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Safety and Emergencies for Expats in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Safety

Australia is generally a safe country, though several natural phenomena are potentially hazardous. Tropical cyclones can be a dangerous in the northern half of the country. The flooding the cyclones bring can also be harmful, as it was it the floods experienced in Brisbane in 2011. November to April is the cyclone season.

Though well-known, the threat from Australia’s deadly wildlife is exaggerated. More people are killed in Australia in horse-riding accidents than by snakes, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopuses and redback spiders combined. Nevertheless, it is still wise to take precautions. For example, between November and April, you should only swim in areas declared safe from jellyfish.

The summer sun probably presents the greatest danger. Summers can be extremely hot, especially in the deserts of the ‘Red Centre’, and the risk of heat stroke is serious. To avoid heat stroke, make sure you drink enough water and wear loose, lightweight clothing. Above all, arrange your day so you’re not in the sun when it is very hot, taking breaks from the sun in cooler places whenever possible. Strong sun tan lotion is also important to reduce the risk on skin cancer.

Swimming can be dangerous, and not just because of sharks. Rip tides can catch swimmers unawares; you should always swim between the displayed red and yellow flags. While travelling in the Outback, you can pass for hundreds of miles between towns, so preparation is vital. You need to plan your food, water and fuel supplies and be prepared for emergencies before you set off.

Crime levels are low compared to most other countries in the developed world. The worst state for violent assaults and homicide in Northern Territory; the state with the highest rate for theft is Western Australia. In most parts of the country you are unlikely to experience any trouble. Walking the streets in the daytime is mostly safe.

Rates of pick-pocketing and other forms of theft are highest in urban tourist areas.As in any country, theft prevention is about being aware of what is going on around you and keep your belongings with you at all times. You can help reduce your chances of being stolen from by keeping items such as mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible. It is important to take out insurance on the contents of your home and your belongings.

One common form of scam, which especially targets expats outside the country, is advertising property for rent, then asking for money to be wired or paid into a bank account in exchange for a rental agreement that never arrives. As always, you should not send money to any source if you cannot establish that it is reputable.

The incidence of sexual assaults is low in Australia. Nevertheless, you do need to be careful to avoid situations where you are vulnerable. If drinking in a public place, make sure you know where your friends are at all times. Also, make sure at all times that there is someone in your group who has an eye on your drinks. Don’t accept drinks from others.

It is important to use only licensed taxis. All licensed taxis have official symbols on the side and driver’s photocard inside the cab. It is possible to flag down any licensed taxi, and there are also taxi ranks in most cities.

Emergencies

In an emergency, when you need the police, ambulance or fire services, dial 000 (triple zero) from any telephone. If you have a hearing or speech impediment, you can dial 106 from a teletypewriter to access the Text Emergency Relay Service. The international standard emergency number, 112, can also be dialled, but it will only work from a digital mobile phone. If you cannot speak English clearly, you should call 131 450 for the Australian Government’s official interpretation service.

The above emergency numbers are only for life or property-threatening situations that need immediate attention. If a crime has occurred but the suspected culprits are not in the vicinity, you can report the crime by visiting your local police station, or calling the Police Assistance Line on 131 444. Alternatively, if you want to report a crime anonymously, you can call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000. All the above emergency numbers are free of charge.

 

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