The fabric of Australian life — the sun-licked, outdoor way of healthy living that has drawn people to the continent for decades — is under assault.

The unprecedented wildfires that have killed at least 28 people, incinerated an area almost the size of England and blanketed cities with toxic smoke have also dealt a psychological blow to the nation. Many Australians dread that more of these extreme weather-driven catastrophes could threaten the fresh-air lifestyle for which the nation is famous.

"This is going to change the whole way we organize our lives," said Angela Rintoul, a 39-year-old health policy researcher from Melbourne who was stranded in the beach-side resort of Mallacoota on the southeast coast with her 17-month-old son, Rex, partner and parents when fire swept into town in the final days of 2019.