Getting help overseas

The Australian Government will do what it can to help Australians in difficulty overseas, but there are limits to what can be done.

Consular services

DFAT provides assistance to Australians who find themselves in trouble overseas. This support is referred to as consular services; however, there are legal and practical limits to what can be done.

The Consular Services Charter sets out the standards of service all Australians can expect to receive from consular staff, including what they can and cannot do.

Contact details for Australian missions overseas are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and in our travel advisories.

Australia has an agreement with Canada to provide consular assistance to Australians in some countries.

The 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra can also be contacted for assistance from anywhere in the world on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 (local call cost within Australia).

Contact your travel insurance provider

Travel insurance companies often have 24-hour assistance centres that you can contact from anywhere in the world. If you get sick overseas or are involved in a medical emergency, you should contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible. Make sure you take your travel insurance policy information and contact numbers with you so you can easily contact your insurer from overseas. Consider leaving details of your travel insurance policy with family or friends back home.

Counselling services

Australians in need of counselling services overseas can contact our Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 to be transferred to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.

What we can and cannot do

We can:

  • in medical emergencies, provide lists of local doctors and hospitals and assistance in arranging a medical evacuation (at your expense) if required
  • in the event of war, civil unrest or natural disaster, provide current information and assistance in arranging an evacuation if appropriate and subject to the state of disruption of communications and transport on the ground
  • provide advice and support in the case of an accident, serious illness or death. We will also ensure nominated contacts are informed (if you give your consent, except in the case of a death where consent is not required)
  • assist victims of serious crimes, including by arranging for nominated contacts to be informed (if you give your consent)
  • assist if you are arrested overseas, by visiting or contacting you and by arranging for your family to be informed (if you give your consent). We also seek to ensure that you are treated fairly under the laws of the country in which you have been arrested
  • provide lists of local lawyers
  • assist in cases of missing persons
  • assist with arranging a replacement passport if yours has expired or been lost, stolen or damaged (fees apply)
  • assist you to contact relatives or friends for help with money or tickets
  • provide small emergency loans in genuine emergency situations. (Note: Any financial assistance we may provide will generally be in the form of a loan, which is made on the basis of a signed, legal undertaking to repay in full. You may also be required to surrender your passport and you may not be issued with a replacement until the debt is repaid.)
  • provide notarial services including witnessing and authenticating documents and administering oaths and affirmations (fees apply)
  • provide travel advisories as one source of input to inform your travel plans
  • provide the opportunity for you to register your travel details with us so that we can try to make contact in case of emergency
  • provide voting facilities for federal and some state and territory elections
  • assist with contact details of government authorities in Australia in the event of pension or social security payment difficulties.

We cannot:

  • provide legal advice
  • intervene in private court proceedings or legal matters including employment disputes, commercial disputes and family law matters
  • investigate crimes or deaths overseas
  • provide or pay for search and rescue services (although we can help you arrange these services)
  • get you out of prison or seek special treatment for you
  • post bail or pay your fines or legal expenses
  • enforce an Australian or any other custody agreement overseas or compel a country to decide a custody case
  • provide or pay for medical or psychiatric services or medications
  • act as a travel agent, bank or post office, or store luggage
  • provide translation, interpreter, telephone or internet services
  • issue emergency loans, unless you have first exhausted other sources of support including insurance and family members
  • pay your pension or social security benefits
  • pay or guarantee payment of your hotel, medical or other bills
  • arrange visas, licences, work or residency permits for other countries or help you to obtain them
  • intervene in relation to customs or quarantine requirements and regulations of other countries
  • provide physical protection or security advice
  • accept responsibility for the custody or safe return of lost property.

For more information please see our Consular Services Charter. You may also be interested in:

If you have received consular assistance we encourage you to provide feedback.