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Celebrating 100 years back where it all began

Australian Red Cross celebrated its 100th birthday, back where it all began at Melbourne's Government House.

Wednesday August 13, 2014

Left to right: Mrs Nonie Ryan, Honorary Life Member; Mr James McLaren, descendant of Dr JW Springthorpean attendee of the first meeting of Red Cross; Mrs Chernov, Victorian Patron and Michael Legge, President, Australian Red Cross.

Australian Red Cross celebrated its 100th birthday, back where it all began at Melbourne's Government House. Just days after the outbreak of WWI, the wife of the then Governor-General, Lady Helen Munro Ferguson founded Red Cross in Australia and transformed the ballroom of her residence into Red Cross headquarters during the Great War.

Victorian patron Mrs Elizabeth Chernov, and wife of His Excellency the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC Governor of Victoria, joined Red Cross to launch Centenary book, The Power of Humanity 100 years of Red Cross in Australia. Mrs Chernov also honoured 24 Red Cross branches that had given a century of service to Victoria and the nation. In her speech, she honoured the people of today and yesterday who have been there for Australians during their darkest hours, during wars, disasters and personal crisis.

President of Australian Red Cross Michael Legge in his speech spoke about how Red Cross' has endured over a century, responding to the critical needs of the day.

"The Australian Red Cross we know today has been shaped by adapting and responding to changing community needs. We continue to evaluate our everyday work: asking who most needs our help, and how we can best help them," Mr Legge said.

"Red Cross relies on generous public support to carry out our vital everyday work and so that we can be ready to respond to the humanitarian issues which lie ahead."

Professor Melanie Oppenheimer from Flinders University spent years researching Red Cross history for the book. Speaking with Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National, she noted the explosion in membership by the Second World War with 400,000 volunteers.

Professor Oppenheimer said: "It is amazing, up to 95% of the membership were women, almost one in seven Australians…Red Cross became part of a local grassroots community of people helping people and became part and parcel of the fabric of Australian life".

The Power of Humanity: 100 years of Red Cross in Australia spans our founding in war to our broad work in helping vulnerable people today. You can purchase it on our online Centenary Shop.