Former Premier League stars Didier Drogba, Dwight Yorke and Park Ji-Sung are among an initial group of international footballers confirmed for an exhibition match in Sydney in May to aid in the country's recovery from devastating wildfires.
The first release of players for the 'Football for Fires' match, which will be played at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on May 23, will also include Emile Heskey, Dario Simic, Geremi, Pedro Mendes, Major League Soccer striker Dwayne de Rosario and former Juventus stars David Trezeguet and Claudio Marchisio.
Several Australian 'Socceroos' will also participate, including former Manchester United and Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, John Aloisi and recently retired captain Mark Milligan.
Football Federation Australia said in a statement Tuesday "all proceeds from the match will go toward the restoration and improvement of local football clubs and facilities in fire-affected areas nationwide."
The wildfires have claimed at least 33 lives in Australia since September, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed more than 10.6 million hectares (26 million acres). That's an area larger than the U.S state of Kentucky.
Eye surgeon James Muecke has been named the Australian of the Year for 2020 for his work preventing blindness.
Muecke was honoured by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an Australia Day ceremony in Canberra on Saturday night.
A South Australian who began his medical career in Kenya, Muecke in 2008 co-founded Sight For All, an organization that aims to deliver eye health care free of charge around the world.
Accepting the award he described type 2 diabetes, the leading cause of blindness in adults, as a "looming catastrophe for our health system."
"It's a growing epidemic and it's the biggest threat to our health system," he said.
"In 2020, I'm going to continue my fight for the right to sight."
However, he said that he would have 12 months to draw attention to the disease, instead using his speech to focus on Australia's bushfire crisis.
"The uncompromising bushfires that have swept through our country have left widespread disruption and heartbreak in their wake, and few of us remain untouched," Muecke said.
"Too many people have lost their lives, and the devastation of our landscape and iconic wildlife is beyond belief.
"And all of this on the back of the unprecedented droughts and floods that have tortured our beloved country and farming communities over the past few years - my thoughts are with all who've been affected."
Tennis player Ash Barty, who finished 2019 ranked number one in the world, was named the Young Australian of the Year for inspiring fans while obstetrician John Newnham received the Senior Australian of the Year.
Three U.S. firefighters were killed when a water tanker plane crashed while fighting bushfire in Australia, local authorities confirmed on Thursday.
The Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules Large Air Tanker, owned by Canadian operator Coulson Aviation, had been fighting a bushfire in New South Wales (NSW).
The plane had served in NSW for several years. The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said earlier it lost contact with the plane on Thursday. A flight tracking website showed that the flight path ended south of Canberra.
"Tragically there appear to be no survivors as a result of the crash," said RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, adding all three crew members were U.S. citizens.
"It's impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball," he said.
Although teams are continuing to search for the wreckage, with two out-of-control fires burning at emergency level, efforts to recover the downed aircraft have been largely hampered.
Gladys Berejiklian, premier of NSW, expressed her condolence to families of the deceased.
Large Air Tankers have the capacity to dump 15,000 liters of fire retardant in hard-to-access locations, allowing ground crews to create vital containment lines.
While firefighters have had some relief over the past week with heavy rain and cooler, more favorable wind conditions, on Thursday, temperature soared to over 40 degrees centigrade in some parts.
As a result, simmering fireground once again reignited.
"At 3:00 p.m. local time, there's 84 bush or grass fires across New South Wales State with nearly 40 yet to be contained," NSW RFS said on social media.
"Five fires are at Emergency Warning level. A southerly change is moving up the coast. It's not likely to reach places like Sydney until early tomorrow morning."
The smoke from one grass fire was so bad that Canberra Airport was forced to shut down, with all flights in and out of the nation's capital cancelled or severely delayed.
When asked about Thursday's plane crash, NSW Premier Berejiklian told reports that "it demonstrates the dangerous work currently being undertaken, and it also demonstrates the conditions that our firefighters are working under."
"There are in excess of 70 aircraft that have been used today alone. Today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, emergency services personnel undertake daily," she said.
The identity of pilots has not yet been revealed by authorities.
A mammoth clean-up has been underway since Tuesday after freak thunderstorms lashed Australia's east overnight, leaving around 30,000 homes without power.
Rolling through Canberra in the afternoon, the monster storm system that saw golf-ball-sized hailstones batter the national capital, continued further east as the evening went on hitting large parts of New South Wales (NSW), Queensland and Victoria.
According to the NSW State Emergency Service (SES), there were more than 800 calls for assistance overnight, with most coming from Sydney's southern suburbs.
"Predominantly it was for downed trees," NSW SES Director of Operations Paul Bailey told Sky News.
"But we also had a few very serious incidents where trees had fallen on cars with people in them. Those people were rescued from those vehicles and luckily they were not terribly injured."
"We also had a lot of leaking roofs because there was some significant wind associated with this storm and it did tear a few roofs off."
With gusts clocked at over 100 km per hour in some parts, dramatic vision uploaded to social media showed sections of roof from the Bringelly Village Shopping Centre in Sydney's west flying through the air and smashing into traffic on a main road.
In the Blue Mountains region, two males aged 16 and 24, were struck by lightning in separate incidents. They are both in a stable condition recovering in hospital.
Although the storm cells were extremely powerful, Bureau of Meteorology Forecaster Abrar Shabren told Xinhua that the inland troughs which caused the wild weather are actually quite common in the summer months Down Under.
"The usual weather pattern that we have at this time of the year, that's triggering these inland troughs which are developing moisture, forming convective clouds, and that's why we're seeing a lot of thunderstorm activity," he said.
Further north in Queensland, that thunderstorm activity brought a total of 44,000 lightning strikes, which left around 20,000 homes without power.
Likewise in NSW, electricity generator Ausgrid said, 14,000 homes lost power due to the strong winds, lightning and hail.
But on Tuesday morning, the company said, "less than 4,000 customers remained without power."
While the storm caused a huge amount of destruction resulting in 320 million Australian dollars (220 million U.S. dollars) worth of insurance claims according the Australian Newspaper, for some communities facing the threat of bushfires, the wet weather was a welcome sight.
In the first week of January, there were around 150 wildfires burning across the east coast, at the moment there are only 80.
Dust storms, hail and flash floods have battered beleaguered Australian cities in recent days, extreme weather that has diminished the threat from scores of wildfires that continue to blaze across the country's southeast.
A hail storm in the national capital Canberra on Monday damaged public buildings, businesses, homes and cars, cut power to some suburbs, brought down trees, caused flash flooding and injured two people, emergency services officials said.
To the west, a 300-kilometer (186-mile) wide cloud of red dust was carried by wind gusts up to 107 kilometers (66 miles) per hour and descended on the drought-stricken towns of Dubbo, Broken Hill, Nyngan and Parkes, local media reported. Much of the dust is top soil from New South Wales state farms.
"It's part and parcel of this record drought we've got at the moment," Dubbo Mayor Ben Shields told Nine Network television.
Hail struck Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, on Sunday and more hail storms are forecast to return. The city has been choked by smoke from distant wildfires in Victoria state in recent weeks.
Unusually intense storms over the weekend caused flash flooding in the cities of Brisbane and Gold Coast in Queensland state just north of New South Wales, where most of the wildfire destruction has occurred.
The fires have claimed at least 28 lives since September, destroyed more than 2,600 homes and razed more than 10.4 million hectares (25.7 million acres). The area burned is larger than the U.S. state of Indiana.
Widespread recent rainfall in New South Wales and Victoria have helped but have not extinguished major fires in Australia's two most populous states.
Authorities have warned the fire danger will escalate this week in both states with rising temperatures and drier conditions.