National missing persons coordination centre

FAQs

How many people go missing?

It is estimated that more than 38,000 people are reported missing each year in Australia. This equates to approximately one person every 15 minutes. This is a rate of 1.7 people per 1,000 Australians.

How many missing persons are reported in each State/Territory?

The majority of missing person's reports are from the states with a higher population, including New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Police Jurisdiction

No. Missing Persons Reported (2005-06)

ACT

1,078

NSW

9,788

NT

431

QLD

5,768

SA

4,915

TAS

207

VIC

5,584

WA

2,517

TOTAL

30, 288

(Missing Persons in Australia 2008)

How many young people go missing?

Out of the 38,000 missing persons reports each year, almost 23,000 are concerning someone under the age of 18.

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

In Australia approximately 38,000 people are reported missing each year compared with 220,000 in the United Kingdom and 16,000 in New Zealand.

The rate of missing persons in Australia is 1.7 per 1,000 people. In the United Kingdom it's 3.6 per 1,000 people.

Although this data gives a rough comparison, each State / Territory and country record information relating to missing persons differently. For example, in the United States, missing adults are not accounted for as they are not defined as ‘missing'.

Who goes missing?

There are three primary groups at risk of going missing: those suffering from a mental illness, young people (particularly females aged between 13 to 17 years) and the elderly (Missing Persons in Australia 2008).

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, intentional and unintentional.

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

For young people, family dysfunction and conflict, miscommunication, issues associated with puberty and peer pressure, mental health issues, child abuse/neglect, poor coping skills and drug and alcohol problems are amongst some of the reasons for going missing.

Is going missing a crime?

Going missing itself is not a crime. Police are involved in the location of missing persons because they are best placed to provide appropriate resources and to ensure that missing persons are located as quickly as possible. While going missing is not a crime, being away from normal support networks can make missing persons more vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime or committing a crime to stay missing.

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.

What happens to missing people, where do they go?

Every missing persons case is different. Most people who go intentionally missing do so to remove themselves from personal stress in their lives. Research conducted in the UK ‘Geographies of Missing People’ showed that for cases where people went missing intentionally that they generally stayed close to familiar places and often used public amenities / transport for travel and security. For those with dementia, it is often the search for places which used to be familiar or part of an old routine which can lead to the person becoming unintentionally lost. It is important to remember that being away from normal support networks can increase the risk of missing persons also becoming victims of crime.

How many people are found?

Of the 38,000 people who are reported missing in Australia each year, more than 95 per cent are located within a short period of time (usually one week). However there remains a significant number, more than 1,600, who are listed as missing long term-for more than three months (Missing Persons in Australia 2008).

How long does it take to find a missing person?

Most missing persons, 95%, are found within one week of going missing. The majority of these are found safe and well within 24 hours.

How many people are still missing after a long period of time?

There remains more than 1,600 missing persons in Australia who are listed as long-term missing, that is, missing for more than three months.

What happens when someone is located?

What happens when someone is located will depend on the circumstances of their disappearance and location. For more information visit Location of missing persons.

Are details about missing persons kept confidential?

All details about missing persons are kept confidential and are not made available to the public unless permission has been granted by the family of the missing person and investigating officers.

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. 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 if I am reported missing?

If you are reported 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 am worried about someone?

I you are worried about someone you should encourage them to seek professional support. Alternatively you can seek professional support yourself in order to better help those you are concerned about.

See our support page for more information on people you can contact.

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. Can you check to see if they're okay?

If you have simply lost touch, and there are no unusual circumstances, Police will not commence a search as they do not provide a family tracing service. You can find contact details for the Salvation Army family tracing service on their website Salvation Army.

If you have made some attempt to find your friend/relative and you hold genuine fears for their safety, which can be justified, you should report them missing to your local police. This process is usually done in person. As part of taking a missing persons report, police need to be able to verify who you are and that the reasons for making the report are genuine.

When can I report a person missing?

As soon as you have concerns for the safety and welfare of someone and their whereabouts are unknown you may report them missing to your local police.

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 you are unable to attend your local station, contact them to make other arrangements to make a missing persosn report.

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.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Consular Operations) may also be contacted to assist where there are concerns for the safety and welfare of an Australian citizen overseas. For more information see the Australians missing overseas page.

Search agencies such as the Australian Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the International Social Service Australia also work to reunite people missing overseas.

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.

In many countries the communication network is often difficult to access, and language barriers make it difficult to maintain contact. If fears for safety are only based on the fact the family has lost contact with each other, that is not justification to commence an overseas investigation. For these matters, contact the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service or private investigators.

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

Genuine fears for the persons safety must exist before Australian Police will commence a search. If the only fears for safety are the fact the family has lost contact with the person, then this is not sufficient.

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. Alternatively you can sometimes make a report through your embassy or consular office in Australia. 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.

You will need to provide:

  • the missing person's full name and date of birth
  • a full description of the missing person
  • a recent photograph of the missing person
  • details of where and when they were last seen or heard from
  • details of any bank accounts and credit cards that the missing person may be using
  • the missing person's cell phone number and email address
  • details of any vehicle they may be using or travelling in
  • names and contact details of friends and associates
  • any relevant medical/mental health information
  • any known travel plans or destinations
  • details of anyone in the company of the missing person
  • details of any enquiries you have made to locate the person yourself. Information about whether the person is resident in Australia or travelling (temporarily overseas). If travelling please try to provide an itinerary.

Are missing children likely to be abducted?

Most children that are reported missing are located safe and well within 24 hours. Common reasons for children going missing include a breakdown in communication, family conflict, domestic violence, mental health issues, peer pressure and drug/alcohol abuse. Only a small percentage of missing children are the result of stranger abductions.

When a parent abducts a child, is the child considered a missing person?

Parental abductions occur where a child has been taken by a parent without consent. The Family Court of Australia may issue a recovery order when a parental abduction has occurred. The child is not considered a missing person unless there is evidence to suggest threat or danger to the child. In this case then a missing persons report may be filed with local police.

If I get lost and need Search and Rescue, will I have to pay?

No, rescued people are not expected to pay. We prefer to educate and alert people to the potential risks and encourage people to plan and take responsibility for themselves.

We want people to request help if they are in distress or if their loved ones are missing. We don’t want people hiding from us to avoid costs. However, if there is evidence of recklessness Police may lay charges and seek costs.

Search and Rescue operations are funded by a number of government and volunteer agencies including Police. It is a service provided to make our outdoors safer for Australians and overseas visitors to enjoy.

For more information visit:

Go to ACT Policing

Australian Federal Police