Australians are fast growing a reputation for their bad behaviour overseas, with younger travellers copping much of the blame.
New Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) figures this week show a five per cent increase in Australians travelling internationally last financial year, with 10.2 million departures.
But while the number of Australians jetting overseas has risen, so has the number of unfortunate incidents involving Aussie tourists.
University of Sydney tourism behaviour expert Dr Deborah Edwards blamed a lack of understanding of culture and an inability to behave respectably in foreign countries for putting young people in serious trouble.
The observation came after 18-year-old Perth man Jamie Murphy endured a two-day nightmare after being arrested on suspicion of carrying drugs in Bali.
“People in all different age groups get themselves into trouble, but I would say a younger age group gets themselves into more trouble,” Dr Edwards told The New Daily.
“In general I think Australians seem to be getting a worse reputation overseas for behaving badly. It’s probably an age group thing more than anything else.”
Dr Edwards said a lot of Australians – not just young people – suffer the consequences for not understanding the different environment they’re presented with overseas.
“Already they’re feeling a little immortal and they feel even more so when they are travelling,” she said.
Bad behaviour at record highs
DFAT statistics show the number of Australians arrested and hospitalised in foreign countries are at record highs.
Australian consular officials are being inundated with calls for assistance, with 15,740 total cases of residents experiencing difficulties.
A total of 1551 Australians were arrested overseas in 2015/16 – an increase of 23 per cent compared to last financial year.
The number of Australians imprisoned has also risen, with 391 citizens requiring assistance. More than 60 Aussies were jailed in China while New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States also saw an increase of Aussie prisoners.
A further 1667 were hospitalised while travelling overseas – compared to 1453 this time last year.
The top five countries for the hospitalisation of Australians was Thailand, (176 incidents) Indonesia (153), the USA (122), New Caledonia (75) and Vietnam (72).
The number of Australians dying abroad has also significantly increased with 1516 cases of death overseas – 728 of those were from natural causes or illness.
University of Technology Sydney senior lecturer for tourism Dr David Beirman said young Aussies on their first independent trip, with binge drinking and no responsibilities, can often lead to problems.
“If you’re a testosterone-charged 18-year-old on schoolies for the first time and you’re away from the shackles of your parents and school, there’s a chance you’re going to do something a bit stupid,” Dr Beirman told The New Daily.
“I think for young people particularly who are away from their normal environment there is a tendency to go a bit stir-crazy.”
Dr Beirman said in the tourism industry this phenomenon is known as ‘anomie’.
“Anomie is when people are in an unfamiliar environment. There’s two reactions: one they go into their shells or get nervous and want someone to hold their hand through it, and two, they think, ‘I’m away from home the rules don’t apply to me’ and they start doing things that they shouldn’t,” he said.
“I think when you have a lot of young people travelling together especially if they are in independent groups it tends to heighten the bad behaviour.”
Julie Bishop’s word of warning
The disturbing figures regarding Australia’s overseas indiscretions prompted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to issue another warning.
“Australians need to take responsibility for their actions overseas,” Ms Bishop said.
“The Australian government can only do so much … The Australian government is not a hospital, it is not a hotel, it is not an internet cafe and our consular officials cannot just whisk you out of jail. People have to take responsibility for their behaviour overseas.”