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Australia news live: Cathy Freeman urges nation to vote yes; campers flee bushfire in Tasmania

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Campers flee bushfire on Tasmania’s east coast

Campers and residents near a tourist hotspot on Tasmania’s east coast have been ordered to seek shelter as a bushfire rages out of control, Australian Associated Press reports.

Authorities first issued an emergency warning about 3pm yesterday for people to leave the Coles Bay Road area at Friendly Beaches if safe to do so.

That warning was upgraded to a seek shelter message shortly before 8pm, and was still at that level on Wednesday morning.

Tasmania Fire Service acting regional chief Greg Butters said the town of Coles Bay itself was not under immediate threat but vigilance should be maintained.

Aircraft and ground crew were fighting the blaze with strong winds expected to peak late yesterday, before reducing in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Anyone in the Friendly Beaches area who has not evacuated should leave immediately to a nearby safer place,” he said in a statement last night.

The fire was about 20km north of the entrance to the picturesque Freycinet National Park.

Swanwick and Coles Bay remained under a “watch and act” alert, with people told to avoid the area.

Guests and staff at nearby Freycinet Resort have evacuated, while people have gathered at the designated Coles Bay boat ramp “safe place”.

Kristen Floyd from the Devils Corner Winery at Apslawn told the ABC the area had been blanketed by thick smoke.

Cathy Freeman urges Australians to vote yes

Josh Butler

Olympic champion athlete Cathy Freeman has urged Australians to back the Indigenous voice referendum, saying change was “urgent”.

The gold medal winning runner has become the latest Indigenous backer of the voice and the yes vote, joining the likes of football stars Johnathan Thurston and Eddie Betts, and tennis champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley in calling for support.

“I can’t remember a time when change has felt so urgent,” Freeman said in the latest endorsement of the Yes23 campaign.

In a video released overnight, Freeman called for voters to “stand together and show our support for Australians who need it most”, and spoke of her belief that the voice would help Indigenous kids get the “very best start in life, an equal start in life.”

Freeman, born in Mackay, won a famous gold medal in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, as well as winning Commonwealth Games and world championship titles over her celebrated career.

The early spring NSW heatwave will soon subside, with a late evening cool change coming to Sydney, but not before the mercury is forecast to hit 35C which would be a September record for the city.

On Tuesday the provisional maximum of 34.6C at Observatory Hill equalled the record.

With the heat and wind comes bushfire fears. The NSW rural fire service has declared total fire bans in the greater Sydney, greater Hunter and upper central west plains regions. Fire danger is set at ‘extreme’ in the first two of those three regions.


Good morning and welcome to our live blog of the day’s news. I’m Martin Farrer and we’ve got some big overnight stories to talk about before my colleague helms the main part of the day.

There are quite a few lines around the voice to parliament referendum this morning starting with the news that Gary Johns remains listed in official leadership positions with two major no campaign organisations, despite Warren Mundine distancing the campaign from the former Labor minister and hinting he would not be speaking publicly. And Cathy Freeman has appealed to Australians to back the voice, saying in a rare public comment: “We have the chance to be part of a moment that brings people together.”

An index charting Australia’s health, wellbeing and connectedness over the last 14 years will be released today and provides an insight into some major social trends. Katharine Murphy talks to the demographer behind the research and how trust, community interaction and national pride are declining under economic pressures.

The government has to have a more developed plan to shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels or it risks “missing half the equation”, climate scientists have warned. The message comes as the country faces its first bushfires of what is expected to be a torrid summer with the El Niño weather system now under way. Campers and people living in the Coles Bay Road area on the Tasmania’s east coast were told to seek shelter yesterday as a bushfire raged out of control. The NSW Rural Fire Service chief says there’s still “a lot to be done” to prepare for the fire season, and that’s also the subject of today’s Full Story.

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