From a bird blamed for eating a passport to someone seeking advice on the egg preferences of North Koreans, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has heard it all.

Those examples are a few of the unusual requests for help from Australians travelling overseas, as revealed by Foreign Minister Marise Payne yesterday when she launched the annual State of Play report.

The report details where Australian citizens travel and the assistance they sometimes require.

A panicked Aussie eager to jet off to Bali called for consular help when an airline wouldn’t let them fly because they claimed a bird had eaten their ID.

“What could possibly go wrong on that Bali trip?” Ms Payne said in Sydney on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, an Australian who wanted to change hotels decided to ring the department to see if they could help them in their endeavour by ordering an Uber.

Another called to ask for diplomatic immunity – despite still living in Australia.

But “perhaps the strangest” of all requests received in the 2018/19 financial year was from a person keen to sell eggs in Pyongyang.

“OK, I thought,” Ms Payne said.

“Except that the second question was ‘Could DFAT please ascertain whether North Koreans prefer white or brown eggs?’”

The answer remains unclear.


DFAT’s State of Play report reveals the countries Australians are visiting and the problems requiring consular assistance — including cases of death, imprisonment, hospitalisations, theft and missing persons.

These are some of the findings from the 2018/19 report.

Where we’re travelling

New Zealand: 1,444,200 Australian visitors

Indonesia: 1,310,800

United States: 1,078,800

United Kingdom: 667,800

China: 610,900

Thailand: 565,300

Japan: 483,600

India: 416,300

Singapore: 405,400

Fiji: 345,300

Where Australians died or fell sick

There were 1695 deaths of Australians overseas recorded by DFAT.

The most common locations were Thailand (247 cases, up 4 per cent on the previous year), Philippines (177 cases), Indonesia (104), United States (89) and Vietnam (78).

The most common reasons for death were illness, natural causes and accidents.

Meanwhile, the top five countries for hospitalisations were Thailand (178 cases, down 13 per cent on the previous year), Indonesia (141 cases), New Caledonia (88), United States (85) and Vietnam (68).

New Caledonia’s position in the top five may reflect the island nation’s popularity among older cruise travellers, the department said.

Where Aussies are going missing

DFAT provided assistance in 364 missing persons cases, which is 33 per cent fewer than the previous year.

The majority of missing persons cases happened in Thailand (41 cases), United States (29), Indonesia (23), Japan (19) and Cambodia (17).

Where Aussies are banged up abroad

China: 50 imprisoned Australians, mostly for fraud and drug-related offences

United States: 45, almost half related to sex offences

Vietnam: 42, almost all for drug offences

New Zealand: 31, related to assault, sexual assault and drug-related matters

Indonesia: 27, almost all drug-related.

Where Aussies are arrested the most

There were 1572 arrest and immigration detention cases requiring consular assistance — a 2 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, and a 25 per cent increase on the previous five years.

United States: 229 cases (111 criminal-related, 118 immigration-related)

Thailand: 158 (107 criminal, 51 immigration)

China (mainland): 123 (116 criminal, 7 immigration)

Philippines: 88 (69 criminal, 19 immigration)

Indonesia: 67 (41 criminal, 26 immigration).

Countries you’re most likely to be robbed/assaulted

According to DFAT, Italy saw 73 cases of theft involving Australians, followed by Spain (16), Japan (11), United States (10) and the United Arab Emirates (10).

In terms of cases of assault of Australian travellers, the majority happened in Thailand (17 cases), followed by Indonesia (13), the United States (12), mainland China (12) and Jordan (11).

Sexual assault accounted for 44 per cent of all assault cases.

Reasons your passport is rejected

DFAT said there were 3077 cases of passports being reported lost, and 2651 cases of passports being stolen.

The most common damage to passports was water damage from spilt drinks or from putting passports through the wash, and torn pages.