Is It Legal To Carry A Knife In Public?

Is It Legal To Carry A Knife In Public?
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I once carried around a fruit knife for a week in my backpack. I had completely forgotten about it after bringing it to work because all the blades in the office were blunt. I didn’t think much of it back then but was it legal for me to carry the knife around in public? Let’s find out.

Australia’s gun laws are exceptionally tough. People who own firearms need to get a licence for it and the sale of guns is highly regulated. As a result, gun violence is relatively low in Australia.

Knife murders, on the other hand, has seen a steady increase in recent years. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology:

“There has been a pronounced change in the type of weapons used in homicide since monitoring began. Firearm use has declined by more than half since 1989-90 as a proportion of homicide methods, and there has been an upward trend in the use of knives and sharp instruments, which in 2006-07 accounted for nearly half of all homicide victims.”

The use of knives in homicide has dipped a bit in recent years but is still one of the most commonly used weapon.

Stricter gun laws has been attributed to the drop in gun violence in Australia. So do we have any laws that restrict the possession of knives in public?

In NSW, under the Summary of Offences Act 1988, Section 11C:

“A person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody a knife in a public place or a school.”

A ‘knife’ includes a knife blade, a razor blade and any other blade. The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units or two years in prison, or both. A “reasonable excuse” may be that you need the knife for work, for preparation of food in a public area, for recreational and entertainment purposes or for religious purposes. It is illegal to sell a knife to a person under the age of 16.

This law doesn’t apply to knives that are considered prohibited weapons (for example, butterfly knives) which are illegal to own or carry at any point in time.

The same goes for Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia, which share the same restrictions on carrying knives. Tasmania changed its laws a few years ago to align with all the other states, except Western Australia, on this issue.

Western Australia have its own weapons laws, under Weapons Regulations 1999, which details different scenarios where carrying various controlled weapons in public would be acceptable. A knife is considered a controlled weapon.

So if you’re carrying a knife with you for whatever reason, you better have a good excuse for it.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


  • How does this relate to things such as multi-tools? I have a leatherman Wave that I have carried with me everywhere for near 8 years. I use it for inpromptu cutting of string, tightening of screws, or opening of bottles (and a heap more tasks) on a daily basis..none of which really meets the reasonable excuse (with proof on the person) bench marks..

    • If it has a blade, its considered a knife, regardless of other features.
      About 10 years ago I was arrested for carrying a leatherman on my belt as I worked in a very physically labouring / manual job which required it. I got arrested walking back to my car after buying some groceries on the way home from work by 6 coppers and the charge was $11,000 fines / 5 years jail time. Despite the police advising me not to fight the charge I did and it was lowered to $600 fine and an official warning as I was in a public place at the time of arrest ‘which dictates the severity of my crime’.

      • This is why the law is utterly ridiculous. What kind of lawmakers think “reasonable excuse” is good wording for a law. How open for interpretation is that? As far as I care, if you’re using a leatherman for a job, you have a reasonable excuse for carrying it. But that’s just my opinion, who’s opinion should we be considering here, when coming up with “reasonable excuses”.

        • sorry but I had to lul because a topic about knives and your avatar is Roberto who isnt exactly known for his knife safety 😛
          Honestly even today I still carry my leatherman (well a new once since my last one was destroyed) because its still bloody useful since im a hands on / DIY kinda person.

          The irony of it all is that I had a break and enter not long a go where the douche came at me with a screw driver in my bedroom and when he got arrested it was considered a tool not a weapon so he was not charged for it, just trespassing

          • That seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to carry one to me… If I thought the cops and magistrates of the world would agree with me, I’d also be carrying one for that exact same reason. Lost count of how many time’s I’ve needed a sool I didn’t have only to have to do dodgy shit like cut things with my teeth or dangerous stuff like cut things with blunt objects. If I had a good quality Leatherman or similar with me, it would have prevented that situation.

      • Damn that sucks. Did you still have to go to jail for it?
        Its perplexing to me that the authorities want reasons to arrest someone who is a minimal but potential threat, but decide to release an unstable piece of shit who ended up causing the Sydney siege. (Also had murdered his ex-wife, but I guess possessing a knife is so much more of a bigger threat to them). Heh.

