How we recruit for international aid work

A guide to the applicant experience for Red Cross Delegates.

Delegates work alongside our National Society partners and must respect and adapt to different cultures and work styles.

You could face highly challenging environments including disaster and conflict zones, where you must be able to operate and thrive.

The following may not apply to every delegate, deployment or location but is a useful guide for you to consider.

For information on applications, see our recruitment process.

Who is needed

Our delegates are everyday people doing extraordinary things in the most vulnerable regions of the world. They deploy in the immediate aftermath of disasters and crises; or to ongoing operations and post crisis environments to support recovery and rehabilitation; or work alongside partner National Societies on long term developmental projects.

Some examples of expertise include: clinical and public health professionals, engineers, architects, protection, gender and inclusion professionals, operations managers, and media and communications generalists. Australian Red Cross maintains a register of technical professions, but we only recruit to those where we have an identified gap.

Our delegates are required to be highly motivated and driven professionals who possess strong judgement, leadership and decision making skills, adapt quickly to new environments and who enjoy working in diverse teams. They thrive in uncertain environments, utilising their problem solving skills to find unique ways to support affected communities often with limited resources.

If you join our team you will discover a rewarding career with unforgettable experiences, grow in ways you could not imagine and be part of a Movement working with local communities to bring about change.

Our delegates support disaster and crisis operations coordinated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Emergency responders need to be prepared to deploy anywhere within 48 hours, with deployments typically lasting for 1 to 3 months.

Delegates on our register have recently deployed to provide support to the following contexts:

  • Midwifery, Ward Nurse, Public Health and Head Nurse - the Emergency Response Unit Hospital in the Al Hol Refugee camp in Syria
  • Operations Management, Public Health, Pandemic and epidemic preparedness, and Community engagement and accountability (across several locations including Beijing and Kuala Lumpur) - the COVID-19 global response
  • Protection Gender and Inclusion - the response to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas
  • Logistics Delegates - those affected by the earthquake in Albania
  • Humanitarian Analyst and Protection, Gender and Inclusion - the population movement operation in Cox’s Bazar supporting those that have fled Myanmar

Our delegates support the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in crisis response and rehabilitation.

These deployments are typically 6 to 24 months in duration, in areas experiencing or recovering from armed conflicts.

Recent deployments have included:

  • ICRC delegate working in Iraq or Ethiopia to contribute to ensuring humanitarian protection assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence or restoring family links
  • Detention delegate in Israel or Myanmar to ensure detainees are being treated with dignity and humanity, have access to appropriate healthcare and restoring family links
  • Water engineer in Ukraine, Libya or Myanmar to plan or restore access to clean water and ensure appropriate sanitation facilities are accessible to all
  • Anaesthetist in South Sudan to compliment a mobile surgical team to complete surgeries on weapon wounded and trauma cases
  • Teaching nurse in Pakistan or Lebanon to deliver quality patient care, training strategy and coaching programs usually within the emergency department or a Weapon Traumatology and Training Centre (WTTC)
  • Physical rehabilitation program manager in Iraq designing program strategies and policies while monitoring the humanitarian situation to ensure appropriate care, technical support and coaching is given within the rehabilitation centres through the country

Working across the Asia-Pacific region, our delegates support Red Cross Red Crescent National Society organisations by partnering with them in the specific areas they have identified as requiring development. This work takes the form of both of technical and generalist injects through the coaching and training of local counterparts to enable sustainable change.

These deployments are typically 6 to 24 months in duration.

Recent deployments have included:

  • Finance work to several national societies across the Asia Pacific
  • Logistics support to Tonga and Papua New Guinea
  • Water and sanitation (WASH) support in Kiribati
  • Cyclone Pam recovery in Vanuatu
  • Fresh water systems for remote communities in Timor-Leste

Are you ready to be an international humanitarian worker?

Working and living conditions in the field vary depending on the location, the type of deployment and the humanitarian circumstances. While deployed you may work without many of the comforts, support networks and basic infrastructure to which you are accustomed.

The following questions may not be true for every delegate deployment, but are meant as a guide to help in assessing your readiness to work and live as a delegate.

