Australia has rather strict limitations when it comes to owning self-defense weapons. We’ve certainly got strict gun laws. But what about a small knife? Is it legal to carry a pocket knife in Australia for self-defense?
In most states – including New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, and South Australia – it is illegal to carry a weapon, even for self-defense. This includes knives, which states consider dangerous articles or prohibited weapons.
According to Victoria’s Legal Aid website, “The law says you can’t carry, possess or use a weapon to hurt people or to defend yourself. If the police believe you are illegally carrying a weapon, they can search you and your car without a warrant. If they find a weapon, they can take it from you”.
States With Exceptions
Knife laws in Australia vary from state to state. For example, in Queensland, you’re allowed to use a Swiss army knife for utility purposes. Meanwhile, in Western Australia, there’s such a thing as a “lawful excuse” for carrying a weapon.
Now, what is a “lawful excuse”? You can have a knife out if it’s a requirement for work (say, you’re a chef or an artist), or if you use it purely for entertainment.
Types of Knives Permitted
Are There Certain Types Of Knives That Are Permitted?
The Australian Police list many prohibited weapons on their website. These include, but are not limited to:
Clasp Knife, Folding Knife, Or Flick Knife
The Australian Police define these as “a blade which opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by any pressure applied to a button, spring or device in or attached to the handle of the knife”.
Pen Knife, Or Any Concealed Knife
The Australian Police define these as “any article or device that: a) due to its appearance is capable of being mistaken for something else that is not a weapon, and b) disguises and conceals within it a single-edged or multi-edged blade or spike of any length or of any material”.
The Australian Police define these as “a knife which has a sheath which withdraws into its handle by gravity or centrifugal force or if pressure is applied to a button, spring or device attached to or forming part of the sheath, handle or blade of the knife”.
Knives similar to sheath knives are karambits, opinels, and the stiletto knife.
The law across Australia broadly parallels the law in NSW, which provides as follows:
s11C provides “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.
Summary of Offences Act 1988.
Queensland legislation is the only legislation that permits a Swiss Army Knife or Pen Knife for general utility use. The Queensland law is broadly consistent with that of the United Kingdom, where non-locking utility type pen knives with a blade under three inches may be carried for this purpose.
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.
Section 51 of the Weapons Act 1990 stipulates that:
“A person must not physically possess a knife in a public place or a school, unless the person has a reasonable excuse
It is a reasonable excuse to physically possess a knife to perform a lawful activity, duty or employment; to participate in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport, for exhibiting the knife or for use for a lawful purpose.
Source 2: http://www.sportingshooter.com.au/gun-law/when-can-you-carry-a-knife-the-loose-cannon
Source 3: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2018/05/is-it-legal-to-carry-a-knife-in-public/
Source 4: https://www.reddit.com/r/AusLegal/comments/g2wbx9/legality_of_carrying_a_swiss_army_knife_queensland/