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Message from the Chief Executive Officer

Judy Slatyer | CEO, Australian Red Cross

I am immensely proud of how we have supported hundreds of thousands of Australians through one of the nation’s most difficult years.

The humanitarian crises created by the cumulative effects of drought, bushfires, floods and the pandemic this year have been devastating. We have not experienced such demand for our services since wartime.  

These are tough times. Millions of Australians are working hard to get themselves through. Many people who were just hanging on, have now fallen through the cracks. Red Cross is playing a critical role, walking alongside people who are struggling, so they can find their inner strength and next steps.  

It takes heart and soul, as well as capability and professionalism, to do great humanitarian work. Our Red Cross volunteers, members and staff have been remarkable, turning themselves inside out to be there for people experiencing vulnerability.  

It takes heart and soul, as well as capability and professionalism, to do great humanitarian work.

I see the effort that goes into supporting 102 bushfire evacuation centres in three weeks. I’ve spoken to our volunteers and members on the ground supporting their communities despite facing the same emergency. I’ve worked alongside our volunteers and seen the reports that they cumulatively volunteered more than 60k volunteer hours over the emergency period. I know of the heart wrenching conversations our volunteers and case workers have had with those impacted by COVID-19. And I know how we’ve all pivoted during the pandemic to make sure Red Cross can still reach people remotely when we can’t be there beside them. It takes a lot of planning, processing, comforting, providing and persisting.  

Thank you to all our Red Cross people for your incredible effort to get yourselves through this year; juggling home, family, caring responsibilities, lockdowns, stand downs and navigating these tricky financial times. While also doing all that you can to support others every day.  

CEO Judy Slatyer visits volunteers at the Bairnsdale Emergency Relief Centre in Victoria during the bushfires. Photo: Matthew Lynn

It takes a community to get through tough times, and the power of people’s goodwill has really shone through. From donations, to offering your house to someone who lost theirs, from checking on neighbours during lockdown, to donating blood, and so many more acts of kindness.  

The legendary Australian spirit continues to inspire with ingenuity and good humour. I’ve loved seeing Pub Choir become Couch Choir, and Jimmy Barnes giving concerts with his family from their loungeroom. I heard a farmer on talkback radio describe a proposed pandemic measure as “about as bloody useful as a screen door on a submarine”. Such wit and creativity makes me proud to be part of the Australian response.

The impacts of this year’s disasters and pandemic are far reaching and it is a long recovery for us in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

During lockdown I’ve enjoyed delicious cooking by my neighbours, and enthusiastic puzzle sharing. I’ve also experienced the deep sadness of not being with my loved ones interstate when they’ve really needed a hug. During the bushfires I felt the fear of losing a home on the NSW South Coast which has been precious to my family for many years. We were glued to the fire watch app, until the wind changed, saving our place by a mere kilometre. None of us are immune to disasters and we really are all in this together.  

The impacts of this year’s disasters and pandemic are far reaching and it is a long recovery for us in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. As we work together to contain the virus, and rebuild our economy, we also want to emerge from these crises as a stronger and better society.  

Supporting people to adapt and recover is what Red Cross does. We’re helping communities to build resilience as we all learn to live with COVID-19 and the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters too. We understand how critical our role is and we are focused on doing this work better than ever before.

I look to the future with optimism because we will not just go back to normal. We have learned so much about ourselves. We are focusing on how we can have the greatest impact and growing our role in critical areas like disasters and emergencies. We are working in new ways, building new partnerships, reaching people and places like never before, and understanding how our unique expertise can make the biggest difference for people who are experiencing vulnerability.  

I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together in the past year and over my almost five years as CEO. As I step down from this role that I have loved, it is wonderful to see that Red Cross is a stronger and more cohesive organisation. We have worked hard and faced many challenges.  Against all odds we came through this year in a stable financial position. We have a clear strategy focused on where Red Cross can do the best for humanity in the future. And we have staff, volunteers, members and a culture that makes incredible things possible.  

We share our strength to help communities thrive. Our work is our message of hope and love.  I am honoured to have been a part of this.