Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535-745 BC) famously said something like 'change is the only constant in life’. It has obviously been the case over many generations and thousands of years. And since we kicked off the 2020 outcomes, in mid-2016, we have seen more than our fair share of new initiatives and change.
Just in the past six months, we have launched a version of the Irish prison program in New South Wales and Queensland. We’ve kicked off a new respite program for 16-25 year olds in Lady Lawley Cottage in Western Australia. In Ceduna in South Australia, we are now funded to grow our Community Lounge – a safe place for community members to connect and get support.
In Katherine in the Northern Territory, we are actively connecting newly arrived migrants to the local community. In Port Augusta in South Australia, our new Internet café is helping people access services and increase technology skills and we have started the learner driver program - one young participant has been on his L plates for five years and is excited to get his full hours so he can work.
In Queensland on the Gold Coast, our volunteers who between them speak 13 languages, make friendly phone calls to lonely people who speak languages other than English. Also on the Gold Coast, volunteers are providing a 24 hour a day safe haven for homeless people, displaced by the Commonwealth Games.
In terms of initiatives which will reach across Australia, we are nearly ready to launch 'My Team'. Our Get Prepared app is now available on all mobile devices. InWork Australia has already succeeded in getting refugees into mentoring, volunteering and job opportunities.
With our own Learning Gateway we are averaging 2,200 course completions per month by all of you across the country.These courses will also soon to be available to all volunteers too. We have experimented successfully with new approaches to Red Cross Calling and our fundraising campaigns.
We have redeveloped our website (which recently won Kentico's award for best NGO site). And, just last week we relaunched Aurion self-service so we can all now access it via our desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
We have also reduced our operating costs over the last two years and grown the income from individual donors, major donors and our Red Cross shops.
Among all this, our daily humanitarian work continues across the country and in the Asia Pacific (and beyond when needed).
Heraclitus was right – change is the only constant in life.
Employment Justice Forum
Last week we brought together a range of people in our first Employment Justice Forum.
We did this because there is a pervasive stigma faced by those who have been involved in the justice system, even for minor misdemeanours, which can impact all aspects of their life, not just employment. This includes social acceptance, their ability to find a home, access to financial services and obtaining insurance - to name a few.
Thousands of people end up in this situation after being convicted of relatively minor crimes. The forum is part of our work on justice. We brought together people and organisations interested in reducing employment discrimination on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record, to identify key barriers and rapidly design potential solutions.
This story about a woman called Vicki Roach collected by Woor Dungin illustrates the challenge very well.
Vicki is a Yuin woman from New South Wales. She had a difficult upbringing, was removed from her mother and as a child placed in a girls’ shelter and eventually starting taking drugs.
At 17 she was arrested for using heroin and sentenced to six months in an adult prison with no rehabilitation. After release, she was sentenced again for minor credit fraud. Over the next few years had long periods out of prison interspersed with some stints in jail.
When Vicki was in her 30s she had been out of prison for 15 years. Her life had changed a lot – in her own words she had “got married, got off the dope and had a son” and was working for a security company. But after a month or two with the company, Vicki was asked to undertake a criminal record check.
Vicki was afraid of her employer’s reaction and instead left the job. In her words “people will look at a written report and go, ‘oh my God, she did this, this, this, and this’. But it’s never as clear-cut as it looks on paper.” Since then Vicki has avoided jobs where criminal histories are checked instead taking cash-in-hand jobs.
Those involved in the forum included people with lived experience, from Indigenous-led organisations, other community groups, government (federal and state), businesses (such as Seek, Toll & Portable), legal aid, social enterprises, philanthropic foundations and universities.
This mix of people came up with some good ideas, ranging from digital tools for potential employers and employees, reforms to reduce the barriers to employment, dedicated job sites and targeted support for job seekers.
We will now prioritise, progress, try and test a selection of these ideas with our partners and those with lived experience.
Teaming up with Poolwerx to offer free CPR classes
For the month of April, we have teamed with Poolwerx to offer free online introductory CPR courses in their stores throughout Australia.
Almost half of the drownings in children under the age of five occur in swimming pools and CPR skills are vital for parents. A child is four times more likely to survive if given CPR. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for people to learn some basic skills. Please share with your family and friends.
Thank you for reading. Talk again next week.