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Prince Harry praised on return to royal duties, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1.  Prince Harry praised for first royal engagement after stepping down.

Prince Harry laughed, joked and hugged his way through his first official public engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals, triggering a major crisis for the monarchy.

Despite a week that began with an unprecedented royal summit to discuss the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s future roles, Harry appeared relaxed and at ease as he took part in the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw hosted at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

He even batted off a journalist’s question about his next move, smiling to a member of his entourage when asked, “how are the discussions going on your future?”

You can watch this amazing timeline of Meghan and Harry’s lives (and see their adorable baby photos!) in this Meghan & Harry: From Birth To Now video below. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

Australian comedian Adam Hills was part of a group of executives and players from the 21 competing nations at the event.

Hills praised Harry for being up to date, despite his turbulent few weeks, with the story of English rugby league great Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Sydney-born Hills said Harry had chatted about Burrow’s recent testimonial match.

“That for me shows the kind of duty and commitment to rugby league that he has,” he said.

“That in amongst everything else that’s going on in his life, that he is aware of the rugby league story of the year.”

The Queen has agreed to Harry and Meghan’s wish to step down from their role as senior royals, become financially independent and begin a transition period of living in Canada and the UK.

Meghan is in Canada with son Archie and has carried out her second charity visit since returning to the province of British Columbia, where the Sussexes spent six weeks over the festive period.

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Justice for Girls, which campaigns for an end to violence, poverty and racism in the lives of teenage girls, has tweeted black-and-white images of Meghan visiting the organisation in Vancouver.

The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s biggest newspapers, has slammed the duke and duchess’s decision to spend part of the year in the Commonwealth country.

“A royal living in this country does not accord with the long-standing nature of the relationship between Canada and Britain, and Canada and the Crown,” the publication said in an editorial.

“This country’s unique monarchy, and its delicate yet essential place in our constitutional system, means that a royal resident … is not something that Canada can allow.”

There is speculation over whether the world cup draw was Harry’s last engagement as a senior royal, but Commonwealth Day – celebrated on March 9 – will be the real test.

The day is a major event in the royal calendar that features all leading members of the monarchy, so if Harry and Meghan are not present it signals their new life away from frontline duties has begun.

2.  Bushfires could cost tourism industry $1 billion.

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Fears continue to rise for the future of Australian tourism with one industry leader saying the bushfire crisis could cost the sector $1 billion.

Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway says losses are growing and many businesses may be unable to recover from the unprecedented blazes.

“We’re not trying to exaggerate the number, but if you look across regional Victoria and what’s happening in NSW and South Australia, a lot of infrastructure has been decimated,” Mr Westaway told AAP on Thursday.

“Even in some areas unaffected by the bushfires we’ve seen more than a 60 per cent increase in booking cancellations.”

Mr Westaway said the sector was suffering from the “contagion effect” with many domestic travellers deciding to stay home during peak holiday season.

“The level of spending in many holiday destinations has fallen through the floor, which will have a lasting impact on these small-to-medium-sized businesses,” he said.

“Some of these businesses will not recover but the industry as a whole is very resilient.

“This is not a new phenomenon – we’ve dealt with disasters before.”

Tourism industry leaders met with Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham in Sydney on Thursday.

“The two big takeaways were that it was very constructive,” Mr Westaway said.

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“The second thing is the wider industry is on the same page of what the issues are. Across the board bookings are through the floor, cash flow in small business operators is in a very delicate situation. It’s a red-alert situation in many cases.

“There is a commitment by industry to get the regions re-booted.”

The Morrison government wants to combat misinformation regarding the bushfires and promote tourism attractions.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges our tourism industry currently faces and that tourism businesses all around Australia are feeling the pressures of cancellations and reduced bookings,” Senator Birmingham said.

“The government stands ready to help our tourism industry to not only rebuild infrastructure where required but to continue to promote the incredible tourism experiences that are still on offer across Australia in unaffected areas but also in fire-affected areas when it is safe to welcome tourists again.”

3. Aiia Maasarwe’s family hopes she is remembered for her positivity, one year on from her death.

The family of an international student murdered in Melbourne hopes she will be remembered for her positivity and energy, on the first anniversary of her death.

Aiia Maasarwe’s family also hope positive change can come from the tragic circumstances of the 21-year-old’s killing on January 16, 2019.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University – where Ms Maasarwe had been studying at the time of her murder – has expressed the family’s wishes in a message sent to students.

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Ms Maasarwe’s death continues to have an impact on staff, students and members of the local community, Professor Susan Dodds said.

All digital screens at the university will on Thursday display a message in memory of Ms Maasarwe, a Palestinian Arab of Israeli citizenship.

“I encourage you to pause and reflect on Aiia, and the ways you might contribute to her legacy,” Prof Dodds said.

The university has also honoured her family’s wishes for how she should be remembered by creating the Aiia Maasarwe Scholarship, which will be funded in perpetuity by the institution and the Victorian Government.

The selection process for the scholarship is being finalised, with the first recipient to be announced shortly.

