Any backpackers in Australia at the moment are being granted special visa benefits in return for rebuilding farms, homes and fences in local communities that have been destroyed or badly damaged by the recent bushfires.
According to The Australian, the new policy will allow people who are working in these zones to stay with the same employer for a year instead of six months.
Holidaymakers will be able to claim any volunteering they do as specific work towards securing their second and third year-visas, in the hope that they’ll be encouraged to move into the 45 declared disaster zones in the country, spanning seven states and territories.
To be eligible for their second-year working holiday visas, backpackers have to be able to prove that they’ve carried out three months (or 88 days) of work. To gain their third-year visa, they have to prove an additional six months of during their second year in the country.
Grace Bishop and Finlay Roy from Bristol in the UK are currently on their first-year working holiday visa, but spoke to the news source about their experiences over the last few weeks.
Ms Bishop, 22, said: “We were a bit naive about bushfires when we started in Brisbane and we got caught up in the Tenterfield fires. We got caught again in NSW. So recently we volunteered in the Adelaide Hills.”.
“The people there were a bit surprised to see backpackers turn up and help, but I think they liked having outsiders. They could chat to us and rely on us, without any of the negativity there has been in some of the communities.”
Data from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency shows that there are over 2,100 power poles in south-east New South Wales (NSW) that have been damaged or destroyed, as well as over one million cubic tonnes of farm fencing lost across the country.
And farming groups are worried that there aren’t enough fence posts produced each year to replace the 50 million that have been destroyed.
Earlier this week (February 14th), it was confirmed that all bushfires in NSW have now been contained, thanks in part to heavy rain that recently hit the state. However, this rain caused problems of its own, with storms resulting in flash flooding in Queensland.
If you are in the country at the moment or if you’re planning on going, preparation is key so make sure you keep up to date with the news - and that you maintain strong lines of communication with people back at home.
Always follow the advice of the local authorities in the event of an emergency and check the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology during bushfire season so you can follow overall weather updates for all parts of the country.