Expats Guide to Australia Laws

By KatieLee, 03 May, 2016



When you move to a new country, it can be challenging to get oriented with your surroundings. Preoccupations to the tune of travel, housing, currency exchanges, diet alterations, and lingo can leave your head spinning. The last thing you need is a run-in with the local authorities over a crime that perhaps you didn’t think was a crime.


Below you will find some basic laws to keep in mind as you familiarize yourself with Australia’s ins and outs, along with some laws you never would have guessed. Those seeking extra information can search for more laws at the comprehensive Australasian Legal Information Institute online database.



You must be 18 to purchase and use alcohol or tobacco products.

Keep an eye on the news, as you may see some Australian territories raise the age limits on these fronts. Smoking is already highly discouraged through cost (a pack of cigarettes can run you $20!) and plain package marketing.


The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for most drivers in Australia is less than 0.05.

There are different tiers of BAC limits that account for small parts of the population, and one in particular may apply to expats. The zero tolerance tier maintains that drivers with an overseas provisional or learner driving permit may not have a BAC above 0.00.


Road rage/predatory driving is an offense.

Australia takes this problem very seriously. With an overwhelming amount of road rage, local authorities are keen to crack down on offenders. Road rage, or predatory driving, typically takes the form of verbal insults or hand gestures and tailgating, but has been known to escalate to physical violence. Penalties for road rage vary according to severity, and often include fines or demerit points. Repeat offenders risk losing their license.


Pets arriving in Australia must be declared.

If you’ve been reading up on Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s recent legal woes, you might be familiar with this one already. Heard failed to declare her canine passengers, which are legally obligated to spend 10 days in quarantine. They got off the hook relatively lightly, but most who violate the law with face hefty fines and possibly jail time. If you’re bringing your pets with you when you move, make sure you follow the correct procedure!


You may not put your feet up on public transportation.

It is illegal for you to put your feet anywhere other than the ground. This means no putting your feet on furniture of any kind, upholstered or not.


When soliciting the recovery on stolen goods, you may not state that a reward will be given and no questions asked upon return.

That is not to say that you can’t post flyers at all. Or even that you can’t offer a reward. Authorities in South Australia and Tasmania enforce this law to deter thieves from stealing items and collecting rewards, so it goes without saying that questions will be asked. If you post a flyer with the wrong wording, you risk shelling out $500 of your reward money to pay the fine.


Keep your saliva to yourself.

For reasons largely to do with public health, spitting is a crime in Australia. And with communicable diseases becoming global, police are taking the law very seriously. At the very least, spitting at another person will earn you a fine.


False advertisement of certain milestones are prohibited.

Announcements relating to births, deaths, funerals, marriages, engagements, or employment must be true to the extent of your knowledge, or you risk up to six months jail time. So you may want to think twice about that Facebook post you have planned for April Fool’s Day.


Leave the homing pigeons alone or pay the price.

Authorities in Victoria and South Australia may fine you for interfering with these birds. You can spot a homing pigeon by checking its legs; One or both feet will contain a ring.


Should you find yourself in trouble for the above infractions or something else entirely, rest assured that you have options. Australia is home to some of the top legal minds in the world, so you’ll encounter no shortage of qualified help should you need it. For Queenslanders, you are lucky to have the services of Harper Finch Criminal Lawyers available. Their specialties are diverse, with an emphasis on traffic violations (which you now know can be quite a headache!).


All things considered, let’s hope you manage stay out of trouble during your time as an expat. Australia is a stunning and lively place, and the best bits all exist outside of a jail cell!