Media Release

A bright idea—be biosecurity aware in the lead up to Diwali

22 October 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, thanked the public for being biosecurity aware for Diwali last year and hoped the community would repeat the effort this year.

Commonly known as the ‘festival of lights,’ Diwali is observed on 23 October this year and is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji, and is widely celebrated in Australia.

“Diwali is a significant festival that’s celebrated across the world with the exchange of customary gifts, including some containing animal or plant material, which can come into Australia through international mail, or with overseas visitors,” Minister Joyce said.

“I was really impressed with last year’s effort—there was no marked increase in seizures of high risk material, which tells me biosecurity is front of mind for people celebrating Diwali.

“Items carrying exotic pests and diseases could have a devastating impact on the health of people, animals and the environment.

“People travelling to Australia need to declare any plant or animal material, so it can be checked and assessed to make sure it doesn’t pose a biosecurity risk.

“If you’re expecting mail from overseas you should also advise family or friends not to send animal or plant products.”

Diwali items that are considered a biosecurity risk include:

  • Indian sweets (mithai) such as barfi, ras malai and pedas
  • products containing dairy
  • fresh and dried fruit; nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and tea
  • plants, flowers and plant material.

Alternative gift ideas that family and friends can send during Diwali include fabric, gold or silver beads and coins, personalised photo items and artificial flowers.

“Thinking about our biosecurity requirements, and letting your friends and family overseas know what they are, not only reduces the chance of your gifts being intercepted or delayed, but also helps to protect our agricultural industries, environment and economy,” Minister Joyce said.

“We all have a shared responsibility to prevent pests and diseases arriving and establishing in Australia—and I want to thank everyone for the collective effort last year in making sure we don’t take any unnecessary risks around Diwali.”

Be biosecurity aware: visit the Department of Agriculture website for more information on what can’t be mailed to Australia or download the Arriving in Australia – declare it! brochure.