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Specific health risks are posed by international travellers (passengers and crew) arriving in Australia. These risks could have a devastating effect on the Australian community and economy. Effective human biosecurity practices are essential in protecting Australia from serious communicable diseases.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment performs human health functions on behalf of the Department of Health at Australia’s international air and sea ports.
Aircraft or vessel operators
On route to Australia, the operator of the aircraft or vessel is legally required to broadcast the mandatory Passenger Announcement on all international aircraft or cruise vessels, prior to arrival in Australia. This is an important announcement informing passengers of Australia’s strict biosecurity laws and their obligations when completing the Incoming Passenger Card (IPC), which can be provided to passengers either on route or on arrival into Australia.
The IPC must be completed by all passengers and will be collected by border officials on arrival. The card enables travellers to declare any items, activities or specific countries visited that may be of biosecurity concern.
Note: Crew are required to complete a B456 Crew Declaration form instead of the IPC.
In-flight health messages and airport signage emphasise to travellers the importance of making truthful declarations. Under Australian law there are tough penalties for providing false or misleading information to biosecurity officers. A traveller may be liable to a civil penalty if they do not accurately disclose their recent travel history as required on the IPC.
Reporting ill travellers
The Biosecurity Act 2015 requires that the operator of an international aircraft or vessel must report details of any ill travellers that show signs or symptoms of a listed human disease, or if there has been a death on board.
For aircraft, the report must be given to a Biosecurity Official orally or in writing (including electronically):
- at the earlier of:
- as close to the top of descent as is operationally practicable before the aircraft is estimated to arrive at its first landing place in Australian territory; and
- 30 minutes before the aircraft is estimated to come to a standstill after arriving at its first landing place in Australian territory; or
- at the time specified by a biosecurity official.
Airline and aircraft operators can find further information on pre-arrival reporting requirements in the department’s Guidelines for airline and aircraft operators arriving in Australia.
For commercial vessels, the report must be given to a biosecurity official or customs officer in writing (including electronically) at least 12 hours, but no earlier than 96 hours, before the vessel is estimated to arrive at its first port in Australian Territory. For non-commercial vessels, the report must be given to a biosecurity official or customs officer orally or in writing (including electronically):
- before the vessel departs from its intended port before arriving in Australian Territory but no earlier than 90 days before the vessel is estimated to arrive at its first port in Australian Territory; or
- at least 12 hours before the vessel is estimated to arrive at its first port in Australian Territory; or
- at the time specified by a biosecurity official.
Vessel Masters and Agents can find further information on how to report Human Health in MARS, in the MARS Quick Reference Guide #11 – Human Health Update.
Further information on ill travellers and what symptoms to look out for, or deaths on board, can be found in the Reporting an illness or death fact sheet, on Department of Health’s webpage.
Communicable diseases remain a significant public health priority both in Australia and internationally. The Department of Health monitors diseases and prevents outbreaks within Australia. Up to date information on communicable diseases of concern are available on the Department of Health webpage.
Biosecurity reporting requirements
If you are travelling to Africa, the Caribbean, Central or South America, you should be aware of the risk of yellow fever virus transmission and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection. It is strongly recommended that all travellers planning to visit a yellow fever risk country be vaccinated for yellow fever.
On arrival in Australia, individuals who have stayed overnight or longer in a yellow fever risk country within the last 6 days will be asked to declare this on their IPC and show an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever.
Individuals arriving in Australia from a yellow fever risk country that do not hold a vaccination certificate will still be permitted to enter Australia without one. On arrival in Australia, biosecurity officers will provide the individual with a Yellow Fever Action Card. The card provides instructions on what to do if the individual develops any signs or symptoms of yellow fever.
Bringing in Human Remains into Australian Territory
Bringing in human remains (deceased humans’ bodies or body parts of deceased humans – excluding ashes) into Australia for burial or cremation is allowed provided specific requirements are met.
It is highly recommended that you consult an Australian funeral director or a customs broker prior to transporting human remains to Australia to ensure that all requirements are met and understood. This will help avoid confusion and potential delays upon arrival at the first place or port of arrival in Australian territory.
