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Standing by our colleagues in NZ | The Constellation Project wrap event | In Search of Safety

12 December 2019

  • We are standing by our colleagues at New Zealand Red Cross and people affected by the White Island volcano eruption.
  • Our Restoring Family Links Strategy 2020-25 was endorsed at the Council of Delegates.
  • Improving humanitarian access through international humanitarian law takes centre stage at the Australian Red Cross and Centre for Humanitarian Leadership symposium.
  • We secured funding for the In Search of Safety program which will be rolled out nationwide over the next 18 months. 
  • I joined over 125 people from across the country to celebrate The Constellation Project's achievements and looked at the focus areas for 2020.
  • We've updated the heatwave advice and resources in preparation for a hotter summer.
  • Give meaningfully this festive season through the Real Good Gifts and Red Cross shop online.

Standing by our colleagues in New Zealand

Hi everyone,

On Monday, the Whakaari/White Island volcano in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand erupted. NZ Police have confirmed the nationalities and numbers of 47 people who were on the island, which includes 24 people from Australia, five from New Zealand, and five other nationalities. There are now eight confirmed deaths, and 9 people are still listed as missing. We are standing by our colleagues at New Zealand Red Cross, and people impacted by the incident. New Zealand Red Cross is liaising and working with New Zealand Police to effectively and efficiently manage the response to this event. The Restoring Family Links website has been activated for people to register themselves as alive or to register their family members as missing and the Restoring Family Links team is providing support for those calling our hotline on 1800 875 199.

Truly a global network

Over the weekend at the Council of Delegates, the future Restoring Family Links (RFL) Strategy 2020-25 was endorsed. Australian Red Cross has contributed a huge amount to this strategy here, in the region, and through our role on the RFL Leadership Platform and Implementation Group.

The Strategy has four key objectives: 

  • Place much stronger emphasis on collective efforts to protect family unity and prevent separation
  • Ensure that services are accessible to all persons who need it 
  • Collectively increase capacity to provide answers to families who are living in anxiety about fate of their loved ones 
  • Continuing to support people impacted by separation, which has always been at the heart of RFL. 

It’s wonderful to hear the overwhelming support from a diverse range of National Societies: Timor Leste, Chad, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Iran, Mali, Lebanon, Sweden, Bolivia, Turkey, Ghana, Senegal, South Korea, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Germany, Comoros,  China, Jordan, Panama, France, Egypt, Brazil, South Sudan and IFRC.

They all offered statements in support of the strategy, demonstrating how the Restoring Family Links Network brings the Movement together in our shared work.

We’re simply more resilient when we remain connected with our loved ones

For all of us watching from afar, it is great to see our colleagues visiting the Humanitarian Village, and to see them circling back to the testimony tree to absorb the thoughts of families in Australia.

Here are some of the testimonies and feedback:

“Without Red Cross, we would never have known our family. It is the best present ever for all of us. God bless you always and keep you full of happiness to help other people as well.” – Family Bednarsky, South Australia

“The Field Officer had great listening skills, compassion and understanding. Although we were disappointed to not find our brother, we felt that everything was handled very professionally with a lot of sensitivity by Red Cross.” – Margaret*, Melbourne, Australia *name changed

“My kids haven’t seen or talked with their father for almost 7 years now I am very blessed to have reconnected with him, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the assistance of the Red Cross.” – Iftu, Launceston, Australia

Using the laws of war to improve humanitarian access

How can we better leverage international humanitarian law (IHL) to improve access to people in need? This was the topic of a joint Australian Red Cross and Centre for Humanitarian Leadership symposium. The symposium aimed to promote understanding in the Australian context of what protections exist in IHL, what constitutes good practice in access negotiations, what support is available, and the challenges we should be working collectively to address. The event was inspired by the 2018 State of the Humanitarian System report, which identified three trends:

  1. Bureaucratic restrictions are, for the first time, ‘the most important overall impediment to providing humanitarian support to people in need’. These restrictions are seen as a conscious tactic on the part of governments or non-state armed groups to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching particular areas.
  2. Increasingly, humanitarian actors are working in situations where neither government nor non-state armed groups are prepared to follow IHL, and where many non-state armed groups are not prepared to grant humanitarian access.
  3. ‘Humanitarian staff and leadership do not fully understand the humanitarian principles and IHL, and so are unable or unwilling to apply and advocate for them.’

