Travelling child sex offenders

Australians are renowned for their love of travel. Sadly there are some Australians who travel overseas to sexually exploit children. To protect children overseas, the Australian Government has created offences for this behaviour under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.

It is a crime for Australians to travel overseas to engage in, encourage or benefit from sexual activity with children (under 16 years of age). Despite occurring overseas, these offences can be investigated and prosecuted in Australia and carry penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for individuals and up to $500,000 in fines for companies.

These offences contained in the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 also include reference to offences associated with using a carriage service (for example, a mobile phone or the internet) to commit offences related to the sexual exploitation of children. Again, these offences have provisions that provide for investigation and prosecution in Australia.

The AFP works closely with State and Territory police, other Commonwealth agencies and international law enforcement partners to prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute these types of offences. Convictions often result in significant jail sentences.

In December 2017, the Australian Government introduced a new provision into the Commonwealth Criminal Code which makes it an offence for a person whose name appears on a child protection register to travel, or attempt to travel, overseas without permission from a competent authority. A competent authority means a person with powers, functions or duties in relation to a child sex offender register. A person found guilty of this offence will face up to five years imprisonment. See below for AFP's policy in relation to the international travel of Australian Registered Child Sex Offenders.

The AFP Annual Report contains further information regarding the AFP's activities to combat Australian travelling child sex offenders.

The AFP also provides training and capacity building to international law enforcement partners to combat travelling child sex offenders.

Reporting child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism

Assist the AFP in combating this global problem. Use our online form to report information regarding child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

AFP policy in relation to international travel of Australian Registered Child Sex Offenders

Each State and Territory has laws that set out who becomes registered on the National Child Offender System. These laws also prescribe when a person ceases to be a Registered Child Sex Offender (Registered Offender).

All Registered Offenders who are planning international travel must obtain permission from their relevant competent authority. The competent authority is then obliged under State and Territory law to advise the AFP.

In accordance with its functions as set out in the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth), including assisting international law enforcement and crime prevention, the AFP may provide information relating to a Registered Offender's international travel to an international law enforcement authority. This includes travel on a cruise ship if travelling outside Australian waters.

The AFP's current policy in relation to a Registered Offender's intended international travel is that notification will occur in all circumstances unless clearly unwarranted based on particular circumstances of the Registered Offenders information.

Information provided to our international law enforcement partner includes:

  • the Registered Offenders details
  • the offence(s) and sentence for which the Registered Offender is registered
  • registration period
  • travel details

Whenever the AFP provides such information, it is a decision for that international law enforcement authority as to what actions they may take, including denying entry to their country.

The AFP recommends that Registered Offenders contact the embassy or consular representation of the country they intend on travelling to, to determine if they will be allowed entry to that country. A full list of countries with embassy and consular representation in Australia can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

For travel on cruise ships, the AFP recommends that Registered Offenders contact the security operations area of the cruise line they intend on travelling with to determine if they will be allowed onboard.

Compliance with this will more than likely prevent the unnecessary loss of travel costs including airfares and accommodation.

Further resources

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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