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Hurricane Irma, the Crisis Response Crew, a note on the marriage equality plebiscite...

12 September 2017

Hi everyone,

It was quite a week last week.

Hurricane Irma

Our thoughts are with the many millions of people affected by Hurricane Irma - the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history.

Our colleagues from Red Cross societies across the region are all working hard to respond to the after effects of the hurricane. British Red Cross, American Red Cross and other Red Cross societies in Europe are supporting them as well, and Australian Red Cross stands ready to help if needed.

If you are concerned for the welfare of family and friends, please try to contact them directly, before turning to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (1300 555 135 for enquirers in Australia).

The view of Hurricane Irma from space. Photo: NOAA

Myanmar refugee crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross has scaled up its efforts to minimise the suffering of people fleeing violence in Myanmar. More than a quarter of a million people have left their homes, seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, and the ICRC is working closely with the Myanmar Red Cross (MRCS), the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), and community volunteers to respond to this emergency.

Support includes providing food and water to families on both sides of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, dispatching a mobile health team of doctors and paramedics to the region and helping missing families relocate their loved ones. Read more information on how they're helping.

Crisis Response Crew

Here, we launched a new funding program that gives people exclusive content from our international aid workers.

By making three donations over as many months, supporters will be directly contributing towards the deployment of Australian aid workers, their activities in the field, tools and training to strengthen our response in times of disaster or other crises. In return, they'll receive exclusive articles, interviews and videos so they can share in the joys, dangers and breakthroughs that our delegates experience every day.

Our team members from International Programs, Fundraising, Marketing, and Media & Communications have spent long hours developing this product. They've put together a fantastic video and website to help get people on board.

Ahead of the marriage equality postal plebiscite...

Marriage equality is an important issue for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people, their friends, families, colleagues and much of the wider community. Last week was also a turning point with the decision to proceed with a postal vote.

Diversity is the strength of Red Cross and the Australian community more broadly. Every day across Australia and internationally, Red Cross people who are LGBTIQ work and volunteer their time and energy alongside their colleagues to support the most vulnerable and to bring real change into the lives of individuals and communities.

Consistent with our fundamental principles, we work to alleviate the suffering of all persons without discrimination, including on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. We reject all forms of discrimination and intolerance. Respect and dignity for all human beings must be at the core of our society where everyone feels safe, valued and able to contribute.

During the current national debate on marriage equality, I want to send a strong message of the importance and value of a society that is diverse and inclusive of all. I encourage all Red Cross people to rely on the positive support of family, friends, and extended social and work networks. I ask you all to watch out for your colleagues and offer each other support – or seek support through the Employee Assistance Program (1300 361 008). Alternatively, Switchboard is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer-based, volunteer run support service for LGBTIQ people and the friends, families and allies (1800 184 527).

Mindfulness, inspiration, rejuvenation

Finally, I had last Thursday and Friday off and had a lovely long weekend. I had lots of time with Peter and also did some long walks on my own - enjoying my own bit of 'nature time'. I listened to some podcasts while I walked (which I love to do). One was fascinating. It was called How the boy who grew up on a junk became a theatrical powerhouse - a story about Australian theatre director, Scott Rankin. It was a story not just about his life, but about how he uses 'strengths-based' approaches to support people to turn their lives around. His work started with the simple idea:

'It's harder to hurt someone if you know their story. Our work sheds light on invisible stories, bringing hidden injustice into the mainstream. These stories make it harder to hurt someone - on an individual, community and policy level. Our work demands best practice, and we strive for generational change'.

It's a great podcast, 51 minutes long and worth a listen.

I also heard about the IDX awards - a $5 million partnership between the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and the Telstra Foundation which focuses on building digital skills, entrepreneurship and opportunities for Indigenous peoples and communities.

There were two finalists I found fascinating:

  1. STEAM.I.AM is a dedicated initiative to promote the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth around Australia
  2. The NPY Women's Council from the Northern Territory has developed a customisable language dictionary app that enables communication by providing words in Pitjatjantjara and Ngaanyatjarra and English translations.

And yes, I also had time out, with some nice meditations and mindfulness sessions.

Finding calm amongst the business of our work is so important. So here's one final quick plug - for RU OK? Day, which is this Thursday. Take the time to check in on how you are feeling at work and at home, and reach out to your friends and colleagues with a friendly but very meaningful hello, how are you?