Everything you should know about daylight savings time (DST) in Australia

With nearly 7.7 million square kilometres in land mass and the sixth largest country across the world, Australia has three different time zones, which turns to five during the daylight savings period.

During winter and summer, the clock is turned back and forward in some states in a practice known as Daylight Saving Time (DST). DST is observed in some but not all Australian states. Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, and the ACT all follow DST. It is not followed in Queensland, the NT, and Western Australia states.

When does daylight savings time begin and end in Australia?

Daylight savings begins on the first Sunday in the month of October from 2am. At this time, the clocks are moved forward by one hour. This ends on the first Sunday in the month of April at 2am where the clocks are turned back one hour. This is what happens:

  • In April, clocks are turned back from 3am to 2am.
  • In October, clocks are moved forward one hour from 2am to 3am.

Usually in April when the clocks are turned back one hour, there is more sunlight in the morning and sunset is earlier. In October, the change means that sunrise and sunset will be an hour later, which allows for more sunlight in the evenings during the summer months.

Do all states follow daylight savings time?

daylight saving in Australia
NSW follows DST. Photo: 633839, Pixabay

The choice of using DST is dependent on each individual state and territory, which is why not all follow this practice. It is a practice that is still followed in many countries across the globe.

While there have been efforts to standardise DST across Australia, it is the responsibility of each state and territory to decide if and when to implement it locally. This is why DST can be so varied across the country. For instance, DST in New South Wales was extended in 1981-82 because of severe power shortages across the state.

This lack of unison has caused scheduling problems interstate. DST also means that Australia has 5 time zones when in effect. Here are the regular time zones in Australia:

  • Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)– followed by New South Wales (except Broken Hill), Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, and Victoria. The time is UTC + 10.
  • Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) – followed by South Australia, the Northern Territory and Broken Hill. The time is UTC + 9.5.
  • Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) – followed by Western Australia. The time is UTC + 8.

When Australia observes DST, some states will make the change while others remain the same. That’s why there are five time zones. Here are the time zones during daylight savings in Australia:

  • The time in South Australia and Broken Hill in western NSW switches to UTC + 10.30 and is called Australia Central Daylight Time (ACDT).
  • The time in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria becomes UTC + 11.00 and are known as Australia Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT).
  • Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) continues in Queensland.
  • Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) continues in the Northern Territory.
  • Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) continues in Western Australia.

All states are not obligated to follow DST, which is why there are extra time zones during daylight savings.

Daylight Saving Time in Other Years

DST changes do not necessarily occur on the same date every year.

Year DST End (Clock Backward) DST Start (Clock Forward)
2019 Sunday, 7 April, 3:00 am Sunday, 6 October, 2:00 am
2020 Sunday, 5 April, 3:00 am Sunday, 4 October, 2:00 am
2021 Sunday, 4 April, 3:00 am Sunday, 3 October, 2:00 am
2022 Sunday, 3 April, 3:00 am Sunday, 2 October, 2:00 am
The time is changed 2 times per year.


Could daylight savings be beneficial to the economy?

daylight saving states Australia
DST has many economic advantages for the business world. Photo: rawpixel, Pixabay

There have been many arguments in favour of DST because of its potential benefits to the economy. Some of them include:

  • Reduced dark hours could reduce street crime means less costly policing.
  • Longer daylight hours means that people won’t consume as much energy in their homes, which will bring down their bills.
  • More people will be out in the evenings because of the extra light, which boosts local spending – helping businesses and the economy grow.

The positive notes to the economy brought about by daylight savings cannot and should not be ignored.

History of daylight savings in Australia

The concept of daylight savings started with Benjamin Franklin back in 1784. He made this suggestion so that people could save on costs by reducing the amount of candlelight they needed. But his proposition was related more to changing a person’s sleep habits rather than turning the clock.

In World War I, the concept of daylight savings took off and was first implemented by Germany in 1916. This was done to cut the use of fuel during the war. This proved popular and many other countries followed the same idea. Daylight savings was so successful that it was followed once again during the Second World War.

Daylight savings has its origins in Australia when World War I was taking place under the orders of the Commonwealth where all states and territories in the country had to put it in effect. DST was officially introduced in Australia in 1917 but was discontinued after the war came to an end. It was re-introduced during World War II for three summers from 1942.

Though Tasmania is the smallest state in the country, it has played a big role in DST in Australia. The state government implemented DST in 1967 to save power and water because of a severe drought. Since then, Tasmania has continued DST and used its success to advocate the concept nationwide. Here are some ways DST has evolved in Australia:

  • In 1971, all states passed the legislation to run a trial period except for Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
  • In 1972, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria made it permanent while Queensland decided not to continue DST.
  • Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory currently do not implement DST while all other states and territories do.
  • Western Australia and Queensland have followed daylight savings every once in a while for the last 40 years on a trial basis.
  • Queensland followed DST for three years on a trial basis between 1989 and 1992. A referendum was held in 1992 and was defeated with a ‘no’ vote. The no vote was more popular in regional areas because changing the clock would have proven to be quite problematic for farmers.
  • In Western Australia, there have been four referendums carried out in 1975, 1984,1992 and 2009. All of them have rejected the concept of DST for the state.
  • The Northern Territory trialled daylight savings much earlier in the century and was last followed in 1944.
  • Originally, only the state of Tasmania followed daylight savings on the first Sunday once October began.
  • The other states (NSW, Victoria, ACT and South Australia) began daylight savings on the last Sunday in October. This ended on the last Sunday in March and continued until 2008.
  • From 2008 onwards, DST follows an additional 4 weeks. It starts on the first Sunday in the month of October. DST ends on the first Sunday in the month of April.
  • Australia has five time zones instead of the usual three during the daylight savings period.

Daylight savings has been part of many parts of Australia since 1971 and it is considered a normal part of life.

Daylight savings during special events and national times

when does daylight savings end
Only special events, like the Olympics, will change DST procedure. Photo: Simon Connellan, Unsplash

Special events can influence the way DST is observed. Some examples are below:

  • In 2000, during the summer Olympics held in Sydney, all eastern states – New South Wales, the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria began DST earlier and the date was shifted to 27 August 2000. In South Australia, DST was observed at the usual time.
  • In 2006, all the DST-following states delayed the return to normal time by a week because of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March. In this year, DST came to an end on 2 April 2006.

There are also situations where nationwide times can come into effect. For example, national times are usually used for business activities. In these instances, a specific time within a state is given and must be followed regardless of the time in another state. This could be related to the issue or sale of stock or the timings of the Australian Stock Exchange operating on Eastern Standard Time.

In conclusion

You’ll likely notice that all of the Australian states and territories that follow daylight savings are based in the southern part of the country. The Northern Territory has often rejected and never really followed DST because the length of the day doesn’t vary as much as it does in the south.

Queensland is a massive state and falls partly in the south and partly in the north. There have been talks about splitting the state in half where one half participates in DST and the other doesn’t. Until 2008, every state in Australia started and ended their daylight savings on different dates. Since then, this has changed and DST has become more uniform – even if it isn’t observed by all states.

Daylight savings time (DST) is a massive debate around the country and will continue to be a public discussion topic for years to come.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Executive Editor at Best in Australia. Mike has spent over a decade covering news related to business leaders and entrepreneurs around Australia and across the world. You can contact Mike here.
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