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ANTARCTICA VOYAGES AND GLOBAL MEET UP UPDATE (APRIL 2022)

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Read the Engagement Roadmap for the Antarctica voyages and Global intensive meet-up

Which cohort is the priority to get to Antarctica? 

We are working through the global meetup possibilities for all cohorts commencing with HB5, HB6 and HB7. 

I would like to work on a project with my cohort. How can this be arranged? 

Please contact The Convergence Steering Committee or put a call out to your cohort participants for interest in your project. Our communications manager can help you promote it to the community. 

Can we have a smaller meet up while we wait for a bigger trip? 

That is a possibility we are reviewing based on the survey feedback.

Can we offer a group extension COVID insurance, or do I have to individually purchase it? 

We have investigated this and it is not possible to provide group insurance as every country has different insurance cover options.  Each person will need to purchase their own insurance cover.

What are the factors being considered in deciding on the global intensive meet up location? 

  • All travellers must be vaccinated for COVID19 (and boosted if possible) 
  • All travellers need to have travel/health insurance covering COVID19 
  • Passengers may be tested prior to boarding flights and ships and will need to isolate if tested positive (i.e. not allowed to board) 

Safety and Equity Considerations: 

  • Global travel is available for the majority of the two cohorts who are based in Australia, the US, UK and Europe. This is 77% of our participants. 
  • We and our travel providers have procedures in place to manage any outbreaks during a future voyage or global meetup. 
  • Evidence that travel/health insurance offering COVID19 cover is available to the majority of participants. 
  • Sufficient participants are willing to travel based on explicit travel guidelines (such as those outlined here). 

Will I need to pay an additional cost for our global intensive meet up, on top of the online program cost? 

Yes – the cost of any kind of global intensive meetup is additional to the cost of the online program. 

When will I expect to receive a decision about the global intensive meet up? 

The next meeting is in September and we will provide an update at that point. 

Can the global meet up be optional? 

It is optional. You are under no obligation to participate in a global meetup.

I’m finding it difficult to know how much I should fundraise for when the global intensive meet up is still to be confirmed. What shall I tell my sponsors and/or donors? 

We can provide a letter for you to give to your sponsors explaining the current situation.
Please download the letter template here.

Will you survey HB7 again once you have narrowed down the global meet up options?/ Can you ask in the survey “what mitigations can alleviate your concerns about travel?” in the next survey? 

If a survey is the best way to engage with HB7 we will do this as well as face to face engagement during the engagement roadmap meetings.

Will I need to pay for my own travel costs to Ushuaia? 

Yes.

Can we get a travel insurance as a sponsor as a cohort? 

Our investigations have identified that no insurance company will pay cover the costs of individual insurance premiums due to risk and each country having different insurance requirements and costs.  However individuals may like to approach insurance companies for broader sponsorship options.

It’s been hard to get institutional funding. How possible is it to get corporate fundraising, for example, from Atlassian?

We are always open to sponsorship opportunities.  Individuals are encouraged to approach organisations in their home country for sponsorship of their participation subject to HB sponsorship guidelines.

Is the digital program the same as previous cohorts? 

The program delivered to HB6 & HB7 is the same. However in saying that, as the program has progressed, the materials have been adapted due to peoples feedback. It’s then focused on collaboration and our leadership. HB5 received an extra year of the online program due to COVID. 

Can HB5 and HB6 voyage together to Antarctica? 

In theory this may be possible, however some alumnae have told us they are happy to travel as a combined cohort and others would prefer to travel just with their cohort. It will also depend on the availability of suitable ships and the number of people wanting to join a particular voyage.

Can HB5 and HB6 plan to meet up sooner than 2023/24, as part of a global meet up?
 

We have made the decision not to host a global meetup in 2022 for HB7.  It may be possible to design a global meetup for some cohorts in 2023/34. We will continue investigations this year.  We also need to consider how to make any extra meet ups fair and equitable, because not everyone will have the capacity to travel once or twice, and that alternate meet up locations include some of the same challenges as voyaging to Antarctica.

Can we go elsewhere (other than Antarctica) or start planning our own regional meet ups in the meantime, to keep the momentum going?

We are investigating alternate meet up locations but the same challenges as voyaging to Antarctica apply. We also need to provide an equitable opportunity for everybody.   If there are ideas for cohorts to plan their own meetups, we’d be interested to hear about them and have put an engagement process together to facilitate this.

Should I start fundraising for my trip to Antarctica? 

It is a personal choice whether you wish to fundraise for your participation with Homeward Bound.  As we cannot make a commitment to a voyage at this time, it is useful to be clear with any potential donors what the current situation is.  As more information becomes available, we will provide it to help you with donor conversations.

What if I start fundraising and we don’t end up going on a voyage to Antarctica? What do I do with the money which I’ve fundraised? 

