As Australia enters its summer season, devastating bushfires have yielded an atmosphere of peril unlike any other fire season that the affected states have seen in recent years. And in the past week, the situation has reached a new level of crisis as record temperatures and intense winds fuel the flames.
Across parts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, thousands of homes have been destroyed, inhabitants have been displaced, and lives have been lost. Millions of animals have been killed as a direct result of the flames and some five million acres of land have burned in New South Wales alone since mid-2019.
"Like all Australians, our sympathies go out to the families and communities who are impacted by the fires, and our gratitude grows stronger by the day for the front line services facing the fires head on," said Phillipa Harrison, Managing Director of Tourism Australia. "The number one priority right now continues to be the emergency response to these devastating bushfires and the safety of communities and tourists in affected areas. The best thing that we can do at a time like this is to back our tourism industry and communities and continue to market all the wonderful things about Australia and our people to the world."
Here's what we know, and how you can help the relief effort.
How (and Where) to Donate
If you're looking to make a donation that impacts those who are ground, aiding the relief effort in Australia, donations can be made to several organizations. The Australian Red Cross is accepting donations for their Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund, which allows the organization to deploy trained staff, launch evacuation and recovery centers, and provide one-on-one support to those who are affected and need to make a plan for how to proceed.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is comprised of local fire brigades that spend an immense amount of time on the ground fighting the fires everyday, as well as doing important work within affected communities. Donations will go directly to their emergency efforts and nonemergency community services.
For those who want their donation to go to helping the many animals who have been harmed in the fires, the World Wildlife Fund is working hard to take care of injured animals (like kangaroos and koala bears), as well as put a plan in place for planting new trees and restoring the animals' natural habitats once the fires are contained.
Future Travel to Australia
It's important to continue investing in regions impacted by natural disasters—and one of the best ways to do so is to spend tourism dollars, even if you might need to push a trip back to later in the year. Natural disasters are not only devastating to a community due to the physical damage that they cause, but they can have an ultimately dire economic impact as well.
"At this stage it is too early to quantify the full impact of the bushfires on the tourism industry, and any knock-on effect in terms of international visitation to Australia," said Harrison. "We are still gathering feedback from industry and monitoring impacts on future bookings closely as the situation unfolds. Many of Australia’s best-known tourism regions have previously faced natural disasters such as bushfires and cyclones, yet bounced back in a strong demonstration of their resilience as world-class tourism destinations. When affected communities are ready to once again welcome visitors, tourism will continue to play an important role in their supporting their recovery. "