Red Cross work alongside staff from a range of cultures, ethnicities, and professional and personal backgrounds, operating respectfully and adapting to different cultures and work styles. They face unfamiliar situations, deal with ambiguous information and may be working without direct or readily available supervision and modern equipment. They may be required to work long hours for days or weeks at a time, especially in emergency situations.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Do I have the required professional qualifications and specialist skills as well as work experience relevant to the role to make a genuine impact (including  humanitarian work in a developing country, or with remote Australian communities or with displaced or vulnerable people)?  
  • Do I thrive when working in a multi-cultural environment and accept the challenge of adapting to different cultures and work styles? Can I work/live with people whose heritage, values, beliefs etc. are different from my own?
  • Do I set realistic goals? Can I handle failure as well as success? Can I stay focused on the tasks at hand when faced with many other unmet and compelling needs?
  • Am I self-motivated and able to work independently and make sound decisions without consultation, even in unfamiliar or ambiguous situations?
  • Do I enjoy working in a team, where I respect the role every member plays and operate cooperatively? 
  • Am I hardworking and driven with the resolve to work long hours on a continual basis, if required? 
  • Am I able to adapt quickly to fast-paced, changing environments? 
  • Am I able to live and work in locations that may not have access to the internet or phone connections, meaning communications with both line managers and loved ones may be delayed?

Becoming a Delegate will open up new opportunities for your career. If you’re currently employed, before joining the Register it’s worthwhile discussing with your employer what considerations and support you’ll need from them. In particular, being on the Delegate register may require you to be deployed on short notice as well as access to additional leave without pay each year.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Can I put my professional life in Australia 'on hold' on short notice? Am I willing to look for new work upon return or to be unemployed for periods of time while not on deployment?
  • Would my employer support my decision to take leave for 1, 3 or 12 months? Are my colleagues willing to make adjustments to their workload to accommodate my absence? 
  • Does my employer understand that I will need time to re-adjust upon my return, and that my perspectives on our work may shift? 
  • If self-employed, am I willing and able to risk losing business clients due to my absence or are there other contingency plans I must put into place? 
  • Are you looking for new ways to challenge yourself, build your career and learn new skills?

The environments in which delegates work are often demanding and can be stressful. Red Cross has a strong commitment to its duty of care. Considerable time and resources are invested by Red Cross to ensure delegates deployed internationally are appropriately fit and prepared for their destination.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Do I have strong mental and physical health that will assist me to withstand the rigours of a highly stressful environment and possibly isolated locations and/or poor living conditions?
  • Do I practice self-discipline in eating, exercise, and sleep?
  • How flexible and adaptable am I? Is a constantly changing environment a place that I can operate comfortably in?
  • Am I able to self-monitor my personal and professional stress levels and manage them accordingly?
  • Am I aware of the most effective techniques for me to manage stress such as physical exercise or confiding in colleagues?
  • If I am very reliant on physical exercise, can I be flexible and discover innovative ways to incorporate exercise into my routine in restricted environments?
  • Can I cope with new staple foods I would not ordinarily eat, but that may be the only food source available? Can I deviate from my regular dietary requirements?

Living situations vary depending on the deployment – you might find yourself in isolated accommodation or living in close quarters with a number of other people. In addition, you may be without the comforts to which you are accustomed. Security restrictions may limit where you can go, what you can do and when you can do it.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Am I comfortable living in isolated surroundings with very limited contact with others of a similar cultural background?
  • Can I live in shared accommodation in close quarters with others, especially considering climatic constraints such as prolonged rainy seasons?
  • How comfortable am I in situations where I may not be able to readily access the internet or contact my friends and families overseas?
  • How do I feel about living/working in areas where the security situation may change rapidly and new protocols may impact the ability to carry out your role?
  • Am I willing to follow strict security rules and regulations?
  • Can I adapt my daily routines to situations where my movement is tightly restricted?

Being a Delegate means you will be away from friends and family for extended periods, possibly with very little contact. You’ll be provided with many opportunities to make friends and meet new people to share your experiences with.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Can I put my personal life in Australia on hold to work overseas?
  • Am I prepared to have little contact with loved ones for extended durations?
  • Would my family, significant other, and/or close friends support my decision? Have I discussed this with them, what are their concerns and how would their reaction impact my decision?
  • Am I willing to accept a deployment without my family (partner, children or other dependants), and also accept that it may not be possible for my family or friends to visit while I am on deployment?
  • Am I good at staying connected whilst being away from those I love?
  • Do I enjoy meeting new people and thrive in environments with a diverse range of people?
  • Does my personal reason for wanting to work overseas in the humanitarian sector derive from a healthy motivation? Am I trying to escape from issues and problems that may be better dealt with by staying in Australia?

Working for Red Cross

As a Delegate is it necessary that you have a thorough understanding of the principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and the range of benefits you are entitled to.

