The Australian Federal Police said the 42-year-old woman was travelling from Canada with her son and had landed in the Sydney International Airport on Sunday when she was targeted for an examination.
The force said border officers who X-rayed the woman’s three large suitcases found “several anomalies.”
“Officers discovered a white powdery substance concealed within the lining of the suitcases,” the force said in a statement. “Initial testing returned a presumptive positive result for cocaine, with a total weight of approximately 12 kilograms.”
The AFP said the woman was arrested and charged with one count of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs. It noted that the maximum penalty for the offence is life in prison.
The force did not say where in Canada the woman was from.
The woman was to appear before a Sydney court on Monday, police said.
The AFP also said it was working with the Canadian consulate and New South Wales Family and Community Services to determine how to best take care of the woman’s son until he could return to Canada.
A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said Canadian officials are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular services to the woman and her family. John Babcock said further information could not be provided due to privacy reasons.
A report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, a national research centre on crime and criminal justice, said that in 2016-17, Canada ranked as the third highest embarkation point for cocaine detections, behind the United States and South Africa, but ahead of Mexico and the United Kingdom.
It also said 50 kilograms of cocaine were detected via air cargo from Canada during that time period.
Last year, three Quebecers pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle 95 kilograms of cocaine into Australia in suitcases aboard a luxury cruise ship.