is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Eastern
Australia. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Australia
country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses
Australia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sydney
as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. Property crimes, such as burglary, breaking
and entering, and theft, occur throughout Australia and are among the crimes
most likely for Australians and foreigners to encounter. In general, the rate
of crime is comparable with most major U.S. metropolitan areas.
In general, Sydney is a very safe city in
which to visit or live. As with any major city, there can be issues surrounding
assaults, drug use, and crimes of opportunity in and around the central
business district / nightclub precinct after midnight. Consider personal safety
and exercise heightened situational awareness in these areas, especially after
Physical assaults are not common, but occur
with greater frequency in specific locales, predominantly outside of city
centers. The New South Wales (NSW) Bureau
of Crime Statistics and Research published
the following statistics covering the period for 2018.
New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) reported
31,698 non-domestic violent assaults, 29,572 domestic violence-related assaults
and 2,458 assaults on police. Additionally, there were 5,816 sexual assaults
and 7,867 acts of indecency / sexual offenses reported. NSWPF also reported
1,492 robberies without a weapon, 156 robberies with a firearm, and 837
robberies with a weapon that was not a firearm.
There were 13,061 motor vehicle thefts
reported in NSW, as well as 38,083 thefts from motor vehicles (a decrease from
the previous reporting cycle). The NSWPF reported 58,442 acts of malicious
damage to property and 5,332 acts of arson (decreased from the past year). The
report suggests that, in general, major offense categories remain stable or are
decreasing. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should
Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs
and Considerations for Hotel Security.
For 2018, NSW recorded 69 homicides and 19
attempted murders, most of which occurred in the Greater Sydney area. Australia
has extremely restrictive firearms legislation. The purchase, licensing, and
storage of firearms is very limited compared to the U.S. Although criminals
sometimes use firearms in crimes, their use is the exception rather than the
rule. Firearm use occurs most commonly in crimes involving organized criminal
elements such as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Middle Eastern ethnic-based gangs,
and drug trafficking groups.
In Queensland (home to Brisbane and Gold
Coast), an estimated 4.9% of residents (194,600) experienced physical and/or
threatened assault in 2018-2019, similar to the rate in 2017-18 (5.5%), according
to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018-2019 National
Crime Victimization Survey. An
estimated 2.4% of persons (93,000) experienced physical assault, similar to the
rate in 2017-18 (3.1%). Of these, 45% (41,700) experienced a single incident,
and 60% (56,100) had their most recent incident reported to police. An
estimated 3.1% of persons (120,700) experienced threatened assault, similar to
the rate in 2017-18 (2.8%). This included 2.8% (108,800) who experienced
face-to-face threatened assault, and 1.3% (50,200) who experienced non
face-to-face threatened assault, which was higher than the rate in 2017-18
An estimated 2.4% of households (46,500)
experienced a break-in, similar to the rate in 2017-18 (2.5%). An estimated
2.5% of households (47,500) experienced an attempted break-in, which was unchanged
from 2017-18 (2.5%), and higher than the national rate in 2018-19 (1.9%).
An estimated 1.9% of households (36,700) experienced
theft from a motor vehicle, which was similar to the rate in 2017-18 (2.0%),
and lower than the national rate in 2018-19 (2.5%).
An estimated 4.3% of households (82,400)
experienced malicious property damage, similar to the rate in 2017-18 (4.4%).
Skimming of debit/credit cards at points of
purchase and in taxis does occur, though the rate of incidence is relatively
low. Travelers should cover ATM keypads when entering their PIN. Monitor the SCAM
Watch website, maintained by the Australian Competition and
Consumer Commission, for the latest information on how to recognize, avoid, and
report scams. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers
& Fraud and Taking Credit,
The theft or breach of confidential
information and intellectual property remains the business community’s greatest
cybersecurity concern. Cyber criminals gain access to networks primarily
through targeted emails or spear phishing, which continues to be the most
commonly reported cybersecurity incident. Free Wi-Fi hot spots and Internet
cafes are common; however, most networks are not secure and may be vulnerable
to cyberattack. Avoid conducting sensitive or financial transactions when using
unsecured networks. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on
Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends &
Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Authorities strictly enforce speed limits via
cameras and police patrols. Holiday weekends typically see a rise in roadside
fatalities, as many drive long distances to popular beach destinations.
