Follow campfire rules this Easter

Campfire warning: never leave a campfire unattended and extinguish with water. Photo by Daneka Hill

Fire warning for campers

Victorians are being urged to follow campfire rules in state forests this Easter long weekend, with authorities handing out fines, not chocolate eggs, to those caught doing the wrong thing.

Visitor numbers to our region’s parks and forests are expected to jump as the school holidays and back-to-back Easter and Anzac Day long weekends coincide.

Forest Fire Operations’ Paul Bates said while it was fantastic to see people out and about, enjoying our region’s state forests and parks all the way from the Goldfields to the Mallee, campfire safety rules were the same across Victoria.

“Campfires must be made in purpose-built fireplaces, or trenches at least 30cm deep, with nothing flammable within three metres of your fireplace. Branches and logs on a campfire must be less than one metre long,” Mr Bates said.

“All campers are responsible for keeping their campfires safe, including being watched at all times and are reminded to never leave their campfire unattended.

“It must be completely extinguished with water, not soil, before leaving, even if only for a short while.

“Unattended campfires can easily escape and have the potential to turn into bushfires that could have devastating impacts on life, property and the environment.”

Under-resourced schools struggling

Data released this week confirmed that the rate of expulsion of students with a disability had soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating under-resourced schools are not coping.

Almost one in three students expelled from Victorian government schools in the first year of the pandemic had a disability, up from one in seven the year before.

Shadow Minister for Education David Hodgett said the disrupted learning and social isolation had not been matched with proper resourcing to make sure all children were supported.

“Snap lockdowns enforced by the state Labor Government are still affecting young people’s wellbeing, but school expulsion as a result of pandemic pressures risks destroying a kid’s future,” Mr Hodgett said.

“The Victorian Government is actively ignoring warnings from education experts that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” and that they “expect it to be worse this year” by not providing appropriate levels of training and support for teachers and staff that will keep all students in the classroom.

“Victorian families want a guarantee of no more lockdowns and that our schools will safely stay open, but we’re yet to get it from the Labor Government.”

According to school principals and education advocates, the disruptions caused by the pandemic have heightened anxiety and difficult behaviours among students with a disability who could no longer work to a daily routine.

Holiday road safety tips

RACV has provided safety tips for Victorians about to embark on their first holiday period free of COVID-19 restrictions since 2019.

With thousands of families heading away on road trips to tourist hot spots or many taking the opportunity to relax at home, RACV safety spokesperson Elvira Lazar and RACV general manager home Darren Turner have provided some timely advice.

“We’re all really excited about the Easter holidays and the opportunities for travel and reunion. At this time, we need to take a moment to think about safety on the road and in the home,” Ms Lazar said.

“Take the time to plan your trip before you depart, attempting to take major, more well-maintained roads where possible.

“To stay aware of potential emergency warnings and community information that could impact travel, utilise resources such as the RACV arevo app, and the VicEmergency app — the official Victorian Government app.

“Schedule some breaks to ensure you’re well rested and have patience for your fellow motorists. Before you head off, make sure your insurance policies and RACV roadside assistance are up to date and that the water, oil and tyre pressure are all where they should be.”

Mr Turner said in addition to ensuring their road trip is as safe as possible, there’s a lot that can be done to ensure Victorians do not return home to a different kind of tragedy.

“For those planning to make up for lost time with more than one holiday in 2022, it’s worth considering installing an alarm system to protect your home and its contents — for a small monthly fee your peace of mind will improve whether you’re going away for a weekend or three weeks.”

Oxfam poverty warning

More than a quarter of a billion more people could crash into extreme levels of poverty in 2022 because of COVID-19, rising global inequality and the shock of food price rises supercharged by the war in Ukraine, a new Oxfam briefing reveals.

Published ahead of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington DC, First Crisis, Then Catastrophe shows that 860 million people could be living in extreme poverty — on less than US$1.90 a day — by the end of the year. This figure is mirrored when it comes to global hunger: the number of under-nourished people could reach 827 million in 2022.

The World Bank had projected COVID-19 and worsening inequality to add 198 million extreme poor during 2022, reversing two decades of progress.

Based on research by the World Bank, Oxfam now estimates that rising global food prices alone will push 65 million more people into extreme poverty, for a total of 263 million more extreme poor this year — equivalent to the populations of the UK, France, Germany and Spain combined.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain said wealthy governments needed to step up to respond to the deepening inequality crisis.

“These shocking predictions are a wake-up call,” she said.

“It is not enough that our own economy is bouncing back post-lockdowns. We know we live in an inter-dependent world. Our strategic interests are under threat.

“Australia’s next government must acknowledge this and show real leadership by responding to these growing challenges with the required level of ambition.

“Without immediate radical action, we could be witnessing the most profound collapse of humanity into extreme poverty and suffering in memory.”