I once carried around a fruit knife for a week in my backpack. I had completely forgotten about it after bringing it to work because all the blades in the office were blunt. I didn’t think much of it back then but was it legal for me to carry the knife around in public? Let’s find out.
Australia’s gun laws are exceptionally tough. People who own firearms need to get a licence for it and the sale of guns is highly regulated. As a result, gun violence is relatively low in Australia.
Knife murders, on the other hand, has seen a steady increase in recent years. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology:
“There has been a pronounced change in the type of weapons used in homicide since monitoring began. Firearm use has declined by more than half since 1989-90 as a proportion of homicide methods, and there has been an upward trend in the use of knives and sharp instruments, which in 2006-07 accounted for nearly half of all homicide victims.”
The use of knives in homicide has dipped a bit in recent years but is still one of the most commonly used weapon.
Stricter gun laws has been attributed to the drop in gun violence in Australia. So do we have any laws that restrict the possession of knives in public?
Summary of Offences Act 1988
In NSW, under the Summary of Offences Act 1988, Section 11C:
“A person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody a knife in a public place or a school.”
A ‘knife’ includes a knife blade, a razor blade and any other blade. The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units or two years in prison, or both. A “reasonable excuse” may be that you need the knife for work, for preparation of food in a public area, for recreational and entertainment purposes or for religious purposes. It is illegal to sell a knife to a person under the age of 16.
This law doesn’t apply to knives that are considered prohibited weapons (for example, butterfly knives) which are illegal to own or carry at any point in time.
The same goes for Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia, which share the same restrictions on carrying knives. Tasmania changed its laws a few years ago to align with all the other states, except Western Australia, on this issue.
Western Australia have its own weapons laws, under Weapons Regulations 1999, which details different scenarios where carrying various controlled weapons in public would be acceptable. A knife is considered a controlled weapon.
So if you’re carrying a knife with you for whatever reason, you better have a good excuse for it.