Queensland is a beautiful, sunny state that encourages tourists and travellers all year round. It is also a relatively safe place to live in terms of crime. However, it is still important to use common sense when you are travelling.
With such a large selection of beaches along the coastline, the water poses a new safety threat for many visitors, so before you jump in, there are a few rules you can follow to minimise your risks of getting into trouble.
Beach and water safety
Queensland’s beaches range from relaxing, calm water to exciting but rough surf. The water might look calm on the surface, but underneath it can have strong powerful currents known as rips. Rips can drag you away from the beach and out into sea. As a general rule, only choose patrolled beaches – that is, beaches with surf lifesavers on duty. If you get into trouble in the water, raise your arm in the air and float calmly until help arrives. It’s important if this happens that you do not panic.
Patrolled beaches usually have red and yellow flags that mark the safest places to swim. Always swim between these red and yellow flags. If you are between the flags, it will be easier for a surf lifesaver to see your raised arm and come to help. Find your nearest patrolled beach.
Be aware of Queensland’s stinger season, which occurs from November to May. Dangerous water stingers like the box jellyfish are present in the water all year around, but the risk of being stung is higher during these months.
For more information about patrolled beaches and lifesavers, visit the Surf Lifesaving Australia website.
With its hot climate for most of the year, it’s no surprise that Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. The sun is at its hottest between 10am and 3pm, so keep this in mind if you are outside.
It’s important to always wear sunscreen, even on a cloudy day. In fact, Queenslanders have a saying – “Slip, Slop, Slap”. This means you should:
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
For more information about sun protection, visit the Cancer Council’s website.
Bush and outback safety
With an abundance of country towns to visit, bush walks to take and road trips to make, you might consider going on a weekend adventure while you are studying in Queensland.
Here are some general tips to follow if you decide to venture into the bush or outback:
- Always travel with others, never by yourself
- Make sure someone knows where you are going
- Stay on the road or walking track
- Check out the fire danger ratings before you leave
- If you are swimming in a river or waterhole, do not dive in – rather, enter the water gradually so you know how deep it is
- Stay away from wild animals and do not feed them
For more information on bush safety, visit the Department of Environment and Science website.
Sexual safety for international students
Sexual health can be a difficult topic to discuss, but it is an important aspect of living abroad. Safe sex is about building healthy, consensual relationships, and using protection to safeguard the health of you and your partner.
Protection and contraception are important to make sure you are having safe sex. Condoms are the only form of protection that prevents pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is recommended that you checked for STIs at least once a year, or if you are showing any symptoms, have had unprotected sex, or you think you might have one. You can do this by booking an appointment at your GP or visit a sexual health clinic.
For more information, see: https://stoptherise.initiatives.qld.gov.au/ and https://www.qld.gov.au/health/staying-healthy/sexual-health.
In Australia there are laws to protect people from sexual assault and to protect those who are underage.
The legal age to have sex in Australia is 16. This means it is illegal to have sex with someone under 16 – even if they tell you they are older.
It is important that everyone, including international students, understand that if they don't feel safe, or if something bad happens, the Australian law is there to protect them.
What is consent?
Consent is when a person freely says yes or actively agrees to an activity. A person cannot give consent if they are:
- Unconscious or asleep
- Forced, threatened or fearful
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Mistakenly believe that the offender is their sexual partner
It is illegal to have any sexual activity with a person if they do not consent, and they can withdraw their consent at any time. This applies to everyone, no matter their gender or relationship status.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is unwanted or forced sexual behaviour that happens without consent. This includes a broad range of sexual activity such as:
- Groping, inappropriate touching or unwanted kissing
- Forcing another person to perform a sexual act on them
Sexual assault is a crime and it is never the fault of the person who has experienced it.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual attention. This is a much broader term and includes not only physical touching or hugging, but also:
- Comments or jokes
- Staring or leering
- Sexually offensive text messages, emails, phone calls or social media
- Pressure for dates or sexual behaviour
Sexual harassment is against the law in Queensland. Some sexual harassment, such as sexual assault, indecent exposure or stalking, is a criminal offence in Australia.
If you are not sure if you have been sexually assaulted or harassed, seek professional support to help you understand what happened. Queensland Student Hub offers support services ranging from a general chat to a personal session with a student support officer, depending on your needs.
What to do if you have been assaulted
If you have been sexually assaulted, there are services and support available. Here are some things you can do:
- Report it to Queensland police. Call Triple Zero (000) if you are in danger immediately or visit your nearest police station to make a report.
- Get medical help. Visit a hospital or health centre to seek appropriate medical support.
- Report it to your education provider. Your education provider will have Campus Care support. Speak to them and they will help you understand the options available to you.
- Talk to someone. If you can’t talk about it with a professional, find someone that you can talk to such as a friend or family member. Queensland Student Hub’s Student Support is a great place to start. You can also call one of the help hotlines listed below.
- Trust yourself. Remember that what happened to you is not your fault. Trust your instincts and take it one step at a time. You do not have to deal with it alone.
Here are some hotlines you can call for further assistance:
- Queensland Sexual Assault Helpline: This service provides free phone-based support and counselling to those who think they may have been sexually assaulted. Available from 7.30am to 11:30pm, seven days a week. Ph: 1800 010 210
- Mensline (DV Connect): This service is a free and confidential phone counselling service for men living in Queensland. Available from 9am to midnight, seven days a week. Ph: 1800 600 636
- Sexual Assault Services:This is an online Government directory that lists support services throughout Queensland.