A thirty seven year old father drowns in Queensland and, surprise, surprise; the poor fellow is originally from overseas. The surprising fact is the majority of beach drowning incidents in Australia happen to people from other countries. Locals are indoctrinated about dangerous beach rips from an early age, not necessarily so those who did not grow up here.
Another tourist rents a normal-drive car and heads off without adequate water to explore outback areas including stretches of unsealed rarely travelled road, hits a pot-hole concealed by fine “bull-dust”, gets stranded in 48 degree heat miles from anywhere having not registered their destination and ETA with police or other responsible person then leaves their car and tries to walk out. Again rarely would a local not know that is a whole series of mistakes… There are other specific dangers in Australia too – what can be done to mitigate the risks?
I’d like to suggest that multi-media screens deliver a presentation about risks to visitors queued up in immigration and have the official they talk to there give them a pamphlet on this in their home language. Ideally a number of screens would present in different languages: Cantonese & Mandarin, Indonesian, Arabic & southern European languages like Greek, Italian and Spanish. You have a bored and impatient captive audience; why not use the opportunity to provide helpful information on this? The associated pamphlet could alternatively be handed out with the immigration card you are given as you board a flight to Australia. By the way, the cards and pamphlet really should be the same size as a passport when folded for easy handling together.
There are many risks and just plain useful tips that could be communicated. Let them know:
• At the beach, swim between the flags and, if caught in a strong current, do not swim directly against the current but partly with it and across it to work your way back to shore. Signal for help by raising an arm.
• If travelling off-road, rent a four-wheel-drive not a normal city car and take plenty of drinking water, spare fuel, tyres, tyre-valves, a GPS, and ideally a personal EPRB (satellite locater beacon). Importantly if going somewhere remote, let the police know your estimated time of arrival there. If you break down do not leave the car. The cars are always found well before the corpses of travellers that died in the heat.
• When about to step of a curb, look the other way to that you are used to too. The traffic is driving on the left and so will come at you from the other way.
• If driving a car, do not trust your habits as to on which side to drive, think – particularly when leaving a driveway or getting on a freeway ramp.
• Even on the footpath, people mostly walk on the left; and they tend to queue for buses and even service in shops.
• In tropical areas, do not camp right by the water – crocodiles can move surprisingly fast. Do not camp on ‘dry’ creek beds – that can change in a moment. Use mosquito repellant – they can make you quite sick as well as uncomfortable.
• Outdoors, the sun will burn you in a far shorter time than you might expect. Near water or playing sport, wear suntan lotion and a hat.
• The landline telephone emergency number is 000 rather than 911 or 999 or 112; although 112 will work on a cell/mobile/handy phone.
• Do not flush the toilet sitting down – you will get splashed.
• Light switches are on when down, not up.
• Elevators are known as lifts and the ‘first floor’ is one up here – not at ‘ground’ or ‘lobby level’.
Certainly it would cost a little to implement this suggestion however, not only do we have a duty of care to visitors and new arrivals, but visitor misadventure costs much more to manage and deal with than this might cost. Avoided negative publicity plus positive personal experience tales would help build our tourist industry!