Human health

​Specific health risks are posed by international travellers (passengers and crew) arriving in Australia. These risks could have a devastating effect on the Australian community and economy. Effective human biosecurity practices are essential in protecting Australia from serious communicable diseases.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources performs human health functions on behalf of the Department of Health at Australia’s international air and sea ports.

Aircraft or vessel operators

On route to Australia, the operator of the aircraft or vessel is legally required to broadcast the mandatory Passenger Announcement on all international aircraft or cruise vessels, prior to arrival in Australia. This is an important announcement informing passengers of Australia’s strict biosecurity laws and their obligations when completing the Incoming Passenger Card (IPC), which can be provided to passengers either on route or on arrival into Australia.

The IPC must be completed by all passengers and will be collected by border officials on arrival. The card enables travellers to declare any items, activities or specific countries visited that may be of biosecurity concern.

Note: Crew are required to complete a B456 Crew Declaration form instead of the IPC.

In-flight health messages and airport signage will emphasise to travellers the importance of making truthful declarations. Under Australian law there are tough penalties for providing false information to biosecurity officers. These penalties will be enforced against any person who does not accurately disclose their recent travel history as required on the IPC.

Reporting ill travellers

The Biosecurity Act 2015 requires that the operator of an international aircraft or vessel must report any ill travellers that show signs and symptoms of infectious disease, or if there has been a death on board. The report must be made to a biosecurity officer prior to arrival in Australia through the Pre-Arrival Report (PAR).

Airline and aircraft operators can find further information on pre-arrival reporting requirements in the department’s Guidelines for airline and aircraft operators arriving in Australia.

Vessel Masters and Agents can find further information on how to report Human Health in MARS, in the MARS Quick Reference Guide #11 – Human Health Update.

Further information on ill travellers and what symptoms to look out for, or deaths on board, can be found in the Reporting an illness or death fact sheet, on Department of Health’s webpage.

Communicable Diseases

Communicable diseases remain a significant public health priority both in Australia and internationally. Up to date information and factsheets on a number of serious communicable diseases of concern is provided by the Department of Health on its website.

Biosecurity reporting requirements

Yellow Fever

If you are travelling to Africa, the Caribbean, Central or South America, you should be aware of the risk of yellow fever virus transmission and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection. It is strongly recommended that all travellers planning to visit a yellow fever risk country be vaccinated for yellow fever.

On arrival in Australia, individuals who have stayed overnight or longer in a yellow fever risk country within the last 6 days will be asked to declare this on their IPC and show an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever.

Individuals arriving in Australia from a yellow fever risk country that do not hold a vaccination certificate will still be permitted to enter Australia without one. On arrival in Australia, biosecurity officers will reinforce the seriousness of the disease and provide the individual with a Yellow Fever Action Card. The card provides instructions on what to do if the individual develops any signs or symptoms of yellow fever.

Bringing in Human Remains into Australian Territory

Human Remains

Bringing in human remains (deceased humans’ bodies or body parts of deceased humans – excluding ashes) into Australia for burial or cremation is allowed provided specific requirements are met.

It is highly recommended that you consult an Australian funeral director prior to transporting human remains to Australia to ensure that all requirements are met and understood. This will help avoid confusion and potential delays upon arrival at the first place or port of arrival in Australian territory.

The human remains must be transported in a hermetically-sealed container and be transported from the first landing place or port in Australia under the direction or control of either a coroner or a funeral director. You should ensure all necessary arrangements are confirmed with these parties ahead of the arrival.

Note: These requirements do not apply to human ashes. Requirements for bringing ashes to Australia are covered separately under the heading ‘Human Ashes’.

What you need to provide

To arrange for biosecurity clearance of human remains for burial or cremation, it is recommended that you or your representative should provide the following information and documentation to the department as soon as the transport arrangements are confirmed, or if possible a minimum of 48 hours (week days) notice prior to arrival, by emailing Arrivals.

This will give our officers adequate time to prepare for the arrival and ensure the human remains can be cleared for release in a timely manner.

Documentation

At least one of the following documents should be provided to the department (this document must also accompany the remains upon arrival):  

  • an official (certified) copy of an official certificate: or
  • official extract from an entry in an official register, in which the cause of death is specified (Eg: a death certificate); or
  • a certificate from a medical practitioner which states whether the body or body part has/had or does not/did not have, before death, signs or symptoms of an LHD (Eg: a letter from a hospital, signed by a doctor).

It is recommended that all documentation be provided in English or be accompanied by a certified translated copy, to avoid any delays in getting biosecurity clearance.

Human remains not accompanied by one of the required documentation will need the permission of a Commonwealth Human Biosecurity Officer (CHBO) in order to be brought into Australia. Permission can be obtained by contacting the Department of Health via the Human Biosecurity Inbox.

Additional Information

In addition to the required documentation, the following information should be provided to the department, prior to arrival:

  • Expected arrival date into Australia; and
  • details of flight the human remains will arrive on; and
  • details of company/person who will be collecting the human remains from the landing place; and
  • Airway bill number (Receipt issued by an international airline for goods).

For further information relating to bringing in human remains into Australia, for reasons other than for burial or cremation, such as for scientific or research purposes; for display or use as curios; or bringing in hair, teeth or bones of a deceased human’s body, please see the Department of Health’s webpage on Bringing In or Exporting human remains for other purposes. Additional information on biosecurity requirements for bringing in human remains can also be found on the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions DatabaseBICON.

Human Ashes

There are no restrictions or requirements, from a biosecurity perspective, when bringing in human ashes into Australia. No import permit, death certificate or cremation certificate is required.

The only requirement relates to the container (urn). Containers must be free from biosecurity risk material such as soil, and containers made from wood will need to be declared on the IPC (Question 7) to be inspected by a Biosecurity Officer. Containers made from materials such as iron, zinc, copper, bronze or plastic are not of biosecurity concern and you are not required to declare these containers on arrival.

If human ashes are brought in:

  • with you as part of your luggage, they will be cleared upon arrival, if the container is required to be declared  (i.e. if contained in timber box)
  • as or with unaccompanied personal effects (UPEs), they will be cleared as your UPEs
  • as cargo (with a bill of lading/airway bill), when necessary, Agriculture will facilitate clearance without any written declaration being required.

While there are no restrictions on bringing human ashes into Australia from a biosecurity perspective, airlines, shipping companies or mailing authorities may have their own internal policies or requirements. It is recommended that you contact the relevant provider prior to the transport of cremated remains to determine if there are any special requirements.

Further information regarding bringing in biosecurity risk material – for example, wooden container, can be found on the department’s Biosecurity import conditions database - BICON.

Useful links

Department of Health:

Department of Immigration and Border Protection:

  • Bringing in or Exporting Human Remains or Ashes (under construction)

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Contacts

Human biosecurity inquiries

Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: +61 2 6289 1555 or 1800 020 103
Email: Human Biosecurity or Enquiries

Human biosecurity requirements at Australian international air and sea ports

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
GPO Box 858
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph: 1800 900 090
Email: Arrivals