While it might seem like harmless fun to visit a fortune teller, doing so is actually illegal in several areas of Australia. When fortune telling is done with the intention of misleading, it is considered a summary offense in some jurisdictions. The laws are written with the supposition that fortune-telling is a hoax, despite the claims of those who contend that it is not because psychics possess true talents. Where in Australia fortune telling is prohibited is explained in this article.
Australia’s Legal System and its History with Fortune Telling
Since the earliest days of European colonization, fortune telling has played a role in Australian history. Australia has had rules against these kinds of acts for almost as long. Originally, these regulations were just an expansion of English law, which forbade fortune telling in a well-established manner. Fortune telling was considered heresy and witchcraft in early English law, and it was punishable by death. The presumption that fortune telling was dishonest and intended to deceive led to the enactment of legislation prohibiting it in England by the eighteenth century.
Throughout the nineteenth century, fortune tellers continued to operate in Australia’s traveling exhibitions and arcades despite the country’s inherited laws. Neither did the belief that fortune telling is heretical stop it from being a well-liked diversion at church picnics. Seeing a psychic was an inexpensive way to pass the time for many. For others, it offered a casual counseling setting where a bereaved or distraught individual might chat. The media of the nineteenth century was quick to highlight the risks associated with this practice, particularly for “members of the weaker sex.” Predatory psychics perceived women as easy prey, carelessly frittering away the housekeeping money. Concerns were also raised about fortune tellers being as a conduit for abortionists and information about contraception. Although men visited fortune tellers in the nineteenth century as well, the practice was shown in a more sobering light as a means of finding misplaced belongings or getting investment advice.
The Application of the Law
In nineteenth-century Australia, fortune tellers were not legally permitted to operate, yet this did not stop them from being arrested or charged. This was due to the fact that it was lawful to advertise or practice fortune telling, and in order for a prosecution to prove that a fraud had occurred, proof that money had been paid for a psychic reading was necessary. In order to make an arrest, cops had to pretend to be clients in order to successfully gather the required evidence.
Because there were no female fortune tellers in the nineteenth century, fortune tellers started to exclusively see female clients because they were more wary of their male clients. Until women were allowed to join the police force following World War II, the police had to use women to pretend to be clients. There was a special attempt at the time to suppress clairvoyants who preyed on mourning mothers and widows of the war.
In R v. Morgan, a fortune teller was successfully prosecuted as recently as 1986. The defendants in this case operated a fortune-telling business and persuaded a number of clients that their money and belongings were cursed by demonic entities. With the assurance that the goods would be returned, the fortune teller convinced the victims to surrender their “evil” possessions for purification. The perpetrator was found guilty and sentenced to prison for scamming individuals of nearly $400,000 in cash and jewelry.
Australia’s Current Laws on Fortune Telling
Most Australian governments took action to abolish legislation that specifically prohibited fortune telling after the year 2000. Lawmakers acknowledged that situations in which fate tellers deceived victims would fall under the purview of fraud laws. A specific ban against the practice was not necessary.
Nonetheless, according to the Summary Offences Acts of the Northern Territory and South Australia, fortune telling with the intention of misleading remains a distinct crime. It is illegal in the Northern Territory for anybody to tell fortunes or to deceive and impose on another person by any kind of gadget, sophisticated art, or palmistry. If this offense is proven to be committed, the punishment is $1,000, six months in jail, or both. The Act from South Australia is considerably more straightforward; it states that anyone posing as a medium or spiritualist with the intention of defrauding is guilty of a crime. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is $10,000 and the maximum sentence is two years in jail.
Using Fortune Telling as Proof
Psychic help is not formally accepted by Australian police forces. This hasn’t stopped individual police officers from seeking the advice of clairvoyants regarding murder investigations, missing person cases, and security issues, though. Of course, fortune tellers and psychics are not allowed to testify in court about their premonitions. According to Murray CJ, “there can be no real telling of fortunes, for no one can foresee the future” in Smith v. O’Sullivan .