Australian Red Cross speaks with its new Ambassador, Dr Munjed Al Muderis.
Interview transcript, June 2015
Q: What inspires you to support Red Cross?
"I have always wanted to be part of an organisation that is purely devoted to humanitarian purposes and has no financial benefits. Red Cross is one of a handful of organisations that is completely neutral and not for profit, with no political agenda. There's nothing better than Red Cross for that.
Q: When did you first become aware of Red Cross?
"That goes back a very long time ago. I first became aware, unfortunately, in a time of crisis that I had with my family.
"I remember when the Iraq war started in in 1980 my father decided to go back to Iraq, as we were in America. As we were flying from Athens to Baghdad, the airport was bombed and had to be closed, so we were diverted to Amman. Jordan back then was not prepared to receive large numbers of Iraqis returning back to their country or leaving their country. The first time I saw the Red Cross emblem was in Amman airport because they were helping to move people into buses, organising people going back to Iraq by road. That was my first memory of Red Cross.
"As the war continued I became more aware of Red Cross' involvement especially with prisoners of war. It happened that several members of my direct family were prisoners of war, my cousin was a prisoner of war, and letters were sent through Red Cross from him to us and from us to him.
"When the war finished and prisoners of war were exchanged Red Cross played a big role, from my memory, to bring those prisoners of war back home.
Q: What is the main way you want to support Red Cross as an ambassador?
"My personal hope is that my involvement will be in two ways.
"I am keen to serve in the capacity of a surgeon in times of disaster. Red Cross is well known as the first in the field in any kind of disaster, regardless of how dangerous the situation is, anywhere in the world. I would love to serve in this capacity.
"In another capacity, I am a refugee, I sought asylum in Australia and I have my personal experience when it comes to facing troubles with the regulations and rules in Australia. I am very passionate about enlightening people about the facts of people seeking asylum in Australia and around the world, especially as this is a disaster we are going through right now.
"We have massive numbers of people displaced from their homes and it is the largest displacement since after World War Two. As we speak today in 2015, we have 59 million people displaced, and more than half a million of them are in urgent need of placement.
"I strongly feel that as Australians living in a first world country we have a duty of care toward our fellow humans. There is a lot more that needs to be done because this could be anyone, it could be us at some time. If we think we are remote and far away from disasters we need to think again because disasters can happen in Australia. We should not be complacent that, because we are far away, it's not our problem.
Q: Can you share one story that explains your desire to support Red Cross?
"I have a few personal experiences, unfortunately, and I wish that others would not have the same experiences. People deserve to live in a peaceful environment and this was not the case with myself. I lived through the war with Iraq and Iran and the war between Iraq and the Coalition, and they were tough times.
"After that I was a refugee myself, I am a refugee, as I had to flee Iraq and seek asylum in Australia.
"I spent 10 months in Curtin Detention Centre, one of the most notorious incarceration places on earth, where I was called by a number for eight months, 982 was my number. Things should be better nowadays in the 21st century, people should not be treated the way they are treated as refugees in Australia or around the world.
"I hope I will be a small piece in the puzzle, be part of the solution. It is a major problem but if everyone says it's not my problem, it's someone else's problem, then there will be no solution.
"We all have to participate in the solution and I feel I have a duty to do that.