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'Invisible' Australians suffer in silence

Wednesday March 1, 2006

The image of a woman barely surviving, injured and alone, for five days on just a few drops of fluid seems to belong in a news story about an earthquake or hurricane.

It doesn't. 87 year-old Mary from Adelaide was discovered on her kitchen floor 5 days after a life threatening fall in her home. Dehydrated, in pain and alone, Mary is one of a growing number of Australians who suffer in silence and are increasingly going unnoticed.

Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner makes no bones about his reasons for telling Mary's story. He wants Australians to embrace one of the organisation's Fundamental Principles - humanity, and he wants them to spare some cash to help Australians in need.

On the eve of Red Cross Calling - the organisation's major appeal for funds to support its work in Australia - Mr Tickner says that when you help Australian Red Cross, you are helping Australians who are in real need but at times are 'invisible' within even the closest of communities.

'In some areas up to 20 per cent of elderly and isolated people we call daily through our Telecross program, list the police as their first contact because they are utterly alone. As many as one in four kids would start school each day without breakfast if it wasn't for our Good Start Breakfast Club. And when bushfires or other natural disasters engulf our communities, Red Cross is there to support the emergency services and comfort the victims.'

Mr Tickner said that whilst Australians had given generously to a range of international appeals over the past year, support for local Red Cross activities was down and that the organisation was relying on Australians to log onto the web at, or phone 1800 811 700 to donate to support Australians in need.

'I hope Australians realise that there is a real, if often invisible need right here at home, and when you help Australian Red Cross, you help Australians.'

Australian Red Cross's Telecross program has already made a difference to Mary's life with a daily phone call to check on her safety. Early one morning in the months following her ordeal she fell again, but this time she knew she didn't have to wait long for the phone call and emergency response that would save her life.

'I thought, well this time, I can't get up, but they'll be ringing,' said Mary.

Australians are urged to donate by phoning 1800 811 700 or online at