What you need to declare

Australian Customs and Border Protection Services carefully controls what people travelling to Australia bring into the country. Live animals, plant material, animal products and certain foods from overseas can carry pests and diseases which pose serious threats to our agriculture and unique flora and fauna. For this reason it is illegal to bring certain items (either on your person or in your luggage) into Australia.

Before you arrive in Australia you will be asked to fill in an Incoming Passenger Card. This card is a legally binding document. If you are carrying any prohibited foods, plant or animal products you must tick ‘YES’ on the Incoming Passenger card to declare them. You must take these declared items with you to the customs clearance point to be assessed by a customs officer.

Don’t forget to declare everything you are carrying! You won’t be penalised if you declare all your goods, even if some or all of them are prohibited.

Every passenger passing through customs at an Australian port may have their baggage assessed by x-ray, detector dog or a biosecurity officer even if they have nothing to declare. If you are found to be carrying prohibited goods that you have not declared you face penalties for:

  • making a false declaration on your Incoming Passenger Card
  • failing to declare prohibited items
  • failing to dispose of prohibited items

The penalties are severe. They range from

  • on the spot fines of up to $340 (AUD)
  • criminal prosecution with fines of $66,000 (AUD)
  • up to 10 years imprisonment

The following is a list of items you must declare on arrival at the airport in Australia:

Food

  • airline food and snacks
  • commercially prepared, cooked and raw food and ingredients
  • dried fruit and vegetables
  • instant noodles and rice
  • packaged meals
  • herbs and spices
  • herbal and traditional medicines, remedies, tonics and herbal teas
  • snack foods

Diary and egg products

  • infant formula (must be accompanying a child)
  • dairy products (fresh and powdered) including milk, cheese and ‘non-dairy’ creamers
  • cheese—must be commercially prepared and packaged and originate from countries free from foot and mouth disease
  • all whole, dried and powdered eggs, and egg products, such as mayonnaise
  • egg products including noodles and pasta that are not commercially manufactured

Animal Products

  • meat including fresh, dried, frozen, cooked, smoked, salted or preserved—from all animal species
  • sausages, salami and sliced meats
  • fish and other seafood products
  • pet food—including canned products and raw hide chews
  • rawhide article sand handicrafts including drums

Seeds

  • cereal grains, popping corn, raw nuts, pinecones, birdseed, unidentified seeds, some commercially packaged seeds, and ornaments including seeds

Fresh fruit & vegetables

  • all fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables
  • all fruit and vegetables must be accompanied by a valid import permit

Plant material

  • tea containing seeds, fruit skin (for example citrus and apple peel) and fruit pieces
  • remedies and medicines containing herbs, seeds, bark, fungi and dried plant material
  • fresh or dried flower arrangements and potpourri
  • dried herbs or leaves
  • handicrafts—including wreaths and Christmas decorations—containing seeds, raw nuts, corn, pinecones, grapevines, bark, moss, straw or other plant material
  • wooden items, such as carvings, souvenirs or other articles made using timber

Live animals and animal products (excluding domestic animals see Moving your Pets to Australia -Quarantine)

  • all mammals, birds, birds’ eggs and nests, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects
  • feathers, bones, horns, tusks, wool and animal hair
  • skins, hides and furs
  • stuffed animals and birds (taxidermy certificate required—some may be prohibited under endangered species laws)
  • shells and coral (including jewellery and souvenirs)
  • bee products including honey, beeswax and honeycomb
  • used animal equipment including veterinary equipment and medicines, shearing or meat trade tools, saddlery and tack and animal or bird cages

Other items

  • biological specimens including tissue culture
  • craft and hobby lines made from animal or plant material
  • used sporting and camping equipment including tents, footwear, hiking boots, golf equipment and bicycles (need to be checked to ensure they are clean and free from soil contamination)
  • used freshwater watercraft or fishing equipment including rods and nets, waders, kayaks, paddles and life jackets

The above list is not comprehensive. Please check the ICON database.

ICON is the Department of Agriculture's import conditions database. It is a simple and convenient way to access information about Australian import conditions for more than 20,000 foreign plant, animal, mineral and human commodities. It can be used to determine if a commodity intended for import to Australia needs a quarantine permit and/or treatment or if there are any other quarantine prerequisites.

In many cases the items that you declare will be returned to you after inspection, however if they are found to be of risk they will be destroyed. In some cases you may be able to avoid destruction by:

  • treating the item to remove the risk (fumigation, gamma irradiation)
  • storing the item at the airport for collection on your departure from Australia
  • exporting the item

The above options are carried out at your expense and Australian Customs do not accept any liability for any damage that may occur to the item.

There are some items which can be brought into Australia with an Import Permit. To find out more information on items which require an Import Permit (issued before your arrival in Australia) visit ICON.

Should you find yourself with prohibited goods make sure you declare them. There are quarantine bins at every airport terminal in Australia where you can dispose of food, plant or animal material. 

This article covers general information about Australian Customs – what you need to declare and doesn't take your individual circumstances into account. Please use it as a guide only. Reference: Arriving in Australia – Declare it! Australian Government Department of Agriculture.

photo credit: tim.riley via photopin cc