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Pivoting to stay present for people during the pandemic

Susan is an expert in virtual hugs. She and hundreds of other volunteers phone people who are socially isolated by the pandemic to let them know there’s a community they can lean on. Photo: Alex Hahn

The first cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) were reported on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan City, China. The World Health Organization subsequently declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide have been working to contain the spread of coronavirus and support those who are affected.

Since the pandemic began Australian Red Cross has connected with more than 200,000 people.

Support for people in quarantine

We worked with federal and state governments to support more than 65k Australians in quarantine and mandatory isolation with:

  • over 14.5k meals each month
  • over 126k calls
  • over 3.5k relief packages

Wellbeing calls and information

We made more than 201k calls to clients and supporters to check on people’s wellbeing.

Our public health messaging, and tips to stay well and look after others, was shared with thousands online and via social media:

  • over 1.2k listens of 4 podcasts COVID Collective on how to stay physically and emotionally connected.
  • 800 volunteers building an online support community
  • translated information into 18 languages

Support for people on temporary visas

We supported thousands of people on temporary or insecure visas.

  • We set up and began delivery of $57M in emergency relief ($50M of that for Victoria) to support more than 50,000 people with referral pathways for those needing longer term assistance, this work continues with the support of Governments and other organisations across the country.
  • Over 115,000 people accessed information on emergency relief funding
  • Over 13k applications
  • We worked with 19 organisations (eg Filipino, Sri Lankan & Nepali Associations, Anglicare, Foodbank, Second Bite, OzHarvest, councils) to support 5,708 people with food relief.

Donors making a difference

Internationally, we raised over $5M to support people in the Asia-Pacific and deployed six Australian delegates offering technical support to other national societies.

We raised just under $4.5M from corporates and major donors to support our COVID-19 response. We also engaged around 200 corporate volunteers and have formed a collective of corporates to build on this goodwill. Corporate partners include NAB, BHP Foundation, IAG, QBE, Accenture, Amazon and others.

Our people pivoted

Through this period, we supported our Red Cross people and ensured our organisation’s sustainability.

Within weeks we shifted 90% of our work to remote ways of working and stepped up work health safety and wellbeing measures. Delivered over 70 online sessions on topics from working from home tips, staff Q&As, to managing wellbeing. We supported collaboration with technology platforms like Microsoft Teams and RedTasker so our people can easily match any need with available skills across the organisation. And throughout, we have safely managed and communicated the ups and downs of restrictions.

We have shifted the whole organisation to reach more people virtually, to work flexibly and remotely, to establish and embed new systems, processes and controls.  

We had to make the difficult decision to stand down over 160 staff, primarily in our Retail stores and First Aid training, but we worked hard to stay connected and support them. Staff also chose to share the load by further giving to Red Cross through workplace giving, until our JobKeeper eligibilty was confirmed. 

We welcomed around 8,000 new volunteers and introduced new ways to engage including our Digital Advocates online community, encouraging peer-to-peer information sharing and the use of Instagram storytelling through RedXYouth.

We supported members to stay connected with virtual morning teas, exercise sessions, regular phone calls, writing letters, action kits, and live streamed Q&A sessions with our President and CEO.

We tackled revenue challenges, such as the closure of 170 shops, no face-to-face first aid or mental health training, no learner driver training, and reduced regular giving acquisition.

We have participated strongly in the highest level of advocacy, and in some cases, government decisions in relation to COVID-19, including membership on the Not-for-Profit Working Group to the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

At the same time, we’ve continued to support the people we were with before the pandemic, with particular focus on those socially isolated, in bushfire affected communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and people on temporary or insecure visas.

Learn more about our COVID-19 reponse »