Australian Gun Culture Part 25: Knives in Australia, A Changed Viewpoint

By Dean Weingarten

Knives for sale at AgQuip near Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona -( When I came to Australia, I had read of the weapons laws regarding the carry of knives. I had read that knives could only be carried if you had a “good reason” to do so.

I knew how much the “good reason” limitation had been abused in the United States to stop people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

States like New Jersey, New York, and California are notorious for the abuse of that limitation. I was apprehensive about carrying a pocket knife in Australia.

On arrival, I wrote:

As I talked to the manager, I mentioned that I understood it was illegal to carry a pocket knife. She said that yes, she used to carry a small knife all the time, but she does not do so anymore.
Such are the ways in which liberty dies, a little at a time.

After I found my hotel, and checked in, I spent some time walking about the city.  It is clean and busy. It seemed odd to be unarmed, and to realize that carrying even a pocket knife is a serious crime.

Now, after almost three months in Australia. I admit, I was wrong about knives and the ability to carry them.  In rural Australia, knives are common, and are sold over the counter in many stores. It is true that you are not allowed to carry a knife without a “good reason”.  I was quickly informed that a “good reason” is easily met.

Informed people told me that there were two reasons that nearly always would be accepted. First, that the knife was a “rescue tool” in time of need. Not for self defense. Self defense is not a valid reason. But to aid in an auto accident, to cut a line, or other rescue purposes, is valid. Second is “food preparation”. Slicing a salami, peeling fruit, or other food preparation tasks are valid reasons.

There are two places where carrying a knife will get you in trouble. Knives are forbidden in bars and in schools. Not carrying a knife there is not too difficult. Double edged knives require a permit. Spears do not. Walking with a spear in an Australian city will draw attention.

The other point about Australia that makes pocket knife carry plausible is the reasonableness of Australian police. I was impressed. Every Australian policeman that I encountered was polite, willing to be reasonable, and easy to engage. If you work at being difficult and abusive… your mileage may vary.

A knife vendor told me, when I showed him the Victorinox Swiss Army knife that I had been toting about in Australia “there is no reason for any law abiding person to fear carrying a Victorinox, as long as you stay out of bars and schools.”  He, quite reasonably, asked how many times I had been searched by a policeman during my life.  In a long life filled with political action, and some close scrapes, the last time I was searched by a policeman was in 1970 during riots on the University of Wisconsin campus. They did not do a very good job.

My impression in Australia is that being searched by the police is very rare.

A caveat must be mentioned. I rarely saw anyone carrying a knife that was visible. Knives with pocket clips are common in the United States. I see people with them all the time. I did not see one in Australia, and I was looking. I looked when I attended the Shot Show in Brisbane. There were thousands of people. I did not see one carrying a knife with the pocket clip visible.

The attitude may be, if no knife is showing, there is no reason for the police to ask why it is being carried.

If you are in a remote rural area, camping, or walking in the bush, I doubt that carrying a belt knife, a hatchet, or a machete would be a problem. In the city, it would.

Perhaps, on the next trip to Australia, I will bring a pocket knife with a clip and see if the two reasons for carry hold up.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Dean , Ive carried a small knife for years , a G96 boot knife, I dont use the clip that came with it but have a belt with a sheath stitched onto it so that the kife sits parralel with the belt ,it has a cover that press studs over the knife. Unless some one looks closely it is very hard to see . I have never been pulled up by police and searched. One point is that airport security will confiscate any pocket , knife ,nail clippers etc , so if you bring a knife with you make sure… Read more »


Carry a benchmade folder w pocket clip in the city daily. Opens boxes, letters, fruit, carpet, vinyl. Forgotten I had it and took it into bars for lunch and stuff. Never had a problem. I don’t think anyone noticed.