Australia has relaxed working holiday visa requirements to allow volunteering work – such as assisting recovery and rebuilding efforts following the country’s devastating recent bushfires – to count towards travellers’ working obligations.
Tourism Australia says it is hopeful the move will, in time, result in voluntourism opportunities filtering through to the travel trade.
The initial focus will likely be on regions such as New South Wales and Victoria where the impact of the fires was greatest, as well as tourism hotspots like Kangaroo Island off the coast of Adelaide.
Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said the changes would increase the maximum stint working holidaymakers can spend with a single employer from six months to a full year.
He added this would allow working holidaymakers to help rebuild homes and farms; assist with demolition and land clearing; and support efforts to repair dams, roads and railways, while also reinvesting the money they earn in local economies and fire-affected towns.
Working holiday visas are available to all British passport holders up to the age of 30 (inclusive), with second and third years subject to having worked at least 88 days.
According to Tourism Australia, the UK is Australia’s the largest market for working holidaymakers; more than 45,000 Brits travelled to Australia to start a working holiday in 2018.
Simon Birmingham, Australia’s tourism minister, added: “We know tourism businesses in fire-affected communities are doing it tough, and the more tourism dollars these working holidaymakers can inject into these economies, the quicker these businesses can get back on their feet.”
The country introduced similar measures in 2017 to encourage working holidaymakers to help with recovery efforts following Cyclone Debbie.