Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate Melbourne does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MELBOURNE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.
Please review OSAC’s Australia-specific webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Melbourne is generally a very safe city; however, it is not immune from crimes commonly associated with large urban areas. For the 2015-16 reporting period, there were 333,214 incidents of crime recorded by the Victoria Police. The majority of victims (244,476) were people, though just over one-fourth (88,738) were businesses or organizations – an increase of 15.4% over the previous period. On average, approximately three out of every 100 people were victims of crime in Victoria, while there were 1.5 alleged offenders for every 1,000 people. One of the most common crimes was non-violent theft, resulting from targets of opportunity.
Property crimes (burglary, breaking and entering, theft) occur throughout Australia and are among the crimes most likely to be encountered by Australians and foreign residents alike. The frequency of such crime is on par with most major U.S. metropolitan areas. Vehicle theft is fairly low.
Armed robberies are more prominent in high-density cities. When a weapon is involved, it is typically a knife. Australia has extremely restrictive firearms legislation, and the purchase, licensing, and storage of firearms is very limited compared to the U.S. Local police have attributed a majority of burglaries and robberies to the growing problem with heroin and methamphetamine (ice) addiction. The most recent crime statistics for Victoria reflect a slight increase (+1.7%) in the number of weapons and explosives offenses (15,555) over the previous reporting period.
Violent crime is relatively low, with fewer than 100 reported cases of armed robbery, murder, or sexual assault per 100,000 persons nationally. Physical assaults are not common but occur with greater frequency in specific locales. In Victoria, the number of stalking, harassment, and threatening behavior offenses reported increased significantly (+20.5%) in the 2015-2016 reporting period. The most common location where assaults occurred was in residential locations, followed by streets/lanes/sidewalks. In Victoria, the majority of crimes against a person were assault offenses (42,754), many of these were attributed to fighting and alcohol-related incidents. In Victoria, there were 197 homicide offenses (most commonly murder) for the period 2015-2016.
Cyber criminals gain access to networks primarily through spear phishing, which continues to be the most commonly reported cyber security incident. The main driver behind cyberattacks is believed to be competitors seeking commercial advantage. The theft/breach of confidential information and/or intellectual property remains the business community’s greatest cyber security concern.
Free Wi-Fi hot spots and Internet cafes are commonly available; however, the networks provided are not considered secure and may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Travelers should avoid conducting sensitive transactions when using unsecured/public networks.
There were 34,266 deception-related offenses in Victoria during the 2015-2016 reporting period. The majority of deception offenses are committed in retail/financial locations. The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) provides information on how to recognize and avoid common forms of cybercrime, including advice for victims.
Other Areas of Concern
Outlaw motorcycle gangs are present in Australia, with international outlaw clubs (Bandidos, Hells Angels, Gypsyjokers) and local groups (Rebels). In general, these groups are known for drug trafficking and other organized criminal activities (sex trade).
Gang violence has become high profile to the point where various state governments have taken steps to change laws to focus on the problem, and police have set up groups to deal with the threat. Youth gangs are also present in most major cities. During the long summer holiday (mid-December-February), these groups are responsible for an up-tick in nuisance activities (hooliganism).
Speed limits are strictly enforced via cameras and police traffic patrols. Holiday weekends typically see a rise in roadside fatalities, as most Australians drive long distances to popular beach destinations.
Travelers should be prepared to submit to random breathalyzer testing. Drunk driving checks are conducted frequently, with varied times and locations. When stopped by the Police Random Breath Testing Units, a breath sample will be tested to determine the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA); additionally, a saliva swab may be taken to determine if the driver is Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of an illicit drug. A driver is in violation of the law if driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05% or greater.
In the event of a motor vehicle accident, travelers are encouraged to stop and provide assistance to an injured person. Each party must exchange his/her name, address, and registration details. This includes the owner of damaged property and injured persons (or a third party representing them). If anyone is injured (or under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and police are not in attendance, the accident should be reported in person to the nearest open police station. If property is damaged and the owner is not present, report the crash in person to the nearest open police station. Persons injured in a motor vehicle accident in some states may be covered by compulsory third party insurance as part of the standard motor vehicle registration. This insurance covers compensation for injuries but not damage to property or medical costs. If a crash occurs involving an unlicensed vehicle, the driver and owner may be financially liable for the damages paid to the injured person.
Public Transportation Conditions
Melbourne’s public transport system includes trains, trams, buses, and taxis. Public transportation is generally safe and used extensively by residents. While trams cover most of the city center, the most common location that public transport offenses occurred in was train stations. In Victoria, there were 1,909 offenses against persons at public transport locations during the 2015-2016 reporting period.
