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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 email me!

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

Queensland

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 of Queensland.


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The Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed by the Imperial Acts Application Act, 1969 (NSW), (having been repealed in England in 1951). The offence of fortune telling, [Section 4(2)(n) of the Vagrancy Act, 1902 (NSW)] was repealed by the Summary Offences Act, 1970 (NSW), and replaced by Section 39 of the Summary Offences Act, 1970 (NSW), which was finally repealed by the Summary Offences Act (Repeal) Act, 1979 (NSW).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 religious convictions.


South Australia

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'.


Northern Territory

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.


Tasmania

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.


Victoria

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)


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Page Updated 2nd April, 2000
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