Legislation in Australia allows belly dancers to buy, own and sell blunt swords freely – except in Victoria, where you must hold a license, or join a club which holds an exemption.
Note that It is not enough to join a collectors’ club or an RSL club – their exemptions cover swords kept as ornaments, or worn as part of a uniform only. The official advice from the Licensing Services Division (see article below) is that if you wish to dance with a sword, you must be covered by an exemption specifically for that purpose.
Currently the only organisation which holds an exemption for belly dancers is OMEDA. You must be a current member of OMEDA to apply. We ask that you fill out an application form to indicate your acceptance of the terms and conditions. There is no charge.
Please be aware that under the legislation, you must meet some stringent requirements and it is your responsibility, not OMEDA’s, to ensure that you understand and meet those requirements. The requirements are detailed on page 84 of the Order in Council:
Why Is This Important?
Some belly dancers have questioned the need to worry about sword exemption, because they don’t believe the police are likely to challenge a dancer in possession of a sword that is obviously blunt.
The police disagree. Their view is that even a blunt sword can do damage if someone starts swinging it around. If a deranged person grabs your sword and embarks on a rampage, the police can’t tap them on the shoulder to check whether it’s sharp or not. Therefore they do take the requirements for secure storage and responsible handling seriously.
As you can read below, owning and using a sword in Victoria is not to be taken lightly, because the penalties can be severe:
Control of Weapons Act 1990 – SECT 5
(1) A person must not-
(a) Bring into Victoria; or
(b) Cause to be brought into or sent into Victoria; or
(c) Manufacture, sell or purchase; or
(d) Display or advertise for sale; or
(e) Possess, use or carry a prohibited weapon
without an exemption under section 8B or an approval under Section 8C. Penalty: 240 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years.
(1A) a person who is in licensed premises or in a public place that is in the immediate vicinity of licensed premises must not possess, carry or use a prohibited weapon without-
(a) an exemption under section 8B; or
(b) an approval under section 8C.
Penalty: 480 penalty units or 4 years imprisonment.
The following background information is an edited version of an article which appeared in the Shimmy magazine in May 2010, written by Judith Kaverman:
In Victoria, the Control of Weapons Act 1990 (the Act) classified weapons as either Controlled Weapons or Prohibited Weapons. You may own Controlled Weapons, but need a lawful reason to carry or use them outside of your home. To legally own Prohibited Weapons you must have an exemption or be covered under the Control of Weapons Act.
In June 2004 the Victorian Control of Weapons Regulations were amended to change swords from Controlled weapons to Prohibited weapons. Although certain classes of people were granted an exemption under the Act, the list did not include dancers or performers except as members of a Theatre or Opera Company.
GENERAL EXEMPTION UNDER SECTION 8B TO POSSESS SWORDS by Order in Council
2. Theatre or Opera Company
3. Accredited Fencing Organisations,
4. World Singlestick Federation
5. Member of a Religion whose practice involves swords
6. Defence Force Serving Member
7. Former Defence Force Member if obtained in official duties
8. RSL officer/member
9. Masonic Lodge
10. Participant in Scottish Highland Dancing
11. Inheritance – maximum of two swords.
12. Australian National Wushu & Tai Chi Association
13. Australian Kendo Renmai Associated Club
14. A sword owned prior to July 2004 that has never had a sharpened edge
15. Active Scout Association member.
Some collectors’ clubs were also granted exemptions.
OMEDA contacted the Licensing Services Division of Victoria Police for advice, and here is an extract from their reply:
In June 2004 a number of Governor in Council exemptions were issued under categories of general exemption, collector exemption, and historical re-enactment exemption. I have been advised that members of your organisation were advised to join a collector’s organisation such as the Victorian Edged Weapons Guild so they could retain their swords for belly dancing. This advice is incorrect. The collector’s exemption only covers members of collectors clubs for the following purpose:
“Bringing swords into Victoria, causing swords to be brought or sent into Victoria, selling or purchasing swords, displaying or advertising swords for sale, possessing using or carrying swords for the purposes of studying and collecting swords with an historical or cultural significance”
I have also been advised that some of your members are relying on the “blunt sword” general exemption. This exemption is limited to persons who already owned the blunt sword prior to the commencement of the order (which may possibly apply to some of your members) however the blunt sword exemption only applies for “the purpose of displaying the sword as an ornament”, not belly dancing.
Under current legislation the only way for a member of OMEDA to lawfully possess and use a sword for bellydancing purposes is to possess a Chief Commissioners Approval issued under Section 8C of the Control of Weapons Act.
Edit: Fortunately, on June 5, 2014, OMEDA Inc. was granted by Order in Council, a General Exemption Order under Section 8B of the Control of Weapons Act 1990, to Possess Swords. All members of OMEDA can now take advantage of this exemption to buy, sell, own or use a sword for dance purposes.
For more information:
Licensing Services Division
Telephone: 1300 651 645
Postal: GPO Box 2807
Melbourne VIC 3001