This is a discussion each person should have with their individual donors.  There is always a risk with any fundraising that the funded project will not turn out as planned.  Prepare for this contingency and discuss up front with donors what they would like you to do with any funds.  With the impact of the global pandemic changing most projects, most donors will be understanding.

When does the HB5 contract with the shipping company end?

We have an agreement in place up to and including the 24/25 Antarctic season. Before this time, we will continue discussions with the shipping companies and will keep you informed with progress.

How can we be a part of the decision-making process about where and when we have a global meet up, and/or voyage to Antarctica?
 

We are committed to working through the decision process with you and want to maintain open communications with all cohorts in these challenging times. However, we have a developed an engagement timeline where we will discuss with each cohort (separately and collectively) our progress on voyages and global meet up investigations:

First engagement session: June, 2022 (All cohorts)
Second engagement session: September, 2022 (All cohorts) 
Decision for global meetup: December, 2022 (HB7 cohort)
Decision to voyage to Antarctica: March, 2023 (HB5 & HB6 cohorts) 

Further details of meetings/surveys or other engagement tools will be provided over the coming months.  Calendar invites will be sent in advance of the engagement sessions.

Does a global meet up actually mean that HB7 will never voyage to Antarctica?  

As our CEO reinforced at recent meetings, a voyage to Antarctica was not part of the offer when HB7 participants joined the HB program. While some participants hoped that it would be offered, HB could commit only to the extensive online program due to the challenging global impacts of COVID19.  Therefore, we outlined in the offer that we may be able to arrange a global meet up when it was fair and equitable.

We will investigate all options for a global meetup for HB7 over the coming months and will involve HB7 participants in a collaborative process in the same way as we will with other cohorts. A global meet up may be possible in 2023 however it is too early to say where that may be.

I’m in HB7. Can I transfer to HB8 in case they get the opportunity to voyage to Antarctica?

We cannot facilitate deferments to future programs and hope that all participants will understand and appreciate the value of the HB7 online leadership program.

I’m in HB7. Can I join the HB5 or HB6 voyage to Antarctica? Can I swap with a sister in HB5 or HB6? 

We will consider the mix of cohorts once we have investigated and determined the viability of a future voyage.

How will HB compensate our program for the lack of a global meet up this year?

HB could not commit to delivering a global meetup due to the worldwide challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic therefore the online program is designed to deliver the best possible leadership program with our first paid faculty taking this into account. We agree that face to face connection is important for your transformation and building of our Homeward Bound community, so we are aiming to work towards having a physical meet up as soon as possible.

What needs to change for us to be able to go to Antarctica? What are the metrics being used to determine if we can go on a voyage or global meet up? 

We will work over the next few months to determine the metrics and variables to consider when the decision is made whether we go to Antarctica or a global meet up. A key variable will be the willingness of shipping companies to voyage to Antarctica in such a way that it is safe and equitable for all participants. We will decide on the global meet up by December 2022 and the voyages to Antarctica by March 2023, or sooner.

What will be the program content be during our voyage to Antarctica, or global meet up?

This is still to be determined but may involve time to create and work on collaborative projects.

Can HB survey my cohort to gauge how important a trip to Antarctica is? 

We will consider engagement tools including conducting surveys, over the next few weeks and months to gain your feedback through consultation.  If discussions about this are being had in your cohort discussion groups, we would welcome your feedback at any time.

How many people can fit on each ship?

The ships we use have an estimated capacity of between 80 to 100 people including faculty. There are ships with larger capacity and we will continue to investigate options.

Can we have regular catchups to get an update about our trips?

As discussed in a previous point, we will create consultation sessions at key milestones over the next few months to ensure we hear from all cohorts.  Let’s continue to catch up and discuss the challenges of travelling during the global pandemic.

We would like to continue the momentum in our cohort while we wait for our voyage or global meet up. How can we do that – a regional meet up or online conference? We are missing an in-person connection. How will HB be involved in that, as it’s very hard to organise these things?

These are all things that we can discuss, and we’d love your feedback on how we do that and who would be interested in these types of options when we have our next consultation or in future engagement sessions.

I’m in HB7. Can we have a cost breakdown of the online only course?

The cost of the HB6 online program was US$5620, or AUD$7476 (at 6/4/22 but exchange rates fluctuate). The HB7 online program costs AUD$8900. There has been a slight increase to the cost due to the introduction of a paid faculty for the first time; there has also been a small increase in the overall technical and administrative cost of running a global leadership program.

Any growing, high value program requires investment.  Participant fees cover payment of faculty, payment of staff which comprises our first full-time CEO, part-time Program Manager, part-time Communications Manager, part-time Program Coordinator and part-time Program Administrator.  Fees also help cover ongoing engagement with our network – the Convergence.

