Greenheart Travel is very saddened to see the devastation the fires have caused in Australia this season. We want to provide updates to those who are considering traveling to Australia in the future or have loved ones in Australia on a Greenheart Travel program. Here are updates sourced from our multiple partners on the ground in Australia, about the current status of traveling to Australia. Obviously the current bushfire situation in Australia is very serious, especially for the communities affected directly – but at the same time as acknowledging this, we would also like to spread the message that Australia remains the same safe and attractive destination for travelers from all over the world that it has always been.
It’s especially important to stay up to date with your Embassy in Australia for the most current information regarding the situation. Right now the US embassy in Australia has only issued a Level 1 Alert to “exercise normal precautions” when traveling to Australia. If the Australian or US government thought for any reason it was dangerous to travel there currently, they would immediately issue a travel warning (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings.html) and warn against travel to Australia. Until they do so, we stand behind their stance on the safety situation and do not believe there is any reason travelers should not visit or continue to live in Australia.
The bushfires in Australia have certainly been extremely bad this year. We are aware that there is a lot of news being reported around the world on the subject, and it is understandable that people are concerned and asking questions. The fires are generally all located in fairly remote locations, and affecting only small communities/towns – it is extremely unlikely that they will affect any Greenheart Travelers.
There are no fires in central Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, or close to any major Australian cities or the most popular tourist destinations. The closest fires to Sydney are a 3-4 hour drive away – these are mainly affecting areas south of Sydney and also a few hours north of Sydney. There have also been some fires to the west of Sydney, past the Blue Mountains and further inland.
The only visible effects of the fires in Sydney is the air quality – there is a smoke haze over the city from time to time, and on a couple of occasions only you could actually smell the smoke – but this is only because the wind has pushed the smoke to Sydney (and not because the fires are very close).
The main thing to understand is that bushfires are a regular occurrence in Australia in Spring and Summer when the weather is very hot and dry (especially in southern parts of the country). This year they are definitely more extreme than in previous years – but the main tourist routes and locations are generally unaffected. Also, it is important that people understand that they will never simply “run in to” a fire zone by accident – the areas that are affected are all closed off to visitors, and people will simply not be able to get close to fires even if they wanted to. For people who are traveling on the east coast, once again they will not be able to stumble into a fire zone by accident – roads are closed when there is any hint of danger to the public, and people are advised if an area is dangerous before they are able to get close.
If any Greenheart Traveler does inadvertently find themselves in a danger zone, there will always be firefighters, police and other local officials in those areas assisting people to get out and find safety. We have not had any reports so far of anyone getting into bushfire related difficulty.
There are a couple of useful Apps that we are advising travelers to download and use:
Australian Fires (covers all of Australia)
FiresNearMeNSW (for NSW only)
Obviously the current bushfire situation here in Australia is very serious, especially for the communities affected directly – but at the same time as acknowledging this, we would also like to spread the message that Australia remains the same safe and attractive destination for travelers from all over the world that it has always been. It is important that people are aware of their surroundings, and heed warnings related to the bushfires from the authorities when traveling (especially in more rural locations, and in smaller communities away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist destinations) – but the majority of travelers here in Australia are extremely unlikely to be affected by the bushfires directly.
We are obviously in touch with our members, and happy to answer questions or concerns here in country as and when they arise. Please rest assured that participant safety is our primary concern, and if it becomes necessary to amend or replace any activities due to fire activity, we will not hesitate to do so. Moreover, all of the tour companies we work with around Australia are reputable and professional market leaders – once again, if action is deemed necessary to safeguard our travelers whilst on a trip or tour, this will happen without any hesitation. None of the orientation activities have been canceled or seriously affected by the fires, smoke is the only issue here in Sydney, and this has only been visible/obvious on a few days over the last couple of months.
Please rest assured that we have been in contact with our homestays and all of our families and students who are in-country are safe. Please also reassure families overseas that the air quality in Adelaide is fine. All of our programs will commence as normal for 2020. We are constantly monitoring the situation and will inform you should there be any change.
Although the wildfires have not directly affected areas that are heavily populated by tourists or Greenheart Travelers, we think it is important to acknowledge the impact the fires have made on families, wildlife, and the environment. When disasters are not directly tied to our daily lives it can be easy to be removed from the reality of the situation.
Bushfires have been present in Australia since October of 2019, making it four months since the fires have been ablaze. During that time, fires have destroyed over a million acres of land and over 1,000 homes. Additionally, sources are reporting that over 20 people have lost their lives.
While we may not be able to help by being a first responder, many organizations such as the Australian Red Cross are accepting donations that help send staff members and volunteers to the communities impacted by the wildfires. The Australian Red Cross is assisting with sheltering displaced persons and collecting clothing and household goods at their affiliated shops.
You can also take to Australian organizations such as GIVIT where you can donate to communities devastated by the fires. GIVIT is a non-profit platform that connects those in need with those willing to give in a safe space. On this website, individuals can request specific items that they are in need of (i.e. school supplies, clothes, etc.) and those who have the item can donate to meet the request. Those affected by the wildfires in Australia have taken to documenting their requests on this website. There is also an option to make monetary donations.