Laws & Safety in Australia
Australia’s emergency phone number is 000 (zero zero zero). It is a free call from every phone in Australia, including mobile phones.
You should call 000 if you are in a life-threatening situation and need the help of the police, fire brigade or ambulance service. This includes if you are witnessing a crime in progress. Do not call 000 if it is not an emergency, for example if you have a cold and need to see a doctor, if you are lost and need directions, or if you are locked out of your house. Do not hang up the telephone if you do not speak English well – say your language and an interpreter will assist you with your call.
From mobile phones, 000 will connect callers, although many newer digital phones require the user to dial 112, the international standard emergency number. Consult your mobile phone carrier if you are not sure how to access the 000 emergency phone number.
When you call 000, you will be connected to an operator who will help progress your request for help. You will need to tell them which service you need – simply say “police”, “fire” or “ambulance”. It is important that you try to stay calm and give the operator clear information on what the emergency is. Answer any questions as best you can. It is extremely important that you tell the operator where you are, and any landmarks that are nearby (a statue, bridge, store, etc).
If you cannot speak English well, you must first tell the operator what kind of help you need (police, fire or ambulance) and then say your language. You will be connected to the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) directly, so do not hang up. The TIS National interpreter will then help the police, fire or ambulance service to obtain your address and other details.
More safety information – Think Before – A student safety initiative
If you need an ambulance, call 000 and ask for an “ambulance”. Do not hang up the telephone if you do not speak English well – say your language and an interpreter will assist you with your call. An ambulance provides emergency transport to hospital and immediate medical attention. Your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) should cover the cost for emergency ambulance transport. Contact your health insurance provider for more information.
Every state and territory in Australia has its own police force. Police in Australia are not connected to the military forces and do not play a part in politics. Their aim is to protect life and property in the community, prevent and detect crime, and preserve peace. The police may intervene in family issues where there is a domestic dispute or concern about physical, sexual or psychological abuse.
If you need police assistance and it’s not an emergency – for example, to report a crime such as theft – either go to the nearest police station or call the police on 131 444.
In emergency situations you can call 000 and ask for “police”. Do not hang up the telephone if you do not speak English well – say your language and an interpreter will assist you with your call.
If you are the victim of a crime you should call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
Police in Australia are very approachable, trustworthy and helpful with strong ties to the community. They will provide you with the assistance you need, and you should feel confident in approaching them. If you have witnessed a criminal offence or if you have information which may help police solve a crime contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 from anywhere in Australia. Read more information about Crime Stoppers at crimestoppers.com.au
Every state and territory in Australia also has a State Emergency Service (SES) organisation that assists police, fire and ambulance services in the event of severe floods, storms, bushfires etc. They also assist in emergency evacuations, search and rescue, and mass casualties.
If you need assistance from the SES because, for example, your home has been damaged in a storm, you can call them on 132 500, no matter where you are in Australia.
While Australia is a comparatively safe place to live and has relatively low crime rates, you must still take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, just like you would at home. Looking after your safety, your health and your overall well-being is important, especially while you are dealing with the added stresses of being in a new country and adjusting to a new way of life.
One of the reasons we have such a wonderful lifestyle in Australia is due to our representative democracy, the separation of powers, and our respect for the rule of law. We have a lot of laws in Australia and as a result, society runs smoothly.
In being granted a visa to study in Australia, you signed a document (Australian Values Statement Temporary) agreeing to respect Australian values and obey the laws of Australia for the duration of your stay. Failure to comply with the laws of this land (including State and Territory laws) could result in a fine or the cancellation of your visa and possible deportation back home. If you are convicted of a serious crime, it could result in imprisonment. Nobody want this to happen!
The Law Handbook Online contains an overview of the law in South Australia presented in everyday language. It outlines your rights and responsibilities in a range of legal areas and advises on where you can go for more assistance. It is important that you use the Law Handbook Online as a starting point only, and not as a substitute for legal advice. While the authors make every attempt to ensure that the information contained in the Law Handbook Online is accurate and up-to-date, no responsibility will be accepted for any errors or omissions.
Some common laws you should be aware of include:
- you must be over 18 years of age to purchase alcohol or cigarettes
- smoking in many public places, including shopping centres, restaurants and on public transport is probibited
- you cannot buy, sell, possess or use illicit drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines or opiates
- you cannot carry weapons including knives and guns
- you must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, motorbike or scooter
- if you drive a car in Australia, you must have a driver’s licence and make sure you are aware of and obey all road rules
- it is illegal to offer or receive a bride for services including those provided by a government official
- it is illegal to discriminate against any person because of their gender, race, country of origin, political beliefs, religious beliefs, martital status, disability or sexual preference
- acts of violence against other people, property or animals is a criminal offence. This includes violence against family members.
You can find a comprehensive outline of Australian law and the legal system at australia.gov.au
If you do break the law are arrested and need to attend a court appearance you will need legal representation to negotiate Australia’s complex legal system.