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Together as partners with the Goldfields community

Goldfields regional office opening 5 October 2010

Firstly, thank you all for being part of today's important event in the Goldfields. I would like to acknowledge the land that we meet on today as traditional Aboriginal land and we deeply respect the spiritual relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with their country. I also pay respect to the cultural authority of the Aboriginal Elders and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present today.

Red Cross is proud of the way our work on the Goldfields has grown enormously over recent years, but it is important to appreciate that we have a long and proud history in the region.

Red Cross has had a long and interesting relationship with the Goldfields region that dates back over 95 years to the First World War, when Australian Red Cross was first formed as a branch of the British Red Cross. When war broke out in 1914, a local mine manager Mr. Nicholas - donated his house in Dugan Street to Red Cross and this became the Kalgoorlie Red Cross Branch Headquarters.

Lady Deborah Vernon Hackett, a mining company director and welfare worker, was the first Secretary of the Kalgoorlie branch. Lady Hackett's biography describes her as 'unusual and an individualist from an early age'. She was educated at the Guildford Grammar School for boys and she spent much of her youth at Wallcliffe near Margaret River, exploring caves, riding and getting to know the local Aboriginal people. Despite family disapproval, at age 18 she married an Irishman, 40 years her senior and they had four daughters and a son, all of whom were particularly gifted. Lady Deborah Hackett worked strenuously for the war effort during World War I, for which the French government rewarded her with La Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise. In 1916 she wrote a book, The Australian Household Guide, which purported to contain everything that an Australian housewife might want to know! Profits went to charities and a second edition in 1940 again raised large sums for Red Cross.

The local Red Cross branch was very active and some of their early activities included setting up a returned service men's club in the Mackenzies Building to provide support for men returning from war and employing Infant Health Workers to conduct health appointments, provide clothes and other supplies. Between 1925 and 1933 the President of the local branch was The Right Reverend Edward Elsey, Bishop of Kalgoorlie!

In 1939 local church guilds and women's groups merged with local Red Cross groups to form 29 'Red Cross Circle' groups, who contributed to the war effort during World War 2 by sewing clothes and taking thermoses of soup, cold meats and salads to trainloads of returning soldiers, serving over 100 people each night for 2 to 3 nights a week.

Red Cross meetings and activities continued regularly throughout the 1950s and 1960s with significant funds raised for the organisation through the sale of handicrafts and other fundraising efforts. In September 1967, almost 43 years to the day, the Red Cross Kalgoorlie shop opened. Constance Dugan was our longest serving shop volunteer - she retired in 2003 at the age of 89 shortly before she passed away in 2004.

Red Cross local activities evolved over the years and by the year 2000 included the Red Cross Blood Service at Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital, the Red Cross shop with mobility equipment and infant restraint hire in Dugan Street, respite services for carers, volunteer visits for people living in aged care facilities, disaster preparedness and response services and the Red Cross Soup Patrol Service, which was established over 12 years ago in 1998 to provide a hot evening meal for disadvantaged and marginalised people in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

In early 2006, at a time when there was no regional office or locally based community services staff, the Soup Patrol Service was struggling to identify and retain a suitable part-time coordinator. With assistance from a colleague at the WA Council for Social Service in Perth, Barbara Hollin identified Kaye McLennan, an ex-primary school teacher who had worked in remote Aboriginal communities and understood community development processes, as someone who might be willing to travel to Kalgoorlie and stay for a few weeks to help recruit a local Soup Patrol Coordinator and make sure the service was well organised. Kaye loved the region and moved to Kalgoorlie where she worked for Red Cross for over 4 years and has only recently left us to take up the role of full time grandmother in Bridgetown. Not long after Kaye arrived in the Goldfields, work began on establishing our first breakfast program. We recruited a part time administration assistant and the staff worked out of a small room at the back of the Red Cross shop.

Breakfast programs began to expand, new sources of funding were obtained for a variety of healthy lifestyle and family programs and new projects commenced. We quickly outgrew our little office at the shop and moved to a larger office in Maritana Street. Our first local Aboriginal staff were employed during this period and the team and local portfolio continued to grow in size and scope. With the granting of the contract for the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program, we immediately outgrew our Maritana Street office and in late 2009 moved to 32 Lane Street, initially sharing the building with 4 local businesses before further expansion and development led to us moving into the whole building in 2010.
Working with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people

5 years ago, when I first joined Red Cross, we embarked on a comprehensive review of our organisation to ensure that we were working to assist those who are most vulnerable, disadvantaged and socially isolated in our community and to make sure we were relevant and appropriate in the ways in which we responded to local needs and engaged with local communities.

