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Australian time zones are a maze to wade through. You have, most times, four regular times zones: Eastern Standard Time (AEST), Australian Western Standard Time (AWST), and Australian Central Standard Time (ACST), with Australian Western Central Time (AWCT) a little talked about time zone. During daylight savings in Australia, there are six time zones in effect within Australia. Australian Western Standard (AWST), Australian Central Standard (ACST), Australian Central Daylight (ACDT), Australian Eastern Standard (AEST), and Australian Eastern Daylight (AEDT). Time zones in Australia are zones of confusion. Times zones in Australia are pretty interesting. It's great to spend daylight savings in Australia and enjoy Eastern Daylight Time and Central Daylight Time.


Time Zones
the insane time zone system of Australia


"It'd be quaint to say the Australians never knew what time it was because they were so laid back.  That'd be incorrect.  Aussies never know what time it is because of their @$)*@$() time zone system."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
time zones Australia

Let's first examine the time zone map for the continental United States, an area only slightly larger than Australia.  Notice four clearly marked time zones.  With a few exceptions, the time zones do not straddle across states, and each time zone differs from the one to each side of it by one hour.  When it's 9 PM in the Pacific time zone, it's 10 PM in Mountain, 11 PM in Central, and 12 AM in Eastern. 

Time zone map United States

Time zones devised while sober
 
Now let's examine a time zone map created while "under the influence." 
Time zone map Australia

These standard time zones apply from approximately the first Sunday in April till the fist Sunday in October. We say 'approximately' because it seems in Australia, any state can do whatever the bejeesus it pleases. Western Australia was switching its clocks in the last Sunday in October and last Sunday of March.

On a crisp May day, when it's 7 AM in New York and 12 PM in London, it's 8 PM in Perth (Western Australia), 9:30 PM in Adelaide (South Australia), and 10 PM in Melbourne (Victoria).  In a country Australia's size, three time zones is acceptable, though officially, my friends, there's actually a fourth little talked-about time zone you never see marked on the maps. This mystery zone is Western Central Australia Time and applies within some tiny region in the eastern part of Western Australia, centered in the pit stop of Eucla (see the star on the map), near its border with South Australia.  This magical time zone is 45 minutes later than the time in Perth (Western Standard Time) and 45 minutes earlier than the time in Adelaide (Central Standard Time).  The real reason for this covered-up time zone remains unclear, but experts think it's to minimize jet lag for cosmopolitan Euclans traveling westward to Perth. 

The Central Standard Time zone is an accident waiting to happen.  An example: Stu from Adelaide (South Australia) has to make a critically important make-it-or-break-it business call to Big Bob in Australia's capital of Canberra (ACT) at 11 AM sharp.  The entire future of Australia depends on this call.   Stu's watch is running a little fast.   When his watch says 11 AM, it's actually 10:45.  Meanwhile, Big Bob's watch is running slow.   When it says 11 AM on his watch, it's actually 11:15 AM.  Stu rings Big Bob at what he thinks is 11, but is really 10:45 AM local time.   With the 30 minute time difference, 10:45 AM in Adelaide is 11:15 AM in Canberra.  Big Bob picks up the phone, believing it to be 11 AM.  Stu also believes it to be 11 AM.  At some point, they realize they're in different time zones, so how can it be 11 AM for them both?  Each calls the other a liar, a fight ensues, names get called, the make-it-or-break it deal goes south, Australia's future suffers, jobs and livelihoods and lives are lost, and all because of a crappy 30 minute time difference.  Australia ain't India!  In First World economies, time zones differ by the hour.

No one has satisfactorily answered the question:  why not have Central Standard time differ by just an hour from Western Standard and Eastern Standard?  Australians must stand up and demand their rights as citizens to unearth the conspiracy that has kept the center of Australia a half hour away from its neighbors!
Australia During Daylight Savings Time
Australia Daylight Savings Time
 From the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April, daylight savings time applies in Australia.   Or does it?  A look at a map shows that just some of the states practice it.  The northern areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland stay on standard time.   Western Australia gave daylight savings a spin for 3 years starting in 2006.  A May 16, 2009 referendum had Western Australians giving daylight savings the middle finger.  It remains uncertain what happens in Eucla, the heartland for the Western Central Australian time.  We'd guess that they'd democractically split the time difference between Western Australia and South Australia, but you never know.  Euclans like to experiment with alternate social systems, and if a dictatorship takes over Eucla, Euclans may set their clocks to Beijing time!

So Australia winds up with 6 time zones, including Western Central, during October to April.  The northern latitudes prefer sweet and safe Standard Time, while the southern ones dunk down in Daylight.  This creates some unusual situations.  A traveler journeying eastward from Western Australia to South Australia must advance his watch two-and-half hours, a huge time shift.   Queenslanders traveling west to South Australia find that it's actually later by a half hour, not earlier.   The Queensland-New South Wales border along Queensland's Gold Coast is a street called Boundary Street which straddles the towns of Coolangatta (QLD) and Tweed Heads (NSW).  These two towns, to anyone who didn't know (like myself), appear to be one town with one economy   Imagine staying in a hotel on one side of Boundary Street, just as I did, and looking across the street to where it's one hour later.    This works out great for teenagers making excuses to Ma & Pa for breaking their curfew.   It works out crappy for everyone else.  No one really ever knows what time it is for half the year.



 

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Insights From A Travel Mastermind

 Time zones in Australia are 4 or 6, depending on the time of year. Australian time zones are not lessons in consistency. The Central Standard Time (ACST) zone differs by just a half hour from Eastern Standard Time (AEST, as do Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) and Central Daylight Time (ACDT). During October to April, daylight savings in Australia is in effect in parts of the country, mainly the southern latitudes. Australian time zones rock, mate, be it Eastern Standard Time or Western Standard Time. I love time zones and daylight savings time. Daylight savings consists of Eastern Daylight Time and Central Daylight Time