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Deep Hill Media is the independent media partnership of Blue Mountains Australia-based Ellen and David Hill. We specialise in brand journalism and corporate storytelling and photography, media advice, editorial and travel articles and images.

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Rally for NSW buses on the brink

Dozens of family-owned and independent buses are on the brink of collapse, thousands of drivers could lose their jobs and “Mum and Dad’’ operators stand to lose their homes as an impact of COVID-19 restrictions.

To highlight their plight and lobby for a government rescue package, desperate small bus company owners will rally outside NSW Parliament on Wednesday, September 16.

Spokesman Rod Williams, who owns Near or Far Bus & Coach in the Blue Mountains, said while smaller bus companies were grateful for government help such as JobKeeper, many aspects of the industry had been overlooked.

Forgotten victims of the COVID-19 fallout, small companies needed help with crippling costs like depot rental payments, vehicle registration, insurances, fuel costs and toll fees to remain viable and provide job security for employees.

They called on government to share transport work with all accredited operators in NSW rather than just large companies.

“This isn’t about pitting small companies against big companies, but we do need a road to recovery plan,’’ Mr Williams said.

“Family-owned and independent bus companies are essential. We transported firies during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires. We’ve been there countless times when the trains or airlines go down. We transported your children on excursions, your guests to your wedding and took you safely home after your Christmas party.

“All of this is now at stake. Now we need help.’’

Pre-COVID, Near or Far had four coaches, a mini bus and a healthy turnover.

Within 24 hours on March 15-16, “everything was stripped from our calendar’’ as travel restrictions put the brakes on schools excursions, community group outings and sightseeing tours.

A second round of cancellations when the Victorian pandemic worsened gouged his business further.

Cyril Govender of Cyril’s Coach Tours at Narellan and Andy Leonello of Al Tours at Luddenham, who relied on the school transport market, haven’t “turned the wheel’’ of their vehicles since March. 

“I don’t go to the letterbox anymore – the bills scare me,’’ Mr Leonello said. 

He worried about the thousands of bus drivers, mechanics, cleaning and other ancillary staff employed by the bus industry.

“We’re not using our vehicles so we don’t need windscreens, tyres or technicians, which means we’re not bringing business to these people,’’ he said.

Like Mr Williams, many owners had coaches inspected, registered and serviced, ready to step in to replace trains or other modes of transport if needed as per their Emergency Bussing Standing Order commitments.

They hoped that Transport for NSW would share with smaller companies work like the transfer of returned travellers from the airport to quarantine hotels. 

Scheduled rail replacement on the Blue Mountains line until September 18 was another opportunity. 

“All of my coaches will be sitting at home available,’’ Mr Williams said. “I hope at least one of them will get a run alongside vehicles from outside the area.’’ 

Just one shift per week would be enough to keep a small business viable.

While owners were grateful for JobKeeper payments which ensured they could keep many staff, the allowance did not cover vehicle maintenance and running costs.

“It’s life and death now,’’ Mr Williams said. “I’ve got guys ringing me in tears and threatening suicide, and that impacts my own mental health.’’

As the end of loan repayment holiday periods loom, bus owners who invested in their business before the pandemic, now face foreclosure on their vehicles because they are unable to meet the payments.

Mr Govender invested in a fleet upgrade pre-COVID, financing it with a loan. The bank has since demanded he make half payments, with full monthly payments expected from the end of September.

Pick of the Crop Coach Tours from Riverstone owner Jeff Spence sold five of his buses, with four registered “just in case’’. The registered and insured on each costs $12,000 a year.

Nazio Fillipi, who owns Australian Bus & Coach Service which operates Bargain Buyers and Legend Shopping Tours, took a job driving trucks to cover his rent and lease payments.

His company has operated well known shopping tours for more than 30 years. This year was the first season ever cancelled. That meant sporting clubs, schools and charities which usually shared its profits did not receive those funds.

Mr Spence was concerned that drivers would disappear into other sectors, leaving the bus industry short of qualified drivers when buses are eventually back on the road.

