Does this affect you?
You should keep reading if you:
- Live in, or expect to travel to Victoria
- Use or possess any of the following items:
- A sword (including fencing swords)
- A dagger, which may include some feasting gear
- A rattan weapon
- If you are involved in marshaling combat, or stewarding events in Victoria
These are the definitions of those weapons covered by the Victorian Control of Weapons Regulations 2011 most relevant to SCA activities. Note that there are many more items on the list.
Sword: a thrusting, striking or cutting weapon with a long blade having 1 or 2 edges and a hilt or handle.
Baton or Cudgel: a short stout stick made of any material designed as a weapon, including the weapon commonly known as a “police nightstick”.
Dagger: a sharp pointed stabbing instrument (other than an oyster knife), ordinarily capable of being concealed on the person and having—
- a flat blade with cutting edges (whether serrated or not serrated) along the length of both sides; or
- a needle-like blade, the cross section of which is elliptical or has 3 or more sides, but not including instruments such as swords or bayonets
Swords and daggers are Prohibited Weapons in Victoria. Batons and cudgels (which would appear to include most SCA-legal weapons) are Controlled Weapons in Victoria.
How are you affected?
Under the Victorian Control of Weapons ACT 1990, it is an offence to possess a Prohibited Weapon. Note the word “possess”, rather than “own” – if you carry a borrowed sword, you are in possession of it. However, an exemption to the law allows members of specified Historical Re-enactment Organisations (including the SCA) to “Bring into Victoria, cause to be brought or sent into Victoria, display or advertise for sale, sell, purchase, possess, use or carry a sword”, in order to “study and participate in the re-enactment of historical or cultural events”, provided they are over the age of 18 years. If the members are under 18, the exemption only allows them to “possess, use or carry a sword.” There are some conditions, particularly around how you must store and transport swords, but those exemptions allow such activities as rapier combat and the use of swords in Court ceremonies in Victoria, provided the participants in those activities:
- are current members of the SCA
- are not “Prohibited Persons”
- have submitted a statutory declaration to the SCA to confirm that they are not Prohibited Persons.
What is a “Prohibited Person”?
The Control of Weapons Act 1990 adopts the definition of a Prohibited Person that is in the Firearms Act 1996 (pages 20-24). This is a long list of classes of people who cannot legally possess firearms (or swords) in Victoria, and members should refer to the Act to confirm that none of the classes apply to them. Examples include people who have Domestic Violence Orders or supervision orders against them.
I’m not a Prohibited Person, and I want to fight rapier, or carry a sword at SCA events in Victoria. What do I have to do?
You have to:
- Be a paid-up member of the SCA.
- Complete a statutory declaration that states that you are not a Prohibited Person, and which states where you keep your sword(s) when not in use. For this, you must use the form prescribed by Victorian regulations.
- Send the completed and witnessed form to the Registrar in electronic form (scan it as a PDF and attach it to an email).
If you change your contact details, or the location where you keep your sword(s) — for example if you move house — you have to inform the Registrar of that within 28 days. You don’t need to complete a new Statutory Declaration, just provide the updated details.
Your Statutory Declaration must be witnessed by an authorised statutory declaration witness. The good news is that the list of people who can witness a statutory declaration under Victorian legislation is long, and you probably know someone who qualifies (such as anyone who has been a permanent employee of the public service for five years or longer, a teacher, police officer, doctor or dentist). This means there is a good chance that you can do all of this quickly, and for free.
It is also currently possible to have a statutory declaration witnessed remotely, under the COVID-19 (Emergency Measures) (Electronic Signing and Witnessing) Regulations 2020. The process for doing this is detailed at https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/statdecs#remote.
What does the SCA have to do?
A Specified Organisation (that’s the SCA) “must be satisfied that each of its members who possesses, uses or carries a sword in accordance with this Order is not a ‘prohibited person’ as defined in section 3 of the Control of Weapons Act 1990. This may require the specified organization to arrange for each member to undergo a Criminal History Check or provide a Statutory Declaration affirming they are not a prohibited person.”
We’re not going to conduct criminal history checks on our members, we will rely on statutory declarations.
We require anyone who wants to participate in rapier combat in Victoria, or to carry a sword for ceremonial purposes, to maintain current membership and submit a statutory declaration that they are not a Prohibited Person.