Our board is voluntary and therefore unpaid for the considerable number of hours they provide governing our organisation as a newly formed non-profit organisation.  While we have moved to a paid faculty which we believe is an essential progressive move to recognise the skills and talent of our faculty, we continue to rely heavily on the generosity of our volunteers including the Convergence Steering Committee, and individual alums who helped contribute to projects such as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) project which would be challenging to implement without the generosity of volunteers contributing their time.

Homeward Bound is a growing organisation operating with a small, mostly part-time team with a tight budget. The funds received from program participants are essential to our survival as we receive small but important funding and in-kind support from committed sponsors and occasional donors. We invest all funds back into our program delivery.

We believe the Homeward Bound leadership initiative is a unique program which offers great value to aspiring leaders. The #TeamHB7 faculty consists of 11 global experts who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Homeward Bound initiative.  You can find their bios here.

There are so many other leadership programs available online and I really joined HB because I wanted to go to Antarctica. How is the Homeward Bound leadership initiative different from other programs?

Our 12-month virtual program is designed to enhance the leadership, strategic and visibility skills of participants, as well as build the understanding of and connection to science and collaboration (including science communication skills) as it informs what is happening to our planet. Every aspect of the program is geared towards ensuring that participants are equipped with the leadership skills to effect positive outcomes in their sphere of influence, as well as in the wider world.   It was created because of a passion to change the world and to help build the profile, participation and impact of women in STEMM.

We believe our network of more than 500 women is unique.  The Homeward Bound program is structured around our core ‘Streams’ of Leadership, Strategy, Visibility and Science. Supporting the four core streams is The Busara Circle, a group of eminent, experienced global leaders who support the program and share their unique experiences and wisdom of leadership with participants through a series of masterclasses, mentoring, and support opportunities. Members of The Busara Circle include the climate change policy expert and architect of the Paris Agreement, Christiana Figueres; Kenyan human rights activist and former President and CEO of Global Fund for Women, Musimbi Kanyoro; and Australian Indigenous leader Michelle Deshong, who is a representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

We also have a Wellbeing Team, who ensure a focus on psychological safety and wellbeing for participants.

On completion of the virtual program, participants join a deeply trusting, highly skilled and exponentially expanding network of women – who are committed, compassionate and ready to lead.

*These Q&As will be updated regularly and are available to all cohorts.

 

ANTARCTICA VOYAGES AND GLOBAL MEET UP UPDATE  

(MARCH 2022)


Is Homeward Bound going to Antarctica this year?

It is with great disappointment that we advise that we are unable to travel to Antarctica in 2022. After discussions with representatives of our partner shipping companies – Nobel Caledonia and Antarrply – they have recommended that we do not travel to Antarctica this year. This is entirely due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which continues to impact travel, particularly the cruise ship industry, creating considerable uncertainty and risk.

COVID-19 remains an international challenge and the highly contagious Omicron variant has posed significant challenges to the shipping operators. If any Homeward Bound participants, or crew, contract COVID-19 on arrival in Ushuaia or while onboard, there is a very high risk of an outbreak mid-voyage which would result in the immediate cancellation of the voyage and return to port. Any COVID-19 positive cases and close contacts would need to go into quarantine accommodation onshore, in Ushuaia, and the ship could only sail again provided no more COVID-19 positive cases were present among staff and crew.

Our voyages depart from the small Antarctic gateway city of Ushuaia in Argentina where there are no COVID19 PCR testing facilities. Antigen tests will not satisfy Antarctica cruise testing requirements. Additionally, there is limited capacity for anyone who needs to isolate in Ushuaia. There are also very limited medical facilities for those who may require hospitalisation. The shipping operators reported to us that quarantine accommodation is very limited and very expensive, and this is exacerbated in the popular summer season, when our voyages would need to depart, due to the influx of local tourists visiting Ushuaia.

The shipping operators have told us that as a result, many ships have had to quarantine their vessels with positive cases onboard. This has meant the voyage could not proceed until the entire ship tested negative and has resulted in the cancellation of at least one and often several of the next voyages in the recent season. The effect on operators has meant that some shipping companies have chosen to cancel their entire season of voyages to Antarctica. This is the case with our partner companies.

In addition to these challenges, several countries have increased travel restrictions due to COVID-19 and these restrictions change regularly according to COVID-19 infection numbers. As an international leadership program with a mission that includes ensuring that there is greater diversity at the global leadership table, we also must ensure that all our participants have no restrictions on their ability to join us on any future voyage to Antarctica.  Even if we could all get to Ushuaia at the same time, the Homeward Bound voyages would be made up of passengers from all around the world travelling together on a ship, which presents additional biosecurity challenges for our partner shipping companies.

