Australia welcomes thousands of Irish people on holidays and
extended visits every year. For most people these pass off
without incident and the memories are happy ones. However,
every year the Embassy in Canberra and the Consulate in Sydney also
deal with a significant number of cases where for one reason or
another, things have gone wrong. It is often observed in such
cases that with better preparation these incidents might have been
avoided altogether or their impact reduced.
The travel advice presented here draws on experience. It is
intended to inform travellers so that they can do their best to
ensure that they have a safe and enjoyable holiday or longer visit
in Australia. It includes sections addressed at specific
groups such as backpackers and those coming with their families to
work in Australia.
The Embassy and the Consulate can help Irish citizens if they find
themselves in difficulty. Travellers should note that the
Embassy and the Consulate are not in general in a position to
provide funds to those seeking assistance.
The main elements that emerge from this advice are applicable to
all groups and individuals:
· Take out
access to adequate funds;
local laws and customs.
Before departing for Australia travellers should take out
comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas
medical costs up to and including medical evacuation.
A significant number of Irish citizens incur substantial medical
costs in Australia every year, often including additional costs
associated with travel back to Ireland. Without insurance this
places an enormous burden on families. This can be avoided or
mitigated with the correct insurance cover.
If the stay in Australia is extended, insurance should be extended
accordingly. It is important to check for any exclusions and
to ensure that the policy covers all the activities likely to be
undertaken. For instance, not all policies will cover all sports
A Reciprocal Health Agreement is in place between the governments
of Ireland and Australia. This Agreement provides for
free emergency care in an Australian public hospital for Irish
citizens. It is important to note that the Agreement only covers
people who are legally in Australia on certain visa classes
(student visas are not included). While this is important and
helpful, it is limited to emergency situations and is not a
replacement for medical insurance. It does not cover ambulance
costs which, given the size of Australia and the frequent use of
air ambulances, can be significant. It does not cover prescription
costs other than for patients while in hospital. Equally it does
not cover outpatient costs for follow-up (dressings, physiotherapy
etc) or cover medical repatriation to Ireland.
Further information on the Agreement is available here.
Those who overstay their visa may find themselves with no
entitlement to medical care at all, and could run up considerable
medical bills unless they have access to separate private
It is important to note too in this context that holders of
temporary visas are not entitled to any social welfare benefits
from the Australian authorities. In cases where a person is
injured or unable to work for other medical reasons substantial
costs can be incurred that could otherwise be covered by travel
VISAS AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
All non-Australians require a visa to enter the country – (only New
Zealand citizens can obtain visas on arrival). All others
have to be pre-cleared and issued with an Electronic Travel
Authorisation. Travel agents, the nearest Australian Embassy or the
Australian Immigration website can provide further details (
The terms of the particular visa issued should be respected
fully. It is an offence to overstay a visa. To do so
will likely incur a sanction which can include up to a three year
ban on entering the country. Immigration law is very strictly
enforced. Visitors should be under no illusion on this point.
KEEPING YOUR PASSPORT SAFE
Australian law does not require people to carry a passport on their
person. And to avoid loss, theft or damage it is advised
against doing so unless absolutely necessary. A photocopy or
scanned copy of the biography page of the passport should be kept
in a safe place where it can be accessed. This will help in
providing identification and in obtaining a replacement if the
passport is lost or stolen.
If a passport is lost or stolen while in Australia, the Embassy in
Canberra or the Consulate in Sydney can, in emergency situations,
issue an emergency travel document or temporary passport on receipt
of a completed application, duly witnessed and with all supporting
documents and the appropriate fee. Proof of identity and
citizenship will be required, including an original or certified
long form birth certificate in all cases.
Again given the distances involved in Australia this may take some
time if documents have to be sent through the post. If the
loss occurs or is reported near to or at the end of a visit, there
may be no option but to change flights and incur the loss
associated with it. It is important therefore that if a
passport is lost or stolen at any stage during a visit that the
Embassy or Consulate is notified as quickly as possible. It
should not be left until the last minute.
Safety and Security
Although safety levels for visitors to Australia are generally
good, the same precautions as to personal security should be
exercised as would be exercised in Ireland.
As with all countries there are areas, often in the major cities,
which should be avoided or where extra vigilance should be
exercised. Visitors should inform themselves locally as to the safe
places to socialise. Those looking for or staying in cheap
accommodation should be especially vigilant; the undesirability of
the area may be the reason for the apparent good value.