Taxis are generally reliable and safe, they can be difficult to access during periods of high demand. Travelers should be mindful that many taxi services record video of passengers during their trips; video recording typically begins as soon as the front and/or rear passenger door is opened. Ride sharing services have become a form of transportation in/around major cities and are generally considered safe.
Australian international and domestic airports meet with International Civil Aviation Organization Standards. All international airports are policed by the Australian Federal Police. Melbourne has two large commercial airports – Melbourne Airport (MEL) and the smaller Avalon Airport (AVV) approximately 50 kilometers to the south west of Melbourne city – and two smaller airfields.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MELBOURNE AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Between September 2014 and January 2017, there were four terrorist attacks and 12 disrupted plots. Australia has been identified repeatedly by ISIS leadership as a desirable target. The potential return of dozens of Australian foreign fighters continues to pose a long-term risk, while homegrown extremists targeting host-nation security forces with basic, readily available weapons may be the greatest near-term threat. Active shooter incidents continue to be of high concern to Australian law enforcement. The majority of recent terrorism-related incidents appear to have been perpetrated by young, homegrown Australians who have been influenced or inspired by ISIS.
During 2016, the Victoria Police, in conjunction with federal law enforcement and security agencies, conducted a number of investigations relating to individuals and groups suspected of engaging in, or supporting, terrorism.
- In December 2016, police arrested three men in connection to a suicide bombing terror plot aimed at Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) landmarks.
- In 2015, a 17-year old male was arrested for planning to detonate three explosive devices in Melbourne.
- In September 2014, police shot and killed a teenager in Melbourne after he stabbed two counter-terrorism officers. The teenager had reportedly planned to behead an officer, drape an Islamic flag over the body, and post images of the killing online.
In response to potential threats, Australian authorities updated the National Terrorism Threat Advisory system to better inform Australians about the likelihood of a terrorist attack and to enable authorities, businesses, and individuals to take safety and security measures. The 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/groups have 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 and should report life-threatening situations to the police by calling 000.
Incidents involving political violence directed against the U.S. government and private interests occur relatively infrequently. The majority of protests near U.S. diplomatic facilities continue to be peaceful. Visits by high-level U.S. dignitaries will occasionally attract organizations that engage in protests on a variety of topics.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MELBOURNE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Incidents of civil unrest are relatively uncommon. Occasionally, there are organized protests in/around various government and diplomatic enclaves; however, these are typically peaceful. Visitors should be aware that the potential for violence during protests does exist, and situations that present the possibility of confrontation with protestors should be avoided.
Australia can experience extreme weather conditions with the warmer months creating the potential for large-scale fires. Bush fire season is October-May. Bush fires claim lives and millions of dollars in property damage when they occur.
- During 2009, in the Victoria countryside outside of Melbourne, bushfires killed 173 persons, destroyed entire towns, consumed thousands of hectares, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
The 2010 and 2011 summers were extremely wet with some Victoria locations experiencing record rainfall and flooding. The 2016 summer was again hot and dry with a number of bushfires occurring in regional Victoria. A significant number of bushfires have been attributed to arsonists. Anyone planning on residing in Australia should devise a bushfire plan of action. The Victorian government has setup a bushfire help-line at 1-800-240-667; more information is also available on their website.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Critical infrastructure is relatively stable and secure compared to most countries. Major attacks on critical infrastructure are rare. The most likely threat remains natural disaster (cyclones, bushfires, 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), State, and Territory police.
Australia’s national critical infrastructure protection arrangements are coordinated by the National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC), a national body comprising of representatives from the Commonwealth, State, and Territory governments. Australia relies heavily on intelligence and information sharing for critical infrastructure protection.
State and Territory police meet with owners/operators of critical infrastructure, in accordance with jurisdictional arrangements, to provide information on the national and localized security threat context. Police will communicate directly with owners/operators of critical infrastructure where there is an imminent, specific threat and will coordinate the operational response. Police also gather and disseminate intelligence to relevant agencies as required.
The Australian Privacy Act 1988 is similar in content to that of the U.S Privacy Act of 1974 and places strict controls on the storage and release of information. Travelers should be mindful of where personal identification information is stored or who has access to it.
Private and public organizations must have the consent of the individual for the conduct of any background investigations. A failure to obtain an individual’s consent can result in serious prosecution. The Australian Privacy Act of 1988 requirements apply when seeking to release details to third parties.