Police conduct roadside alcohol and illegal
drug tests frequently; they are not optional according to Australian law. Be
prepared to submit to random breathalyzer testing. A driver is in violation of
the law if driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05% or greater – a
level lower than that of many U.S. states. At the checkpoints, police from
Random Breath Testing Units test a sample of your breath to determine the
Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA), and may additionally take a saliva
swab to determine if you are driving under the Influence (DUI) of an illicit
drug. Avoid consuming alcohol before driving.
In the event of a motor vehicle accident, stop
and give assistance to injured persons. Each party must provide their name,
address, and registration details to the other parties involved. This includes
the owner of property damaged or injured person (or a person representing
Report all motor vehicle accidents in New
South Wales to police within 24 hours, either in person at a police station or
by calling 131444 (Police Assistance Line). Compulsory third-party insurance may
cover persons injured in a motor vehicle accident in some states of Australia.
This insurance covers compensation for injuries only, and does not include
damage to property or medical costs. If an accident involving an unlicensed
vehicle occurs, the driver and owner may be financially liable for the damages
paid to the injured person.
Traffic operates on the left side of the road, and all vehicles use
right-hand drive. Seat belt use by drivers and all passengers is mandatory, and
fines apply for not wearing them. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. Texting or
holding your phone while driving is against the law in Australia, but you can
use a hands-free system to communicate while driving. Roads and streets are
frequently narrower and less graded than U.S. highways. Outside major
metropolitan areas, most highways are two-lane roads with significant distances
between destinations. If driving in rural areas, be alert to free-roaming
animals, such as kangaroos, and "road-trains" (several semi-truck
trailers connected together). Passing road-trains is dangerous; pull over to
allow on-coming road-trains to pass to avoid being sideswiped. Exercise common-sense
when driving in the outback.
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best Practices,
and Evasive Driving Techniques;
and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
Greater Sydney has an extensive underground
and aboveground train network, a large bus network, a small-scale light rail
project underway in the Chinatown area of downtown Sydney, and regular ferry
services to points around the Harbor. These public transportation options are
generally efficient, reliable, and safe. Services run more frequently during
peak demand periods, including weekday rush hour periods.
Taxi and ride-share services are also reliable
and safe, but may be difficult to find during periods of high demand. Be
mindful that many taxi services video passengers during the trip; recording
starts as soon as the front or rear passenger door opens.
Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public
Transport, and Overnights.
Australian international and domestic airports
meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The Australian
Federal Police oversee security at all international airports. Australian
international and domestic airports meet International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) Standards. Sydney has a large internationally certified
commercial airport (Kingsford Smith, SYD) offering domestic and international
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sydney
as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. There have been seven terrorist attacks and
15 disrupted plots in Australia since 2014. ISIS leadership has repeatedly
identified Australia as a desirable target. The potential return of dozens of
Australian foreign fighters continues to pose a long-term risk, while homegrown
extremists with basic, readily available weapons may be the greatest near-term
threat. Active shooter incidents and vehicle attacks at mass gatherings
continue to be of high concern to law enforcement. Most recent
terrorism-related incidents have involved young, homegrown Australian
extremists influenced and inspired online.
In January 2019, several diplomatic missions in Australia (including
the U.S. Consulate in Melbourne) received suspicious packages; some included
threatening letters and material purported to be hazardous. Australian
authorities promptly and effectively responded to this event, and soon
thereafter arrested a man believed to be responsible. None of the items sent
were hazardous to the health of the public.
In response to potential threats, Australian
authorities have updated the National Terrorism Threat Advisory system to inform Australians about the likelihood of
a terrorist attack, and to enable authorities, businesses, and individuals to
take appropriate safety and security measures. The new system includes five
tiers, ranging from “Not Expected” to “Certain.” The current terrorism threat
advisory level is “Probable,” signifying that while there is no information
regarding a specific, credible plot, individuals or groups have developed both
the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.
Individuals who see suspicious or unusual
activity should contact Australia’s National Security Hotline at 1800 1234 00.
Report life-threatening situations to the police at 000.