Meanwhile, drivers like Glenorie Coaches’ Michael Wood and Kelvin Weatherburn from Near or Far Bus & Coach worried there wouldn’t be jobs to return to in an industry they have dedicated their working lives to.

FAT tipple trips to Megalong Valley

Can you have your cake – and wine – and eat and drink them too? Indeed you can with the new Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT) high tea and winery shuttle in the Blue Mountains and Megalong Valley. 

The charter and tour bus company rerouted its itinerary to close to home locations after the COVID-19 pandemic forced interstate tours off the road. 

From Saturday, September 5, passengers will be transported from Katoomba into the verdant Megalong Valley and the picturesque vineyards and cellar doors of Dryridge Estate and Megalong Creek Estate. 

Alight at one and walk to the other before boarding the FAT bus back to Katoomba. 

Passengers can also hop off the bus at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath for high tea and a history tour before continuing on the Megalong Valley on a later bus. 

One of Australia’s best kept secrets, the Megalong Valley features tranquil rural landscapes and native forests ringed by towering sandstone escarpments. 

Next to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area at the centre of Sydney’s water catchment, the Megalong Valley teems with wildlife. 

Operated by Simon and Emma McMahon since 2015, boutique vineyard Dryridge Estate was founded by Bob and Barbara Tyrrell in 2000 and produces distinctive crisp mineral-flavoured wines from the pink granite soil. 

Indulge in a leisurely cheese platter and wine tasting before strolling to the nearby kerosene shale mine ruins and Megalong Creek Estate and single vineyard wines. 

​Established in 2002 by the Draguns family, all grapes are grown onsite and handpicked and transported to Mudgee for wine making by highly regarded third generation winemaker Jacob Stein. 

As well as viognier, pinot grigio, pinot and shiraz, Megalong Creek Estate also produces a sparkling they have named Prozzante, a lightly sparked Prosecco-style wine, and a late harvest unique dessert-style wine. 

​Both wineries are located along the famous Six Foot Track, an important Indigenous pathway linking southern parts of the Hunter Valley with the Blue Mountains and western tablelands for the past 20,000 years. 

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “The Megalong Valley has been linked to the Blue Mountains for millennia yet is largely unknown today. 

“Our new shuttle service is a fantastic opportunity to reintroduce the area to a new generation of visitors.’’ 

The Megalong Valley high tea and winery shuttle “means you can have a tipple and we’ll navigate the road for you’’. 

“We also have large storage bays under the bus, so don’t be shy about stocking up on your favourite drop.’’ 

Fantastic Aussie Tours coaches leave Katoomba at 10.15am, 12.15pm, 2.15pm and 4.15pm and Megalong Creek Estate and Dryridge Estate at 11.10am, 1.10pm, 3.10pm and 5.10pm each Saturday and Sunday. 

Buses stop at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath in time for a history tour and high tea or continue to the Megalong Valley on a later service. Alternatively, stay aboard and continue straight to the wineries. 

Book the shuttle and receive complimentary pick-up and drop-off to any hotel in Katoomba or Leura on the famous red double-decker Blue Mountains Explorer Bus circuit. 

Tickets: $59pp return shuttle. 

Bookings

Behind Closed Doors – Woodford Academy Blue Mountains, NSW

Shut to visitors and volunteers for four months, a new resident has been stirring up dust behind closed doors at the oldest building in the Blue Mountains.

Woodford Academy Property Coordinator Annie Stevens. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media.

New property co-ordinator Annie Stevens has spent lockdown ensuring critical maintenance of colonial-era Woodford Academy and its historic National Trust-owned collection continued and developing an innovative curatorial plan in collaboration with the volunteer management committee.

The central Mountains property was forced to close just days before its popular annual Harvest Festival in March because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Fortuitously, the National Trust had appointed Ms Stevens to the role of the museum’s first dedicated property co-ordinator just one month prior.

The property had been managed by volunteers since the National Trust opened it to the public in the 1990s.

