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South Australia celebrates 100 years

SA Red Cross Centenary celebrations pay tribute to volunteers

Thursday August 14, 2014

Marie Boyle
SA Red Cross Field Force member Marie Boyle serving during the Vietnam War (ABC 7:30 Report SA Edition)

South Australian Red Cross commemorated the Centenary by paying tribute to the legacy built by generations of members and volunteers.

One such local hero was Marie Boyle, who was posted overseas with the Red Cross Field Force during the Vietnam War. Marie was caught in the horrific surprise attacks now known as the Tet Offensive in 1968. In an ABC 7:30 Report interview she describes her varied duties in Vietnam, from working in military hospitals to buying engagement rings for Australian servicemen returning home.

Marie's involvement with Red Cross began decades earlier, helping her mother with the women of the rural Peterborough branch to feed soldiers travelling through the local train station during WWII. Marie says her mother, who was still volunteering for Red Cross when she died at 87, was her inspiration to get involved.

Historian and author Prof. Melanie Oppenheimer from Flinders University spent five years writing the Centenary history of Red Cross, The Power of Humanity, 100 years of Australian Red Cross 1914-2014. She was inspired to tell the rich vein of stories of women's active participation, including that of her own grandmother Mrs Nancy Nivison, who served as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid in WWII and travelled the Pacific on the naval carrier HMAS Glory to help repatriate sick and wounded ex-prisoners of war.

Melanie Oppenheimer joined more than 100 Red Cross supporters at a Centenary reception hosted at Adelaide Town Hall by Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood, who praised Red Cross for the profound difference it makes to the world, acknowledging the important role that volunteers play in the City of Adelaide. He referred to Adelaide's newly upgraded oval saying that, 'the heroes aren't kicking footballs and swinging bats. Those who dedicate their lives working to help others and those who volunteer, they're the real heroes'.

Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner outlined the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's beginnings, speaking of the ideals promoted by our founder, Swiss Businessman Henry Dunant, after he witnessed the horrific Battle of Solferino in Italy in the nineteenth century. Those ideas went on to form a worldwide network of volunteers who provide indiscriminate care and humanitarian relief to people in need.

Among the guests were direct descendents of Henry Dunant, Clare Shee-Houlmann and her son Chris Shee. Henry Dunant was her Great-Great-Great Uncle, and she said it "felt very special to be related to a man who made such a difference to the world".

Melanie Oppenheimer closed the proceedings saying it had been a great pleasure writing the history of Australian Red Cross - an organisation that is in her blood too. "I'd like to thank all the members, volunteers and staff who support Red Cross day in and day out. This book is for you."

You can purchase a copy of the book online.

Visit our Centenary website to find out ways to get involved read some of our Centenary stories.