Australia has an ever-growing user population, large international drug importation issues, local clandestine laboratory problems, and an increasing number of individuals arrested for drug trafficking. Cannabis is the most abused drug in Australia followed by ecstasy, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Australia is also seeing an increased use of illegal prescription drugs, performance enhancing drugs, and synthetic drugs (Kronic, Spice). Cocaine is a very popular drug among the wealthy citizens, primarily in Sydney. A lot of ecstasy pills sold in Australia contain no MDMA; instead, they contain a variety of unknown synthetic drugs. The result is that users routinely ingest ecstasy with unknown chemicals that can cause dangerous side effects.
Drug use, drug trafficking, and drug possession offenses increased slightly (+2%) in 2016. There were 4,933 drug dealing and trafficking offenses recorded in Victoria for 2015-2016. The majority of drug offenses were related to amphetamines and cannabis; the most common type of drug seized was cannabis.
There were 807 cases of kidnap/abduction for the 2015-2016 reporting period. The most common kidnap/abduction offense is false imprisonment; some of these offenses are attributed to family incidents.
Australian police organizations are well-trained and professional. They have well-equipped emergency response teams (SWAT, EOD, negotiator) that can mobilize and respond to any incident with short notice.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Complaints of a minor nature regarding the Victoria Police should be directed to the nearest police station Commander. Matters considered to be more serous should be directed electronically via the “Compliments and Complaints” via the Victoria Police website or through the Independent Broad Based Anti – Corruption Commission (IBAC).
Crime Victim Assistance
Police/Medical/Fire Emergency: 000
As this number is a call center, callers should be prepared to provide basic information such as location and services needed (fire, ambulance and/or police).
The Victoria Department of Justice and Regulation operates victims of crime service. The official website provides full details on how to manage the effects (support, financial assistance, rights, impact statements etc.) of crime including a helpline: 1 800 819 817 (0800-2200hrs, 7 days a week).
Additionally, the Victoria Police can provide guidance to individuals seeking crime victim assistance, including contact information for centers and services related to areas such as family violence, sexual offenses, and child abuse cases. Agencies available to assist include the Sexual Assault Crisis line (for adults), Gatehouse Centre for Assessment and Treatment of Child Abuse, Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Men’s Referral Service.
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is the Australian federal government agency responsible for managing the security and integrity of the border. It facilitates the movement of legitimate international travelers and goods, while protecting the safety, security, and commercial interests of Australians. For general enquiries, Australian customs can be contacted at 1300 363 263.
The Victoria Police provides policing services 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has over 17,000 officers. Their role is to preserve the peace, protect life and property, prevent offenses, detect and apprehend offenders, and help persons in need of assistance. Accordingly, the Victoria Police will respond to all manner of crime ranging from minor traffic infringements to homicides and counter-terrorism response.
Australia has a high level of professional emergency medical services. Ambulance service staffed by certified emergency medical technicians is the standard throughout most of Australia.
Police/medical emergencies: 000
Health Direct Australia: 1800 022 222 (for general medical advice)
Poisons Information Centre: 13 11 26
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The Alfred Hospital
55 Commercial Rd,
Melbourne VIC 3004
+61 3 9076 2000 (Switchboard)
+ 61 3 9276 3405 (Emergency)
Royal Melbourne Hospital
300 Grattan St,
Parkville VIC 3050
+61 3 9342 7000 (Switchboard)
+61 3 9342 7666 or + 61 3 9342 7009 (Emergency)
To find hospitals in other locations visit: http://www.myhospitals.gov.au
Available Air Ambulance Services
Medical evacuation via air is used in remote areas as well as urban areas depending on the degree of injury.
Travelers should review their insurance policies and consider travelers insurance.
Australia has a strong insurance culture with citizens typically buying home insurance, motor vehicle insurance, and medical/health 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.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Australia.
OSAC Country Council Information
Melbourne does not have an active OSAC Country Council; however, both Sydney and Perth have active OSAC Country Councils that meet multiple times each year. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia and Pacific team with any questions.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate General Melbourne
553 St Kilda Road
Melbourne, Victoria, 3004
Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700 (except U.S. and Australian holidays)
Consulate Contact Numbers
Consulate Operator: 61-03-9526-5900
Consular Affairs: 61-03-9526-5988
Regional Security Officer (Canberra): 61-02-6214-5733
Marine Post One (Canberra): 61-02-6214-5900
Embassy Canberra: https://au.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/canberra/
Consulate Perth: https://au.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/perth/
Consulate Sydney: https://au.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/sydney/
Australia Country Information Sheet