  • I’m guessing scissors are included as well. Scissors still have a blade in each half and can be used as a weapon? Since scissors are included in a first aid kit and stored either in ones backpack or in a vehicle. Would the police still charge you under the pretense that it had no reasonable use? Also how about a situation where a student went shopping with a scissor in his/her pencil case?

  • Back in the 90s I carried a sharp 4-inch knife to school everyday. I cut up my apple with it. It was only during this year that I thought that I wouldn’t be able to do that nowadays.

  • QLD Weapons Act 1990
    51 Possession of a knife in a public place or a school
    (2) It is a reasonable excuse for subsection (1) to physically
    possess a knife—
    (d) for use for a lawful purpose.
    Examples for subsection (2)(d)—
    2 A person may carry a pen knife or swiss army knife for use for its
    normal utility purposes.

    IMO a multitool would be legal to carry as long as its the size of a leatherman, and not a machete with a tiny screwdriver built in.

  • A knife is not a “controlled weapon” in WA.

    Daggers over 8cm or with serrations are.
    Automatic knives are prohibited Australia wide.

    “Lawful Excuse” may be asked if you are found carrying in WA, even though perfectly legal, so never carry a knife for defensive or offensive purposes.

    • I’m not Australian but I found this article interesting. Here in Texas, they used to have what we considered both Draconian and, frankly, silly knife laws. In 2013, with the wide distribution of assisted opening blades that were perfectly legal and unrestricted here (i.e., spring loaded folders with a cam-type of detent mechanism, essentially a switchblade/flick knife minus the switch); the Texas Legislature decided that their antiquated, unenforced “switchblade law” was pointless and they struck it from the books. Before that, it was perfectly legal to make, purchase, own and transport a switchblade in this state…just not carry it on one’s person. Now we can (except where any knife is prohibited such as bars, churches, hospitals and the like although nobody says much if you do carry a common folder as long as it isn’t brandished…firearms, although perfectly legal for licensed carry in the case of pistols, are quite a different matter in those places, though). Likewise, an even crazier law, one dating from the 1870’s prohibiting the carry of sheath knives in public, was finally struck from the books this year. It is now perfectly legal to carry not only a hunting knife but also a Fairbairn-Sikes dagger, a large Bowie knife (essentially, the “state knife” of Texas…Remember the Alamo!!), a large machete or even a full-size katana or cavalry saber. I have had the occasion to need a hunting-style knife hanging from my belt, but can’t think of the last time I was subject to attack by a samurai or asked to lead a cavalry charge. So, it’s not likely I’ll be carrying such weapons around (my SIG P226 is far better protection when I’m carrying a large amount of cash, anyway!). I was planning to visit Australia in the foreseeable future for a vacation, so it’s good to know what I should leave at home here. I typically do travel to foreign countries with one of my less-valuable pocket knives, such as a 5″ long clip-to-my pocket folder made by Buck. That came in handy on several occasions as a simple utility tool while we were in Costa Rica last year. However, it sounds like even that needs to stay here if I vacation in Australia.

      • Hi Geoff, That’s right, you can leave your guns and knives at home. You can also leave your high murder rate and ridiculous approach towards the regulation of weapons. There is a reason we have a lower murder rate and the US could follow us but instead you chose to cling to antiquated ideas of ‘rights.’ A right to get ‘shot.’ You can keep that one!

        • while I agree fully with our gun legislation and knife carry legislation (less for latter), you really are stupid. He was agreeing with us, he is not arguing, he is coming to our country and following our laws. The hell is your problem? And to undermine the importance of “rights”, even when they have to do with weapons, is ridiculous; while I am glad we have them in place it’s important to understand what they represent, and how evil restrictions imposed by a government onto its people are, EVEN if they are a necessary evil. If the people in the US have chosen they would proffer rights over security, more power to them. I however will stay put here.

  • Yeah…Much easier and safer to just carry nothing and let yourself be mugged, targeted or worse by the “Look at me im poor and angry so i have the right to rob and kill some random” generation….