Woodford Academy Management Committee chairperson Elizabeth Burgess said Ms Stevens’ appointment by the National Trust was a significant step towards ensuring the sustainability of the multi award-winning museum.

“We were thrilled to welcome Annie to our dedicated team. At the time we had no idea what a tumultuous year 2020 was going to be and, in hindsight, Annie’s appointment could not have been more timely.’’

A Blue Mountains resident for the past five years, Ms Stevens has 17 years’ experience working in museums and heritage sites, including the lead curatorial role on the development of several exhibitions at the Museum of Sydney.

With a Bachelor of Arts (History) and a Master of Arts (Museum Studies), Ms Stevens has experience in conservation, maintenance and management of historic collections. This year she is also undertaking a Masters of Heritage Conservation at the School of Architecture, Design & Planning at Sydney University.

While Woodford Academy has been closed, Ms Stevens has ensured that critical maintenance of the museum and its historic collection continued and has developed an innovative curatorial plan in collaboration with the management committee.

“I am passionate about providing positive visitor experiences, crafting compelling stories and embracing new technologies to engage visitors with history in unique and meaningful ways,’’ Ms Stevens said.

“Legibly curating and interpreting the complex multi-layered history of this important heritage site and its unique collection is an exciting challenge.’’

The four-stage curatorial plan will be incrementally implemented over the next year and include engaging local creatives and artists to produce new interpretive displays.

Several projects identified in Stage 1 have already begun with help from a National Trust Women’s Committee donation, including custom-designed display units by Woodford-based furniture designer/maker Georgina Donovan and a replica of the Woodford Academy football cap by former artist-in-residence Christine’s Millinery.

“The curatorial plan became our lockdown project while the museum was closed, but it was only possible because of Annie’s expertise,’’ Ms Burgess said.

“We see Annie’s museum curation as a much-needed positive step, not only for this heritage property and the morale of our dedicated volunteers, but also for the wider Blue Mountains community as we recover from the devastating 2019-20 bushfires and the pandemic.

“We can’t wait to share the improvements Annie has already implemented during the shutdown including revitalising existing displays, and new interpretative signage and new displays with the community when we re-open the museum.’’

The National Trust (NSW) re-opened a selection of its properties on July 3 including Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge and Everglades Historic House and Gardens at Leura with revised terms and conditions of entry such as pre-booking timed entry tickets. Details.

Woodford Academy is expected to re-open in the next few months, pandemic permitting.

In the meantime, Ms Burgess invited people working from home and looking for extra workspace to consider a tenancy lease at Woodford Academy. Details: Belle Property, Leura

Today owned by the National Trust, Thomas Pembroke was given the original land grant to establish a roadside inn at the Woodford Academy site in 1831.

Since then, the Woodford Academy property has operated as one of the first guesthouses in the Mountains and a Victorian-era country retreat for wealthy Sydney merchant Alfred Fairfax, who expanded the property to a 90-acre estate.

Distinguished scholar John McManamey leased the property in 1907 and operated an exclusive school – Woodford Academy for Boys – until 1925, then a co-educational day school from 1929 to 1936.

After his death in 1946, McManamey’s daughters Jessie and Gertrude lived on in the building.

Jessie died in 1972, and Gertrude, who bequeathed the property to the National Trust in 1979 and lived there until 1986, died in 1988.

Today, the property offers a unique glimpse into colonial life in the Blue Mountains as well as an insight into the modern Blue Mountains community through interpretive displays, artist residencies and site-specific arts events organised by the volunteer management committee which cares for the site.

All proceeds from Woodford Academy events directly contribute to the conservation of the property.

About the National Trust (NSW)

The National Trust is Australia’s oldest and largest independent conservation organisation founded in 1945 in New South Wales by Annie Forsyth Wyatt. Collectively the National Trust in Australia owns or manages over 300 built and natural heritage places (the majority held in perpetuity), is supported by 7,000 volunteers and employs more than 300 people nationwide.

