check road conditions before beginning your journey; stay with your vehicle if it breaks down; and avoid travelling in extreme heat conditions. Sudden storms and strong winds can make driving difficult.
- Random breath testing of a driver’s blood alcohol and drug level is a common occurrence.
The Tourism Australia website has extensive information on travelling around the continent. https://www.australia.com/en-us The Australian Government’s Health and safety information for travellers – Tourism Australia also contains comprehensive travel safety advice on Australia.
Driver fatigue is a major cause of death on Australian roads. Always carry water and take rest breaks every two hours while driving long distances.
It’s also important to check the roadworthiness of your vehicle before travelling long distances in remote areas. Petrol stations could be few and far between and you may need to carry an additional petrol supply.
Watch out for signs warning of local wildlife, which may be present on the roads and can cause serious injury in a collision. Be particularly careful when driving at dawn and dusk when animals such as kangaroos are on the move.
In rural areas, roads may be unsealed and impassable after heavy rain. It’s a mistake to rely solely on GPS to plan itineraries.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged). If you’re planning to drive on unsealed roads it’s essential that your hire car insurance policy has adequate cover.
The Australian surf can be dangerous, with strong rip currents challenging even the most experienced swimmer. You should only swim on beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards, and always swim between the flags. The position of the flags highlights the safest part of the beach to swim. These are generally moved daily to take account of rip currents or other hazards.
However tempting a remote and unsupervised beach may appear, there may be a very good reason for the absence of other bathers. As well as rip currents, some areas may present risk of stings or bites from local marine life, up to and including shark attacks. Always check the signs and pay attention to local information.
Never swim after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and avoid swimming alone.
Safety in the Outback
Australia is a vast country with great distances between many major cities and centres of population. Some parts of the Outback are extremely remote and can present unexpected hazards. If you intend to travel to these areas, plan your trip with care and listen to local advice.
Prepare thoroughly if driving in remote outback areas, which can present unexpected hazards. Ensure you have a roadworthy vehicle fitted with GPS and two spare tyres. Take good maps and extra food, water and fuel. Plan your route carefully and seek local advice before you set out.
Check road conditions before beginning your journey; stay with your vehicle if it breaks down; and avoid travelling in extreme heat conditions. Sudden storms and strong winds can make driving difficult. Take particular care when driving on unsealed roads, 4WD tracks and desert/beach roads.
In very remote areas, you should notify relevant local tourist authorities or police of your departures and return times. Many national parks have beacon locators that the authorities ask hikers to take with them so that they can be more easily found in case of emergency.
Mobile phone coverage, though generally good in towns and cities, is often not available in remote areas. It’s a mistake to rely upon mobile phones or on real time internet maps if travelling in the Outback or even in some relatively well-populated rural areas.
Marine stingers are present in the tropical oceans around northern Australia from November to May. During this time you can only swim within stinger-resistant enclosures, which are set up on the most popular beaches. You will also need to wear protective clothing when swimming, snorkelling or diving on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Always observe warning signs. When bushwalking or hiking, you can avoid snake and spider bites by wearing protective footwear. If bitten, seek immediate medical attention by phoning 000.
The only harmful spiders in Australia are the red back and funnel web, however there have been few deaths from spider bites since anti-venoms were made available in 1981.