The group’s safety and well-being is our number one priority
Does Red Earth create a risk assessment for the school group?
Yes. As part of our Preparation, Prevention and Response safety framework, we work with schools to create a comprehensive, 150-page Safety and Risk Mitigation Strategy for all the activities and components of the immersion.
Where will the group stay? Is it safe?
We do not camp in the centre of towns and we are welcomed and hosted by respected Elders. We only camp in safe, fenced-off areas, far away from where trouble may arise. Perhaps the greatest preventive measure is that the group’s presence is welcomed and promoted by respected Elders and Traditional Owners, who take responsibility for the students’ safety.
How do you make sure no one comes into the camp site at night?
Because we either stay in secured buildings or far away from towns, people can’t simply happen upon our campsite. Most often, we stay on private land that is fenced off. In our years of running Immersion Programs, we have never had a single issue with locals or anyone else in the area.
Are crocodiles an issue?
Yes, if you swim in the ocean or low-lying rivers and estuaries. We simply don’t let students near the water in these cases. Students may only swim in high-altitude, fresh-water rivers that crocodiles cannot reach.
What about other dangerous animals like snakes, tics, spiders and insects?
Some snakes can be poisonous and we camp in areas where the grass has been trimmed or burned back. We stay away from tall grass and move in large groups, which scares snakes away. Outside of the camp site, it is compulsory for students to wear closed shoes at all times. To a lesser degree, some spiders can also pose a danger, especially when lifting equipment under which these may be hiding: students will be reminded to check their shoes and the under-surface of anything they pick up. Students should also be mindful of tics, which can make for an uncomfortable experience. Students will be reminded to check any lumps to make sure these aren’t caused by a tick. Should a tick need to be removed, students will be taken to the nearest health centre.
Who is driving the students around once they have landed?
We use accredited and professional charter bus companies, the drivers of which have gone through training and checks. Moreover, these drivers have hundreds of hours of experience driving in the region in which they will be taking the students. Students will occasionally have to be transported in Red Earth vehicles. These are driven by our professionally-trained Immersion Leaders who have experience driving 4WDs in remote areas and who are certified in 4WD off-road driving. Leaders are instructed to travel slowly and carefully at all times but especially when driving with students.
What’s the emergency plan if there’s a bad accident, say a worst case scenario?
In the unlikely event that a student sustains injuries or trauma that puts their life in danger, the rescue operation will be passed on to emergency services as quickly as possible. This means that 000 will be called right away using the satellite phone that is around the student group at all times; first-aid, if possible, will be administered by our Immersion Leaders who are trained in Remote & Wilderness First-Aid; if necessary, signals will be put in place for a helicopter to identify our location and land. Smaller towns, which are a short helicopter flight away, have hospitals with a 24-hour emergency department. If specialised medical attention is required, the Royal Flying Doctors Services will fly the student into the nearest major hospital, such as the one in Cairns, Darwin, Nhulunbuy or Alice Springs.
Who’s in charge in case something goes wrong?
Immersion Leaders are designated as the first-responders because of their superior first-aid certification. While Leaders are acting as first-responders, teachers are in charge of the conduct and well-being of the school group. While they will benefit from the advice and expertise given by the Immersion Leaders, their knowledge of the students and the school’s procedures makes them best placed to handle concerns. If an incident is serious enough, emergency services will take control of the response operation as soon as is practical.
What if students have serious allergies or special dietary requirements?
We try our hardest to make sure every young person wanting to connect to remote Indigenous Australia has the opportunity to do so. As long as students inform the school ahead of time, we will be able to cater for most dietary requirements. In the past we haven’t had any problems catering for vegetarians, vegans or those with coeliac disease. We do not serve items containing peanuts during the Immersion Program.
What is the weather like? Should we be worried about cyclones or flooding?
For Cape York and Arnhem Land, we only take groups during the Dry Season when there is little rain and the danger of tropical storms is at its lowest. Temperatures rarely reach above 30 degrees during the day but may drop below 10 degrees at night so we advise students to bring a jumper and a pair of long pants. We ensure that large containers of drinking water are always available to students. We also carry emergency water bottles kept near the group should running water become scarce in an emergency. Teachers and volunteers are generally responsible for reminding students to wear a hat and appropriate clothing, apply sunscreen and stay hydrated. Bushfires do occur occasionally but students are kept in cleared areas around which pre-emptive back-burning has taken place.