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!
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 However until the laws are repealed, riding without a helmet could land you a hefty fine.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.
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”.
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.
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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Photo credits: Election pamphlets photo CC Ryan Egan.