Certain ‘party’ areas in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth should be
frequented with particular care and sensible precautions should be
If a person is the victim of a crime while in Australia this should
be reported to the local police immediately. If further
consular assistance is required, contact should be made with the
Embassy or Consulate. Victim Support Australia also has a useful
website with numbers of local Help Lines listed by State
In the event of sexual assault, the Australian Police have
specialised sexual assault teams, and many hospitals have dedicated
sexual assault units. There is also a national 24 hour telephone
counselling service for cases of sexual assault and domestic
violence – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
As well as protecting oneself against crime while in Australia,
visitors have a responsibility to ensure that their own behaviour
is not such as would bring them to the attention of the
Contrary to the perception of Australia as a laidback and relaxed
country very strict approaches are taken by the Police and the
Courts when it comes to law and order. The laws on ‘street
offences’ such as public nuisance, drunk and disorderly behaviour,
and on common assault are enforced to the letter. The instructions
of Australian police officers should be followed immediately and
A significant number of Irish nationals, particularly in the 20 to
30 age bracket, come before the Australian courts each year.
Sometimes there is an expectation on the part of defendants that
flexibility or leniency might be shown to a foreign national not
familiar with Australian law. There is no basis for such
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death and
serious injury to Irish visitors in Australia.
It is compulsory for drivers to carry their licence when driving in
Australia. Persons in charge of a vehicle should check the
insurance policy of the vehicle, especially if it is borrowed, to
ensure there is proper cover. Some ‘open’ Australian
insurance policies carry age restrictions and may cover only
certain drivers. When hiring a car and planning to drive on
unsealed roads it is essential to ensure that the hire car
insurance policy has adequate cover.
In rural areas roads may be unsealed and impassable after heavy
rain. It is a mistake to rely solely on GPS to plan
While it may seem obvious it is important to note that driving
while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in
Australia. Common sense should be used in avoiding dangerous
situations such as travelling as a passenger with a driver who is
under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Seatbelts are required by
law and must be worn at all times.
Driver fatigue is a major cause of death on Australian roads.
Drivers are advised to always carry water and to take rest breaks
every two hours while driving long distances. It is also important
to check the roadworthiness of the vehicle to be used before
undertaking long distance travel in remote areas. Petrol stations
may be few and far between and there may be a requirement to carry
an additional petrol supply.
Local speed limits are generally lower than in Ireland. They
are strictly enforced and hefty on-the-spot fines are applied.
Watch out too for signs warning of local wildlife which may be
present on the roads and can cause serious injury in a collision.
Particular attention should be paid when driving at dawn and dusk
when animals such as kangaroos are on the move.
The Australian surf can be dangerous with strong rip currents
challenging even the most experienced swimmer.
It is advised that travellers swim only on beaches that are
patrolled by lifeguards, and always swim between the flags. The
position of the flags demarcates the safest part of the beach to
swim. These are generally moved daily to take account of rip
currents or other hazards. However tempting a remote and
unsupervised beach may appear, there may be a very good reason for
the absence of other bathers. As well as rip currents some
areas may present risk of stings or bites from local marine life up
to and including shark attacks. Always check the signs and
pay attention to local information.
Never swim after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and avoid
Safety in the Outback
Australia is a vast country with great distances between many major
cities and centres of population. By definition, some parts of the
Outback are extremely remote and can present unexpected hazards. If
it is intended to travel to such areas, trips should be planned
with care, taking account of local advice on precautions to take.
In very remote areas relevant local tourist authorities or police
should be notified of departures, return times and return.
Many national parks have beacon locators that the authorities ask
hikers to take with them so that they can be more easily found in
case of emergency.
Mobile phone coverage, though generally good in towns and cities,
is often not available in remote areas. It is a mistake to rely
upon them or indeed upon real time internet maps if travelling in
the Outback or even in some relatively well-populated rural areas.
Visitors to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and the
north of Western Australia may be exposed to mosquito- borne
diseases such as dengue fever and Ross River fever. Suitable
precautions should be taken and insect repellents and sleeping nets
There have been reports of cases of Murray Valley Encephalitis
(MVE), a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease, in the Northern
Territory and north Western Australia, with occasional cases in
Queensland, central Australia and the central regions of Western
Local Laws and Customs
All visitors have a responsibility to respect local laws and
The Police in Australia are strict in their implementation of the
law. No flexibility should be expected in respect of speed
limits, parking restrictions or public order regulations.
What might pass in Ireland for friendly banter may be interpreted
in Australia as a refusal to follow the orders of a police officer.
Disrespectful language or physical contact, especially from people
under the influence of alcohol, is not tolerated.
Certain sites in rural areas may have particular importance to
indigenous Australians. Particular attention and respect
should be paid by visitors.
