Religious Rights in Australia
This page contains information in regard to the religious
rights laws of Australia, both at a State and Federal level.
If you have any information that may be of assistance please
Below is some general information on the various state statutes
that affect the practice of Paganism and Witchcraft in particular
in Australia. This is not to be taken as advice but background
information for further research.
If in any doubt, seek professional advice!!
Laws Relating to Witchcraft in Australia
The Criminal Code - Chapter XL of the Criminal
Code of Queensland titled 'Obtaining Property by Flase Pretenses:
Cheating' contains Section 432:
432. Pretending to exercise witchcraft or fortune telling.
Any person who pretends to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft,
sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, or undertakes to tell
fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult
science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed
to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of a misdemeanour,
and is liable to imprisonment for one year.
As such, witchcraft is still a criminal offence in the state
New South Wales
The Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed by the
Imperial Acts Application Act, 1969 (NSW), (having
been repealed in England in 1951). The offence of fortune telling,
[Section 4(2)(n) of the Vagrancy Act, 1902 (NSW)]
was repealed by the Summary Offences Act, 1970
(NSW), and replaced by Section 39 of the Summary Offences
Act, 1970 (NSW), which was finally repealed by the Summary
Offences Act (Repeal) Act, 1979 (NSW).
Australian Capital Territory
Until relatively recently, there were a number of laws covering
the pretence of witchcraft in the ACT. However, the Discrimination
Act, 1991, now makes it unlawful to discriminate
against a person on the basis of (among other things) the person's
The Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Public Offences) Act,
1991 abolished a section similar to the Queensland criminal
code plus a vagrancy provision. The 1991 Act inserted a new
offence into the Summary Offences Act as Section
40. It states:
'A person who, with intent to defraud purports to act as
a spiritualist or medium or to exercise powers of telepathy
or claivoyance or other similar powers, is guilty of an offence'.
Relevant legislation, specifically the Northern Territory Ciminal
Code 1983 and the Summary
Offences Act 1923, fails to reveal any equivalent
laws which affect religious practices.
The Police Offences Act 1935, Section 8(1)(g)
which pertains to fortune telling; the Criminal Code Act
1924, Sections 119-121, concerning crimes relating to
religion, which however, may be offset to some degree with the
Constitution Act 1934, Section 46, providing for
freedom of religion.
The relevant criminal provision is Section 13 of the Vagrancy
Act 1958 which is entitled 'Fortune Telling and Pretending to
Exercise Witchcraft, etc':
Any person who pretends or professes to tell fortunes or
uses any subtle craft means or device by palmistry or otherwise
to defraud or impose on any other person or pretends to exercise
or use any kind of witchcraft sorcery enchantment or conjuration
or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult or crafty
science to discover where or in what manner any goods or chattels
stolen or lost may be found shall be guilty of an offence.
All information from this section derived from Witchcraft
and Paganism in Australia, by Lynne Hume (Melbourne:
Melbourne UP, 1997)