    • What a ham-fisted, uneducated, and downright embarrassing anti youth message you managed to sneak into an even more ridiculous pro knife fight sentiment. almost impressed

  • now that we can’t carry knives the police don’t need to carry guns. they can always just say you had a knife on you if they want to make some money. who believes the story of someone they don’t know who’s had a charge slapped on them?

  • Your other articles are great, but this one not so much. You decided to write about the legal issues surrounding knife use and reasons for carry but you kept straying rather heavily towards the firearms subject which would suggest an emotional bias, i dont think you did your homework on firearms laws and statistics by the way, we need to take into consideration that just because they market them as successful doesn’t mean they were or are…I mean seriously the propaganda machine media aint exactly a reliable source for information, you will need to dig deeper for the truth, believe me I have been where you are exactly at one point in time so i know whats going through that naive head of yours lol (no offense). Lets not let our emotional biases drive the truth to extinction, regardless of how we feel…the truth is above all things.

    Btw love a lot of your articles. Keep up the good work.

  • I literally carry a small retractable-blade knife in plain view every single day of work, on my hip, on a retractable lanyard hooked to one of the loops for my belt with a small carabiner clip. I work in a busy supermarket, and generally use it to cut boxes of things open, but it goes with me everywhere all day, and it’s never become an issue during the last 4 years of wearing it. It never even crossed my mind that it might be viewed as a weapon.

  • There was a big case in the frankston magistrates court (VIC) of a young woman about 18 at the time. She had her work (KMART) carton cutter in her bag, she had her work uniform on and was just waiting for the bus home. all the carton cutters say property of Coles group limited ,etc on the back. I’m not sure what the actual legal repercussions were but it wasn’t good. It’s because of this case every employee is now told to leave their blades in their lockers ,etc.

  • Another letherman user here, guess I better stop carrying mine around. That sounds like big problems if you get caught. General purpose seems to not be a valid use.

    To be fair I hardly use the knife (though has come in handy a couple of times over the years), might be best to just get a multi tool without the knife going forward…

  • Carrying a knife for self defence is even more pointless than caryring a gun for self defence.
    No one wins a knife fight. One person loses in the street, where they die. The other person loses in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, where they die.

  • I’ve long wondered how I’m legally allowed to take my chef’s knife to the store to get sharpened, particularly given I don’t have a car and need to carry it on public transport. It’s not exactly possible to prove I was going to get it sharpened (the way home would be easier presumably). My guess is that this law is applied selectively to whichever group the police don’t like this month.

    • In general, that would be ‘reasonable excuse’ and should be fine. The problem is that ‘reasonable excuse’ is so vague that it comes down to personal interpretation.

      For the police, their argument is that they have no reason to believe you, and while a simple phone call could verify where you work, that’s not their responsibility. So the dick factor kicks in, and whether they want to hassle you or not.

      Charging you, confiscating your knife, etc just adds expense and hassle to you, not them.

  • Australia’s gun laws are exceptionally tough. People who own firearms need to get a licence for it and the sale of guns is highly regulated. As a result, gun violence is relatively low in Australia.

    Our gun violence was always low. It increased after the gun laws came in. The banning of automatic weapons allowed our only mass shooting to occur (the gun used in Tasmania was handed into police in Victoria during the confiscation) so in answer to that they banned unrelated firearms for no apparent reason. Gun laws of this nature punish law abiding citizens, and encourage criminal markets. The gun black market didn’t exist in Australia in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s until the gun confiscation ‘buy back’. Now there’s an illegal gun market like crazy. Makes me suspect the government are on the take.

    Like when they banned Oxycontin only allowing an inferior formula that is non-abusive (‘OP’) just when we ALMOST did away with heroin in this country – to stop diversion of $7M in pain meds from pensioners they instead caused a $20M industry to turn into a $3B heroin industry to thrive where instead of old age pensioners selling their pain meds we now have terrorist linked middle eastern crime gangs controlling the flow and funneling the cash to terrorist groups.

    Politicians surely cannot be this short sighted. But then again the average person on the street is pretty switched off politically, or worse, they’re ‘woke’ (i.e. indoctrinated by Marxist post modernist ideologues on the television)

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