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When traveling overseas, it’s important to remember that you must obey the laws of the country you are visiting, even if they are different from those you are used to at home. Because when it comes to the law, pleading the ignorant tourist is no defence.

It’s therefore always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of a destination before you travel. Some countries for instance are particularly sensitive about photographs. Others are incredibly conservative and prohibit public displays of affection. You’ll get arrested for taking naked selfies at Machu Picchu. And failing to flush a public toilet in Singapore could result in a fine.

When it comes to Australia, we have our fair share of laws which you may believe are strange or slightly peculiar. But it could be important to familiarize yourself with them nonetheless! The following are 6 of the odd but strict laws that could get you into serious trouble down under. If you’re not planning travel anytime soon, keep these in mind for the next time you’re tested on your Australian trivia!

Bicycle Helmets

Bike cycle

While many Australians continue to protest this law, it is currently illegal in all Australian States and Territories to ride a bike without a helmet. We are one of only two countries in the world with national all-age mandatory bicycle helmet laws. The aim is to prevent serious head injuries.

There is ongoing debate over this, and many people believe it should be up to the individual to protect themselves. However until the laws are repealed, riding without a helmet could land you a hefty fine.

Bullet Proof Vests

If you’re traveling to Australia, you can leave your body armor at home – it is illegal to wear a bullet proof vest without a license as it is considered to be a weapon.

Granted, Australia has incredibly strict gun laws, so there’s probably no need for a bullet proof vest anyway.

Don’t Crush Beer Cans With Your Breasts

You won’t find this one in any Australia backpacking guide, but if you’re visiting Western Australia and planning on a couple of big nights, keep in mind that it is illegal to crush beer cans between your breasts!

A 31 year old barmaid who worked at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra, south of Perth, ended up in court and was fined $1000.

Anti-hooning Laws

Burnout hoon car

Hoon is the word we use in Australia to describe someone with anti social driving behaviour such as speeding, street racing, burnouts and playing loud music from a car stereo.

Though instead of a fine, anti-hooning laws have been introduced in Queensland which give police the power to hit reckless drivers where it hurts and confiscate their car. The government campaign slogan: “Go too far, lose your car”.

Compulsory Voting

Not something you’ll have to worry about as an international tourist, though for anyone planning to migrate to Australia, you should know that it is compulsory to vote here.

It doesn’t matter what you write on the ballot (Donald Duck tends to receive quite a few votes each Federal election), or if you choose not to write anything at all, but every Australian citizen is legally obligated to rock up to the polls on election day.

If you are overseas you can put in a postal vote, and many people meet the eligibility requirements to vote early if they have something preventing them from voting on the actual day. Those who don’t vote recieve a fine. The Australian Electoral Commission collects more than $1 million from non-voters at each election.

How to vote in Australia

A Life Sentence Generally Means 25 Years

If you commit a crime in Australia and are sentenced to life, you could be out in just 25 years. The sentence of “life” does not usually carry the implication that prisoners who are subject to this sanction will spend the rest of their days in jail – according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the average prison term for murder is 25 years.

It varies depending on which State you’re in, but life imprisonment can come with a non-parole period of 10 years to the remainder of an offender’s life. This means the prisoner must serve a minimum term behind bars before being considered for release (though release doesn’t have to be granted at that time).

The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that less than 15 people have received natural life (life without parole).

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Election pamphlets photo CC Ryan Egan.

    26 Comments

  1. Wow, I’d heard about the bicycle helmet law but not about the bullet proof vests. I reckon that would take half my luggage allowance anyway, so I’ll leave mine at home.

    • Lol probably would … not sure exactly how much a bullet proof vest weighs but probably wouldn’t be able to pack much else in there :D

  2. Wowser, interesting. I like number one, always wear a helmet! And the beer can crush….hmmmm, fair wenough lol

    • Lol the bike helmet law definitely make more logical sense than the beer cans, but I’m sure that could be dangerous too :D

  3. Totally nuts about the beer can!!

    I totally agree with the hooning law though. A lot of those guys are just ridiculous and such a disturbance.

    I miss Aussie life but glad I get to visit every few years!

