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The Law & COVID-19 (Coronavirus) for South Australians

The situation relating to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is presenting many changes to our lives and the law. Here is some useful information and services that may be of assistance to you.

SA GOVERNMENT

The South Australian Government has a designated COVID-19 web resource, which includes comprehensive regular updates regarding the current COVID-19 situation and how it continues to evolve. For more information generally on South Australia’s response to COVID-19, click here.

SA GOVERNMENT - DECLARATIONS AND DIRECTIONS

For a comprehensive list of the current SA Government Declarations and Directions made in relation to COVID-19 click here.

SA Health continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. For the latest and most reliable health information, including the new testing regime, updates and advice about COVID-19, please refer to:

Thinking of travelling? To assist in reducing the spread of COVID-19 there are travel and border restrictions currently in place throughout South Australia. For the latest and most reliable travel information please refer to:

NEED LEGAL HELP?

COVID-19 is changing the way we work, conduct business, see our families, and interact with one another. If you have a legal issue that has been caused or impacted by COVID-19, below are some useful links and resources.

LEGAL SERVICES COMMISSION (SA) – OUR SERVICES

Due to the need to undertake social distancing and to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff, our offices are temporarily closed to the public.  However we are still providing legal assistance to the SA community.

Telephone and Online assistance

If you are a current client of one of our lawyers, your appointments will be via telephone or video (unless we advise otherwise).

If you have a general legal enquiry, call our free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 on workdays between 9am and 4.30pm to speak to a lawyer.

If your issue is not urgent, visit us online at www.lsc.sa.gov.au for general legal information and resources. To chat online with our lawyers during business hours, click the Legal Chat icon.

Information about our legal advice services is available on our website in many different community languages including Auslan.

You can also find answers to a range of common legal questions by using our 24Legal service and our Law Handbook online .

 

GOVERNMENT EMERGENCY POWERS

Both the Australian Government and South Australian Government have enacted their emergency powers in order to respond to the COVID-19 situation. This means that the government may utilize its powers in specific circumstances to create policies, change laws, and enact procedures to manage the emergency.

In South Australia, the Emergency Management Act 2004 (SA) enables the state government and its delegated agencies to develop procedures and policies to co-ordinate a response to the COVID-19 emergency. In some circumstances this may mean changing laws, or putting lawful directions in place that the public must adhere to. This includes formal directions to undertake mandatory self-quarantine when directed to do so.

Self-Isolation and mandatory Self-Quarantine

Self-isolation means that where possible, you must stay at home (or in alternate accommodation) except to access important medical care and to do essential shopping. You should avoid going to work, school, childcare, university, public places and public gatherings. You should avoid visitors and limit your contact with only those who reside with you.

 

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

There are no restrictions on travel within South Australia (intrastate travel).

The South Australian Government is continuing to monitor COVID-19 circumstances in other states. There are still travel and border restrictions in place at South Australian borders to continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are being enforced at border checkpoints for traffic entering SA. If you are directed to self-quarantine for 14 days, you must do so. SA Police and SA Health are conducting regular checks and monitoring those who have been directed to self-quarantine.

Pre-Approval Travel Application

From Wednesday 1 July 2020, all people travelling to South Australia will be able to seek pre-approval before travelling and returning to South Australia. The process will speed up the border crossing process and provide certainty for travellers about any restrictions that may apply before reaching the border. Individual applications are required for each person entering South Australia, even if travelling in a group.

If travellers are unable to complete the online application, they can still proceed to the border and a police officer will provide assistance. 

Travellers arriving in South Australia from interstate, by road or via the Adelaide airport, may choose to complete the cross border pre-approval form at least 72 hours prior to  arrival.

The portal will process applications from travellers seeking status as an essential traveller, non-essential traveller or an unrestricted traveller from a low community transmission zone such as Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland.

Once applications are processed, if approved travellers will be issued with:

1. A pre-approval receipt number that travellers will need to take with them to the border.

2. An assessment with ‘single status’ or ‘ongoing status’ approval to determine whether travellers are:

  • able to travel without restriction (including people arriving directly from NT, QLD, TAS and WA)
  • an essential traveller, with or without self-quarantine restrictions
  • required to self-quarantine on arrival for 14 days

Pre-approval can be applied for via the online portal available on the SAPOL website.

Urgent travel

Travellers should aim to complete the registration application form at least 72 hours prior to their arrival into South Australia. If travellers need to travel urgently (within 12 hours or less), they should indicate this on the application. Applications flagged as ‘urgent’ will receive priority. Travellers can proceed to a border crossing even if the application has not been assessed, as it will be faster for SAPOL officers to process an application that has been entered, but not approved, at the South Australian border. An interim status will be given and travellers can still progress through the border.