The National Trust (NSW) is committed to engaging the community to celebrate and conserve heritage places and collections through events and education. With the support of our members, volunteers and dedicated staff and partners, we advocate on the protection of historical and naturally significant places and collections to ensure their preservation for future generations.

www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/

Woodford Academy property co-ordinator Annie Stevens. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media.

Government across all levels to fight disasters

Involving every tier of government in a national plan before, during and after a bushfire will build national resilience in an era of more frequent, more destructive and compound disasters.

Multi-stakeholder resilience specialist Renae Hanvin, in response to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements’ recent focus on the responsibilities and roles of each tier of government during bushfire, has called on the Federal Government to support the establishment of an independent national resilience alliance.

“The Royal Commission heard in May from scientists that Australia faces even more dangerous bushfire conditions in the future,’’ Ms Hanvin said. “We all need to be prepared for this new normal and become familiar with the `prepare, respond, recovery’ routine.’’

However, no government could continue to shoulder the economic or procedural burden of disaster recovery alone.

The need for cross-tier government co-operation and business support was inevitable.

It was time government took part in activating the notion of “shared responsibility’’ that enabled collective contribution to disaster resilience. That could be achieved by the Resilient Australia Alliance (RAA), a private-public alliance model developed by corporate2community after four years of global and local research.

Founder of corporate2community and creator of the RAA, a private-public alliance to build a nation of all-hazards resilience, Ms Hanvin said the Federal Government must “put a stop to the reactive, post disaster pop-up approach that comes after the likes of floods, bushfires or the current pandemic’’.

Included in her organisation’s response to the Bushfire Royal Commission, Ms Hanvin said the current system of individual government departments and agencies working in silo towards their own mandate was not economically efficient or effective.

“It is time to support an apolitical and sustainable model that activates these efforts, a model that is not impacted by portfolio and machinery of government staff turnover.”

Kids ride free on Blue Mountains Explorer Bus

Kids can experience edge-of-the-cliff thrills in the Blue Mountains from the safety of a double decker big red bus these school holidays – for free.

Travelling to the best sights and sites of Sydney’s grand backyard after months of Covid-19 hibernation, Blue Mountains Explorer Bus has expanded its route from 29 to 37 stops.

A highlight of the 45-minute trundle around Katoomba and Leura is the jaw-dropping vista of Cahill’s Lookout overlooking the Megalong Valley and Narrowneck peninsular, with plenty of room for little legs to run around.

Hop off the bus at Everglades House & Gardens, where children can work through the activity book.

Immerse yourselves in Australia’s most accessible wilderness along one of the 12 bushwalking tracks along the Explorer Bus route.

From the easy stroll from Honeymoon Lookout to Echo Point, the medium grade walk from Gordon Falls Lookout to the Pool of Siloam or the hard yakka trek from Fairmont Resort to Wentworth Falls, every fitness level (and leg length) is catered for.

When mums and dads are tired of piggybacking tiny tots, the whole family can simply reboard the big red bus at the nearest stop.

After walking up an appetite, recharge in a café or restaurant in upmarket Leura Mall or the eclectic shopping strip of Katoomba.

Operating every 45 minutes between 9.15am and 5.30pm, Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is the only hop-on/hop-off double decker bus in the world in a national park and the only one that doesn’t live in a city.

It is operated by the family-owned Fantastic Aussie Tours, which was established in 1974 and the first tour operator in Australia to be 100 per cent carbon neutral certified.

The Explorer Bus has given visitors to the Blue Mountains the chance to tour the area in their own time with no traffic and parking hassles, no rush and no rules for 30 years.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck it operated 365 days and carried about 65,000 passengers a year.

Managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “Like many others, our business has been hard hit by the virus restrictions, but we have used the time of hibernation to make the big red bus bigger, better and even more value for budget-conscious families.’’

Every bus is cleaned and sanitised regularly throughout each day, hand sanitiser is provided aboard, and social distance seating measures are in place.

“That means there’s plenty of room to see the fantastic view we are blessed to share with visitors, and there’s no fights over the front seats on the top deck.’’

