Health and Safety

Our diverse natural beauty, exciting cities and warm, friendly people make Australia the place to enjoy the perfect holiday. Whether enjoying our fabulous restaurants, shopping and nightlife, the splendour of our bushland, or simply enjoying the sand between your toes on one of our many long, white beaches, there are some simple safety tips that you should follow to ensure your visit to Australia is as enjoyable as possible.

While Australia is a friendly and safe place to travel, you should still take responsibility for your personal safety. Be conscious of people in your immediate surroundings and keep your belongings secure at all times. In an emergency, telephone 000.

Queensland is a large state, approximately seven times the size of Victoria or the United Kingdom. Driving distances are great. Beware of driver fatigue. When planning a long drive get a good nights sleep before the trip, share the driving with your companions and stop for a rest at least every two hours.

  • Ensure your vehicle is in good working order and has been serviced recently.
  • In country areas road conditions can vary from bitumen surfaces to gravel and dirt. Be careful of potholes, soft road edges, narrow bridges and dusty roads. Be careful of crossing over a road covered in water - cross slowly only if the road surface is firm, and stay in the middle of the road. Obey road closure signs and stay on recognised routes.
  • Always seek local advice about road conditions. Contact the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ), local police or the park ranger.
  • In an Emergency, phone 000 for police, fire or ambulance.
  • Travel with other vehicles to remote places and let someone know your travel plans.
  • Carry a current road map.
  • Do not hitch-hike or pick up hitch-hikers.
  • Be aware of road hazards including road trains and animals on the road.
  • Allow plenty of room before you overtake road trains (very large trucks with a series of trailers that can be a total length of up to 10 cars!) and be prepared for them to sway a little as you overtake. Also be prepared for the 'windrush' when passing as it can pull you towards the road train.

Australian Road Rules
  • In Australia, all vehicles travel on the left side of the road.
  • Speed Limit - Always travel no faster than the signed maximum speed limit.
  • Seatbelts - All occupants of a vehicle must wear seatbelts at all times.
  • Crash Helmets - Motorbike, moped and scooter drivers must wear an Australian approved crash helmet. Bicycle helmets are also compulsory.
  • Hand-held mobile telephone - Drivers are not allowed to use mobile phones whilst driving.
  • Drink-Driving - Avoid drinking alcohol before driving. Australia has strict laws on 'drink-driving' and police actively enforce them.
  • Fraser Island has specific road rules, especially for four wheel drive vehicles. This information can be found on the Department of Transport website: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Safety/Driver-guide/New-road-rules-for-fraser-island.aspx 
For more information take a look at the Queensland Road Rules


Outback travel

Queensland's outback is vast. There are few towns and facilities, often with large distances between them. Ensure you plan your trip well, taking into account the great distances.

In the Outback use a four-wheel drive vehicle on unsealed roads in remote areas. Take extra care when driving these vehicles. For example, drive at reduced speeds on unsealed roads. Always carry a spare tyre, tools, water and, fuel. Do not overload your vehicle and never carry spare fuel inside an enclosed vehicle. If you have trouble, don't leave your vehicle because it will provide you with shade and protection from the heat. Wait for help to come to you.

During daylight hours drive with your headlights on low beam, as outback conditions can make it difficult to see oncoming vehicles.


Animals
 
Australian wildlife and livestock often graze on the roadside and can stray onto the road. Be very careful when driving at sunrise, sunset and at night, when animals are most active. If an animal crosses in front of you brake gently - do not swerve wildly to avoid it.

Fires in desert and bush areas can spread very quickly. If required, be prepared to evacuate the area immediately.

Mobile phone coverage

Due to the sheer size of Queensland, there may be remote parts without mobile coverage. Check with your provider to ensure coverage.

Staying in contact in the outback is vital. While mobile phones will work in many towns, staying in contact by radio, satellite phone or carrying an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is advisable. Travel with other vehicles to remote places and let someone know your travel plans.

Privately-owned land, leased land and Aboriginal sites may require permission before entering. Ensure you leave stock gates either open or shut as found when you're on outback properties.

Driving Through Queensland Indigenous Communities

Some Queensland Indigenous communities are subject to alcohol restrictions. When travelling in restricted areas, the alcohol carriage limit applies to everyone and also applies to vehicles, regardless of how many passengers are on board. If you are planning a trip to North Queensland you may be affected by this travel-through policy. Information about restrictions can be found on the Queensland Government’s Department of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander and Multicultural Affairs website.