Arriving from interstate - Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory

The SA Government has already eased border restrictions for people entering South Australia from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Travellers entering South Australia directly from QLD, WA, TAS and NT are no longer required to quarantine for 14 days. This only applies to travellers arriving directly from these states and territory. Travellers arriving from all other states and territories are still required to quarantine for 14 days. For example, if travellers are residents from QLD, WA, TAS or NT but arrive from Victoria or NSW, they will still need to quarantine for 14 days.

More about the current South Australian travel restrictions can be found here.

Non-essential travellers are able to enter South Australia, but will be required to:

  • identify a suitable place of quarantine
  • travel directly to that location
  • self-quarantine at that location for 14 days.

It is also mandatory that you self-quarantine for 14 days if:

  1. You have arrived in South Australia from overseas; or
  2. You have travelled into South Australia or returned to South Australia from interstate (with the exception of QLD, WA, TAS or NT); or
  3. You have been in ‘close contact’ with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

If you are directed by a health professional or SA police to self-quarantine, it is a condition of mandatory self-quarantine that you remain segregated from other persons at your residence, and do not leave your residence or accommodation for 14 days unless you are require medical care or medical supplies, or in an emergency situation. SA Health and SA Police are working together to monitor people who should be in quarantine and fines may be issued to people who breach these directions.

Essential traveller status & pre-approval travel applications

Essential travellers who have already applied for and been granted essential traveller status under the cross border community member category do not need to complete the cross border pre-approval form, unless their circumstances have  changed.

Travellers who have been granted essential traveller status other than the cross border community member category will need to apply online.

Essential Travellers

An exemption from mandatory self-quarantine continues to apply to Essential Travellers. Essential Travellers include:

  • State or Commonwealth Government security and governance personnel;
  • Health services workers;
  • People travelling for essential and urgent medical treatment;
  • Transport and freight services personnel;
  • Industry specialists with specialized skills required for industry or business continuity and maintenance where the appropriate skills are not available in SA;
  • Emergency services workers;
  • Cross border community members (persons who are ordinarily resident at, or near, the SA border, and who have reasonable cause to travel across the border due to employment, education etc);
  • Persons passing through SA by the most direct and practical route;
  • Persons travelling to SA to visit a critically or terminally ill relative or to attend a funeral of an immediate family member.

If you believe you fit the criteria of an Essential Traveller, you need to alert the police officer when entering South Australia through a border checkpoint. Further information on the categories of people who are considered Essential Travellers can be found here.

Essential travellers are required to keep records of close contacts for a 14 day period from the date of their arrival in South Australia. A "close contact" occurs when a person is in the company of another person within an enclosed space for two hours or longer, or within 1.5m of the other person for 15 minutes or longer. More information about recording "close contacts" can be found here.

The following essential travellers are not required to keep records of close contacts:

  • National and state security and governance personnel;
  • FIFO workers;
  • Emergency service workers; and
  • Cross-border community members
Penalties & Fines

Under a direction from the State Emergency Co-ordinator, anyone arriving in South Australia must self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering South Australia. This direction is enforceable at law, and penalties apply for a breach of the direction.

Failure to comply with direction – s 28 (1) Emergency Management Act 2004 (SA)

It is a criminal offence to refuse or fail to comply with a requirement or direction of the State-Coordinator (or an authorized officer) during a declared major emergency.

Maximum penalty:

  1. If the offender is a body corporate- $75 000
  2. If the offender is a natural person - $20 000
Failure to Comply with direction to Self-Quarantine

If you are directed to self-quarantine by an authorised officer, and you fail to comply with a direction to self-quarantine or breach the requirements of self-quarantine, you may be issued with an on the spot fine of $1,000.

If you are issued with a fine for failing to self-quarantine or failing to comply with a direction, please call our free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 for advice.

 

CONTACT TRACING - COVIDSafe App

Commencing on 25 April 2020, the Federal Government launched the COVIDSafe contact tracing app for smart phones.

The purpose of the COVIDSafe app is to monitor a persons movements through their smart device, in order to determine if that person has been in contact with, or within close proximity to, another person who has testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The intention of contact tracing is to enable people who have been exposed to the coronavirus to be notified quickly. Downloading or isntalling the app is voluntary. The app will allow state health officials to contact and alert people about:

  • Whether they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19;
  • Information about symptoms they need to look out for;
  • Guidance as to whether they need to quarantine;
  • Information about getting tested for COVID-19; and
  • Advice on how they can protect themselves, their family, and friends to minimise any further spread of the virus.

