Koalas, Quokkas, Wallabies, Platypus, Echidnas, Emus, Kangaroos, Kookaburras, Waratahs, Wombats, Cockatoos… Australia is a beautiful, diverse country with thousands and thousands of unique plants and animals. To protect this biodiversity, the country enforces very strict quarantine laws to prevent anyone from bringing in potential risks that could threaten the fragile ecosystem through pests or disease. If you’re travelling into Australia, here’s everything you need to know about what you can, and can’t, bring into the country.
While it might be tempting to bring an authentic wooden mask from your trip to Thailand, a beeswax candle from a little country market you visited, or food items from home to give as gifts, these are innocuous items that actually pose a huge hazard to Australia’s precious agriculture and environment.
Don’t get caught out – by contravening these laws, even by accident, you can face confiscation of items, heavy fines, and in extreme cases, imprisonment. Australia takes its unique environment very seriously, and so should you. To avoid serious consequences and threatening Australia’s beautiful landscape, make sure you’re familiar with the quarantine laws of the country, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a resident returning home after a holiday.
So, what can’t you bring into Australia?
At a glance, live animals, plant material (including wooden items), certain foods and animal products pose the biggest risk to Australia’s environment. Any items that fall under these categories need to be declared at Australian customs so that customs officials can determine whether your items pose any threat. It’s always best to declare anything you’re uncertain about, even if in most cases it’s absolutely fine to bring in. .
Items that may fall under these categories include:
- Souvenirs made from wood or coconut shells, such as masks
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Dried fruit and vegetables
- Plant seeds
- Live animals
- Fur products
- Leather products
- Honey and other bee products
- Stuffed animals
Jayride.com’s content marketing manager Claire Simon tells us about a recent experience she had returning to Australia after a trip to Italy:
‘I’ve come in and out of Australia many times and usually have nothing to declare. But during this trip to Italy my partner and I were given tambourines from a wedding we were guests at, and some dried Italian snacks. I didn’t even think about any quarantine risks until we were filling out the landing card for Australian immigration – then I realised that traditionally tambourines are made out of wood and animal skin, two items definitely on the quarantine risk list!’, says Claire.
‘We declared them both, just to be sure. The biodiversity official was really friendly and talked us through his assessment; the tambourines were indeed made out of wood and skin, but he assessed them as posing no risk, same for the dried snacks. It was a really smooth and quick process, and the official was very friendly. It’s always worth checking anything you’re not sure about as the officials will be able to tell you very quickly if an item is a risk or not. Remember to leave any fresh fruit or snacks from the plane on board too – we saw a few people who had brought apples and bananas from the plane with them, and they’re definitely not allowed’
Of course, there’s the items that you can’t bring in to most countries, including illegal firearms, lasers, bb guns, illegal pornography, too much alcohol, pirated DVDs, weapons, pepper spray, slingshots, and daggers.
If you’ve been in the great outdoors, you’ll also need to declare that at customs. Tents, hiking poles, footwear, fishing rods, hiking boots, bicycles, golf equipment, kayaks and fishing nets all need to be declared when you arrive so that customs officials can do a biosecurity check on any items that have come into contact with soil and water overseas.
Still not sure what you can bring into Australia? For a comprehensive list visit the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture website.
What happens to the goods I declare?
In many cases, any (legal) goods that pose no threat to the environment will be handed back to you. However, if it’s determined that your goods do pose a significant biosecurity threat, you generally have three options:
- Pay a fee so your items can be treated to reduce the threat
- Pay to export the items out of Australia
- The items will be confiscated
If in doubt, declare it
All passengers arriving into Australia will be given an Incoming Passenger Form to complete. You must declare any items that you are carrying with you that may pose a biosecurity threat. The golden rule is, if you’re not sure whether an item poses a risk, declare it anyway! It’s better to be safe than sorry – by providing misleading information, you could face some hefty consequences. Sniffer dogs patrol airports around Australia, and you could get inspected even if you’re not declaring anything, so if in doubt about an item, declare it. Chances are it will be returned to you, and if it does get confiscated, at least you’re not bringing any unwanted pests or diseases into the country! Remember; the quarantine rules are strict in order to keep Australia the beautiful, safe and clean county it is.
What if I want to bring snacks for the plane?
Want to avoid mid-flight tummy rumbles but not sure if you can bring any snacks on the plane? You’re in luck – generally it’s fine to bring food onto a flight to Australia, including fruit and vegetables. However, you must consume the food by the time you arrive, or dispose of it before you pass through customs. Whatever you do, don’t leave a stray apple in your bag!
By being familiar with these quarantine rules, you can help do your part to keep Australia beautiful and free from introduced pests and diseases.