Today, Australia celebrates a unique way of life which has been under attack for more than two months. It is a time for reflection on our history, no doubt. But it is also a time to look forward.
All over Australia - and particular in New South Wales and Victoria - tourists would usually be flooding our towns, flocking to see the symbols we celebrate on Australia Day.
Some 73,000 jobs depend on this annual pilgrimage. More than 7000 businesses on the north coast of NSW alone need this summer migration to survive.
Their owners stand ready to welcome guests. The food is in the larder. The bar is stocked with beer. And, in many cases, rivers and beaches are open.
But even in areas untouched by the fires, beds are empty and jobs are on the line.
Tourism is worth some $57 billion dollars to our economy, and 8.5 million overseas visitors usually come to stay. We've got a lot of holidaying to make up for.
So on the day we celebrate mateship, we have a very simple request: Give the bush a break.
The past few weeks have seen an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill. Enormous sums have been raised for our brave volunteer firefighters who have fought valiantly to save our country towns and villages.
Now, there is another job to do. Save the businesses on whose survival so many depend.
It's down to us because persuading our foreign friends to come back is a much longer task. And these folk can't wait. They are our neighbours, so a short-drive holiday or even longer stay is easy for us to do.
It won't be too onerous, either. Rural and regional Australians are a welcoming bunch. And despite the impression given by the weeks of news reporting, huge swathes of our beautiful countryside are still pristine and perfect.
While you are there, enjoy the fabulous food, wine and artisan products that are on sale.
Bring them home with pride and serve them to your friends. Then tell them to go and do the same.
Where you'll be welcome in NSW right now
Australia, come back! That's the message from just about everyone across NSW.
Michael Thurston, general manager of Destination North Coast, says most tourist accommodation and attractions have reopened and are welcoming visitors.
"The major attractions are our beautiful beaches, coastal towns, nature-based walking trails, national parks and waterfalls which attract many families to spend their holiday there," he says.
Lucy White from Destination Country and Outback says, "Life is getting back to normal in outback and country NSW. Most of the tourism businesses are open. Visitors should come to our region as we are known for our food and wine, nature and bushwalking, Aboriginal culture and our iconic outback towns such as Broken Hill and Corner Country. And it's full steam ahead for Tamworth's music festival," she adds.
A representative from Destination NSW says, "Thankfully information direct from the tourism industry reassures us that the majority of the state remains open for business and ready to receive visitors.
"Much of NSW's coastline, outback towns and charming regional centres are welcoming tourists, as is the iconic harbour city of Sydney.
"Some impacted regions - including the South Coast, North Coast, the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains - are no longer at risk, with most tourism businesses now open."
All towns are welcoming visitors. Some NSW national park and road closures remain in effect. Public buses have replaced trains between Mount Victoria, Lithgow and Bathurst as rail infrastructure has been damaged, but trains continue to operate from Sydney to Mount Victoria as usual.
While many Blue Mountain lookouts have reopened, there are still a number of bushland reserves, including Bell, Mount Wilson, Mount Tomah, Mount York and Pulpit Rock, which remain closed, according to Blue Mountains City Council.
Riverina and Murray
The region has some pockets still closed including some wineries, according to Richie Robinson, general manager of Destination Riverina Murray NSW.
Fire warnings exist for parts of the Upper Murray region. Refer to the RFS website for latest information.
Villages and towns in the Snowy Monaro area, including Thredbo Village, Jindabyne and Adaminaby, are safe to welcome visitors, advises the Rural Fire Service. However, Kosciuszko National Park and some roads remain closed. Fire warnings are still in place for parts of the Tumut and Tumbarumba regions - refer to the RFS website for latest information.
The Rural Fire Service has advised that visitors are able to return to the NSW South Coast areas of Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla and the Sapphire Coast. Contact local operators prior to departure. Some NSW national park and road closures remain in effect.
"Our shire is safe and visitors are welcome," says David Sommers of Wingecarribee Shire Council.
"However, there are active fires on the fringes of Green Wattle Creek in the north and Morton fires in the south. Both are not populated areas.
"The Southern Highlands is also fine. Major towns of Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Valley are welcoming visitors with open arms."
All towns are welcoming visitors, but some national parks remain closed.
"Most tourism businesses are back in action," says Glenn Caldwell, general manager of Destination Sydney Surround North. "Visitors should return to the Hunter Valley because it is Australia's oldest and most visited wine region."
He also said that it's back to normal in the Hawkesbury and Central Coast areas. The Hawkesbury River is known for its natural beauty and pioneer heritage, while the Central Coast has some of the best beaches, nature parks, lakes and waterways.
All towns including Coffs Harbour, Clarence Valley, Forster, Taree, Kempsey, Lismore and Port Macquarie are welcoming visitors. Contact local operators prior to departure. Some national park and road closures remain in effect.
Business as usual.
Business as usual.
Refer to the NSW Rural Fire Service, Live Traffic and NSW National Parks for the latest information.
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