Hiking
  • Be prepared if you plan to spend some time in the outdoors walking or hiking. Visit the ranger station or park information centre to obtain details on the best places to visit and any additional safety information.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. Let them know when you return safely.
  • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for unexpected changes in weather.
  • Check the length and degree of difficulty of your planned walk. Consider using a local guide when taking long or difficult walks.
  • Drink plenty of water (in warm weather allow at least one litre of water per hour of walking).
  • Wear sturdy shoes and socks, a hat, sunscreen lotion, comfortable clothing and insect repellent. Other handy items for long bushwalks include food, warm clothing, first aid supplies, a torch and a map.
  • Read maps and signs carefully. Stay on the track, stay behind safety barriers and stay away from cliff edges.
  • Do not feed or play with native animals. You might get bitten or scratched.

Fire
  • Limit your use of fire. Use a fuel stove for cooking (outside of tents). Never leave fires unattended or unconfined. Be aware of fire bans or restrictions in place.
  • Cigarette butts cause bushfires. Do not drop them or throw them out of your car. Evacuate the area immediately if you see a bush fire.
  • Avoid serious burns by always extinguishing campfires with water, not dirt or sand.

Snakes and Spiders
  • There are many venomous snakes and spiders in Australia. If you see a snake, do not interfere with it. Take another path. 
  • While many spiders are relatively harmless, the funnel-web spider is deadly, and white-tail and red-back spiders can inflict painful bites, and present mortal danger to children. Treat all spider bites with great caution and seek immediate medical advice.

Mosquitoes, Flies & Sandflies
  • Mosquitoes, flies, sandflies and other insects are common throughout Australia.
  • Use an insect repellent to deter insects, and wear appropriate clothing when insects are prevalent.
  • There is a number of mosquito borne diseases known to occur throughout Australia. Ross River Virus (RRV), Barmah Forest Virus (BFV) and Dengue Fever are three of the more common ones. 

Crocodiles

  • In the north of Australia, crocodiles are common in rivers, waterways and estuaries and in coastal waters.
  • Read and obey warning signs.
  • As a general rule do not swim in creeks, rivers, billabongs in northern Australia where crocodiles are prevalent.

Queensland's Outback is vast and requires special driving skills and awareness of different conditions. Our remote wilderness areas have few towns and facilities, often with large distances between them, so be aware and plan your trip. Inform family and friends or the local police of your travel plans.

Bear in mind that some remote areas may not have consistent mobile phone coverage - especially away from populated areas or townships. Check with your mobile provider when you plan your trip or visit the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and has been serviced recently. Always carry a spare tyre, tools and water. If travelling to remote areas off major highways, take extra food, water, fuel and tyres.


Trip Planning

Road conditions can vary from a sealed surface to gravel and dirt. Use a four-wheel drive vehicle on unsealed roads in remote areas. Roads can be narrow with unstable edges. Be very careful of holes, soft road edges, narrow bridges, changing surfaces and dusty roads. Drive slowly on unsealed roads and take extra care - loose surfaces are unpredictable. If you drive off the side of the road, do not overcorrect but slow down and return to the road when the vehicle is travelling at a safe speed. Always check on local road conditions before leaving major roads.

Turn your vehicle's headlights on low beam during the day so vehicles can see you. Take regular breaks and always obey road closure signs.

Take care when travelling in remote areas during summer. Temperatures in Outback Australia can reach over 50°C (122°F).


Flooded Roads

You may come across water on the road. Do not attempt to cross flooded bridges or causeways unless you are absolutely sure of the water depth and any road damage. Even shallow water can have the strength to sweep away vehicles. Most flash floods recede within 24 hours.


Road Trains

Huge trucks, known as road trains, can be the length of 10 cars. It can take up to 2.5 kilometres to overtake a road train at 100km/h. Also allow plenty of room before you overtake as they may sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the 'windrush' when passing as it can pull you towards the road train. When being overtaken by a road train, maintain your speed and don't move off the road. Only slow once the road train moves out to pass.


Animals

Watch out for animals on the road such as, kangaroos and emus. Livestock also graze on the side of unfenced roads. The most active time for many animals is sunrise and sunset. If an animal crosses in front of you, reduce speed safely, do not swerve as you may roll your vehicle.


If your vehicle breaks down

Do NOT leave your vehicle because it will provide you with shade and protection from the heat. Wait for help to come to you. Consider hiring appropriate emergency communication equipment, such as a satellite phone and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) device.

The Australian sun is extremely strong, especially between 10am and 3pm. Always use a combination of shade, adequate clothing including a shirt, hat, sunglasses and 530+ sunscreen lotion. For further information on any of the topics below, visit Surf Lifesaving Queensland.


Swimming

At the beach, always swim between the red and yellow flags during patrolled times, not outside them. The flags mark the safest place to swim and the area where lifesavers and lifeguards patrol. Blue flags indicate where surfing is allowed.
Many surf beaches in Australia have strong currents, called rips. These are powerful currents of water that can drag you out to sea. If you find yourself being caught in a rip, do not panic. Stay calm, float with the current and raise your hand, swim parallel to the shore. Do not try to swim against the rip, as you will simply get tired and lose strength.
  • If you are unsure of the beach surf conditions check with a lifesaver.
  • Read and obey warning signs on beaches, beach access points and at waterways.
  • Always swim with others. Children should always be accompanied in the water by an adult who can swim.
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or in darkness.
  • Never jump or dive into shallow water, a rockpool, creek, lake or river due to immersed rocks and logs.
  • Know your health limitations when considering diving, snorkelling, swimming (or other active pursuits).