Climate and Natural Disasters
The Australian climate can be extreme. Drought in one part can be
paralleled by severe flooding in another. The north of the country
gets a wet and a dry season, and much of the centre of the country
is desert or semi-arid. While the climate is generally temperate in
the south-east and south-west corners, even here the summer heat
can be intense.
The weather between different cities may vary widely at certain
times of the year. If planning on travelling around Australia
it is important to stay aware of the weather in each place it is
intended to stay. Up to date weather forecasts for all areas is
available at www.bom.gov.au
The sunburn index is very high in Australia during both summer and
winter months and the country has a high rate of skin cancer. High
factor sun protection should be reapplied frequently and wearing of
a hat is highly recommended.
Extremely high temperatures across the
continent, coupled with ongoing drought have led to fire
warnings for the States of South Australia, Victoria , New South
Wales and Tasmania. Visitors to these states, particularly if they
intend to travel through remote rural areas, should ensure that
they are aware in advance of the latest advisory from the emergency
services. Specific weather warnings are carried and updated
on the Bureau of Meteorology website;
Due to the dry conditions in many parts of Australia it is
important to be alert to the possibility of bush fires; to be
cognisant of local bush fire risk indicators; and to observe total
fire ban warnings where they are in place. Bush fires have
devastating effects and there are heavy penalties applied for
breach of the rules.
Depending on the season flash flooding can occur in many
areas. Floods in recent years have led to loss of life and
cut off whole towns and communities as was the case in the last
days of January 2013 in southern Queensland and northern New South
Wales.. Local warnings should be heeded. It is dangerous to
try to cross swollen creeks or other flood waters; their power and
depth may be deceptive.
Some unsealed roads (common in rural areas) may not be passable
after heavy rain even if travelling in a four x four. It is
important not to rely solely on GPS when planning a route.
Local advice is usually available and should be sought out and
Additional Country Info
Thousands of Irish backpackers arrive in Australia every year and
for the most part enjoy a wonderful experience, with many of them
taking advantage of the Working Holiday visas currently available
for those aged between 18 and 30. At the same time, of all
the categories of Irish people visiting Australia, those holding
Working Holiday visas are most likely to require consular
assistance; to be arrested; or to be seriously or fatally injured.
Tips for backpackers based on practical experience are set out
(1) Access to Funds
Australia is an expensive country to live in. It is essential to
bring enough money for food and accommodation particularly in any
period when money is not being earned. To secure
accommodation a deposit/bond will be required, as well as several
weeks rent in advance. Planning should be made on the
assumption that work will not be immediately available on arrival.
Even if a job is secured soon after arriving, first payments may
not kick in until the end of the month. Jobs may be scarce in
certain areas, necessitating a move elsewhere involving a flight
across the country. This can be expensive and airline tickets do
not come cheap. Temporary residents are not entitled to any social
(2) Travel on a return ticket
Access to a return ticket provides the security of knowing that if
it is not possible to find work or for some reason such as sickness
or incapacity not possible to work for a certain period, or indeed
if Australia is just not for you, it is possible to get on a plane
and go home.
(3) Travel Insurance
All visitors to Australia are advised to take out Travel
Insurance. Experience suggests that backpackers are the group
most likely to need it.
Stolen handbags, lost luggage and minor injuries will all be easier
to deal with insurance – let alone the more serious medical cases.
The Reciprocal Health Agreement between Ireland and Australia
covers emergency cover in hospital but does not cover for instance
the cost of ambulances, medicines, physiotherapy or loss of
earnings. Access to health insurance protects against having
to pay large medical bills. In the case of medical evacuation to
Ireland following a serious injury, insurance will reduce or remove
the burden that would otherwise arise for the traveller or for his
or her family.
When choosing travel insurance it is important that it covers
sports or other activities that might be participated in while in
Australia. If planning to work on a farm, for instance in the
case of those seeking to extend a Working Holiday visa, the policy
should cover manual labour
(4) Do the Research
Before travelling to Australia take advice from those who may have
already visited previously. Australia is a huge country that
offers vastly different experiences in the cities, the Outback or
the tropics. Ensure you know what you are getting yourself into.
Ensure you know the cost of accommodation and the job situation
wherever you are going.
Have CV and references prepared in advance. Copies of
qualifications or relevant certificates should be to hand.
Those travelling on a Working Holiday visa are limited to a maximum
period of 6 months with any one employer. If you have skills and do
not want to be limited to 6 months in any one job, you may wish to
consider travelling to Australia on a different visa type. A number
of professional Australian government-registered Migration Agents
are based in Ireland.
In addition there may be opportunities to travel to Australia on an
Irish State Agency graduate placement.
