Myths and Facts

A quick guide to the facts on missing persons in Australia

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When can I report a person missing?

Anytime you have concerns for the safety and welfare of someone and their whereabouts are unknown you can report them missing to your local police. You DO NOT have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing.

How many people go missing?

In 2021 over 53,000 missing persons reports were made to police in Australia, that’s over 145 missing events a day. Over 98% of people reported missing are located, and almost all of those found are found alive and well.

How many young people go missing?

More than half of all missing persons’ reports in 2021 related to youth aged 13-17.

How do missing persons statistics in Australia compare with other countries?

In 2021, Australia had just over 53,000 missing persons reports made to police compared with over 9,000 in New Zealand during the same year.

Can adults be reported as missing?

In Australia, anyone can be reported as missing if their disappearance is out of character and there are concerns for their safety and welfare.

Why do people go missing?

Reasons for going missing are many and varied. They include anxiety and depression, misadventure, homelessness, dementia, domestic violence, becoming a victim of crime, and drug/alcohol abuse.

See 'Why people go missing' for more information.

Is going missing a crime?

Going missing is not a crime. If you have been reported as a missing person and make contact with police, your privacy will be maintained.

Can people go missing more than once?

Approximately one third of missing persons go missing more than once. Each time a person goes missing, it is treated as an individual report.

If someone has been reported missing and located, can you report them missing again?

Each time a person goes missing it is treated as an individual report and the priority is to find the person safe and well as soon as possible.

How many people are found?

Of the 53,000 missing persons reports submitted to police in 2021 approximately 98 per cent were located. However there remains approximately 2,500 long-term missing persons, who have been missing for more than three months.

Do police provide the address and details of a missing person to the person who reported them missing once they are found?

When located, a missing person must give permission before their whereabouts are released or disclosed to their family. In the case of a located missing child, information and decisions regarding their circumstances and their location may be made in consultation with relevant agencies.

What do I do if I have been reported as missing?

If you have been reported as missing it means that someone is concerned about your safety and welfare. It is not a crime to go missing. You should attend the nearest police station with identification so that Police can ascertain that you are safe and well. See If you are (or have been) reported missing for more information.

 

What do I do if I see a person I think might be missing?

If you have information on a missing person you should report it to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Crime Stoppers will refer the information to the relevant missing persons unit or the investigating officer on the case.

I haven't been able to contact my friend/family member, what do I do?

If you can’t contact or find a loved one, and you hold genuine fears for their safety, you should report them missing to your local police immediately. A police report needs to be made in person at your local police station.

Alternatively, if you have simply lost touch with someone, and there are no concerns for their welfare, police will not conduct an investigation into their whereabouts as they do not meet the criteria for a missing person.

There are other search agencies who work to reunite families who have lost contact or been disconnected.

Do you need to wait 24 hours before reporting a person missing?

You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing. If you have serious concerns for the safety and welfare of a person, and their whereabouts are unknown, then you may immediately report them missing to your local police. Police will take a report where there are concerns for safety and welfare and their whereabouts are unknown.

Do I have to report a missing person to the police station closest to where they were last seen?

No. If you have concerns about a missing person you can visit your local police station to file a missing persons report - even if the missing person lives in another State or Territory.

If the investigation has to be conducted in another town, state or territory the case may be transferred to another police jurisdiction to search for the missing person.

What happens when an Australian is missing overseas?

Where there are concerns for the safety and welfare of an Australian missing overseas, a missing person's report should be made with local State or Territory police, who will then lodge the report with DFAT. Depending on the circumstances the report may also be lodged with Interpol to facilitate international cooperation in investigating the whereabouts of the missing person.

My friend/family member is an Australian travelling overseas and I haven't heard from them. How do I find him/her?

In cases where there are genuine fears for the person's safety, or concerns for their welfare, a missing person report can be made at any Police station within Australia. See the Australians missing overseas page for more information.

My friend/family member is in Australia (but is not an Australian) and I haven't heard from them. What should I do?

If you want to report a person missing in Australia, from a location outside of Australia, you should report the person missing to local police in your country. They will send a request for investigation to Australian Police via Interpol channels.

Australian Police do not accept missing persons reports from overseas by email, phone or post. Missing person reports will only be accepted through the channels above, as they are able to verify who you are and that the reasons for the report are genuine.

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