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Strength in the face of tough times

Building resilience and skills to overcome adversity.

An app where I can connect with mum, family, my boyfriend, and say ‘Hey guys help me out’ is a huge step, especially when you’re in the worst headspace.
— Bec, disability support worker and user of our new My Team app

When your mental health is low, reaching out for help is especially hard. That’s why Bec volunteered to user-test My Team, an app which helps you create your own mental health support team. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Alex Hahn

With the right support, people can find their inner strength and overcome the toughest circumstances. This year we’ve helped people build their skills, connect with their communities and find the support they need to overcome the tough times they are facing.

With this inner strength, people are facing homelessness and personal crises head on, communities are banding together to tackle problems and people who have just arrived in Australia are building new lives.

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

Connecting to community to overcome adversity

This year more than 35,000 people were given strength to help them face their challenges. From the 1.1 million phone calls and 40,000 visits that reminded people someone cares; to the 5,664 times our advice and support gave hope to people facing homelessness.

There was a new form of support for approximately 8,000 people facing mental health concerns too. This is how many times the My Team app was downloaded in the first eight weeks after it launched at the end of April 2019.

The My Team app was built with people who have lived with mental health concerns and allows a person to track their mood and build a team of supporters to reach out to when times are tough.

We made 1.1 million calls to people living alone.

As well as providing direct, everyday support to people, we worked to secure partnerships and funding to address the issues that lead to social problems in the first place. We were founding partners in the Constellation Project (along with PwC, Mission Australia and the Centre for Social Impact) – a major cross-sector initiative aiming to address homelessness within a generation.

We also continued our advocacy to ensure people who are ineligible for NDIS are still supported as the system rolls out across Australia.

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples finding their strength

This year we had to take a step back to focus on critically examining what the role of Red Cross should be in helping to address young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' wellbeing.

To help this deliberation we ran two co-design projects, one in Broom and one in Darwin. With input from local, young people, to identify potential solutions to the problems they were facing. Both projects made it clear that the role of Red Cross should be to support existing Indigenous-led organisations who are better placed to deliver and drive results for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and communities. This work has now put us in a position to define what this role will be and start establishing partnerships to build solutions.

Giving migrants support to rebuild their lives

This past year, to address urgent humanitarian needs across Australia, we provided direct support and assistance to over 13,000 migrants from 125 different language groups who were experiencing vulnerability. This included newly arrived refugees, families separated by conflict, disaster or migration, people seeking asylum, and people in immigration detention, on and offshore.

We saw a significant increase in our support for people who have been trafficked, as we scaled up awareness of trafficking indicators for Red Cross people, first responders and regional communities. We rolled out a pilot support program for those at risk of facing forced marriage, without the need to engage in the criminal justice process and, thanks to the Humanitarian Settlement Program, we worked with partners, refugees and local communities to support 3,327 newly-arrived refugees to settle and thrive in WA, ACT and regional NSW.

We saw an increase in complexity and sensitivity of request for assistance in finding family members, in particular, those impacted by conflict in Syria and Iraq, including the Yazidi community.

We also saw an increase in people seeking asylum falling through the gaps. Reduced eligibility for government support (including income and support services) resulted in more people presenting to Red Cross with extreme needs and at greater risk of destitution. We supported 1,044 people through our emergency relief program, providing direct assistance and casework support.

We helped 3,327 newly arrived refugees to settle and thrive.

Given this context, we worked directly with clients, communities and partners in a co-design process. Together, we created the employment focused Connect, Match, Support to ensure people who can work are able to support themselves, and Project Safety Net to improve our approach to emergency relief and casework. This safety net is for people facing the most difficult of circumstances – often with no government support.

To do this work we significantly increased our collaboration and partnership across the sector, which means the whole sector is now better placed to address needs and advocate for people seeking safety who are at risk of destitution. In addition, directly and in collaboration with sector partners, we secured increased funding from State Governments and corporate partners to provide support to people seeking safety with no access to government or other mainstream supports.

