The Most Confusing Question in Oz: What Time is it?

More than I care to admit, I daydream about having a super power. My dreams cover a vast range but are often situational. During terrible rush hour traffic I may wish for the ability to fly, while super-human strength would be handy when opening a particularly stubborn jar. Regardless, the one I keep coming back to is the ability to control time and Sarah and I have come to a place where that might just be possible!

While on our drive from Perth to Adelaide, we came across a sign indicating we had entered Australian Central Western Standard Time (ACWST) and would need to move our clocks forward… by 45 minutes…

Not only that, the ACWST is is only a tiny, 350 kilometer stretch along the southeastern corner of Western Australia. It is reasonable to assume (based on having driven through it and not seen a soul for hours) that this time zone encompasses only a few hundred people. Moreover, it’s not even an officially sanctioned time zone!

However unlikely, this rogue group of time bandits may be onto something given the awkward jumble that is Australia’s time zones. Buckle up kids, it’s about to get messy.

Australian states (of which there are eight) individually decide whether or not to switch to Daylight Saving Time. This means that during the summer, if it is 8:00am in Western Australia (WA), it is 9:30am in the Northern Territory (NT) but 10:30am in South Australia (SA) – literally just under the Northern Territory. Heading east, it would be 10:00am in Queensland (QLD) but 11:00am just south of that in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and Tasmania.

Do you see that tiny little blue spot in all the green of Western Australia. That, my friends, is Eucla, where our confusion with Australian time zones reached its peak. Awesome graphic from Time and Date.

A key point to keep in mind is WA, the NT, and QLD do not have Daylight Saving Time. While the time gap between WA and the NT stays constant at one hour and thirty minutes, the gap between WA and SA can expand to two hours and thirty minutes.

Part of the reason for the gap is because in 2009 WA voted on whether or not they wanted Daylight Saving Time, and they voted it down. The reason for WA’s result according to one of our WA AirBnb hosts, was that most in WA didn’t want to impact their cattle with the time change. More can be read about this apparently quite contentious battle here.

Given this truly jumbled view, the humble stance of the ACWST followers makes much more sense or at least seems less insane. They’re simply trying to bridge the extensive gap that arises each summer when, in this vast and lonely space, their countrymen are pushed even further away.

So, if you’re keen to try time travel, I can’t recommend coming to Australia enough.

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