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An active humanitarian movement

Supporting people taking action and creating connections

Alex (left) spent his first volunteering shift packing cars full of care-packages to deliver to Victorians in mandatory self-isolation during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Red Cross was responsible for coordinating the logistics of the state-wide deliveries, in partnership with Foodbank. Photo: Alex Hahn

While bushfires and the pandemic have challenged us, they have also inspired the humanitarian spirit and connected people with Red Cross and our mission.

In the past year, we’ve reached people and places like never before, and we’ve recruited thousands of new people to our cause.

Goal: Build an inclusive, diverse and active humanitarian movement based on voluntary service

2.5 million people, reflecting the diversity of our community, take voluntary humanitarian action with us to help others

50% (of 2.5 million) are self-organising and leveraging our knowledge, expertise, and evidence to advocate for and help others

Australians trust and respect Australian Red Cross

More people discovering the power of humanity

By year end, over 2.3M people were engaging with Red Cross and taking humanitarian action, demonstrating the breadth of the network behind our movement.

One of the key drivers for people joining with us was to be there for others. We found new approaches for supporting people’s wellbeing through the pandemic. We distributed 3.8k kits for people in hotel isolation in SA, NSW, WA and QLD. We also, in partnership with the Football Federation Australia, developed a kit to support children returning to community soccer after pandemic restrictions.

Volunteer and Mallacoota local Ann Thoroughgood enjoying a local ceremony held to commemorate the efforts of all involved with the bushfire emergency in January 2020. Photo: Commonwealth of Australia/Department of Defence

Digital platforms were vitally important for engaging young people during the pandemic. We had young people using Instagram TV to develop projects and share information. There were 7.5k followers for our REDx Youth channels and 923 people became Digital Advocates on Facebook, sharing factual information and focused on peer-to-peer support and connection. Across all our platforms, over 3.5k young people actively participated and engaged in activities through the year.

We created a Good Humans campaign that showcased the everyday humanitarian actions young Australians are taking in their communities. The campaign reached 3.2M people, with 17k engaging and interacting with us online.

Humanitech, our ‘think and do tank’ putting humanity at the centre of emerging technology, was soft launched at SouthStart, Adelaide in November 2019 and we signed a seven-year industry partner agreement with the RMIT-led Centre of Excellence in automated decision making and society.

Bushfires research

In February and March, Swinburne Social innovation Research Institute reviewed community-led responses to the Australian bushfires and published the “Everyday Humanitarianism” report. The research showcased the activities and initiatives of established organisations, as well as actions sparked by individuals and community groups.

Established humanitarian, wildlife and emergency services organisations were found to have rapidly scaled services in response to emerging needs within their specific areas of focus. In addition to donations, millions of Australians also took practical actions, online and on the ground, to respond to the immediate needs of people in communities, especially those connected geographically and those aligned by a common cause (such as farmers giving to farmers, architects donating skills).

The research highlighted how no one individual, community or organisation can respond alone to a crisis of this scale. 60–70% of community-led initiatives arose in direct response to the bushfires and did not exist before, with people using the resources they had to help.

For Red Cross, the findings help us to understand the role we can play in supporting, connecting and amplifying the vital efforts of communities themselves responding to disaster events and leading their own recovery.

Volunteer Francis helps Lyle to register for the Register.Find.Reunite service at the relief centre in Bairnsdale, Victoria during the bushfire emergency in January 2020. The service helps reconnect lost loved ones in disasters and emergencies. Photo: Rodney Dekker

Help to enhance the volunteer experience

We’re working to remove barriers for people wanting to take action, do good or volunteer with Red Cross. During the bushfires and the pandemic, our efforts were accelerated by pro bono support from Accenture. Gathering insights from key stakeholders, Accenture identified opportunities to improve current processes and systems for volunteer recruitment and onboarding, and prototype an exciting future state.

A trusted organisation

Following our prominence in the bushfire recovery effort, Red Cross was the target of significant scrutiny by some media and subsequently on social media channels in January. This impacted our trust rating, as measured in our brand tracker, causing a dip in February. However, trust remained constant at 66% from April to July 2020.

Volunteer Janet and Matt outside Bairnsdale relief centre in Victoria during the bushfire emergency. Janet provided essential psychosocial support to Matt when he was very distressed after he lost his home to the fires on 31 December 2019. Photo: Rodney Dekker

Being open and transparent and providing detailed reporting on our bushfire spending has been key for rebuilding trust. We released reports at three-month intervals, held a live Q&A with our CEO on Facebook and made direct contact with a number of corporate and major donors. We also relied on our members and volunteers, the trusted voice of Red Cross in their communities, ensuring that they had the information they needed to answer questions from family and friends with confidence.

Our latest brand tracker showed we were the 4th ‘most trusted’ charity brand, an improvement from 7th in the previous wave. Our Reptrak score (an annual study used to measure the reputation of the largest charities in Australia) was 84.4 (vs 82.2 in FY19) which is above the average score of 83.1 for the top 40 charities.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been a trusted source of public information. We provided updates on staying safe, published articles on hygiene practice and well-being.