Political, Economic, Religious,
and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sydney
as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or
affecting official U.S. government interests. Incidents of civil unrest are
relatively uncommon. Occasionally, organized protests in and around various
government and diplomatic enclaves occur; however, these are typically
peaceful. The potential for violence during protests does exist; avoid any
situations that could result in a confrontation with protestors. Review
OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Incidents of political violence directed
against the U.S. are relatively infrequent. Assorted protest actions included a
sit-in within the building lobby and the display of placards. Most protests
near U.S. diplomatic facilities continue to be peaceful. Visits by high-level
U.S. dignitaries will occasionally attract various organizations to whose
members protest a variety of topics.
The New South Wales Government must grant
protestors the permission to demonstrate. The police monitor and respond to
threats and violent protests in an adequate and expedient manner, and are well
trained to deal with anti-Western sentiment.
There have been a number of anti-Muslim
demonstrations in major Australian cities following high-profile international
attacks involving ISIS. Australian policing authorities are capable of managing
Australia can experience extreme weather
conditions during the warmer months, creating the potential for large-scale
wildfires. Bushfire season is October through May; however, the 2019-2020 NSW
bushfire season has been unprecedented, having started in July 2019 and burned
approximately 6.2% of NSW landmass as of February 2020. In addition to claiming
lives, bushfires can result in major property damage.
Anyone planning to live in Australia should
devise a bushfire plan of action. NSW has a website that provides information on the locations of bushfires. Review
travel plans, develop contingencies for bush fires and flooding, and follow the
directions of Australian authorities during an emergency. Review
OSAC’s report Fire
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Critical infrastructure is relatively stable
and secure. Major attacks on critical infrastructure are rare. The most likely
threat remains natural disasters (e.g., cyclones, bushfires, and flooding). The
Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) has responsibility to
provide intelligence and threat assessments to relevant Commonwealth Government
departments, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and State and Territory
The National Counter-Terrorism Committee
(NCTC, a national body including representatives from the Commonwealth, State,
and Territory governments) coordinates Australia’s national critical
infrastructure protection arrangements. Australia relies heavily on
intelligence and information sharing for critical infrastructure protection.
State and Territory police meet with owners
and operators of critical infrastructure, in accordance with jurisdictional
arrangements, to provide context to the national and localized security threat.
Police communicate directly with the owners and operators of critical
infrastructure if there is an imminent, specific threat, and will coordinate
the operational response. Police also gather and disseminate intelligence to
relevant agencies as required.
ASIO has emphasized that the private sector is
not immune from the clandestine or deceptive activity of foreign governments.
ASIO works closely with private-sector organizations to counter such threats.
Several economic espionage incidents have
occurred, particularly those targeting the natural resource sectors. Economic espionage has
occurred through cyberattacks originating from overseas countries.
Australia has strong counterfeiting and piracy
legislation protecting patents, trademarks, and designs. Intellectual property
owners must enforce their own rights through private proceedings. Organizations
should also ensure they do not accidentally infringe on the intellectual
property of others.
The Australian Privacy Act 1988 is
similar in content to that of the U.S Privacy Act of 1974; it places
strict controls on the storage and release of information. Be mindful of where
you store personally identifiable information, and who has access to it.
Private and public organizations must have the consent of an individual before
conducting any background investigations. A failure to obtain an individual’s
consent can result in serious prosecution.
Personal Identity Concerns
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI+ events in Australia. Australian federal law prohibits discrimination
based on sexual orientation. Australia defines marriage as “the union between
two people.” Australia grants temporary and permanent visas to same-sex
partners of Australian citizens. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for LGBTI+
Australia enforces laws prohibiting discrimination regarding
access to premises, facilities, and accommodation. Many of the downtown areas
of Australian cities were built in the 1800s. These areas often have narrow
sidewalks crowded with pedestrians and tourists. Generally, most public
transit, parking, streets, and buildings are accessible to disabled travelers. Tourist
spots at the beach or in the Australian outback can have varying degrees of
accessibility. Many accommodations and venues provide accessibility information
on their websites. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
Australia has a number of drug-related issues,
including a growing drug-user population, international drug importation, local
clandestine laboratories, and an increasing number of individuals arrested for
drug trafficking. Cannabis is the most widely abused drug in Australia.
Australia is also experiencing an increased use of illegal prescription drugs,
performance-enhancing drugs, and synthetic drugs (e.g., Kronic and Spice).