All delegates must understand and commit to the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Crescent Movement and recognise that while on deployment they are a representative of Red Cross 24 hours a day and adhere to these principles at all times. This will mean putting personal, religious or political beliefs aside.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Do I have an understanding of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, particularly neutrality and impartiality, and of their practical application?
  • Do I have personal, religious, or political beliefs that might conflict with these principles?
  • Can I put my personal beliefs aside and assume the Fundamental Principles as my own at all times while on deployment?
  • Am I passionate about working for a values driven organisation with strong principles at the heart of its mandate?

Delegate deployments are not voluntary positions and accordingly delegates are paid salary and benefits while deployed. Each overseas deployment differs and the benefits you are entitled to will include:

  • Salary (determined by role grade, responsibility, seniority technical difficulty) as well as experience
  • Round-trip travel and transportation to the field (economy)
  • Required visas and work permits
  • Accommodation on deployment
  • Living allowance while on deployment
  • Travel and accommodation for briefing and debriefing
  • Health support (including vaccinations and medical repatriation)
  • Psychosocial support and access to specialist psychologists
  • Travel, medical and life insurance coverage
  • Superannuation for Australian residents
  • Professional development opportunities, networking, training and secondments
  • Access to Australian Red Cross Employee Assistance Program
  • Paid leave: depending on the contract type you may be eligible for paid vacation, paid statutory holidays, rest and relaxation leave in situations where conditions are particularly difficult, and return to Australia visits for extended deployments

This information is provided to give a general overview of the delegate compensation and benefits. The employment contract is the definitive source of any legal and administrative interpretation.

Our recruitment process

The Australian Red Cross recruitment process is rigorous and competitive to ensure we are recruiting high calibre professionals who are both able to operate effectively in challenging environments such as disasters and conflict zones and who have been screened and determined both safe and responsible. Given this thorough recruitment process, it can take approximately 6 months from advertisement to a candidate being considered available for international deployment.

Some developmental roles are advertised throughout the year as they become available so continue to check the current opportunities page.

Ensure that you carefully read the 'Are you ready to be an aid worker?' section of this page which is intended to help you identify if you believe you are personally prepared to undertake an overseas deployment.

In addition, carefully consider whether you meet the minimum professional requirements for the position as identified in the job posting. Only candidates with appropriate professional expertise, experience and personal competencies will be considered.

If you are interested in applying to become a Delegate, search for open roles on the Red Cross Current Opportunities page.

Please only apply for positions where you can clearly demonstrate you meet the required qualifications, experience and skills. For additional information, be sure to review the position description. When making an application, upload both your current CV and a statement addressing the Selection Criteria outlined in the job description.

Please be aware that some roles will be for deployments with the Australian Red Cross, while others will be for deployments directly with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), facilitated be Australian Red Cross. You can learn more about the differences here (ICRC) and here (IFRC).

Selected candidates will be contacted by a member of the Red Cross team to arrange a technical and behavioural competency-based assessment. The interview process may require you to participate in two interviews, an initial one-to-one followed by a panel interview. Alternatively, you may only be required to participate in one panel interview. Ideally, these interviews will be in person where possible, otherwise conducted via video.

After the interview/s, you may be selected to participate in an Assessment Centre. This is a one day Melbourne based group assessment that uses a variety of methods, including scenario-based and problem solving activities.

The purpose of the Assessment Centre is to gain more understanding about your behavioural and personal attributes, as well your professional experience in a group setting. This includes assessing you against competencies including interpersonal capacity, flexibility, judgement, decision making and team work. It is also an opportunity for you to ask questions, meet current and further assess whether a career in international aid is a good fit for you.

Following the successful completion of the Assessment Centre, you will be requested to complete a psychological assessment, which includes behavioural style testing and an in-person interview with expert psychologist. Psychological assessment is required for Australian Red Cross to understand your capacity for maintaining your mental health during deployment and identifying any specific vulnerabilities, which may pose a risk to your health and safety in the field.

Australian Red Cross will complete police checks for any country where you hold residency or citizenship as well as any country where you have worked and lived for a significant period within the previous five years. We will also check your professional registrations and obtain testimony from recent and relevant employers on your professional competency and behavioural capacity for working as a delegate. If you have indicated proficiency in additional languages, these will be professionally assessed online.

The final stage of the recruitment process will require you to successfully complete two intensive residential training programs, the first in field safety and security, and the second a general field induction program facilitated by either the ICRC or International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

These trainings are approximately a week in length and are often conducted overseas. The modules are theory and scenario based and are designed to prepare future Red Cross delegates:

  • To gain an understanding about the roles of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, and National Societies in times of disaster and conflict.
  • To review practical subjects such as strategies to manage personal stress, security protocols and cross-cultural awareness.

If successful, you will be notified of your appointment to the Delegates Register. Unsuccessful delegates will be provided with an opportunity to receive feedback.

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