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We all have a responsibility to help in a crisis and it's what we do before that will truly make the difference

Opinion piece by Robert Tickner, CEO, Australian Red Cross, as published March 2007.

Australian Red Cross has been responding to disasters and crises at home and overseas for over 90 years. We help families separated by war, conflict or natural disaster, people fleeing from bushfires, elderly people living alone, teenagers in drug or alcohol-related emergencies, children who miss out on breakfast or someone in need of first aid.

We've been responding to the needs of the community for many years and are constantly reassessing where our efforts should be targeted.

We pride ourselves on being able to respond quickly and efficiently to a crisis almost anywhere across the country. This was highlighted during Cyclone Larry which struck northern Queensland on 20th March last year. With our network of trained staff and volunteers, we were able to establish evacuation centres, conduct outreach visits to those still in their homes and assist Queensland Police in re-connecting families who were separated during the crisis.

While this kind of disaster relief will always be a vital part of our work at Red Cross, we are also focusing increasing efforts on disaster preparedness, working with people so they can cope with a crisis when and wherever it may strike, and disaster recovery, helping communities and individuals to recover over the longer term.

Another area Australian Red Cross intends to contribute to is that of community education. By identifying opportunities to complement the work of a range of other agencies already involved in this area the aim is to develop and foster community capacity and resilience.

In addition, Red Cross is aiming to have longer involvement with communities that have experienced large-scale disasters, instead of just being there in the immediate aftermath. By working closely with those local communities and key agencies, we hope to contribute to the management of immediate needs and spearhead longer term initiatives to help the community towards a sustained recovery.

We're seeing a significant change in the way both natural and man-made disasters are evolving, and Red Cross is determined to adapt and respond as effectively and efficiently as possible, drawing on our extensive experience both at home and overseas and the expectations people have of the Red Cross.

However it's not just the large scale disasters we need to focus on.

Every day, there are Australians faced with crises of their own, and Australian Red Cross is there to help those families and individuals as well.

You might never hear about those emergencies but new research specially commissioned by Red Cross has revealed that ten per cent of Australians--or 2 million people--have felt isolated and at risk of harm at some time over the past five years.

A staggering eight per cent--or 1.7 million people--said they had no-one to turn to in their local area for essential support if affected by a crisis or emergency.

Whether it's a young person facing a drug or alcohol related emergency, someone alone and isolated in their home because of illness or injury, or someone unable to get to a hospital or clinic for treatment, Red Cross wants to increase our capacity to deal with emergencies--both large and small--and we rely on your support to do so.

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