From Cyclones to Change for Good: Qantas in the Community


From evacuating Australians during emergencies at home and abroad to supporting grassroots projects in rural areas, Qantas is there. We look at the airline’s community work.

Cyclone Tracy


In 1974 Qantas made history when it evacuated 674 passengers (plus 23 crew) from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy – setting a world record for carrying the most passengers on board a Boeing 747. Pilot Donn Howe, who flew the empty jumbo from Sydney into Darwin for the mercy mission, recalled that the strips of runway lights at the airport were the only lights left working in the city. The cyclone tore the Northern Territory capital apart that Christmas, killing 71 people and destroying more than 70 per cent of its buildings. Over 30,000 people were evacuated, with the passengers on the Qantas rescue flight forced to share seats to fit as many people as possible. “It was a case of get on and hold on,” Howe told The Northern Territory News.


Images: Qantas Heritage Collection. Photography by Rick Stevens

Crisis abroad

The airline has helped to rescue Australians during recent overseas emergencies, including from India during the 2008 terrorist attacks, Cairo in the midst of the Arab Spring in 2010 and the 2013 riots in Thailand.

Crisis at home

During the 2019/2020 summer bushfire season, Qantas transported firefighters and equipment around the country, as well as donating $1 million to bushfire relief efforts and fundraising on flights and in airport terminals. Qantas employees also helped on the frontline in both paid and volunteer firefighting positions. The airline provided similar assistance when the Black Saturday fires razed parts of Victoria in 2009.

Backing communities

Grassroots support

Harking back to the airline’s outback beginnings, the Qantas Regional Grants Program, launched in 2019, helps grassroots projects in the nation’s heartland transform their communities. Some of the grants include empowering young rural women to seek leadership opportunities through the program Country to Canberra; sharing pre-loved sports equipment with young people in remote areas through Fair Game Australia; and helping bring Ten Days On The Island, Tasmania’s biennial arts festival, to life.

On track

In 2011, Qantas joined forces with CareerTrackers, a not-for-profit that facilitates internships for Indigenous university students, with the aim of finding them fulltime employment.

Change for children

Qantas was one of the first airlines in the world to join UNICEF in the Change for Good fundraising drive on its flights. The drive is now supported by a global airline coalition and, since 1991, has raised more than $36 million for children’s health, protection and education programs.

SEE ALSO: The Community Spirit that Drives Sally Hackelton

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