As part of our renewed commitment to supporting people in most need, Australian Red Cross is working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities - something to which I am deeply committed. As an organisation, we are steadfast in our commitment to employing local Aboriginal staff who know and understand their communities best, to help us work together to form true and lasting partnerships. Across Australia, Red Cross now has over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and in Western Australia, we currently employ 17 Aboriginal staff in our regional and remote offices.

We are also deeply committed to ensuring that our staff and volunteer teams represent the diversity of the regions in which they are sited and I am proud to say that our Red Cross Goldfields' team includes men and women, local Aboriginal people, people from other cultural backgrounds and a mix of older and younger staff.

We are also committed to increasing the reach of our offices and activities throughout Australia. Presently, we have offices in every capital city and in many regional and remote locations such as Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Broome, Derby, Kwinana, Bunbury, Port Pirie, Dubbo, Palm Island, Port Lincoln, Mount Gambier and of course here in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and we are actively working towards establishing a Red Cross office in Coolgardie, where many Red Cross programs and activities are taking place.

Our other commitment is that our engagement with Aboriginal communities will be long-term - when we are invited in by a community, we will be there for the long-haul. We are making long-term respectful commitments to work in genuine partnership with communities. We will also not directly compete for funding with Aboriginal-led organisations, but rather work to build partnerships and increase the capacity of communities and Aboriginal organisations.

As a national organisation, focusing our work on the most vulnerable people and communities in Australia and internationally, Red Cross has 7 strategic priorities.

These are:

  • Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Addressing entrenched locational disadvantage
  • Overcoming social exclusion by building bridges back into the community
  • Addressing the impact of migration
  • Strengthening national emergency services preparedness, response and recovery
  • Championing International Humanitarian Law
  • Increasing overseas aid and development
  • Our work in the Goldfields


So, today we are here to celebrate the opening of the new Goldfields Regional Office in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. This office epitomises Red Cross' commitment to working with the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged people in the community at their times of greatest need and provides facilities and space for staff, volunteers, community members, program participants and other local agencies and partners to work together.

As we have heard, the work of the Goldfields team is diverse and growing and reflects Red Cross' strategic priorities and its commitment to working in partnership. We are fortunate to have such a hardworking and dedicated staff team in the Goldfields and I thank them for all their hard work.

Much of our work in Red Cross is undertaken by volunteers and we have over 100 dedicated volunteers in the Goldfields, without who it would not be possible to provide many of our local community and retail services. Most recently, local Red Cross emergency services volunteers were quickly on the scene providing outreach support following the Boulder earthquake on 20 April 2010. Thank you to each and every Red Cross volunteer for the work you do in the region.

We are also indebted to our funders, donors and partner organisations, who make it possible for Red Cross to work in the region. In addition to our Federal and State government funders, Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital make and donate 7,500 litres of nutritious soup for us each year and help with the provision of the Soup Patrol Service, Pridmores Bakery donates tons of bread and we receive tremendous financial and in kind support from a range of local businesses and service clubs, including but not limited to Perseverance Drilling, the Gold Fields Foundation, bhp Nickel West, Rotary and the Freemasons.

This year, we are delighted to be receiving Royalties for Regions funding to enhance the facilities at our Goldfields regional office through the development of an Outdoor Learning Centre and indoor yarning rooms for participants and their families.

Thank you to all our funders, donors and supporters, including those members of the community who donate goods to the Red Cross shop, give blood and other products at the Red Cross blood service and give generously of their time and money to support our work in the region.

Once again, thank you all for being part of today's celebration and for your support of Red Cross within the Goldfields and more generally in Western Australia.

By supporting Red Cross as a volunteer, donor or staff member, you are all part of a global humanitarian movement which has as its mission the mobilisation of the power of humanity to improve the lives of vulnerable people.

Together we are helping to build a better world and I thank you all for your work as Red Cross people.