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Goal 4: Overcoming adversity

Connecting people to their own strengths and to each other.

Getting her driver’s licence is just one of the huge changes Paula’s made in her life – but it means she no longer has to walk across town when she’s going to work. Our Learner Driver mentor program helps people overcome administrative barriers and build the skill and confidence to drive. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Amelia Wong.

Goal: Improve the wellbeing of those experiencing extreme vulnerability

500,000 Australians are connected to and supported by the community to overcome their deep social exclusion

The wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has improved by 20%

Migrants in transition have their humanitarian needs met and are participating in and included in Australian society

There has been a 50% improvement in community determined indicators in up to 20 of the most vulnerable communities in Australia

Australian governments are directing into justice reinvestment at least 50% of savings delivered by a 10% reduction in Australian prison numbers

With the right connections, we saw many of our clients take great steps to overcome challenging circumstances, homelessness and crises both personal and external.

Many of our services were impacted by user choice reforms and changes to the eligibility for government support for people seeking asylum. 

We are now going beyond the delivery of prescribed services, seeking solutions based on the unique strengths, attributes and challenges of people and their communities. These solutions are designed by people with lived experience of issues such as mental illness, homelessness, discrimination and social isolation. 

Connecting individuals to community

While we made 1.1 million phone calls, over 40,000 home visits and 57,922 car trips to medical and social appointments, we also addressed the barriers that lead to deep social exclusion. 

We advocated with government to ensure people with mental health concerns were not left behind in the National Disability Insurance Scheme reforms, with increased funding now committed to continuity of support.

We also worked directly with the people affected by the system changes, co-designing new supports. Once tested, the concepts will help people build a team to provide the right support, find a welcoming space to connect, and to give back and support others with their experience.

We also started a new partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mission Australia and the Centre for Social Impact to collectively work to address homelessness.

Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 

Young people in Broome and Darwin are working with us to design new ways to support youth wellbeing. Everything is grounded in a connection to country and culture. In Broome, bush camps are a way for young people to go on a healing journey. In Darwin, we are focussing on young people in contact with the justice system, given 100% of young people in youth detention in the NT are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

We also support the Family Matters campaign, a national initiative to break the cycle of child removal from their families, which is at 10 times the rate of other children.

Within our own organisation, we’ve been building a ‘cultural ladder’ – our capability and practice to partner with First Nations people, organisations and communities. We established a policy to not compete with Indigenous organisations for funding, but partner with them and strengthen capacity where appropriate. 

Rethinking justice 

With partners across the country, we’re working to prevent vulnerable people from going to prison unnecessarily; and support people who have been in prison to build productive lives afterwards. This year, we:

  • piloted three programs reaching hundreds in prisons and with sentences, providing volunteering, mentoring and peer-support opportunities
  • expanded our Learner Driver mentoring program to South Australia, NSW and Tasmania to help prevent unlicensed driving offences
  • trained people in two Victorian prisons to provide health and nutrition training to their peers 
  • commenced justice reinvestment pilots in Port Adelaide (SA) and Katherine (NT), bringing stakeholders and community leaders together to identify community solutions to crime
  • provided support to a justice reinvestment trial in Bourke (NSW) 
  • held a forum with government, service providers, academia, corporates and donors, on barriers to employment for people who have been through the justice system. Three concepts were designed and are now being progressed
  • provided a submission to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT, with follow-up advocacy with the NT Government. 

Unique solutions for each community

Our ‘place-based approach’ recognises that every community has unique character, strengths, assets and challenges. And every community drives the changes it wants to see. 

This year we worked with communities in Kalgoorlie (WA), Tiwi Islands, Katherine and Daly River (NT), Woorabinda (Qld), Kempsey and Wallaga Lake (NSW), Horsham (Vic), Bridgewater (Tas) and Ceduna (SA). 

Each community is making progress at its own pace. Katherine is training its community leaders in mental health; Ceduna now has a community connection hub; and in Kempsey, young people are connecting through after-school clubs, backyard gyms, boxing programs and connecting with Elders. A new Skin Group was created as a governance body for our partnership in Tiwi Islands, while in Woorabinda the governance group matured to become stronger.

To support these communities on their journey, Red Cross is facilitating Harwood innovation training across all locations. 

Mohammed and Salwa’s backyard is a testament to a life rebuilt from nothing. The couple fled Aleppo as the Syrian conflict escalated, losing a thriving business and farm. Four years on, they’ve built a happy, productive life in Victoria. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Briana Carroll.

Helping vulnerable migrants thrive 

Our commitment to support people seeking safety has never been stronger. This year, we supported more than 20,000 migrants experiencing vulnerability.

With our partners in the sector, we:

  • supported 5,102 asylum seekers living in the community, and helped 1,378 newly arrived refugees to settle and thrive in Australia 
  • searched for 2,189 missing people and resolved 213 cases, reconnecting families
  • supported 2,342 people facing destitution with emergency cash, grocery vouchers, transport cards, casework and referrals 
  • supported 698 refugees settling in Australia to feel welcome, supported and able to thrive 
  • supported 98 people from 25 countries who had experienced trafficking and labour exploitation.

We also:

  • made 37 visits to immigration detention facilities in Australia, conducting 1,655 in-depth interviews with people in detention and supported the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit people transferred to Nauru and Manus Island
  • helped Asia-Pacific Red Cross Red Crescent partners to plan for and support vulnerable migrants as they move through the region
  • worked with Red Cross Red Crescent partners to influence policy in countries of origin, transit, destination and return
  • provided recommendations to government on responses to forced marriage, conditions in immigration detention, Australia’s Humanitarian Program, visa frameworks and the Modern Slavery Act. 

Working towards an inclusive Australia

We continued to advocate for the humanitarian needs of people seeking safety. This year, we:

  • delivered In Search of Safety and Community Conversations programs to 19,738 people, increasing understanding of why people seek asylum
  • released the Falling Through the Gaps report and networked and advocated to deliver better housing, employment, and social supports for people facing destitution 
  • researched labour exploitation and forced marriage, using the data to guide our work, train our teams, inform the community and advocate to governments
  • successfully advocated for unconditional government support for all forced marriage clients for 110 days, regardless of age and without engagement in the criminal justice process.

What we learned

One chapter ends, another begins

Red Cross’ contract to deliver the Status Resolution Support Service for people seeking asylum came to an end this year. It was a difficult time for us, as we helped almost 3,000 clients move to new service providers and farewelled valued, extraordinary staff members around the country.

Our commitment to migrants in transition hasn’t changed – but we need to find new ways to resource it. We are now redesigning our migration support programs around the country, with a greater emphasis on helping people with no other support to avoid destitution and find meaningful employment. We’re maintaining our focus on reconnecting families, helping refugees to settle in Australia, and supporting those affected by trafficking, forced marriage and labour exploitation.

New partnerships with corporates, individual donors and state governments will guide this work. Even as we plan for the future, we released a look-back at our first 25 years of supporting people seeking safety in Australia.