Trans-Tasman bubble: The good news stories that happened in Australia while we were gone

As we inch our way to the possibility of a true two-way trans-Tasman bubble, its time to catch up on some news from across the pond that we may have missed while the borders were shut.
Not just any old stories, of course, these are the ones to give you all those Friday fuzzy feels.

After the year we have all had, let's have a little moment of positivity, and who knows, once the border opens up you may want to give these places a visit.

* Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef: Off limits for 45 years, an iconic Aussie reef opens to visitors
* Meet Ash, a very special koala joey
* Ask an expert: Australia's best budget-friendly eco-resorts

Tobias Baumgaertner/Ocean Photography Awards 2020
German photographer Tobias Baumgaertner award-winning photo.

Image of hugging penguins at Melbournes St Kilda pier wins top award

It was the image that made the world go awwww. Two fairy penguins cuddling for hours whilst watching the twinkling city lights at Melbournes St Kilda beach.

German photographer, Tobias Baumgaertner, captured the moment and took out the Community Choice Award at Oceanographic magazine's Ocean Photography Awards 2020 with the shot (@tobiasvisuals photo on Instagram here).

More: You can spot the cute and cuddly colony that resides on St Kilda pier.

Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Pink flannel flowers are extremely rare and only grow in scattered parts of eastern Australia, from the Blue Mountains to north-eastern Victoria.

Once-in-a-lifetime pink flowers bloom from burnt landscapes of the Blue Mountains

In February 2021, long-dormant pink flannel flowers sprung to life in formerly burnt landscapes of the Blue Mountains region, scarred from the summer 2019/20 bushfires.

The seeds of the bushfire ephemerals only germinate after fire and last for only a few months, making it a very pretty and rare experience to witness.

More: Get to know the Blue Mountains with Fantastic Aussie Tours.

Visit Victoria
One of the koalas in Tower Hill National Park.

Tourists fund 9000 trees for koalas

The bushfires devastated the koala population in Australia. But thankfully the seeds of recovery have started. Echidna Walkabout has funded the planting of 9000 trees for koalas using 50 per cent of the profits from every tour in 2020.

More: Koala Recovery Experience near Melbourne.

Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary
The kangaroos keep returning to Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kangaroos who were nursed back to health after the bushfires keep returning to their carers

For Sarah Tiling and Gary Henderson, those bushfires were devastating. They lost their home and their wildlife care and rehabilitation centre near the NSW South Coast, the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary. However, the couple built a temporary enclosure for rescued animals, nursing many back to health.

After being released back into the wild, many rehabilitated kangaroos continue to return to Sarah and Gary.

More: The Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary is still rebuilding, but you can visit kangaroos and koalas at Sydneys iconic Taronga Zoo.

Johnny Gaskell
Citizens CEO Andy Ridley taking survey photos during the expedition to the Swain Reefs.

The first Great Barrier Reef census

As part of the Great Reef Census in October 2020, people from all over the globe jumped online to help identify and analyse the reef images captured.

Tourism operators, superyachts and research vessels set sail to key sites across the Great Barrier Reef to capture data to support ongoing reef research management.

More: Experience the reef with QuickSilver Cruises Great Barrier Reef tours.

WildArk and Aussie Ark
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky returning Tasmanian devils to the Australian mainland.

For the first time in 3000 years, Tasmanian devils are returned to mainland Australia

Thanks to a conservation programme by Aussie Ark, 26 Tassie devils have been reintroduced on the Australian mainland in 2020 at a wildlife sanctuary in NSWs Barrington Tops, north of Sydney.

More: AEA Luxury Tours offers three-day Weekend with the Devils trips in NSW.

The message on Raafs beach near Melbourne.

We Will Meet Again - the heartfelt message in the sand

On a beach near Melbourne, a heartfelt message was etched into the sand just before Christmas Day: We Will Meet Again.

The sand artist, known as Edward, created the artwork as a message from Australia to the United Kingdom, as many family and friends in both countries faced being separated at Christmas.

More: Explore Victorias coastline by following the Great Ocean Road Touring Route.

Wineries turn smoke tainted grapes into special edition spirits

Aussie ingenuity helped turn smoke-tainted grapes into gin after the bushfires.

Sarah Collingwood from Four Winds recycled the grapes into a completely new product. Similarly, the Reed & Co Distillery in the Victorian alpine town of Bright released its first-ever grape-based spirits, Mistelle 2020 and Gin & Juice, made with smoke-tainted grapes that had been affected by the bushfires and couldnt be fermented.

More: The Four Winds vineyard is a 40-minute drive from Canberras city centre in ACT.

Volunteers save green sea turtles on Queenslands Magnetic Island

While a dedicated turtle hospital remains closed on Magnetic Island, just off-shore from Townsville in Queensland, local volunteers have stepped up to rescue sea turtles that get stranded on the island every year.

The first to be rescued in 2021 was a turtle called Judge TP who was found floating helplessly in a river by a pair of volunteers. Judge TP has now been nursed back to health and returned to the ocean.

More: Magnetic Island Stay and Play package allows you to experience the island with tours including snorkelling trips and sunset sails.

NACCHO Australia
Banana Women from the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust.

All-female Indigenous firefighting crew protect their community and sacred land

Say hello to the Banana Women. Named because of their bright yellow uniforms, these mothers and grandmothers helped combat the 2019/20 bushfires.

They form part of the remote Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust, a self-governing Aboriginal community in Victorias far east.

More: Support areas affected by bushfires while exploring the glorious natural landscape in Victorias Gippsland Region with Gippsland High Country Tours.

Jason deCaires Taylor
Museum of Underwater Art opened off Townsville.

Australia opened the first underwater museum in the Southern Hemisphere

The Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA) was launched in Townsville, North Queensland in mid-2020. Renowned underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor installed works that highlight reef conservation, restoration, and education.

Installations for the second stage of MOUA in Palm Island are due to be installed by June 2021, and stage three at Magnetic Island is expected in early 2022.

More: Plan a trip to Tropical North Queensland to explore the museum with Adrenalin Snorkel Dives Museum of Underwater Art and Great Barrier Reef trip.


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