How safe are overseas visitors in Australia?

‘Media headlines have labelled Australia as an unsafe place to visit, whereas in fact the risk of homicide victimisation faced by tourists who visit Australia is extremely low.‘That’s according to Dr Toni Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) said today on release of its latest research paper, The murder of overseas visitors in Australia.

This paper provides, for the first time, factual information on the risk of becoming a victim of homicide while visiting Australia from overseas.

‘It is important to ensure that potential visitors to Australia are not discouraged by incorrect information about risks to their personal safety,’ Dr Makkai said.

From 1994 to 2003 there were about 40 million short-term visitors to Australia. In this period, 34 overseas visitors were murdered in Australia - a rate of 0.9 per million short-term visitors to Australia. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in two incidents - at Port Arthur and the Childers backpacker hostel.

During the nine year period, visitors from 14 different countries were the victims of murder in Australia. Over a third came from the United Kingdom, and a further 18 percent originated from Japan and Korea. Young adult males were most at risk which is comparable to the general homicide profile in Australia.


Australian visitors overseas are at a much higher risk. During a similar period (1995 to 2003) there were a total of 157 Australian visitors murdered while overseas. This is a rate of 5.7 per million Australian short-term visitors overseas. After removing deaths caused by terrorist activities such as the Bali bombing in 2002 and the World Trade Centre in 2001, the total number of Australians murdered overseas (59) is still almost twice the number of overseas visitors murdered in Australia.

The study involved checking cases on the AIC’s National Homicide Monitoring Program with records of overseas visitors held by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, on working holiday, short stay visitor, long stay visitor, sponsored business/family visitor visa, or student visas. Visitors from New Zealand were not included in the study because they are not required to have visas outlining their reason for travel.