Marine Life

Queensland, like any coastal destination, has marine life that can pose threats to humans when proper precautions are not observed. While these creatures do not pose a major threat, it is important to be aware of their potential danger. We've listed the creatures below, not to alarm you, but rather to point out some significant facts.


Sharks

While shark attacks are rare, the following precautions help reduce the risk of dangerous incidents:
  • Sharks can be found in ocean, river and canal waters throughout Australia in varying sizes.
  • Australia’s patrolled public beaches are comprehensively shark-netted to avert any potential danger.
  • Please swim between the flags where lifeguards patrol for shark dangers.


Stingers (Jellyfish)

Be aware of dangerous marine stingers present in northern Australian waters during the higher risk months (November-May).
  • Always swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags.
  • Wear protective clothing (eg wet suit or lycra body suit) to reduce exposure to potential stings.
  • Do not swim when beaches are closed.
  • Look for and observe safety and warning signs that will advise of dangers present.

In the case of marine stings in northern Australian waters, the following is recommended:
  • Restrain the patient from rubbing the sting and advise them to remain still, being careful not to be stung yourself.
  • Call for Help, Dial 000 for an ambulance.
  • Administer Emergency Care.
  • Treat the sting by pouring vinegar onto the sting area.

Refer to www.marinestingers.com.au for more information.


Crocodiles

There are both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles in Tropical North Queensland. They can be found around rivers, freshwater lagoons and coastal beaches.
  • When fishing, avoid standing at the water's edge or on logs or branches that hang over deep water.
  • When camping near lakes, rivers and beaches, camp about two metres from the high water mark and at least 50 metres from the edge of the water. Crocodiles are most active at night.
  • Read and obey warning signs, they are there for a reason.


Boating & Maritime Safety

  • Before setting out, check the weather forecast with the Bureau of Meteorology at www.bom.gov.au
  • Check the tides and chart of where you’re planning to go. Carry the chart with you if possible. Tides can change rapidly, particularly in northern Australia, leaving boats stuck on sandbars.
  • Advise someone responsible of your boating plans. If the plan changes during the voyage, notify them immediately and always report in when you return. Liaise with your local marine rescue group before departing on your voyage. Notify them of your plans, and planned return time. For more information, visit marinerescueqld.org.au.
  • Ensure you have the correct safety equipment and survival gear on board including life jackets (Personal Flotation Devices) and a registered distress beacon (EPIRB).
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for the return trip and remember, changed weather conditions on your return could mean fuel consumption could double.
  • Make sure that the boat you plan to use is properly maintained/ serviced and the battery charged.
  • Carry a marine radio (please do not rely on a mobile phone). A radio Mayday can be heard by many people at the same time and is a lot more reliable than a mobile phone.
  • Ensure you have enough food and water for all on board.
Thanks to Australia's isolation and quarantine standards it is free of most tropical diseases and diseases of insanitation. Nonetheless, travellers should have adequate travel insurance that includes health coverage. There are medical centres and hospitals throughout all cities and towns. You can request to see a male or female doctor at any medical centre. There are many bilingual doctors throughout Australia. You can find contact details for a doctor or local medical centre through the local telephone directory or directory assistance.

Public Health Care

Australia's public health care system is called Medicare. Eligibility for benefits is generally restricted to residents of Australia. While Australia does have reciprocal healthcare agreements with several countries, it is best to check before you leave home and to always have appropriate travel insurance.


Vaccinations

Vaccinations are not required unless you have come from, or visited a yellow fever infected country or zone within six days before entering Australia. No other health certificate is needed.


Drinking Water

The tap water throughout Australia is of a standard suitable for drinking.


Sun Sense

Sun protection is a serious health matter in Australia, as the Ultra Violet (UV) is very high at all times of the year. The UV exposure is at its greatest between 10am and 3pm so avoid skin exposure to the sun between these times. To avoid skin burn, never go outside without a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and a hat, and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply regularly.


Alcohol Restrictions 

Help improve the health and well-being of all people living in the remote communities when travelling through far north Queensland and Cape York and know your restrictions.

For more information visit: http://www.datsima.qld.gov.au/funding-grants-programs-initiatives/aboriginal-torres-strait-islander/community-alcohol-limits


In Case of Emergency

In case of a health emergency call triple zero (000) for ambulance assistance throughout Australia. From mobile phones call 112.

For non-emergency police attendance call 131 444.