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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone February 16, 2023

Sign about Australia law requiring a helmet to jog is part of a running joke

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  • A sign warning that a new Australian law requires joggers to wear helmets was created in 2017 by Wowser Nation, a satirical art collective looking to draw attention to what they called the "Australian nanny state."

Australia’s government was criticized by many of its citizens for tough lockdowns and border restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But well before that, some residents were critical of government overreach.

In 2017, a group of satirical artists began placing fake government signs in Sydney about strange new rules, such as requiring personal liability insurance in order to play sports at Sydney parks. 

A Feb. 13 Facebook post showed a photo of a sign that read, "All joggers must wear a helmet." A caption with the photo criticized Australia for the supposed rule.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Much like this Facebook post, some people took the jogging sign seriously in 2017, according to articles in the Daily Mail, The New York Times and The Guardian

The fake signs are the creation of Wowser Nation, described on its Facebook page as an art collective that is "exploring the Australian nanny state through subversive street art." The group’s motto on social media is "Fear everything."

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The photo showing the fake street sign about jogging with a helmet is plastered across the top of the page. The sign warns about the dangers of trip hazards, slippery surfaces and collisions, and urges joggers to "log your jog online before leaving home" so the government knows you’re safe.

The sign was first shared on Wowser Nation’s social media accounts in November 2017. 

According to The New York Times, "a wowser is someone who looks to crack down on enjoyment." The jogging sign was the group’s first public street art, the Times said.

Wowser Nation co-founder Francis Merson told The Guardian that the group’s work was intended to alert people that "their lives were becoming more and more restricted."

Some people weren’t in on the joke, including this Facebook post about the fake helmet-jogging law. We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Feb. 13, 2023, 

Wowser Nation, tweet, Nov. 8, 2017

Wowser Nation, Instagram post, Nov. 8, 2017

Wowser Nation, Facebook page

Australian Galleries, "Wowser Nation - Francis Merson & Clary Akon," 2017 

The Guardian, "'It's telling that people are convinced they're real': the satirical signs of Sydney’s ‘nanny state’," Jan. 22, 2020

The New York Times, "Has Australia imagined its relaxed identity?," Feb. 27, 2020

The Daily Mail, "'No helmet = no run': Signs popping up on Sydney's most famous beaches ban JOGGING without head protection - but is everything as it seems?," Jan. 28, 2017

The New York Times, "Has COVID cost Australia its love for freedom?," Sept. 23, 2021

The Guardian, "Australia’s COVID lockdown rules found to have lacked fairness and compassion," Oct. 19, 2022

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Sign about Australia law requiring a helmet to jog is part of a running joke

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