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus will operate every day of the school holidays until July 20.

Guests of the Fairmont Resort can use the Explorer Bus shuttle service to Leura Village for just $5.

Phone 02 4782 1866 or visit www.explorerbus.com.au or @bmexplorerbus on Facebook for more information.

Blue Mountains businesses adapting to “new normal’’

Blue Mountains businesses are adapting to the “new normal’’ by creatively embracing new business practices and digital technology.

Blue Mountains Tourism president Jason Cronshaw praised the ingenuity and flexibility of businesses, especially small enterprises.

Blue Mountains Tourism president Jason Cronshaw at Echo Point. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media.

“The response has been fast and enthusiastic,’’ he said.

“Of course there’s been tears and tantrums as people are understandably upset to see their business and livelihood evaporate literally overnight as government restrictions come in that they weren’t prepared for and can’t control.

“But we’re so blessed to have a creative community that is pragmatic and innovative and steps up to a challenge.’’

“[But] we’re so blessed to have a creative community that is pragmatic and innovative and steps up to a challenge.”

Jason Cronshaw – Blue Mountains Tourism

Many Blue Mountains businesses sell online vouchers to redeem when restrictions are lifted, encourage forward bookings and direct customers to online sales platforms.

Here are just some examples of how tourism and hospitality businesses in the Blue Mountains continue to operate under the strict new opening hours and social distancing regulations:

CafeXpresso (Katoomba) station is one of numerous examples of fast food shops, cafes and restaurants offering takeaway food only.

– Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (Katoomba) has a Virtual InSight program featuring staff insights, tours of the space, art classes with local creatives, tutorials, recipes from the cafe and more. Details: BlueMountainsCulturalCentre Facebook page (a new page will be available on the bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au website soon).

– Mount Vic & Me (Mt Victoria) takes online orders and posts a swag of quirky Australian Made items, including the Blue Mountains Socks range, tea towels and greeting cards. Details: www.mountvicandme.com.

– Josophan’s Fine Chocolates (Leura) takes online store orders at https://josophans.com.au and has a page of simple but indulgent recipes at https://www.luxechocolaterecipes.com.

– Avalon Restaurant – Katoomba (www.avalonkatoomba.com.au) offers takeaway meals, along with most cafes in the Blue Mountains. Several such as the Ori Café & Bistro (www.oricafe.com.au) and Finn & Co (www.finnandco.com.au) at Springwood offer a home delivery service.

– GalleryONE88 Fine Arts – Katoomba (www.galleryonefinearts.com), Talisman Gallery – Hartley (www.talismangallery.com.au) and other galleries have uploaded many photos of artwork to their website and social media and have restricted sales to those platforms or email.

– Blue Mountains Chocolate Company (Katoomba) serves takeaway food and drinks, with a home delivery service within a 20km radius of Katoomba. Details: http://www.bluemountainschocolate.com.au/.

“New normal” for Blueys

More gongs for Mornington Peninsula whisky newcomer – Chief’s Son Distillery

Mornington Peninsula whisky newcomer Chief’s Son Distillery is making a powerful entry onto the world whisky stage with its sixth international award just 11 months after launching.

Barrel number 01 of their `900 Standard’ Single Malt Whisky at 49.50% was awarded Best Australian Single Cask – Single Malt Whisky (No Age Statement) in the first round of the 2020 World Whiskies Awards in London on February 6.

In the same awards, they also took home a Silver for their `900 Standard’ Single Malt Whisky at 45.00% per cent in the Australian Single Malt Whisky NAS category.

The awards for the World’s Best Single Cask – Single Malt Whisky will be awarded on March 26.

In late 2019, Chief’s Son Distillery won four international awards from two separate competitions in Hong Kong, including a prestigious Masters Award for their `900 Standard’ Single Malt Whisky at 60.00% in the Luxury Masters Awards.

Owners and distillers Stuart and Naomi McIntosh said it was “an incredible honour to take out such a prestigious award, especially with the very first barrel we ever filled, and within eleven months of launching our whisky to the world’’.