In some sectors, Irish qualifications may not be fully recognised
for certification/licensing under the Australian system. If
planning to work in a licensed sector check before travelling what
will be needed to get certification – it may be easier and cheaper
to do some of this research from home. Also for some trades such as
electricians, certification in one Australian State may not be
fully recognised in a neighbouring State.
(5) A full and valid Irish driving licence
In Australia drivers who are not fully qualified face a range of
restrictions including lower speed limits than for fully qualified
drivers. Some jobs may require a full Australian driving licence
and some States may have in place requirements on the length of
time for which a full Irish licence has been held in order to
obtain a full Australian licence, without the need for an
The police and Road Traffic Authorities are aware that fraudulent
Irish driving licences have previously been circulating in
Australia – especially in the Sydney area. Anyone presenting a
fraudulent Irish driving licence in order to obtain an Australian
one is likely to face prosecution which could result in a fine,
jail term and/or deportation.
(6) Drive safely
Too many Irish young people die in road traffic accidents in
Australia. If travelling long distances take a break. Never ever
drink and drive. Wear a seatbelt. Be responsible – do not get into
the car with a driver that you know is under the influence of
alcohol or other drugs.
If buying a used car make sure it is roadworthy. A national
Australian register NEVDIS is available where the history of a car
can be checked, whether it has been written off or involved in a
serious accident, or whether there is any finance owing on it. If
you buy a car with finance owing the debt will transfer to you as
the new owner. http://www.austroads.com.au/vehicle-registration/nevdis
(7) Socialise Safely
There is no shortage of good places to socialise in the major
cities in Australia. There is often a holiday atmosphere. But
it is important to know when to stop. Every year alcohol plays a
very significant role in a number of the deaths, serious injuries
and arrests of young Irish people in Australia.
There is recurring negative coverage in the media about anti-social
behaviour involving Irish people in Australia. Many of these
reports refer to excessive consumption of alcohol. These incidents
may involve only a tiny minority of backpackers, but unreasonable
and inconsiderate behaviour by anyone identified as Irish affects
the reputation of all Irish people living in and travelling to
Australia. A bad general reputation for Irish backpackers is not
desirable and can impact negatively across the board, in particular
on those seeking accommodation and jobs.
Australia has strict Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) laws and
it is an offence for a bar-person to serve alcohol to someone who
is intoxicated. If in a bar or other licensed premises it becomes
apparent to staff that a customer is intoxicated, service will be
refused and the person asked to leave. A security person will
escort the customer from the premises. There will be no
drinking-up time and no further discussion. If this happens, comply
with the instructions; do not enter into arguments or discussions
with security staff ; do not hang around outside trying to get back
in. Just go home.
Steer clear of any hint of trouble. Local courts take a very dim
view of drunk and disorderly behaviour, and street affray quickly
attracts significant police attention. If asked by the police to
move on from a bar or in any situation, do so immediately. Do not
argue. Do not use disrespectful language and under no circumstances
make physical contact with a police officer – any physical contact
can be construed as assault even if it is not intended in that
(8) Look out for your friends
It is important to remain vigilant even in a holiday atmosphere.
Keep an eye out for your friends. This applies in particular when
out at night – make sure everyone in your group has a plan for
getting home safely.
At other times too it is important to look out for your
friends. Mental health is emerging as an increasing
area of concern in particularly amongst those in the twenty to
thirty age bracket. If a friend is behaving out of character check
that everything is ok. Keep in touch with people if you think
there may be a problem and try to encourage them to seek
professional help. Some travellers, especially if it is their
first long-haul trip away from home experience isolation, financial
or other difficulties and may not know where to turn for
help. Excessive drinking, lack of sleep and the use of
illicit drugs can be a contributory factor and individuals should
exercise common sense to avoid potential problems.
Cases have arisen where persons who have been receiving treatment
for mental health conditions at home, discontinue their medication
when in Australia due to cost or other reasons. If diagnosed with a
mental health condition and planning to travel to Australia, make
sure to bring a supply of medication to cover the period until you
can get a prescription here. And even if entitled to a medical card
at home, the full costs of medication in Australia will have to be
met. Plans should be made accordingly for what may be a
There are emergency support options available for those
experiencing mental health difficulties in Australia including
Lifeline – call 13 11 14 from anywhere in Australia for the price
of a local call.
