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International leaders bring inspiration to Australia

Australian Red Cross inspired by the Movement's two international leaders at our Centenary Summit.

Saturday November 22, 2014

Left to right: Elhadj As Sy, Secretary-General IFRC; Robert Tickner, CEO Australian Red Cross; Yves Daccord, Director-General ICRC; Filipe Nainoca, Secretary General FIji Red Cross.

Over 500 Australian Red Cross members, volunteers, staff and supporters were inspired by the presence of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's two international leaders at our national Centenary Summit held in Melbourne on 21-22 November 2014.

We were extremely honoured to welcome to Australia both Mr Elhadj As Sy, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross societies (IFRC), and Mr Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICIC) to the Summit, to help us celebrate our 100th birthday and share their global perspectives.

To open the Summit, we enjoyed a gracious traditional welcome to country by local Wiradjuri Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Di Kerr, who embraced our presence on her country as a part of her journey. In a fitting tribute, she lit a smoking fire of green gum leaves that scented the room with a cleansing and healing smoke, to give life and energy for a new beginning, for our next 100 years.

Seven people who embody our rich cultural diversity brought to life our Fundamental Principles, followed by a rousing performance from a local Sudanese choir, part of the vibrant community of Sudanese refugees who have built a new life in Victoria.

Mr Elhadj As Sy, the IFRC Secretary-General outlined a powerful yet poetic vision for our global future, where each Red Cross person acts as a strong link in this universal chain of humanity.

He spoke about the realities of our shared humanity, paying tribute to aid workers in Ebola crisis hotspots in West Africa, where the public health systems are weakened by civil war. He reminded us that it is not always rich countries that respond to a major crisis, and that even the most sophisticated countries are still fragile, vulnerable to disaster.

From the dire needs of children living their whole lives in refugee camps, or people shamed by their reliance on food charity in Syria, Mr As Sy gave an impassioned commitment to always be there, ready to shift gears to respond and meet humanitarian demands where ever they arise, while respecting the humanity and preserving the dignity of those we help. He finished with an assurance to our Movement's young leaders that he and others will be by their side into the future.

ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord's insightful address highlighted the key drivers that will influence how Red Cross adapts in a rapidly changing world. Our beneficiaries face multiple issues and complex needs, all at once, and we must get better at responding to both the chronic and acute needs of those we help. The world is becoming more polarised, both in global political bodies and within countries, and we must be prepared to deal with emerging new political structures.

He reminded us that building trust in a war, in an environment where there is no trust, was a key challenge that Henry Dunant overcame to found Red Cross 150 years ago, and one we still face in future conflicts. His solutions were to maintain and reinforce our ambition to work in close physical proximity to people affected by crisis, along with moving to a more collaborative response, to so we can adapt to the changing, complex needs of our beneficiaries.

The two day Centenary Summit has been a powerhouse of ideas, with speakers and workshops living up to the promise to challenge and inspire Red Cross people to plan for our future and build the Red Cross that we will pass on to the next generation.

You can see highlights and full video transcripts of all our keynote speakers and workshops on the Centenary Summit website.