The Victorian Control of Weapons Act 2000, and it’s related legislation, the Control of Weapons Regulations 2004 and the Firearms Act 1996, was enacted to control the presence of weapons in the hands of the public that might represent a threat to community safety. The Department of Justice recognises, however, that certain historical and cultural groups have a legitimate reason to possess some of these prohibited weapons (steel or other metal swords, spears, axes, pole arms and other weapons deemed to form a part of legitimate re-enactment of medieval life and history – for the purposes of the SCA activities these weapons have to be rebated (deliberately blunted, the standard rebate being a 2mm rounded edge)), and is thus empowered, under the auspices of the Governor-in-Council, to grant exemptions to these groups for specific situations. The Society for Creative Anachronism is one such organisation. The excemption is SCA VIC Sword Exemption from DoJ. It is highly recommended that you print out a copy of the exemption, read it thoroughly and understand it, and carry a copy on you when you are in possession of your weapon.
Note that the SCA recreated weapons primarily constructed of rattan, with some instances of PVC, rubber and fiberglass, are classified as Controlled Weapons (class – batons). Controlled weapons are weapons that are designed for use for legitimate purposes but which need to be regulated because of the danger they pose if misused. These weapons include imitation firearms, swords and bayonets and all knives that are not classified as prohibited weapons. A person may possess, carry and use a controlled weapon provided he or she has a lawful excuse. A lawful excuse includes legitimate recreational, sporting, collecting or employment activities, but does not include self-defense. Breaches of the Act, whether for Prohibited or Controlled Weapons, carry a maximum penalty of a $6000 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment. The metal weapons used by Rapier and Cut & Thrust combatants are Prohibited Weapons under the Act. The rapier community is your best source of information regarding the ownership and use of these swords.
Body armor is illegal in Australia. In Victoria we use the same Exemption to the Act, under section 8B, to allow us to use body armor for historical re-enactment purposes. Armor should be transported in bags/chests/other suitable containers to and from events. It is an offense to wear armor in public, even if travelling to the event. Under no circumstances is it to be worn at places like a shopping mall or on public transport.
The first thing that should be noted is that, if you are a prohibited person under the Act, then you are specifically excluded from any exemption. (note – clicking on the phrase “prohibited person will take you to the definition as per the Firearms Act 1996). The relevant passage in the Act is Section 3 Definitions (1), listed under “prohibited persons”.
You will note that there are conditions relating to the safe and secure storage of the weapons. These are covered by the Firearms Act 1996, Section 4 of Schedule 4. When transporting the weapons they must be kept in a secure container unable to be accessed readily by anyone other than the holder of the exemption. A locked bag (zippers locked together) would be the minimum. Traveling with the weapon in an unlocked bag is NOT sufficient under the exemption (in fact it could be considered a concealed weapon, which is another offence all together, because it would be easily accessible, yet hidden).
A further note on storage of your gear. Your car is not legal storage. The exemption only covers travel to and from an event, not dropping the kids off at school or doing a spot of shopping. If the weapons are in the car at any time other than travel to or from an event you are not covered by the exemption.
The exemption ONLY applies for transporting the equipment to and from an historical re-eanctment event/training/meeting, the use of the weapon at such an event, and the storage of it at a residence or club establishment. If you are carrying the weapon for any other reason, you are not exempt.
With regard to the metal weapons (swords) used in Rapier and Cut & Thrust combat, which are Prohibited Weapons versus the rattan based weapons (batons) use in SCA Heavy Combat and the law. It’s a weird area. Metal swords are Prohibited weapons, but we have an exemption to use them for legitimate activities. Rattan swords are batons, and are controlled weapons, meaning they can only be used in legitimate activities. Once you are on the way to an event/training/meeting, while there, and on the way back they are effectively legally the same. The penalties for an offence with either are the same (max $6000 fine/6 months jail). However, the storage requirements for Prohibited Weapons are quite specific, and are covered in the Firearms Act 1996. Controlled weapon storage can be the bag you carry them around in. Bottom line is, if a police officer determines that your controlled weapon is not being used in a legitimate fashion, then it is a weapon, just the same as a prohibited weapon is fine when used according to the exemption, and if it isn’t, then it’s a weapon. I’ve had this discussion with a number of Police Officers, including Regional Firearms Officers, and with members of the Dept of Justice Licensing Branch, both in officially convened meetings to discuss Control of Weapons and informally.
At the meeting of the SCA Australia Ltd’s Board of Directors held on 26th March 2006 it was resolved that the only acceptable means of identifying a person as a member of the SCA Australia Ltd shall be a current financial membership card issued by the Registrar of the SCA Australia Ltd. It is recommended that you also carry a copy of the Exemption and photo id. An event flyer if you are on the way to an event (or a print out of an email or webpage announcement of the event, training or meeting) could also be useful.
Finally, remember the the moment you fail to meet any of the requirements, YOU ARE NO LONGER EXEMPT. Owning and carrying prohibited weapons is very much a privilege, and a privilege that is very easily removed. Your actions may also impact the rest of the group’s ability to continue to enjoy exemption. In the past, when the SCA’s exemption was threatened the SCAA Ltd’s Board of Directors handed down the harshest penalty within their purview. I see no reason why any possible future incidents should not be dealt with in a similar fashion. This is a very serious business. A removal of our exemption would instantly close down all forms of CA combat in Victoria.
IF YOU ARE IN ANY DOUBT AT ALL ABOUT YOUR ABILITY TO COMPLY WITH ALL THE REQUIREMENTS, DO NOT OWN OR CARRY A CONTROLLED OR PROHIBITED WEAPON/S.
If you have any doubts about what is presented here, consult the legislation yourself, or enquire with the relevant authorities. The advice presented here is not that of a professional lawyer, and is offered as a guideline for those wishing to ensure compliance with the relevant Acts.
It is each individual’s responsibility to comply with the relevant Acts and regulations. The SCAA has no responsibility for any member’s adherence, or lack of adherence to, any of the conditions, requirements, statutes and guidelines with regard to this matter.