British and Irish Lions Tour 2013
Travel Advice specific to fans who are attending the Lions Rugby matches in Australia can be found at ../uploads/documents/british and irish lions tour of australia 2013.pdf (PDF 285kb)
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 travel insurance;
· Have access to adequate funds;
· Respect visa terms;
· Keep passports safe;
· Behave responsibly;
· Respect 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 activities.
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. http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements
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 insurance.
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 insurance.
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 ( https://www.ecom.immi.gov.au/visas/app/uu?form=TV ).
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 taken.
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 http://www.victimsupport.org.au/ .
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 Police.
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 without argument.
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 expectations.
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 itineraries.
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 swimming alone.
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 used.
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 Australia.
Local Laws and Customs
All visitors have a responsibility to respect local laws and customs.
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 since late December 2012 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 heeded.
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 below.
(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 welfare payments.
(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. https://www.mara.gov.au/agent/ARSearchResults.aspx?searchforld=7&keyld=Ireland&noncom=&lprac=&FolderID=394
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. http://www.deewr.gov.au/Skills/Programs/SkillsAssess/TRA/ARTC/Pages/home.aspx
(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 additional test.
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 manner.
(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 substantial cost.
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 country:
Irish Australian Welfare Bureau Sydney - http://www.iawb.org.au/
Irish Australian Support Association Queensland, Brisbane - http://www.iasaq.com.au/
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 Australian sun.
(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 http://australia.gov.au/services/service-task/apply-for/proof-of-age-card
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 bills.
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 AUSTRALIA
Contact details for all Irish Missions (including Honorary Consuls) in Australia are available here