To build a more inclusive society, we engaged over 25,500 community members, school children, young people, workplaces and migrants themselves, through social cohesion and leadership activities, such as our schools education program In Search of Safety, youth leadership and orientation programs, and awareness raising of modern slavery in regional areas.

Communities overcoming their challenges together

We continued our focused work in 10 communities in Kalgoorlie in WA, Tiwi Islands, Katherine and Daly River in the NT, Woorabinda in Qld, Kempsey and Wallaga Lake in NSW, Horsham in Vic, Bridgewater in Tas and Ceduna in SA.

In these communities, Red Cross is using a ‘place based’ approach. This brings people and stakeholders from a town or location together to work on understanding the problems they face. Together they work to find solutions based on that community and the strengths within it. Each location has now set Community Development Indicators specific to their location and they have all now identified how they will measure progress, including establishing benchmarks and baselines.

In practice, this has seen Ceduna open a community hub with a range of services located in one space, providing connection and support through 14,111 visits over the year. Their work is heavily focused on reducing indigenous incarceration rates.

In Katherine we focused on building the justice reinvestment group to strengthen community and, in turn, reduce crime and incarceration rates for children and young people.

201 families were reconnected or discovered the fate of their missing loved one.

On the Tiwi Islands, the community is working to help people affected by changes to mental health support and, with the Tiwi Skin Group, there has also been a focus on creating a safe community and combining culture and education. The group have been delivering an activity in the local primary school, based on the “Tiwi Cultural Model”, using dance and Tiwi language. This helps primary school students learn self-awareness and respect and, in turn, it is creating a better community environment with the children at the heart.

In Kempsey, cultural camps run by local volunteers have been in huge demand from young people enthusiastic to get back to country. The camps provide a welcome diversion for the young people. The Kempsey team is also operating a gym where young Aboriginal people can access informal mentoring and participate in health and fitness activities.

Justice systems that make our communities stronger and safer

This year we succeeded with others in reaching our advocacy targets with three state/territory governments (the ACT, SA and the NT) all making commitments to reduce incarceration rates. In addition, a justice and family violence target has been introduced to the Close the Gap framework. In addition, a total of $1.6 million in new funding has been secured for justice reinvestment work to reduce incarceration and the impact it has on people committing less serious offences.

Alongside our advocacy, our programs in this area have expanded and reached 15,469 direct clients with many more attending sessions we ran. This work aims to support people who have been in contact with the justice system; from supporting young people at risk, to mentoring programs for people after release and health and wellbeing programs within prisons.

Our Community Based Health and First Aid program sees inmates recruited as volunteers to improve prison health and safety. The program runs in prisons in NSW and in the past year expanded to Qld and WA. In the past year there were 46 active volunteers across the NSW and Qld programs with WA now ready to start recruitment. The volunteers work collaboratively to identify and address issues within the prison community and at the same time build skills that will be with them beyond prison.

What we learned

The impact of technology on Restoring Family Links

Digital technology and access to mobile phones has rapidly changed the situation for people separated from loved ones across the world. It means that the cases Red Cross now sees are more complex and often more difficult to resolve. And it means we need to work harder to ensure we are providing the Restoring Family Links services to those who do not, or cannot, reach out as easily.

We need to expand access to Red Cross for new and emerging communities in Australia. We will need to harness technology and the broader presence of Red Cross to increase our impact and ensure we address this critical vulnerability in Australia and the region. We are already engaging with the Movement globally to develop and roll out new technology to support people who are looking for loved ones, such as Trace the Face, which has resulted in a number of successes for separated families for people in Australia.

In the past year we supported 1,084 families who had lost contact with 2,348 loved ones. We provided 129 Red Cross Messages, responded to 1,111 hotline enquiries and helped 201 families reconnect with missing loved ones, or discover their fate.

I feel like the times are changing. We can follow all the hopes we have and start planning a life to build.
— Sayeed, Red Cross emergency relief client

When enterprising, hardworking people are trying to make ends meet, every bit of help goes a long way. Sayeed says the emergency relief he received from Red Cross throughout his immigration journey gave him hope. Now he and his wife are in a position to build a new life for themselves. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Aysha Leo