The days are getting warmer and, for certain parts of Australia, that means a time shift is coming.

Even though it happens twice a year, changing the clocks to sync up with daylight saving time can be confusing.

Let’s run through your questions about daylight saving time.

When does daylight saving time start in Australia?

Each year, daylight saving time kicks in at 2am on the first Sunday of October.

So this year it begins on October 2.

Do the clocks move forwards or backwards?

Clocks will move forward by one hour.

When does daylight saving time finish in 2023?

Each year, daylight saving time ends on the first Sunday of April.

Next year, that falls on April 2.

Which states and territories have daylight saving time?

  • ACT
  • NSW
  • Tasmania
  • South Australia
  • Victoria

The Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia don’t observe daylight saving time.

Norfolk Island does switch over to daylight saving time, but Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands do not.

Is it ‘daylight saving time’ or ‘daylight savings time’?

The correct terminology is “daylight saving time”.

Roly Sussex, emeritus professor of applied language studies at the University of Queensland, explains why.

The trick is to think about the way we refer to the collection of money in our piggy banks as “savings”.

“Saving is a process … the result of my activity in saving is savings,” Professor Sussex said.

Winding back the clocks is the process of saving, whereas the extended sunlight at the end of the day is the “savings” in this equation.

However, if you’re among the group of people who say “daylight savings” instead of “daylight saving”, then you’re not alone.

How does daylight saving time give people extra daylight?

It doesn’t.

But it does give people the illusion of having extra daylight.

Let’s say that, in standard time, the sun rises at 6am and sets at 5.30pm.

Because daylight saving time is an hour ahead, it would be 7am in daylight saving time when the sun rose and 6.30pm when the sun set.

What this does is shift people’s schedules by an hour so that, when they finish work or school, the sun is still high in the sky.

The idea is that people spend that hour of leisure time outside enjoying the sunshine in the afternoon instead of sleeping through it in the morning.

But this relies on people working a standard 9am to 5pm workday.

What we do with our clocks doesn’t change the amount of sunlight we get in the day — it only changes what we do with those sunlight hours.(Ben Collins: ABC Local)

Why doesn’t the whole country observe daylight saving time?

Because it’s up to each individual state and territory to decide if they want to observe daylight saving time or not.

Here’s a section of a 2009 Australian Parliamentary Library research paper on our “turbulent history” of daylight saving time which speaks to that:

“…the responsibility for the setting of time zones has remained with state and territory authorities.

“Commonwealth power over weights and measures in the Constitution extends to the measurement of time, but whether it has power to legislate about time zones is not free from doubt.”

That’s a quirk of federation, but also reflects that Australia expands across quite a vast space.

The northernmost point of Australia — Cape York, Queensland — is at a latitude of 10° 41′ 21″ S.

About 3,860 kilometres away is Australia’s southernmost point — South East Cape, Tasmania — at 43° 38′ 40″ S.

A map marking Australia's continental extremities
The northernmost and southernmost points of Australia are thousands of kilometres apart. (Geoscience Australia)

Because the Earth is tilted, the amount of sunlight South East Cape gets across the seasons varies much more than it does up in Cape York.

Here’s a quick breakdown of that, using sunrise and sunset data from Geoscience Australia — we looked at the hours between sunrise and sunset for the summer and winter solstices from last year.

However, the Cape York data came from a station a few degrees south from the northernmost point.

Maximum hours of sunlight in winter

Maximum hours of sunlight in summer

Cape York, Queensland

11 hours, 14 minutes

13 hours, 1 minute

South East Cape, Tasmania 

8 hours, 55 minutes

15 hours, 26 minutes

Obviously these are the extremes and the majority of people live quite a distance from these points, but it demonstrates the differences in conditions in the south and the north.

And different conditions call for different policies.

For example, a 2010 paper by Queensland parliamentary librarian Mary Westcottsaid one of the major arguments against daylight saving time from its opposers was that the state’s climate was too hot for it to be effective.

It would mean that hour of afternoon leisure time would be spent in the heat of the day, with people more likely to be inside trying to escape the heat than outside gardening, having picnics or playing sport.

However, because of its latitude, the afternoon heat is less of an issue in somewhere like Tasmania.

Here’s a table breaking down when each state and territory observed daylight saving time:


Dates in use


1917-18; 1942-44; 1971-present


1917-18; 1942-44; 1971-present

Northern Territory 

1917-18; 1942-44


1917-18; 1942-44; 1971-72; 1989-92

South Australia

1917-18; 1942-44; 1971-present


1916-19; 1942-44; 1967-present


1917-18; 1942-44; 1971-present

Western Australia

1917-18; 1942-43; 1974-75; 1983-84; 1991-92; 2006-09

Tasmania was the first Australian state to bring in daylight saving time in 1916, during World World I.

The whole of Australia observed daylight saving time in 1917.

The nation gave it another go in 1942 to reduce demand for artificial lighting and cut back on energy during World War II — WA opted out in 1943, but the rest of the country continued on daylight saying time until 1944.

Then-prime minister John Curtin reportedly said the measure saved at least 10,000 tons of coal, but state and territory leaders complained it was seen as “inconvenient”, according to a 1984 paper by Tasmanian parliamentary librarian T A Newman.