For more information about the COVIDSafe app, click here.

Before downloading and using the COVIDSAfe app, you should be aware that the data about your movements will be collected and retained on a national database for the purpose of contact tracing.

If you decide to delete the app after having used it, the information in the database will not be deleted immediately. If you would like your information deleted from the database sooner, you must complete a 'request data deletion' form available on the Department of Health website.

 

STATUTORY DECLARATIONS - WHO CAN WITNESS DOCUMENTS?

With the closure of many public amenities (i.e. libraries) and due to the need to practice social distancing, some Justice’s of the Peace have ceased providing JP services to the community.

Accordingly, the SA Government has expanded the criteria for people permitted to witness statutory declarations, to make it easier for the public to access these services when needed.

Under new guidelines, government employees, accountants, religious ministers, medical professionals and bank officers who meet the criteria will be also to witness statutory declarations. Please note that the statutory declarations must still be witnessed in person.

A full list of persons now authorised to witness statutory declarations is available on the Attorney-General's Department website .

 

MONEY – DEBT & FINANCIAL HARDSHIP

COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on our ability to work, earn income, or operate a business. If you are experiencing financial hardship due to a loss or decline in income, and are having difficulty paying bills or fines on time, visit our Law Handbook information on dealing with debt and financial issues generally.

Mortgage or Loan Repayments

If you cannot meet your mortgage or loan repayments, ask your bank or credit union for help.  Ask for a hold on payments or reduced payments to help you manage until your financial circumstances change. Under the National Credit Code this is called a hardship variation.

You should not wait until your money runs out before contacting your bank or lender.

Each lender has a hardship team or officer. Some of the larger lenders have already prepared to give their customers a break from payments on their mortgage for up to six months.

You can also ask for a hardship variation for a personal loan or credit card.

It is very important to work out what you can afford to pay and then discuss it with the lender or provider. If you just reduce your payments or stop paying, the lender or provider may begin enforcement processes. This adds unnecessary cost and can affect your credit rating.

Do not ignore letters or messages from your lender or provider. Ask for free legal help to work out what to do if this happens, particularly if you are given court papers.

Free financial counsellors are trained the procedures under the National Credit Code and can give you options to work out what to do.

Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to get in touch with a free financial counsellor.

MoneySmart has some extra tips so visit https://moneysmart.gov.au/home-loans/problems-paying-your-mortgage

Utilities or Phone bills

Just like your mortgage or loan, you can also ask for assistance to pay your utilities or phone bills. Get in contact with your provider’s hardship team quickly to ensure that you avoid your service being disconnected. To make things easier, be prepared first. Decide how much you can afford to pay in instalments and avoid being persuaded to pay more.

A free financial counsellor can also assist you to negotiate with the provider. This is useful if you cannot work out your budget. A financial counsellor also knows what emergency relief is available and how to access it.

For useful information and tips for talking to your provider about problems paying your utilities bills, visit https://ndh.org.au/Debt-problems/Electricity-gas-and-water-bills/.

There are many advantages to a prepaid phone plan, so look into something suitable. You may be able to get similar data allowances and unlimited phone access without the worry of disconnection.

For useful information for asking for help with your phone bills, visit https://ndh.org.au/debt-problems/phone-and-internet-bills/

Council Rates

Ask your council if there is a scheme to help you manage your payments whilst the pandemic is on. Council rates are as important as your other bills, so make sure you include them when you make your budget.

The council has the right to sell your property under the Local Government Act 1999 if rates remain unpaid for three years or more. Allowing unpaid rates to accumulate is unwise for this reason.

If you are struggling to pay, speak to the council to ask for a payment arrangement. If you are unable to work out what to do, try speaking to a free financial counsellor.

Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Should I use my credit card or get a payday loan?

Financial support measures have been introduced to assist all Australians through this pandemic. Don’t be tempted to use a payday lender or your credit card to manage these essential payments. Payday loans or short term credit set you up for further unmanageable debt which makes things worse.

Avoid using buy now pay later schemes as well. Generally the consumer protection rules do not apply when you sign up for buy now pay later. This means it is too easy to get this form of credit with little consideration for your financial circumstances.

MoneySmart has a list of available emergency or one-off payments. Visit https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/urgent-help-with-money

No Interest Loan Scheme

You may also be able to get a NILS (No Interest Loan Scheme) loan to help you pay for things like household goods, car repairs or school essentials. This will then free up money to pay other expenses.

A no interest loan is just that. You will have to repay the money over time but there are no additional fees or interest. You also must meet certain criteria. To get more information about the scheme including how to apply visit https://nils.com.au/

Centrelink support

If your employment circumstances have changed or income has decreased due to a change in your work circumstances due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the government.