The distillery name connects the meaning of McIntosh or Mhic an Tòisich’’ in Scottish Gaelic, which literally meansSon of the Chief’’.

The McIntosh signature `900’ stamp on their core range signifies the nine centuries between the formal establishment of the McIntosh family name and that of the establishment of the distillery.

During these 900 years, each generation has passed knowledge, experience, love and passion to successive generations,’’ Stuart M<sup>c</sup>Intosh said.Our 900 reference pays homage to our proud ancestors and hails future McIntosh generations. We are all part of the ongoing legend and legacy of whisky and, most importantly, of its connections.’’

Chief’s Son Distillery is a confident splash of new world methods and unapologetic vision, infused with distinctive Australian character and quality.

Chief’s Son Distillery distils four styles of unique Single Malt Whisky and bottles them at percentages ranging from 45% to 60%. Their Whisky is available at select bottle shops and bars on the Mornington Peninsula, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and online at chiefsson.com.au.

The distillery tasting room, 25/50 Guelph St, Somerville, is open 10am to 4pm seven days. Tastings: from $10pp. Group/corporate bookings: (03) 9013 0859.

 

Free garden workshop for Blue Mountains green thumbs

Green thumbs can learn about food growing, gardening and water saving using new techniques and technology at a series of free workshops at Bullaburra on March 1.

Hosted by award-winning sustainable Now & Zen Landscapes, guest presenters will include master landscaper and educator Shannon Decker who will demonstrate new steam weeding technology.

Now & Zen Landscapes director and master landscaper Shannon Decker

Now & Zen Landscapes (derived from the common saying “now and then’’) has operated for 20 years and is the yardstick for the highest end bespoke garden market in the Greater Blue Mountains, Nepean and Central West where projects are limited only by imagination.

 

 

Ian Collins from WaterUps From Down Under, which is making significant inroads into combating water waste, will talk about how to save water using wicking beds.

He grew up on an orchard near Orange, where his father was one of the pioneers in organic farming in the early 1970s.

Manu Prigioni from the Farm It Forward program, which links residents who have unused garden plots with volunteer food growers, will outline the program and how property owners can get involved.

One of the co-ordinators of the Lyttleton Stores Co-operative initiative at Lawson, she has a background in permaculture, soil ecology and restorative farming.

The workshops were a chance for home gardeners to learn from experts, Mr Decker said: “Ian, Manu and I are so passionate about sustainability and reducing water waste that we are prepared to share our knowledge for free.

“We are all custodians of this earth and we must work together to look after it.’’

The free workshops will be held at the new Now & Zen Landscapes showroom, 351 Great Western Hwy, Bullaburra, from 10am to 12pm on Sunday, March 1.

Blue Mountains, Australia – plenty to see & do post-bushfires

Blue Mountains Festivals 01

The Blue Mountains region has prepared a jam-packed calendar of festivals and events to welcome visitors back to Australia’s first tourist destination.

BMATA logoBlue Mountains Tourism president Jason Cronshaw said while the region was still struggling from mass tourist cancellations during the recent bushfire situation, businesses had taken a positive approach to recovery.

“Compared to other regions where tourism attractions, hotels and infrastructure have been destroyed, we recognise how very blessed we are.

“Much of our 1 million square hectare Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area looks as fantastic as ever, including the globally-recognised Three Sisters scene.

“More bush tracks into the wilderness are opening all the time.

“All the popular tourist strips and businesses are open and welcome visitors.’’

Blue Mountains Festivals 03Mr Cronshaw, who also owns the double-decker Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, encouraged people with existing bookings to still come, those who had cancelled to re-book and people considering a trip to #HolidayHereThisYear in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area right on Sydney’s doorstep.

Several long-scheduled festivals and events will go ahead as planned, including annual Roaring 20s Festival events at the Carrington and Hydro Majestic hotels in February, Blue Mountains Music Festival in March and Winter Magic Festival in June.

