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Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations | Closing the Gap | REDxYouth Activators

13 February 2020

Anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations

Hi everyone,

Later today we’ll hear from Red Cross Board member, Ian Hamm (who is also a member of the Stolen Generations Reference Group for the Healing Foundation) who will be speaking at the Villiers St office in Melbourne, to mark the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

I hope you’ll join us to mark this day. The National Apology remains a turning point that demonstrates the importance of historical acceptance in paving the road to reconciliation.

In our Reconciliation Action Plan, we affirm our vision for a united nation built on dignity, safety and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Where we learn about and acknowledge our shared history, its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and its painful and confronting truths.

Where we take pride in the ancient histories, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Where we listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and enable them to implement their own solutions to issues that matter to them. 

To achieve this vision, we must walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, organisations and peak bodies. 

It is important, that as a nation, we commemorate this milestone, acknowledging the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to address the impacts of unresolved trauma.

Much more needs to be done

Below is a heartfelt note written by Kevin Leeder (Culture and Capability Business Partner – Cultural Ladder), on his thoughts about the day of the national apology.

As I sat at my desk re-watching the apology by Kevin Rudd great waves of emotion ran through my body and mind. The tears I cried are not for me but for those who had their lives torn apart and the ongoing legacy of intergenerational trauma that have plagued the following generations to this day.

These acts of policy and the legacy left to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still to this day baffle me. How could those in power at the time, have been so inhumane and without any sense of morality, remorse or empathy have constructed and enforced such policies and not acknowledge what they were doing to other human beings? People directly affected (my family wasn’t) and the many gut-wrenching personal accounts of experiencing this trauma, tell a story of incredible pain and suffering, mistreatment, loss of identity, loss of family, connection to country and being left in a state of limbo that caused internal conflict, confusion, pain and tragically for some, the loss of will to live. This legacy is still with us today and people are still in pain.

I applaud Kevin Rudd, the first Prime Minister to acknowledge the prior acts of governments for making the apology. It is a start, but am dismayed that of the 54 recommendations that were made in the “Bringing Them Home Report” that very few have actually had any action taken.

No one today should feel responsible for what has happened in the past, however that said, we can all be a part of the solution going forward. Equipping yourself with knowledge of the past gives you the ability to understand better the challenges that Stolen Generations face today. Having an informed voice to put pressure on those responsible to make the necessary changes that will make a difference to those whose lives have been affected. Personally I believe that most people are inherently good, that the truth is empowering and that change will come.

An apology is a start, but it is just that, a start, it is not the end of the matter. Much more needs to be done.

Thank you, Kevin for sharing this message.

Closing the Gap report

The Closing the Gap report began in response to a call for governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation.

Last week, the 11th Closing the Gap report was handed down with only two of the seven targets being met. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must have greater input for real and genuine positive change.

We support a coalition of First Nations peak bodies who will have shared and equal decision making on closing the gap to refreshed targets that include families, children and youth, and justice. 

We will partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations to build strong families and communities and we will be growing and investing in our work to walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

An update on bushfire response

I wanted to also keep you updated on how we are distributing the funds for the people affected by the bushfires. 

We had our our fourth panel meeting today. We shared that we have now distributed over $30 million in immediate financial assistance payments. Currently we are providing immediate financial assistance in the form of grants for people in financial hardship as a result of the Australian bushfires. 

  • Emergency grant - A $20,000 payment to support people whose primary place of residence was destroyed.
  • Injury grant - A $7,500 payment for people who have spent two days or more in hospital as a result of physical injuries or mental health issues as a direct result of bushfires from July 2019.
  • Primary residence repair grant - A $5,000 payment for home owners whose homes have been structurally damaged and require repair to make them safe to live in.

The panel talked today about how to continue to support people who have lost their homes, appreciating that people may not be ready to think about rebuilding any time soon or at all. We discussed the need for more immediate financial support beyond the current grants available and that it is important that we make decisions about how to provide this support based on specific needs of individuals and communities. 

We are also using the pro bono offers of support from external agencies to help us map where the needs are across affected states and will then seek the Panel’s advice in the coming weeks on the next round of immediate financial assistance. 

Our corporate partner Commonwealth Bank is proudly supporting us to assist people with grant applications across 36 branches in impacted communities. If you're affected by the bushfires, or know someone who is, you can head over to these Commonwealth Bank branches to get help to apply for a Red Cross bushfire grant. Please help to spread the word to those who might not be able to apply online right now. 

We know our Red Cross people in the field have been working long and hard.  A cross organisational team from Volunteering Directorate, HR and Emergency Services have developed a rapid process of providing interested Red Cross volunteers who haven’t had emergency services training with some real time training and briefing to go out and help in the field. These volunteers will also be specifically briefed on our grants process to provide targeted support on the ground for people on how to apply.

We are dealing with a tricky balance of making sure applying for and receiving a grant is as simple and easy as possible, while managing and addressing the significant number of fraudulent claims. The grants team are a group of incredibly dedicated people who are working tirelessly and with enormous empathy and professionalism when dealing with affected and distressed people who have asked for assistance.

Map-a-thon

Last Sunday, nearly 300 people and 40 teams participated in a National Bushfire Recovery map-a-thon across seven locations. Coordinated by the Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSi), the map-a-thon aims to understand the impact the fires have had on infrastructure (homes, outbuildings, facilities, fences and power poles etc). The information is intended as a guide for recovery efforts and is not a replacement for authoritative data sources.

Map-a-thoners had access to hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of aerial/satellite imagery. Nearmap (an Australian aerial imagery technology and location data company) provided high resolution aerial imagery from recent flights across impacted areas. The imagery is so detailed – it provides a chilling reality of what the communities and response teams faced. Satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs and Airbus, gave a ‘first look’ at the fire impacted areas. This imagery along with the Nearmap data is crucial to the map-a-thon capability, particularly as post fire imagery is scarce. Also vital is the government mapping data from VicMap, NSW Spatial Services and the NSW Royal Fire Service. This government data, as well as the Airbus and Nearmap data are provided through a map service for map-a-thoners to reference to aid image interpretation.

A small team of map-a-thoners supported Red Cross by using aerial/satellite imagery from Nearmap and Planet Labs, to identify properties that have been impacted; supplementing the rapid damage/impact assessment data provided by state agencies. What a brilliant approach. 

REDxYouth Activators

I’m always amazed at the work and ideas that our REDxYouth members come up with. Young people are showing us they want to lead the way in their communities on issues like mental health, inequality, discrimination, homelessness, climate change and natural disasters. When well-supported, those whose lives and communities have been affected are best placed to shape the future.

If you know someone who’d like to be part of these big minds, nominate them for the REDxYouth Activators 2020. It is an Australia-wide program for emerging young leaders (aged 18-30) who are finding their voices to tackle social and humanitarian challenges within their own lives and communities across the country. The program involves three in-person weekend workshops, with online support, coaching and collaboration in between, and is offered at no cost to participants (expenses including travel and accommodation are covered). 

You can see the full details on our website, and you can use these resources to help spread the word.

That’s all for this week.

Talk to you soon.
Judy