If a person is experiencing difficulties of any kind, they can talk
in confidence to any of the Irish Welfare organisations around the
Irish Australian Welfare Bureau Sydney - http://www.iawb.org.au/
Irish Australian Support Association Queensland, Brisbane -
Claddagh Association Perth - http://claddagh.org.au/
Irish Australian Welfare Bureau Melbourne – tel 03 9482 3865
(9) Swim Safely
Even if you think you are a good swimmer by Irish standards,
exercise extra caution in the Aussie surf. It is strong,
unpredictable and takes lives every year. Never swim after
consuming alcohol. To do so not only puts the swimmer’s life at
risk, but also the lives of friends, lifeguards or passers-by who
might try to save someone in difficulties.
Swim between the flags – they are there for a reason. Follow the
instructions of lifeguards. It is not difficult to get caught in a
rip current. Avoid swimming on unsupervised beaches and take heed
of local information and signage.
Wear sunscreen and reapply frequently. As many Irish people have
learned to their cost, sunstroke and dehydration can become serious
medical issues especially after over-enthusiastic exposure to the
(10) Keep your documentation safe and in order
A passport will be needed to open back accounts, to apply for jobs
and possibly also to secure accommodation. It is an extremely
important document. Keep it safe. If a passport is lost or stolen
the Embassy or Consulate can provide a replacement only if the
appropriate documentation and fee has been provided. But this
may take several weeks.
It is strongly recommended that you do not use your passport for
day-to-day ID purposes. All too often passports get damaged
and lost from the back pocket of the jeans on a Saturday night.
It is strongly advised that you obtain some form of Australian ID
to use for banking and entry to licensed premises etc. A credit
card size ID is much easier to carry than a passport and if lost or
stolen can be replaced more easily, with less expense and without
affecting your passport record. Details on applying for Australian
proof of age cards can be found at
Be aware of the conditions of your visa and its date of expiry. If
travelling on a first year Working Holiday visa and you want to
stay for a second year, make sure you do your regional work in good
time so that you can make your application for year two in good
time and in proper order.
Do not ignore the fact your visa is about to expire. Once a
visa has expired it has expired and there is nothing to undo the
fact. The holder has broken the law. Visas and the
consequences which flow from not respecting them are a matter for
the Australian immigration authorities. Immigration rules are
strict and strictly applied. Be responsible and be organised. Once
a current visa is over-stayed, it is extremely difficult to remain
in Australia by switching to a different one. If you organise
yourself sufficiently in advance there may be some options open.
(11) Do your farm work
If you want to apply for a second Working Holiday visa there is a
strict requirement to complete a certain period of regional work.
If you do not do the full designated period of time in a designated
job/area you will not be entitled to the visa - end of story.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is well aware of
false Australian Business Numbers (ABN) circulating and offers
being made of fraudulent documentation. Many Irish people have been
deported for this reason alone over recent years. Dishonesty in a
visa application or producing false documentation is visa fraud and
can lead to prosecution and/or deportation, and a ban on entering
Australia in the future. This could also affect any attempts to
gain entry to other countries.
(12)Have a great time!
The final rule – number 12 – is to have a great time in a wonderful
country with lots of opportunities, and with fabulous people, and
where Irish people have long received a very warm welcome. As the
most visible group of Irish people in Australia at any one time,
Backpackers have a particular responsibility to keep it that way.
For those thinking about coming to Australia for an extended period
in a family unit, the most important thing is to research fully the
visa class it is intended to travel on, and get a clear and
accurate picture of what entitlements will or will not apply for
the employed person and their family.
It is important to take time too to research the State and city in
which it is planned to relocate. Issues such as childcare and
school fees should be attended to in advance.
The cost of living in Australia is high. Good accommodation in the
major cities can be difficult to find and very expensive by Irish
standards. This applies in particular in Perth, where there is a
significant shortage of suitable accommodation, with rental prices
reflecting the high demand.
There may be long waiting lists for schools and child care in
certain areas. It may be necessary to apply for places before
leaving Ireland. Take note that the Australian school year begins
in end January/February not in September as is the case at home.
In some States, notably New South Wales, temporary residents may
have to pay significant fees for public primary schools. Moreover,
temporary residents may not be entitled to benefit from Australian
tax rebates for child care expenses.
Emergency hospital treatment for Irish people legally resident in
Australia is covered by the Reciprocal Health Agreement between the
two countries. This does not cover the cost of ambulances and
follow-up care. Temporary residents are not generally entitled to
Medicare (Australian public health rebate system) and as such may
have to pay in-full for childhood vaccinations and other medical
Temporary residents are not generally entitled to social welfare
(Centrelink) payments. The system is structured differently
in Australia so you may not be entitled to any child benefit
payments and even if you were entitled to a medical card at home
you will be required to pay for medical appointments and related
services in Australia.
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS IN
Contact details for all Irish Missions (including Honorary Consuls)
in Australia are available here