The Humanitarian Advisory Group also shared the results of new research, Gaining Traction: Measuring the Impact of IHL Training. Prepared for Australian Red Cross, the report looks at the impact of training humanitarian practitioners in IHL and humanitarian principles.

These are great insights that delve deeper into how we can improve humanitarian access, and the impact of training people in IHL and humanitarian principles.

In Search of Safety

We’ve been delivering In Search of Safety in primary schools since 2013. It is a community education program that has proven to be effective in building community inclusion by promoting a greater understanding of the experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum. In FY 18, 20,000 Australian were reached through our inclusion workshops and 84% of student participants identified ways to make their community more welcoming to others. We’ve also found that the students’ understanding of Australia’s role in settling refugees increased enormously by 16-fold. 

We have been successful in securing funding over 18 months to roll this program out nationwide. We will be ramping up volunteers and coordinated resources to deliver sessions from Mt Gambier to Toowoomba, to Katherine, Albany, the Murrumbudgee region and all capital cities.

Through this new funding, the program will be delivered in partnership with schools to over 25,000 students, teachers, families and the wider community through interactive, face to face, volunteer-led 90 minute sessions. These sessions provide an opportunity for young people to learn and ask questions about diversity, multiculturalism, with a particular focus on vulnerable migrants, in a safe and supportive environment.   

As our current In Search of Safety lead, Alison Cook, says “The evidence we have is that this program WORKS and we really do have the power to change minds and reach hearts and in the end, hopefully, transform lives. Volunteers love the platform it provides them to do something to help and we really do have the ability to drive social change across the country in 2020 and beyond.”

The Fund is managed by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for the Department of Home Affairs.

It’s been a big year for The Constellation Project!

On Monday this week I had the pleasure of attending the wrap event for their second social lab. I joined over 125 people from diverse sectors and locations across the country to celebrate the collaborations and achievements, and provide valuable input into the focus areas for 2020.

We heard about the incredible work of the social lab teams that have developed four innovative solutions to enable the pipeline of more than 100,000 homes by 2022. Over the past three months, these teams have been working in design agile sprints to sharpen the concepts, go deeper with data analysis and test them in the real world.  These solutions have included models to unlock private capital, new innovative co-funding models, addressing culturally appropriate housing for aging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Aboriginal owned land and the development of a new asset class using a housing aggregator funding model.

In early 2020, the social lab to enable better journeys for people at risk of homelessness will commence. This will look at developing systemic solutions to prevent the entry into and accelerate pathways out of homelessness. A key focus in this cycle will be people impacted by the justice system.

We continue to share our extensive knowledge and understanding of our First Nations perspective and experience walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities, provide insights to the impacts on the vulnerability experienced by people impacted  by the justice system, raise awareness of the growing and unacceptable impact of homelessness amongst people seeking asylum, along with leading on our experience to privilege the voice of lived experience.

Congratulations on the amazing achievements in just over one year and thank you to those of you who are actively involved.

The network of individuals and organisations supporting The Constellation Project is continuing to grow, with over 1,185 supporters.

If you would like to know more about this work, you can visit The Constellation Project website or reach out to Sarah Soteriou who is leading our efforts in this initiative. 

Getting prepared for a hotter summer

In preparation for a hotter summer, our Emergency Services team is working closely with the Bureau of Meteorology to have direct access to their warnings and looking at how we can improve our early warning advice.

The Bureau's heatwave warning service has three levels of heatwave, low level, serious, and extreme. We have revised our preparedness information, as well as our first aid information for recognising and managing heat stress and stroke. 

The team also incorporated the exacerbation of mental health issues during heat waves, with a particular spike in the suicide rate into the fact sheet and web based information, which can be easily used on mobile devices.

Wherever you are, please take care and have a read at these resources to better prepare you for summer.

Real Good Gifts this festive season

Lastly, if you’re still finding ideas to add to your festive shopping, I encourage you to have a look at our Red Cross shop online for an amazing selection of items for your Christmas purchases. 

If you’re looking for something different, take a look at our range of Real Good Gifts. You can gift a goat shelter, a dignity essentials kit, a warm blanket or a visitor for someone living alone. Every gift represents something that people really need to help them get back on their feet. And every gift represents the real work of Red Cross teams on the ground.   

That's all for this week.