Regarding the Bushfires in Australia

For many years, WorldStrides has offered educational programs and courses in Australia. The people, culture, and natural wonders of Australia are beloved by our entire team and by many WorldStrides alumni who have had the opportunity to learn, serve or explore there. We join the global community’s grief about the loss of human and animal life due to wildfires currently burning in Australia, as well as the damage to the environment and property in this beautiful region.

We are glad to share that our teams in Australia, as well as students studying with our divisions there, are safe. In fact, many members of the WorldStrides family are contributing their personal talents, fundraising, and other resources to the efforts to help the affected regions. We are so grateful that students traveling in or studying in Australia have been able to continue enjoying their experiences – and we know that it is not without the perseverance and sacrifice of the incredible firefighters and first responders.

Events like these prompt questions for future travelers or families with loved ones abroad. The following is information and guidance from our Health and Safety team regarding the wildfires, and traveling to the region as of January 16:

Issue and Impact 

  • Although bushfires are seasonal in Australia where it is currently summer, this season’s fires, exacerbated by high temperatures, strong winds, and drought conditions, have been unprecedented in scope and damage. 
  • Since the start of the current bushfire season, Australian authorities have issued several states of emergency and fire danger warnings, and some rural areas were issued evacuation notices.  
  • New South Wales, where Sydney is located, and Victoria where Melbourne is located, are among the states that have received emergency warnings, allowing authorities to increase their emergency response around affected areas.   
  • Although urban areas are not at direct risk from the fires, smoke from the fires has periodically reduced air quality, visibility, and caused transportation disruptions.   
  • On January 8th, the US Department of State (DOS) increased its Travel Advisory for Australia to a Level 2, advising US Citizens to exercise increased caution in Australia due to the current bushfires.  On January 15, DOS returned its nationwide Travel Advisory to a Level 1, while noting increased (Level 2) caution should continue to be exercised in the Australian Capital Territory, Central Tablelands of New South Wales State, and South Eastern Victoria State.
  • Rain forecasted in the affected region for January 16-20 has many agencies involved in assessing the danger optimistic about a decreasing bushfire threat.

Guidance from WorldStrides 

  • Travel to all WorldStrides programs in Australia can continue at this time.  
  • The raised Travel Advisory to the second-lowest on a four-tier system encourages US citizens to avoid the affected areas until the dangers posed by the bushfires have passed and to take steps to reduce exposure to smoke.  
  • WorldStrides is monitoring the situation closely and will review all Spring 2020 itineraries to Australia for any elements that may include unnecessary risks. We will make recommendations accordingly.  
  • All travelers can take steps to protect their health by limiting activities outdoors, particularly when air quality is low, and may consider bringing P2/N95 face masks to protect against pollutants.   
  • Travelers with pre-existing conditions may wish to speak with their treating physician before traveling.  
  • Travelers will receive updated safety and security best practices upon arrival and should heed all advice provided.  
  • Program Leaders should review the WorldStrides’ Travel Smart Travel Safe presentation with your groups. 

We are providing direct updates and guidance to Program Leaders with upcoming travel programs, as well as to all students studying in the region. We will continue to update this resource as warranted.

In the meantime, we know you’ll join us in our gratitude for the first responders, concern for all those affected, and optimism for all of Australia.

In support of recovery efforts, WorldStrides will be donating to two organizations whose important work is closely tied with our mission. Save The Children Australia is creating safe spaces for children in the affected regions, and World Wildlife Fund Australia is helping the wild animals that make Australia such a unique place for our students to study and visit. To learn more about these organizations and the work they are doing to help those affected, visit these websites:    

Save the Children  – https://www.savethechildren.org.au/ 
World Wildlife Fund – https://www.wwf.org.au/#gs.sbdwji