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Our humanitarian sisterhood

On International Women's Day we want you to meet 10 great women we know.

Back in 1914, a trailblazing woman by the name of Helen Munro Ferguson stood up for what she believed in and inspired a nation to get behind her. That woman was the founder of Australian Red Cross.

Strong women have been the backbone of our organisation ever since. Every day we’re honoured to have the friendship and support of this humanitarian sisterhood. We know without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

On International Women’s Day, we want to introduce you to 10 of them. It’s not an honours board, rather these women stand for tens of thousands of others – our volunteers, members, staff, aid workers, supporters of all kinds – who are all making the world a better place. 

To all Red Cross women out there you are truly remarkable. Thank you.

Helen Munro Ferguson -The woman who begun it all. Helen set up Australian Red Cross in 1914, just nine days after the outbreak of WWI. She quickly turned the ballroom of Melbourne’s Government House into a workshop for Red Cross relief war efforts and rallied the support of women across the country. The daughter of a viceroy and governor-general’s wife, she was made Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. Find out more about our history.

Dorsa Nazemi-Salman - This Aussie aid worker is currently on assignment in South Sudan with the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose role is to help victims of armed conflict. South Sudan is in the grip of a civil war and the most dangerous place in the world for humanitarian workers – 28 were killed there in 2017. Multi-lingual Dorsa, who grew up in Iran, has also worked for us in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan. Meet more Red Cross aid workers in our How Aid Works podcast.

Judy Slatyer - Our present day CEO, Judy Slatyer (pictured on the left) drives strategy, ensuring we deliver on our mission of supporting and advocating the most vulnerable people. Judy, who spent eight years with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in Switzerland, has a passion for collaboration, innovation and empowered communities. “I struggle with injustice and unfairness in this world. I believe in the importance of inclusive communities, where everybody has a role and a place and feels part of something bigger.” Meet more of our leaders.

Ada Hanson - Ada is passionate about reconciliation and tackling racism, discrimination and disadvantage. Last year, this Ardyaloon woman helped coordinate a big reconciliation event in Kalgoorlie in Western Australian, bringing the community together to foster respect and understanding. Among her roles, Ada organises a holiday p​rogram for young Aboriginal people in the remote community of Tjuntjuntjara in the Great Victoria Desert and for at-risk Aboriginal young people in town. She currently works supporting young Aboriginal men to gain their drivers’ licence and increase their job opportunities. Find out more about our commitment to reconciliation.

Mali Hawkins - Mali has just been appointed our Tasmanian Director – most likely our youngest ever director. “The beauty of working with a not-for-profit is that you’re working with people who wake up every day to create a better world,” says Mali. “They choose to help people they don’t know, they have no real obligation to, just because.” The 34-year-old young leader, who has been a part of our team for six years, has a real passion for social enterprise – that’s using business models to help solve social problems. We can’t wait to see where her career takes her. Find out more about careers with Red Cross.

Dr Helen Durham - Helen has devoted her career to promoting the laws of war, laws which aim to protect civilians caught up in fighting and limit the weapons that can be used. “Every time there is a humanitarian pause in the fighting in Yemen and thousands of civilians get access to humanitarian assistance … this is the law of war in action,” she says. Her work has helped ensure that rape is now legally classified as a war crime. Helen currently works for the International Committee of Red Cross in Geneva as Director of Law – the first woman in this role and first Australian director. Find out more about the laws of war.

Jean Lang - Jean was 18 when she joined Red Cross and almost 80 years later she remains a staunch supporter. She is one of our 108 honorary life members. Jean’s done it all – from teaching children first aid and handicrafts to a stint in the Philippines during WWII to volunteering with the blood service. Add to that her time as local branch president and the staging of fundraising concerts and fashion parades at her home and you have a thoroughly amazing humanitarian. These days Jean, at 97, isn’t slowing down as she continues to be an active and committed member of her branch. Inspsired by Jean's story? Find out how to become a Red Cross member too.

Mary Edwards - Mary, who volunteers for us every week, is well known around our Adelaide office for her beaming smile. One of her colleagues says she brings a spark to the room. Mary, who has lived with a disability since she was a child and can’t walk, helps us with a raft of backend admin tasks that help us to deliver our services to people in crisis. She loves volunteering for the community spirit, comradery and friendship. Find out how you can become a volunteer too.

Loretta Bin Omar - Loretta, a Traditional Owner from the Nyikina nation, brings the strength of her culture to her role as our regional manager in Kimberley, Western Australia. She emphasises the importance of connecting Aboriginal children and young people with their culture and to be on country to support their health and wellbeing. Loretta’s roles see her providing culturally and regionally-specific support for our Kimberley activities, along with cultural competency training and guidance for our staff and volunteers. Find out more about careers with Red Cross.

Anne Carey - Nurse, midwife and aid worker Anne Carey has spent her life helping others; sometimes in extremely dangerous circumstances. Anne has been with us on the frontlines of the world’s humanitarian crises, from Sierra Leone, in the wake of an Ebola epidemic, to Sudan and Kenya. In 2016, Western Australia, Anne’s home state, named her Australian of the Year. More recently she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest honour a nurse can be given. Find out more about aid work with Red Cross.