Following the heavy rainfalls that put out many of the remaining wildfires that have been devastating large areas of Australia since September, it’s time for the fire-damaged community to rebuild. And it needs all the help it can get.

On February 17, 2020, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge implemented changes to working holiday visas rules for those ready to help with bushfire recovery efforts.

Working holiday visa holders helping fire-affected Australians will now be able to work for the same employer for 12 months instead of the previous six.

“These hard-working Australians have been hit by the recent bushfires, but from today they can employ backpackers for six months longer, helping them at a critical time in the recovery effort. It means working holiday makers can help rebuild homes, fences and farms, they can get onto properties and help with demolition, land clearing, and repairing dams, roads and railways,” explained Tudge.

The new rules will also loosen the criteria for backpackers who want to extend their visa, and stay an extra year or two in Australia. Paid and volunteer work, including construction work, toward bushfire recovery will count as “specified work.”

The presence of foreign workers in fire-damaged communities will also help with their economic recovery. “Every extra working holiday maker that we can get into these communities is one extra visitor to help protect local jobs and keep local businesses alive,” MP Simon Birmingham said. “We know tourism businesses in fire-affected communities are doing it tough, and the more tourism dollars that these working holiday makers can inject into these economies, the quicker these businesses can get back on their feet.”