Visit Centrelink Services Australia website for updated information on financial support measures and to check your eligibility:

 

FAMILY ISSUES

Family Law Matters

Many parents feel worried and confused about what the COVID-19 coronavirus means for their children and parenting arrangements. There are three important things you need to know:

  • if you have court orders, you must continue to follow them unless you have a reasonable excuse not to;
  • everyone must follow laws and public health guidelines;
  • you should try to work through any changes with the other parent and come up with an agreement, if that is safe for you and the children.

If you require advice about your family law matters, please contact our free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 or see our information on the Law Handbook regarding family law matters.

Going to Court?

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Family Court has provided information in relation to the operation of the court during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist parties. To access the information on the courts webite click here.

There have been some changes to services at court in response to COVID-19, but you can still get legal and non-legal help from the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) located in the court. To contact FASS telephone: (08) 8111 5300.

Family Violence

COVID-19 is stressful for everyone. It is no excuse for abusive behavior or making family members feel unsafe.  If you feel unsafe because of a family member’s behavior, there are some key things you need to know:

  • If you feel you are in danger immediately call SA Police on 000 for immediate police assistance;
  • Family violence support services are still open. They are helping people over the phone or internet. If it is safe, you can contact:
    • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) 24hr National  Support Help Line for those experiencing domestic or family violence and abuse;
    • Women’s Safety Services SA (WSSSA) –  for domestic violence crisis line in South Australia, referrals for housing/accommodation support and counselling. Visit the WSSSA website or phone 1800 800 098 for assistance;
    • Office of eSafety Commissioner for advice about online safety for people experiencing family violence click here. For tips and information about staying safe with electronic devices and online click here;
    • SA Victim Support Services (VSS) – safety planning services and free home safety audits for women and children remaining at home, trauma counselling, court assistance program to victims in court matters. Visit the VSS website or phone 1800 842 846 for assistance;
    • Legal Services Commission of South Australia – for free legal advice and assistance call free Legal Help Line on  1300 366 424. The Legal Services Commission of South Australia has information videos presented in English and Auslan about legal and other protections available to women who are experiencing or at risk of domestic and family violence.

Elder Abuse

During the COVID-19 pandemic, older South Australians may be at an increased risk of elder abuse.  Elder abuse may be financial, psychological, physical, sexual or neglect.

If you have concerns about a friend or family member who may be experiencing elder abuse, call the SA Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310. To report elder abuse, call the Adult Safeguarding Unit (Office for Ageing Well) on 1800 372 310.

If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of elder abuse, the Aged Rights Advocacy Service Abuse Prevention program offers support and assistance to older people or are experiencing at risk of abuse from family or friends. ARAS can be contacted on 1800 700 600 or on the ARAS website.

 

 

EMPLOYMENT

COVID-19 is affecting many employees and business operations. If you have lost your job or your work hours have substantially changed due to COVID-19, below are five things you need to know:

  • your employer might be able to ask you to work different or fewer hours;
  • your employer might stand you down if they do not have work for you to do;
  • your employer might make your job redundant if it no longer needs to be done by anyone;
  • your situation will depend on what it says in your employment contract, enterprise agreement or modern award;

If you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. Please call our free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 or see the information regarding general employment matters available on the Law Handbook.

 The Fair Work Ombudsman is also providing support and updated information in relation to your rights and responsibilities at work during the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information visit Fair Work Ombudsman website.

 

TENANCY & HOUSING

You may experience tenancy issues, like not being able to pay your rent due to unemployment or a decrease in your income due to COVID-19.  The good news is the SA Government has made several changes to tenancy laws to provide tenants with some protection during this time. These include changes to rental inspection requirements, changes to seeking approval for repairs, rent increases, and changes to the eviction process due to rent arrears as a result of COVID-19.  A summary of these temporary changes to residential tenancies laws can be found here.

The Tenancy Information and Advisory Service offers advice and support for South Australian renters affected by COVID-19 on 1800 060 462 or via the TIAS website.

 You may also wish to look at tenancy information generally, and how it relates to your circumstances, by following the Law Handbook link to general housing and tenancy information.

 

CONSUMER ISSUES

Due to the government directions to self-distance and self-isolate, many events and travel plans have been cancelled or postponed. If you are experiencing a dispute over refunds for cancelled travel plans or cancelled events, or wish to know more about your rights as a consumer, visit Consumer and Business Affairs South Australia for more information.

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgment:

We acknowledge the assistance of the Victoria Legal Aid and Jobwatch in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content in relation to the information regarding Employment and Family Law matters.