Cocaine remains popular. The use of the synthetic drug ICE, a crystalline form
of methamphetamine, is growing at an alarming rate. ICE users may be
responsible for an increase in burglaries and assaults across Australia.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre
(NDARC) notes that more Australians are consuming pure ecstasy in the form of
crystals and capsules, and that cocaine use is at its highest recorded level.
There were 2,334 arrests from January to September 2018 for the use or
possession of cocaine (up 33.6%). By contrast, NSWPF reported 7,003 arrests for
possession and the use of amphetamines, which remained consistent with the
previous reporting cycle.
From January to September 2018, the NSW Police
reported 186 kidnappings recorded in New South Wales. These offenses are
usually domestic and/or sexual in nature, and do not involve extortion or
terrorism. Report all incidents or allegations of kidnappings or unlawful
detainment to authorities immediately. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
emergency line in Australia is 000 for police, medical, or fire emergency
assistance. Callers should be prepared to provide basic information such as the
location and the services needed. Australian
police organizations are well trained and professional. They have well-equipped
emergency response teams that can mobilize and respond to any incident with
Lodge complaints of any nature regarding NSW
Policing directly with the NSW Police by completing an online
form, visiting/calling any NSW police
station, or contacting the NSW police Internal Affairs Section.
Victim Services NSW can help victims of crime cope with the
impact of criminal incidents, and can assist them in accessing their rights and
entitlements. Victim Services NSW provides support, counseling, and other
services, as well as information, advocacy, and assistance with the criminal
justice system, an individual’s rights, and entitlements. Download the State
Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
The Australian Border
Force is the Australian federal agency responsible for
managing border security and integrity. It facilitates the movement of
legitimate international travelers and goods, while protecting the safety,
security, and commercial interests of Australians. Contact Australian Border
Force at 1800 009 623 or online to report suspicious behavior.
has a high level of professional emergency medical services. By dialing 000, any person can obtain emergency medical
assistance throughout most of Australia. Ambulance service staffed by certified
emergency medical technicians is the standard throughout most of Australia. To
find hospitals, visit www.myhospitals.gov.au.
The following contact numbers may also be of assistance.
Health Direct Australia – 1800 022
222 (for general medical advice)
Poisons Information Centre – 13 11
Find contact information for available medical
services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Consulate Medical Assistance webpage.
NSW Ambulance Service Aeromedical Division
provides high-quality clinical care. The Air Ambulance Service can provide long
distance transport while ensuring the continuation of the patient’s medical and
nursing care between referring and receiving hospitals. The aircraft becomes an
extension of the general hospital ward, Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care
Unit, labor ward, Nursery etc. Make requests for any ambulance services by
dialing the emergency service telephone number 000.
Australia has a strong insurance culture, with
citizens typically buying home insurance, motor vehicle insurance, and medical
travel insurance. The primary body for the insurance industry is the Insurance
Council of Australia. Australia’s Medicare system
provides a subsidized health fund for Australian citizens and residents.
Travelers are not covered; obtain full travel insurance. The U.S. Department of
State strongly recommends international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Air pollution is a significant problem during certain months in
Australia due to bush fires. Air quality varies considerably and fluctuates
with the seasons. It is typically at its worst in the bush fire season. People
at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include Infants,
children, and teens; people over 65 years of age; people with lung disease such
as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes
chronic bronchitis and emphysema; people with heart disease or diabetes; and
people who work or are active outdoors.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Traveling with Medication,
I’m Drinking What in My Water?,
Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad,
Health 101: How to
Prepare for Travel, and
Fire Safety Abroad.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Australia.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is an active OSAC Country Council in
Sydney. Eligible private-sector security professionals interested in
participating in the Country Council or connecting with the Regional Security
Officer should contact OSAC’s Asia-Pacific Team.
U.S. Consulate Contact
Martin Place, Sydney, NSW 2000
Monday-Friday, 0800-1700 (excluding U.S. and Australian holidays)
Emergency calls after normal business hours:
Other Diplomatic Posts in Australia:
Canberra, Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600. +61 (02) 6214-5600.
- Consulate Melbourne, 553 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004.
+61 (03) 9526-5900.
- Consulate Perth, 4th Floor, 16 St. George’s
Terrace, Perth, WA 6000. +61 (08) 6144-5100.
Before you travel, consider the following