    • I’m totally with you on the anti hooning laws too – they’re idiots who deserve to have their cars taken away so I have no sympathy for anyone on the receiving end of that one!!

    • We’re very lucky to have an incredibly strict policy here in Australia. I appreciate it a lot.

  4. The bicycle helmet is common sense. Was there a high rate of head injuries with cyclists before this law came in? As for crushing beer cans with your breasts! ? I find it interesting that a bullet-proof vest is considered a weapon.

    • I believe there were a high rate of head injuries before the law came in, though there has been research to suggest that helmets don’t necessarily reduce this. Which is one of the main arguments people are using in the debate to abolish the law.

      I found it interesting that a vest was considered a weapon too! Still trying to figure that one out!

  5. From what you are describing, I don’t think I’d love to live in Australia, Meg. A bullet proof vest is a weapon? Then what’s a shot gun? A life sentence is only 25 years? That means the if you do a crime early enough in your life, you have time for a second one. It’s a great deal for the criminals. As for the helmets, I believe we have the same law here in the USA, if I’m not wrong.

    • We have some of the strictest gun laws in the world in Australia so it’s actually a lovely place to live – & one of the safest in the world.

      Helmets in the US are advised, though not technically against the law :) That one could vary from State to State though.

  6. There are some funny laws in your list. The last one reminds me of Norway, where the life sentence means 7 years. I remember the struggles they had when that lunatic went and shot those children on an island near Oslo. Legally, they could only keep him in jail for 7 years…

    • Wow a life sentence of 7 years – short lifespan I guess lol! That is pretty bad though – 7 years is nothing for that kind of crime :( Hopefully they see some kind of amendments to the legislation sooner rather than later.

      I recently heard of a country closing their prisons because of such a low crime rate that it didn’t pay to keep them open. I’ll have to check again, but I think it was maybe the Netherlands.

  7. Thank you for a really interesting post, funny that some of these laws actually sound reasonable for a Swede. :)

    There are a lot of interesting laws out there in the world. I believe that Denmark still got a law that allows Danes to kill any Swede who would come walking across the sea/ice from Sweden (luckily the ice is usually not thick enough to walk on) and Iceland recently abolished a law allowing the killing of any Basque on the island. :)

    • I guess that great minds must think alike! (re Australians and the Swedes :D)

      Haha who knew about the laws in Denmark and Iceland! Amazing how this kind of legislation is enacted and then forgotten over decades even though society has vastly changed!

  8. Well there you go, you learn something new every day! Even as an Aussie, I didn’t know about bullet proof vests (not that I’d ever have the need) and I didn’t know about the beer cans!

    As for the electoral roll, I’m no longer on it – because we travel full time, they told us we should remove our names until we return to Aus!

    Great post

    • I took myself off the electoral roll too because of travel – we have recently returned though and they were pretty quick to realize. I think registering a car gave me away lol!

  9. If you’re moving to Australia, I do agree, there’s no reason for a bulletproof vest at all. The Gun laws are extremely tight here.

    Also with those helmets, if it’s not for safety, wear it for the magpies :)

    • Haha you make an excellent point re the magpies – they’re vicious!!

  10. I respect any kinds of law of any country. But Australian law is little bit different. I think so. And wearing helmet on bicycle is really really good and it’s really surprised me a lot. But I support this. I appreciate with Australian law. Thanks for sharing this article with us.

    • Yes, it’s always important to respect each country’s law, regardless of whether we personally find them strange to what we’re used to at home. The bike helmet law is a great one for public safety. So many accidents with cyclists on the road :S

      Thanks Elizabeth! Hope to welcome you to Australia sometime in the future :)

  11. I don’t think I’d love to live in Australia, Meg. A slug verification vest is a weapon? At that point what’s a shot weapon? A lifelong incarceration is just 25 years?

    • Haha I think every country has their own set of strange laws – I know that in Texas in the US it’s illegal to make love to a fish … I’m like, how was that even a concept within the realm of possibility to be made into law! Lol so I feel good knowing we’re not the only country with strange laws!

  12. ROFL – I certainly hadn’t heard about crushing cans between your breasts!!

    • Haha I hadn’t either until I started researching strange laws – bizarre right!!

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