It is very difficult to plan for everyone to be able to go on a voyage to Antarctica under these challenges so we must wait until it is equitable for everyone to travel to Antarctica. We are considering travel to Antarctica for the season commencing November 2023 – March 2024.

We understand and share your disappointment about this decision, however the safety and wellbeing of you, our people and partners is our utmost priority and is based on the recommendations of our shipping partners.

We don’t want to put anyone at risk. For all the reasons above, we have accepted the shipping companies’ recommendations that we don’t travel to Antarctica this season.

But aren’t other voyages going to Antarctica now?

Yes, and some have already cancelled due to COVID-19. Our shipping companies have advised us against a voyage in the 2022/23 season.

In January, Australia’s national science agency CSIRO cancelled their upcoming voyage of the research vessel (RV) Investigator, after a voyage participant tested positive for COVID-19. The positive result was returned prior to departure in Hobart, and all voyage participants were deemed close contacts and entered quarantine onshore for seven days.

Also in January 2022, a Norwegian cruise and travel operator had to cut short a voyage in the Antarctica region following an outbreak of COVID-19 on board the ship. The ship returned to port in Chile two days ahead of schedule. The same ship was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak in August 2020, when dozens of passengers and crew tested positive.

An Abercrombie and Kent cruise which sailed from Ushuaia to Antarctica in November 2021 had many challenges with COVID-19 prior to departure, which resulted in several people cancelling their $20,000 trips after testing positive to COVID before departure.

As you can see, it is a significant risk to you the participants, and to Homeward Bound, to embark on a voyage under the current situation.

There are some shipping companies which are operating from ports other than in Chile and Argentina, and in some cases, they are accepting tourists from only one country or region, such as New Zealand and Australia.

Other cruise liners departing from Ushuaia to voyage to Antarctica are reportedly asking passengers to quarantine for two weeks in the port city prior to departure.

Who made the decision not to go to Antarctica?

The Homeward Bound board comprising the original founders, alumnae, faculty and trusted advisers

made the decision at the most recent board meeting, after considering the advice from our partner shipping companies that we have used for our previous voyages to Antarctica and with whom we have ongoing relationships.

Why can’t we use another shipping company or leave from another departure point?

Given the global nature of this pandemic, the risks are not confined to a specific shipping company or departure point. Given the fact that our Homeward Bound community is located across many continents and countries, and the required international travel, the same risks may exist with other suppliers and locations. Again, our focus is on equitable participation for you all.

So, when may we be able to travel to Antarctica?

FOR HB5 and HB6 The earliest departure date will be during the 2023/2024 season (November 2023 to March 2024).

These are not guaranteed dates.

For HB7, as advised in the Homeward Bound Application Pack, an international meet up of this cohort will be confirmed when travel is safe and vaccine programs equitable. Due to global uncertainty, we have not committed to an HB7 voyage to Antarctica, and it is too early in the process to say when we may be able to travel and where a global meet up may take place, however, it is unlikely to be before 2023.

When will we receive an update about the HB5 and HB6 voyages to Antarctica, and the HB7 global meet up?

For the HB5 and HB6 voyages to Antarctica, we will continue to monitor the situation and at the latest, provide an update by March 2023.

For the HB7 global meet up, we will continue to monitor the situation and hope to provide an update by December 2022.

How much will the next voyage cost for the HB5 cohort? 

We entered a fixed cost contract with one ship, the Ushuaia during the HB5 program. Therefore, we do not anticipate changes to the cost of the voyage for HB5 participants travelling on this ship while the contract is in place.  However, we do not know how the pandemic and other global issues will impact costs such as international travel or travel insurance and these costs are covered separately by participants.  Homeward Bound will continue to ensure we offer the best value for money possible.

How much will the next voyage cost for HB6 cohort?

We cannot anticipate and do not yet know the cost of future voyages for other cohorts.  We also do not know how the pandemic and other global issues will impact costs such as international travel or travel insurance and these costs are covered separately by participants.  Homeward Bound will continue to ensure we offer the best value for money possible.

What about a different type of global meetup/intensive experience which doesn’t rely on Antarctica

While a future intensive experience is continually being investigated, we need to be mindful of our duty of care and fairness for all participants. Until COVID-19 restrictions and health risks are less of an issue, we can’t commit to this.

For HB7 cohort, the earliest date for a global meetup may be 2023 dependent on global restrictions.

HB still holds funds for my Antarctic voyage. Can I have a refund?

Anyone who asked us to hold their Antarctic voyage funds can request a full refund at any time. To date, most participants have not asked Homeward Bound to hold their voyage funds or have not paid anything towards a future voyage.

I have more questions, who do I send them to?

Please forward any further questions you may have to media@homewardboundprojects.com.au. We will respond to your questions; they will also be added to the HB website and will be frequently updated.

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