In October, Australian institution Project Rozana established the Aiaa Maasarwe Memorial Medical Fellowship Program, providing financial support to Palestinian physicians training in Israeli hospitals.

The program received a $50,000 boost from Gandel Philanthropy on Tuesday, bringing the total donated so far to $140,000 out of a $200,000 target.

“My daughter would have been inspired by Project Rozana which is helping Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza to receive the same level of health care that we do in Israel,” Ms Maasarwe’s father Saeed said on Tuesday.

Prof Dodds said La Trobe University has made improvements to its security in recent years, including improved lighting around campus, but the work will continue including at adjoining public transport.

Ms Maasarwe was raped and killed near a tram stop at Bundoora.

Her death sent shockwaves across Australia and rallies were organised to show support for her family.

Her killer, Codey Herrmann, was jailed for 36 years in October after admitting to the crime.

4. Tennis players call for a union amid Australian Open smoke crisis.

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British tennis player Liam Broady has accused Australian Open officials of treating qualifiers worse than animals as calls grow among players to form a union.

Broady lost in the first round of qualifying, playing his match in a blanket of smoke at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, and said he struggled to breathe in the conditions.

Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic had to quit her qualifying match that day after a coughing fit, while Australia’s Bernard Tomic also sought medical treatment.

World No.234 Broady took to Twitter on Thursday, saying: “The more I think about the conditions we played in a few days ago the more it boils my blood.

“We can’t let this slide. The email we received yesterday from the ATP and AO was a slap in the face, conditions were ‘playable’. Were they healthy?

“Citizens of Melbourne were warned to keep their animals indoors the day I played qualifying, and yet were were expected to go outside for high intensity physical competition?

“What do we have to do to create a players union? Where is the protection for players, both male and female? When multiple players need asthma spray on court and they don’t even have asthma? When a player collapses and has to retire due to respiratory issues?

“On tour we let so many things go that aren’t right but at some point we have to make a stand. ALL players need protection, not just a select few.”

Broady’s tweet was supported by Germany’s Dustin Brown, who also needed medical treatment during his first-round loss played on Wednesday.

” ‘I have a virus coming on’ I was told by the doctor on court,” Brown tweeted.

“In 35 years it’s the first time I had to use an asthma spray to help me breathe better #wellsaidLiam.”

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Former world No.25 Canadian Vasek Pospisil said the situation was “absurd” and it was “time for a players union”.

French player Alize Cornet, a former world No.11, also agreed: “We have to stick together and stop this nonsense #players union.”

Their comments came after qualifying third seed Canadian Brayden Schnur labelled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal “selfish” for not speaking out on behalf of lesser-known players.

5. Feral predators cause threat to fire-hit wildlife.

Environmentalists hope a $50 million fund from the federal government to help contain feral predators in the bushfires’ aftermath is just the start.

But the Invasive Species Council of Australia has put the required budget in the hundreds of millions, calling on the federal government to help bankroll states’ pest control efforts.

Chief executive Andrew Cox said sending in the army to cull feral animal numbers wasn’t an option.

“I think what’s missing is the resources to mobilise the experts,” Mr Cox told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“It’s a national problem. And all parties need to be working together.”

The council’s indigenous ambassador Richard Swain said feral animals – like horses, foxes or cats – would bounce back from the fires better by outcompeting or eating native species.

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Mr Swain, who has also been volunteering as a firefighter, said Australians needed to work together to protect their heritage.

“Whether you’re 100 years old or 100 seconds old, if you’re an Australian, you’ve seen nothing but decline in our natural world,” he said.

“We need the best science, we need to bring aerial culling in, we need to stop protecting things like feral horses within our national park.”

More than one billion animals are thought to have perished in the unprecedented bushfires across Australia, but the final extent won’t be known for some time.

The federal government has put an initial $50 million into a wildlife and habitat recovery package, with decisions on its use steered by Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box.

“We certainly know that after a fire that our native species are more vulnerable to predation by cats and foxes. Cats will prowl the edges of a fire scar looking for native animals,” Dr Box told ABC radio on Thursday.

“Native animals will have lost much of their shelter, their cover that they can hide under after a fire, so it does make them more vulnerable to predation.”

Controlling herbivores and weeds is also a priority, she added.

“The fires are still going and so there’s more burning to come, sadly,” Dr Box said.

“Fires affect the landscape differently, it will be more intense in some places than in others. And also different species have different vulnerabilities to fire.”

A large number of threatened species were in the path of the fires in southeastern Australia.

Dr Box is particularly worried about the dunnart and black glossy cockatoo populations on Kangaroo Island, long-footed potoroos in East Gippsland as well as threatened plants.

Koalas are at risk of being listed as endangered following the bushfires, with habitats lost across Australia.

She was relieved to know NSW firefighters had saved the last of the so-called “dinosaur trees” remaining in the wild, in Wollemi National Park.

At a meeting with Dr Box and Environment Minister Sussan Ley on Wednesday, wildlife experts pleaded with the government to better fund the sector, saying efforts to help threatened species recover will cost billions.

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