Bush and outback safety
Australia has many extraordinary and beautiful places to explore. If you are going on a trip, travel with other people, make sure someone knows where you are at all times and stay on a road or a walking track.
In the bush
Be prepared if you plan some time in our bushland. Plan your hike. 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;
- When walking or exploring outdoors drink plenty of water (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;
- Never walk alone. Read maps and signs carefully. Stay on the track and stay behind safety barriers;
- Never dive into a rock-pool, creek, lake or river. Stay away from cliff edges and waterfalls;
- Do not feed or play with native animals. You might get bitten or scratched;
- Limit your use of fire. Use a fuel stove for cooking and wear thermal clothing to keep warm. Never leave fires unattended or unconfined; and
- Visit the ranger station or park information centre to obtain details on the best places to visit and any additional safety tips for that park.
In the outback
Australia’s outback is vast. Our remote wilderness areas have few towns and facilities, often with large distances between them, so be aware and plan your trip;
- When planning each day of travel spend some time to calculate how long it will take to drive between destinations. Be realistic about how far you can drive in a day;
- Inform family and friends or the local police of your travel plans. The local police can also provide helpful advice on facilities and road conditions;
- Always carry a current road map;
- Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and has been serviced recently;
- 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 and water. If travelling to remote areas off major highways take extra food, water, fuel and tyres. Do not overload your vehicle and never carry spare fuel inside an enclosed vehicle;
- If you have trouble with your vehicle, don’t leave your vehicle because it will provide you with shade and protection from the heat. Wait for help to come to you;
- Hire appropriate emergency communication equipment, such as a satellite phone or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon device (EPIRB);
- Obey road closure signs and stay on recognised routes;
- Fires in desert and bush areas can spread very quickly. If required, be prepared to evacuate the area immediately;
- 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; and
- During daylight hours always drive with your headlights on low beam, as outback conditions can make it difficult to see oncoming vehicles.
Dangerous animals and plants
Australia is home to a variety of native animals. Even if they seem friendly to you, do not touch or feed them – they are not used to close contact with humans and may hurt you. If you are visiting any of Australia’s beautiful parks or forests:
- be wary of all animals in their natural habitat;
- be very careful about approaching any injured animal, such as kangaroos or possums. They are likely to bite and scratch if you attempt to touch or move them; and
- never feed or play with wildlife. Native animals are by nature timid, however, having been provided food from people, may become aggressive for food. You may get bitten or scratched. In addition, human foods may be harmful to native animals.
Although most dangerous creatures are found in bushland and beaches, some may be present in metropolitan parks, and even in the backyard. Particularly dangerous creatures include:
- the salt water crocodile – they are found on the northern coast of Australia and inland for up to 100 km or more and can grow up to seven metres in length;
- the red back spider – its bite is extremely painful and it can be deadly. They are easily recognisable by the red stripe on the top of their abdomen. They are found all around Australia and are common in urban areas;
- the brown snake – it is approximately 1.5 metres long, and is one of Australia's more deadly creatures. They have venom which can cause death to humans relatively quickly if left untreated. They are found in the eastern part of Australia;
- the funnel-web spider – these are one of the world’s deadliest spiders. They are large black spiders with a shiny head and thorax. They are found in Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania;
- the blue ring octopus – this is a deadly venomous octopus found in marine waters around Australia. It is easily recognisable by the distinctive blue rings on its body;
- the Box Jellyfish (also known as a Sea Wasp) – this deadly jellyfish has a square looking body and inhabits the north east areas of Australia, particularly along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland; and
- the Irukandji jellyfish – this is a deadly jellyfish which is only 2.5 centimetres in diameter, making it very hard to spot in the water. It is found in Northern Australian waters.
Bites and stings
The majority of insects in Australia are not harmful to humans. Some insects bite and sting if they are threatened so it is best to avoid touching them if you want to avoid being stung or bitten.
The Australia-wide Poisons Information Centres have a common telephone number, which is 131 126.
Some people are allergic to certain insect bites or venom. In the case of an allergic reaction to bites or stings, medical attention should be sought immediately. Call a doctor or hospital for guidance or 000 for an ambulance.
Anaphylaxis – allergic reactions
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur in sensitive individuals from exposure to any chemicals foreign to the body, including bites and stings, plants, or medications. Parts of the body, for example the face or throat swell up so much that the patient can't breathe. In severe cases the patient may go into shock within a few minutes and the heart can stop.
For any patient who shows signs of anaphylaxis, call 000 for an ambulance, and have the patient taken immediately to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.
General first aid for bites and stings
For bites or stings from these creatures seek first aid assistance straight away, stay calm, and as immobile as possible;
- All species of Australian snakes, including sea snakes;
- Funnel web spiders;
- Blue ringed octopus; and
- Cone shell stings.
For all other bites and stings seek or apply basic first aid;
- Wash with soap and water and apply an antiseptic if available;
- Ensure that the patient's tetanus vaccination is up to date; and
Apply an ice-pack to reduce local pain and swelling.