Strip search laws in Australia

Strip searches in Australia are policed by different laws across each state and territory. This is what they are.
Strip searches in Australia

Strip searches are a commonly enforced police strategy at Australian music festivals to detect suspected hidden illegal items.

Strip search laws are determined by individual states and territories. However, Australia-wide, police are expected to identify themselves and share their reasons for performing a search.

Here’s what you need to know about strip searches in your state or territory.

Strip searches in Australia

If you are stopped by police at a festival, you may be subject to a general search or a strip search.

A strip search requires a person to remove some or all of their clothing. General searches involve police patting down a person’s outer clothing.

Strip searches should generally be done in private by a person of the same sex.

New South Wales

Before searching someone, police officers must reasonably suspect a person of carrying an unlawful item, like drugs. NSW police officers should only conduct a strip search in ‘serious and urgent’ circumstances.

Police aren’t allowed to touch a person’s genitals unless deemed necessary for the search. They can examine the insides of a person’s mouth, but no other cavities.


Like NSW, Victoria Police should only conduct a strip search in a serious or urgent situation.

Officers cannot search the genitals or cavities of a person. This extends to the breasts of any female unless it’s deemed necessary for the search.

They must inform the person of the reasons for removing clothing, and avoid using unnecessary force or invasiveness. The person must be allowed to dress as soon as the search is over.


Queensland Police cannot search a person’s body cavities or touch anal or genital areas during a strip search.

However, a person can be asked to raise their arms over their head or bend over for a visual inspection.

Officers must allow them to stay dressed for body areas that aren’t being searched.

South Australia

SA Police can make contact with the skin of genital, anal and breast areas during a strip search. Genital and anal searches can only be conducted by a medical practitioner or registered nurse.

State laws require strip searches to be filmed. A person can object to being filmed, or ask that some parts of a search are not recorded. Videos must be used for investigations or legal proceedings only.

Any person (except the subject) who plays the video in another context faces penalties of up to two years jail. The recording should be destroyed if it’s no longer needed.

Western Australia

WA police are allowed to search inside a person’s mouth during a strip search, and near their genitals. However, the vagina and rectum cannot be searched.

All searches for a suspected drug offence, such as a general frisk search, and strip searches must be performed by someone who is the same gender.

However, this does not apply if a search is conducted by a doctor or nurse.


Strip searches can be conducted in Tasmania when police reasonably suspect a person is carrying an illegal drug, and the circumstance is deemed serious and urgent.

Police aren’t allowed to detain anyone for longer than the strip search requires. Body cavities cannot be examined in a strip search. Genitals can be searched.

ACT and the Northern Territory

In the ACT, a person must be arrested and taken to a police station before they can be strip searched. A senior officer must approve the search before it begins. A person should only be asked to remove clothing if it’s necessary to complete the search.

NT laws require officers to conduct the “least invasive” search possible. A person’s genitals or breasts cannot be searched unless it’s deemed important. Body cavities cannot be searched in either territory.

Become smarter in three minutes

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed, for free.

Be the smart friend in your group chat

Join thousands of young Aussies and get our 5 min daily newsletter on what matters in your world.

It’s easy. It’s trustworthy. It’s free.