We want everyone involved in our Immersion Programs to have a life-changing experience without having to worry about their safety. The best way to take care of this is to anticipate problems rather than react to them. That’s why we work behind the scenes to make sure that we reduce the risk of encountering any issues that might get in the way of your experience.
-Mrs Christine Clarke, Principal, Mary Mackillop College
Risk management informs everything we do. Click on the headings below to find out more about our three-tiered approach to keeping you safe.
We know that our groups will settle for nothing short of a meticulously planned immersion where every component has been tested for potential safety & security issues - and that’s the standard we set for ourselves.
Before you have even joined one of our programs, we have worked extensively behind the scenes with our partner Homelands, communities, Elders and Traditional Owners to make sure that our strict safety and security requirements are met. We have the experience in remote Indigenous Australia to make sure every immersion is safe, so that you can enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime experience with peace of mind.
This means that:
- Red Earth works with your school or organisation to create a comprehensive, 150-page risk assessment which takes into account the particular needs of the group and the region to which they are travelling.
- Our leaders taken your staff through a safety and preparation workshop where we discuss roles and responsibilities and simulate responses to incidents.
- All our staff are cleared for working with children, are certified 4WD off-road drivers and are certified in Remote or Wilderness First-Aid. Moreover all our Leaders have spent time in the region in which they work and are aware of potential hazards. They arrive several days before the group to do a final safety check on all locations and activities.
- Teachers are briefed on potential hazards before the immersion and the school is made aware of our response strategies in case anything occurs.
- Students are briefed about safety during pre-departure sessions and are made aware of strategies for dealing with health and safety concerns.
- We notify all relevant local authorities of our presence so that they may respond swiftly in case of an emergency.
- Parents can contact Red Earth 24/7 if they wish to talk to their child because of something that has happened back at home.
Our experience in taking groups of people to remote Indigenous Australia gives us the insight to anticipate risks before they become a problem.
Every activity goes through a careful process that tests for safety, and no decision is taken without thought.
We ensure that:
- The group stays in safe, fenced-off areas and are welcomed and hosted by respected Elders and Traditional Owners
- An orientation is held on the first day in each location and a safety briefing is held every morning of the building project
- Students are never left unsupervised
- Immersion Leaders are on the ground well before the group to do a final safety check on all activities
- Teachers and staff maintain final responsibility for students and can veto any activity they deem unsafe
- All participants are required to inform us about potential personal risks, such as those associated with food allergies and pre-existing conditions
- We ensure that that there is plentiful water, food, sunscreen and insect repellent and that everyone is wearing adequate clothing
- We stay in contact with local authorities to ensure our whereabouts are known at all times
- We abide by all Australian standards of building safety when engaging in community projects
In the unlikely event that something does go wrong, our Leaders are in place to coordinate the response. We have a strategy for dealing with every kind of safety issue, from a blister to a life-threatening injury.
Our Immersion Leaders are qualified in Remote & Wilderness first aid, and have trained extensively for emergency response in our remote Homelands and communities.
- A satellite phone is with the group at all times in case of serious emergencies
- Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) are kept with the groups at all times
- The Royal Flying Doctor Service operates in the regions we travel to and are on call 24 hours a day to respond to life-threatening incidents
- A four wheel-drive vehicle is near the group at all times for ground evacuations
- A remote first-aid kit is with the group at all times in addition to an auxiliary first-aid kit kept in the nearest vehicle
- Immersion Leaders are certified in Remote & Wilderness First-Aid
- School teachers are certified first-aiders
- Leaders and teachers follow our prepared response protocol for any incident
- The Red Earth office has a 24 hour phone number to be contacted by groups in the field, or in the case of back-home emergencies
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Red Earth create a risk assessment for the group?
Yes. As part of our Preparation, Prevention and Response safety framework we work with you 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 only camp in safe, fenced-off areas, away from the centres of towns. Perhaps the greatest preventive measure is that we stay on privately held land and our presence is welcomed and promoted by respected Elders and Traditional Owners, who take responsibility for the students’ safety. The remoteness of our partner Homelands means that we are removed from the goings on in towns and more densely populated areas.
How do you make sure no one comes into the camp site at night?
Because we either stay on secured sites 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. In these cases, we simply don’t let students near the water. Students may only swim in high-altitude, fresh-water rivers or creeks which are inaccessible to crocodiles.
What about other dangerous animals like snakes, spiders and insects?
We minimise the risk of snakes camping 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. The risk of encountering snakes is also significantly lower in the cooler months - when most of our immersions run - as most snakes are hibernating. It is compulsory for students to wear closed shoes at all times. Spiders can also pose a danger, especially when lifting or moving things around the camp site. Students will be reminded to check their shoes and the under-surface of anything they pick up. Students will be reminded to check any lumps and bites 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. Our Immersion Leaders are qualified in Remote and Wilderness First Aid, and are well equipped to deal with any incident involving insects, spiders, and snakes.
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 thorough 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 be transported in Red Earth vehicles for small distances in or around Homelands. 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, especially when driving with students.
What’s the emergency plan in the 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 kept 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 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 us ahead of time using our medical information form, we will be able to cater for most dietary requirements. In the past we haven’t had any problems catering for vegetarians, vegans, those with coeliac disease, and other intolerances. Our Immersion Programs are 100% nut-free.
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 with the group, just in case running water becomes 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.