What do our officers have to do?
Our marshals and event stewards or constables need to confirm that anyone carrying a sword at a Victorian event has registered a statutory declaration with the Registrar. They can do this by sighting the person’s membership card, which will have an endorsement on it. If the person is unable to provide proof that they are a member with a statutory declaration on file, they must not be allowed to carry or use a sword at a Victorian SCA event.
Other questions you might have
What about rattan weapons?
Rattan weapons fit the definition of a ‘baton or cudgel’, which are Controlled Weapons in Victoria. It is legal for anyone (under or over the age of 18) to carry or possess a Controlled Weapon if they have a “lawful excuse”, and the definition of a “lawful excuse” includes “participation in any lawful sport, recreation or entertainment”. You DON’T need to submit a statutory declaration to the Registrar if you are only using rattan weapons.
However – there are conditions that apply to the possession of all controlled weapons, including carrying them in a safe and secure manner, and not having them on licensed premises. These conditions are detailed in section 6 of the Control of Weapons Act 1990. All members should familiarise themselves with those conditions.
What about armour?
“Body armour” is a prohibited weapon under the Victorian legislation (and most other States and Territories). However, the definition of “body armour” is “a garment or item that is designed, intended or adapted for the purpose of protecting the body from the effects of a firearm”. Similarly, the NSW regulations define body armour as “designed for anti-ballistic purposes”. This would appear to exclude SCA armour.
Sale and purchase of weapons
The sale of either a Controlled Weapon or a Prohibited Weapon to someone under 18 is illegal in Victoria.
As regards Controlled Weapons, it is not illegal to sell a minor a piece of wood, but selling them a finished cudgel (eg, an SCA combat sword) is illegal.
Anybody who sells a Prohibited Weapon (ie, a sword) must require the person attempting to purchase it to provide evidence of their identity, and keep a record of the sale in the form of a bound record book or a computerised record-keeping system. More details of the sort of proof of identity you must collect, and the records you must keep, are in sections 9 and 10 of the Control of Weapons Regulations 2011.
You cannot purchase a sword within 28 days after joining the SCA, unless you hold a firearms license.
What about daggers and other weapons?
Swords are the only weapon exempted from the prohibitions by membership of a Specified Organisation. This means that all other prohibited weapons, such as maces and daggers, remain prohibited to SCA members in Victoria.
I don’t want to fight rapier, and I don’t even own a sword! But I will be in Court – does this apply to me?
You need to lodge a statutory declaration with the SCA if you expect to be in Possession of a sword in Victoria. Possession doesn’t necessarily mean ownership. We cannot offer you legal advice on this, and if you are concerned you should contact a legal professional. If you are just passing a sword from one authorised owner to another, your legal risk may be low. However – if there is a chance that you will be asked to (for example) bring the Great Sword of State to an event on behalf of the Crown, or take it home again afterwards, then you definitely want to be covered in case you are stopped by an RBT with the sword in your car.
Can I use a sword in Victoria if I sign a statutory declaration on the spot?
Yes, provided you are not a prohibited person. If the event stewards or marshals have pre-printed statutory declaration forms on hand, and there is someone at the event who meets the requirements for an authorised statutory declaration witness, then you can make a declaration and use a sword immediately.
I already have a firearms license – this doesn’t apply to me, does it?
If you hold a firearms licence issued under Part 2 of the Victorian Firearms Act 1996, you don’t need to provide the SCA with a statutory declaration proving you are not a prohibited person. You DO still need to maintain current membership of the SCA to carry a sword, and you DO need to send the registrar a scanned copy of your firearms license, and complete the first page of the statutory declaration form that lets us record your details.
I live in Victoria, and I want to own a sword. Can I join the SCA, to make it legal?
New members are always welcome, but joining the SCA might no be the answer to your problem. Our members are permitted to possess swords for the purpose of medieval re-enactment at our events, and required to secure their weapons when not in use. If you aren’t actually doing those things, having a membership won’t make any difference. If you want to hang a katana on your wall, for example, you won’t be covered. You might want to look at joining a militaria collectors’ group.
Where do I go for more information?
If you want to know more about the legislation, and your obligations, contact a legal professional. If you want to ask questions about how the SCA is managing its obligations in Australia, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org