The human remains must be transported in a hermetically-sealed container and be transported from the first landing place or port in Australia under the direction or control of either a coroner or a funeral director. You should ensure all necessary arrangements are confirmed with these parties ahead of the arrival.
Note: These requirements do not apply to human ashes. Requirements for bringing ashes to Australia are covered separately under the heading ‘Human Ashes’.
What you need to provide
To arrange for biosecurity clearance of human remains for burial or cremation, it is recommended that you or your representative should provide the following information and documentation to the department as soon as the transport arrangements are confirmed, or if possible a minimum of 48 hours (week days) notice prior to arrival, by emailing Arrivals.
This will give biosecurity officers adequate time to prepare for the arrival and ensure the human remains can be cleared for release in a timely manner.
At least one of the following documents should be provided to the department (this document must also accompany the remains upon arrival):
- an official (certified) copy of an official certificate, in which the cause of death is specified (Eg: death certificate or coroner’s report, signed by a medical practitioner): or
- an official extract from an entry in an official register, in which the cause of death is specified (Eg: extract of a death register certified by an official); or
- a certificate from a medical practitioner which states whether the body or body part has/had or does not/did not have, before death, signs or symptoms of a Listed Human Disease (LHD) (Eg: Certificate, statement or letter, signed by a medical practitioner).
It is recommended that all documentation be provided in English or be accompanied by a certified translated copy, to avoid any delays in receiving biosecurity clearance.
Human remains not accompanied by one of the required documentation will need the permission of a Commonwealth Human Biosecurity Officer (CHBO) in order to be brought into Australia. Permission can be obtained by contacting the Department of Health via the Human Biosecurity Inbox.
In addition to the required documentation, the following information should be provided to the department, prior to arrival:
- Expected arrival date into Australia; and
- details of flight the human remains will arrive on; and
- details of company/person who will be collecting the human remains from the landing place; and
- Airway bill number (Receipt issued by an international airline for goods).
For further information relating to bringing in human remains into Australia, for reasons other than for burial or cremation, such as for scientific or research purposes; for display or use as curios; or bringing in hair, teeth or bones of a deceased human’s body, please see the Department of Health’s webpage on Bringing In or Exporting human remains for other purposes. Additional information on biosecurity requirements for bringing in human remains for other purposes can also be found on the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions Database – BICON.
There are no restrictions or requirements, from a biosecurity perspective, for human ashes coming into Australia. No import permit, death certificate or cremation certificate is required. If however the ashes are mixed with a biosecurity risk material, such as soil, then requirements may apply and we recommend you contact the department prior to arrival.
The container (urn) carrying the ashes must also be free from biosecurity risk material, such as soil, plant material, and insects etc. If biosecurity risk material is present and/or the container is made from wood, the container will need to be declared on the Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) on arrival into Australia, and will be inspected by a Biosecurity Officer. The department recommends you avoid using a wood container, and use alternate material options such as ceramic, iron, zinc, copper, bronze or plastic, as these materials are not of biosecurity concern and you will not be required to declare these containers on arrival.
Further information regarding bringing in biosecurity risk material – for example a wooden container, can be found on the department’s Biosecurity import conditions database - BICON.
If human ashes are brought in:
- with you as part of your luggage, they will be cleared upon arrival (only if the container is required to be declared i.e. if contained in timber box)
- as or with unaccompanied personal effects (UPEs), they will be cleared as your UPEs
- as cargo (with a bill of lading/airway bill), when necessary, Agriculture will facilitate clearance without any written declaration being required.
While there are no restrictions on bringing human ashes into Australia from a biosecurity perspective, airlines, shipping companies or mailing authorities may have their own internal policies or requirements. It is recommended that you contact the relevant provider prior to the transport of cremated remains to determine if there are any special requirements.
Department of Health:
Department of Home Affairs:
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment:
Human biosecurity requirements at Australian international air and sea ports
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: 1800 900 090