“The Lady Luck and Wines of the West festivals got things rolling in January and, while crowds were down on previous years, that show of confidence has buoyed the wider business community which will eventually lead the market back to normal.’’

From live music pub gigs, community markets and open days to costumed balls and fundraising dinners, the Blue Mountains will be a hive of non-stop activity throughout 2020.

Take your pick from these upcoming Blue Mountains festivals and events:

Woodford Academy

 

Christian fellowship tours a world vision

Christian Fellowship Tours managing director Jason Cronshaw is excited at the new partnership with World Vision Australia

A partnership between a travel company and a charity is set to transform the way Christians consider and conduct holidays.

Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) guided trips to remote World Vision projects supporting  First Nation Communities in Australia will give donors firsthand insight into how their donations are being spent, with half the profits of each tour going to World Vision Australia to fund its community development work, along with 50 per cent of profits from all CFT international tours.

The first trip will be a 26-day trip to Oberammergau for the Passion play, which is staged once every decade, and foodie destinations throughout Europe in July 2020.

Also in July will be a trip from Broome to Darwin with the opportunity to meet World Vision staff in the Kimberley.

CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw said the initiative would help reduce the perceived distance of the charity work to the donor and personalise the cause to donors.

During some trips, donors would have the opportunity to meet World Vision program recipients and learn about their circumstances and needs.

Each would have a Christian tour leader, daily devotions and Sunday worship, along with sightseeing and activities, with accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers included.

The partnership aligned with the CFT philosophy of travelling with purpose and offered travellers a more meaningful holiday with like-minded people, Mr Cronshaw said.

It helped both organisations expand and diversify their charitable capacity, a fundamental goal under their Christian charter.

World Vision Australia Strategic Alliances acting manager (private funding division) David Towill said teaming up with CFT made sense, given the shared philosophies and goals of both organisations to care for all people regardless of race, gender and creed.

It was also a creative way of encouraging charitable support in a growing pool of worthy causes and would encourage staff working in those areas.

And the partnership was the ideal vehicle to drive the Bush Church Aid model of tours to remote Australian destinations to give encouragement to far-flung Christian communities, which CFT had conducted for 40 years, into a more public and global arena.

Mr Cronshaw said while CFT and its sister companies (Fantastic Aussie Tours and Blue Mountains Explorer Bus) had given 10 per cent of profits to charity for many years, studying for a Masters in Business Administration (Social Impact) at the University of NSW helped him clearly identify charitable initiatives within his company.

“There were things we were doing as a company without really knowing that there were actual names for them or that they could – and should – be woven into our business model to stretch our giving and good works further.’’

The World Vision partnership has also helped Mr Cronshaw become a proud Christian businessman.

For years, he struggled as “an embarrassed Christian’’, giving the impression of simply continuing his Anglican lay preacher father John’s business.

“And then I thought: `How stupid Jason, you also say that you run Christian Fellowship Tours’. It’s probably rather obvious.

“I had a lightbulb moment where somebody on stage at a conference said: `Don’t think there’s a Christian world and a separate secular business world. If you’re in business, God’s called you to be in business as a Christian’.

“It’s still a work in progress for me, but I now truly believe there is no line – it’s just one Christian life.’’

While World Vision was the first such partnership for CFT, Mr Cronshaw hoped it would lead to many more relationships with like-minded businesses, of which he had several on his wish list.

“It’s certainly not an exclusive deal. I believe in this model, and if we can get it right with World Vision we’ll be able to get it right with everybody else.’’

  • The 26-day Oberammergau & a Taste of Europe tour will depart July 7, 2020. Highlights of the international World Vision partnered tour will include the Oberammergau Passion Play as well as food and sightseeing activities in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.
  • The 16-day Visionary Top End tour from Broome to Darwin will depart July 22, 2020. During the trip to the Kimberley, passengers will meet the inspiring people of the region, visit with World Vision staff and learn more about programs the tour helps to support. They will also be awed by the spectacular Outback landscapes and thrilled by unique experiences along the way.

Bookings and information: christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.

 

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