Have you been planning a trip to Australia’s rugged outback, tropical outer islands, or stunning pink lakes? If you’ve kept up with the news recently, there’s a fair chance you may be contemplating cancelling your booking with the country facing fires the likes of which the world has never seen before.
But before you cancel, perhaps you should consider changing things up instead. When a country experiences a crisis like Australia has, travellers and tourists alike usually opt to stay away when, in fact, these places that are heavily dependent on tourism need your support now more than ever.
To help you follow through with your trip while showing your support we’ve compiled a few tips that’ll help you stay safe and pick the best place to stay all while helping the local community get back on their feet.
How to stay safe
Supporting the affected communities with your tourism dollar is all well and good…
…but you’re only going to become an added burden if you end up in need of rescuing!
Getting yourself into danger kind of defeats the purpose, so here’s how to stay safe:
Research the affected areas before you leave
You don’t want to stumble into an active fire zone, so it’s best to do your research before leaving on your holiday to avoid the areas that are either currently under threat or are prone to risk. You don’t want to get caught up in the chaos!
Check in with the respective State’s Fire Service website before you go:
- New South Wales – https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/
- Tasmania – https://www.fire.tas.gov.au/
- South Australia – https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/home.jsp
- Queensland – https://www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/map/Pages/default.aspx
- Victoria – https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/home
- Western Australia – https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
- Northern Territory – https://pfes.nt.gov.au/
- Australian Capital Territory – https://esa.act.gov.au/fire-rescue
Take out travel insurance
Travel insurance is a backup if anything goes wrong. In most instances this will cover you for medical emergencies, evacuations, rental car coverage, hotel protection, trip cancellations and interruptions, as well as flight cancellations and delays, which are all common when dealing with fires and heavy smoke.
While the cost may seem steep, the cost of not may end up being that much more expensive.
Ensure friends and family know where you’re going
It’s important to let someone know where you’re going, just in case something goes wrong. Give a friend or family member a list of the places you’re planning on visiting or staying, so they can keep tabs on your whereabouts and check in if they haven’t heard from you.
Flight details, an itinerary, and regular check-in times are all worthwhile!
Pack a ventilation mask
Many of Australia’s capital cities that are not directly affected by the fires are still experiencing poor air quality due to smoke pollution, so it doesn’t hurt to travel prepared. In Canberra for example, air quality readings peaked at 7,700 and continued to stay around 3,400 and 5,000 on New Years Day.
To put this into perspective, anything over 200 is considered hazardous to health.
Where to stay
With fires severely affecting many rural areas across Australia, it’s recommended that you stay clear of the bush. An update released by The New York Times on the 6th of January stated, “fires are largely burning in the rural areas of Victoria and New South Wales, with both areas having declared a state of emergency this week”.
While main cities are not experiencing the full brunt of the impact, the poor air quality from smoke and ash is affecting residents from more than 50kms away. If you’re planning to volunteer, ensure you book accommodation away from the fires within safe townships. Some suggestions include:
- South Australia: 4. 5 Star Hotel Grand Chancellor Adelaide
- New South Wales: Richmond’s Colonial Motel
- Victoria: Albury Tourist Park Backpackers Hostel
If you do find yourself wanting to lend a hand or a spare tourist dollar, here is a list of some of the nearby areas which have not yet been affected by the fires (Weather Hazards in Australia). This is by no means a complete list, so it’s best to check in closer to your departure.
New South Wales
- Mount Thorley
- Adelaide CBD
- One Tree Hill
- Cudlee Creek
- Stokes Bay
- D’Etress Bay
How to support the community
While running headfirst into the fires and fighting them yourself seems like a noble gesture, the last thing Australia needs is a bumbling tourist with good intentions to save! Your best bet is to frequent local communities around the fire-affected areas where people need the most support.
This could include:
Volunteering at an animal sanctuary
Inundated wildlife sanctuaries are battling with high numbers of rescue animals from the bush fires.
In fact, an estimated half a billion animals have been affected by the fires in New South Wales alone.
While the mothers have generally been able to escape the blazes, babies are left behind to fend for themselves. The young now require raising and extra care so volunteers have banded together to sew pouches for baby kangaroos, koalas, and bats to mimic those of their mothers.
For those wanting to help from outside Australia, you can show support by donating to organisations like WIRES, WWF’s Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund, and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
Handing out food
Food Banks also require the support of volunteers to pack and distribute supplies to those who have become isolated and lacking food, water, electricity and communication. Setting a remarkable example is pop singer Lizzo who took time to help the Victoria Foodbank pack supplies for those affected.
Simply Showing Up
Disasters like these tend to affect local communities twice. Once, during the event itself, and again in the days and months that follow as the local economy comes to a standstill as businesses are burnt down and money is tight.
Simply showing up, spending money, and supporting local businesses can make a huge difference in areas that have been badly affected by natural disasters. So in your downtime, why not take a stroll through surrounding towns and spend some cash.
Who knows, you might find some cool souvenirs for someone back home.
Make your next Aussie getaway a humanitarian holiday
Whether you’re volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary, helping hand out food, water, and other supplies, or simply kickstarting a struggling local economy, there are countless ways you can follow through on your trip to Australia while lending a hand to those who’ve been affected by climate change fuelled bushfires.
If you find yourself with downtime, you can take the opportunity to discover Australia’s hidden treasures, uncover Australia’s food and wine culture, and find the best things to do within the safe parts of Australia. This adventure is sure to add a whole new meaning to the great Aussie road trip.