International Women’s Day
Wasn’t it wonderful to wake up last Friday on International Women’s Day 2019? I received and shared messages from my friends across Australia and around the world; enjoying their thoughts and sharing my own. I felt a strong connection to a group of amazing people around the world, women and men, who strive for building a better, gender-balanced world.
There is so much for Australian Red Cross to celebrate on this day as caring and strong women have been at our heart from the very beginning. Back in 1914, the trailblazing Lady Helen Munro Ferguson founded our organisation and since then women have been our backbone. Every day we’re honoured to have the friendship and support of our humanitarian sisters without whom we wouldn’t be where we are today. And last Friday we celebrated many more.
I was invited to give a speech at the Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders International Women’s Day event in Melbourne – you can read the speech here. This amazing group of women, chaired by Anita Pahor, raise funds for our work as well as volunteer their hearts, minds, expertise and knowledge.
Lyndal Moore (our Deputy President) and I also hosted a Skype event where we talked about what’s been done to lift the number of women in global governance positions across the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and the work on ensuring protection, gender and inclusion. Our communications team also worked on this article – 10 Kick Ass Aussie Red Cross Women Who Stand for all Women.
Letters across the generations
While International Women’s Day might have been one bookend to the week, at the beginning of the week we had another - I hope you saw the great and moving feature on ABC TV 7.30 Report about Red Cross letters uniting a humanitarian and her war veteran grandfather. The story was a year in the making. Pre-production plans started more than a year ago with the protagonist Katrina Myerson, ICRC, Myanmar Red Cross and the ABC. A special collaboration with the ICRC in Rakhine State, Myanmar, resulted in local staff member Lin Hnin Aye filming with instructions from Media Adviser Antony Balmain. The footage proved essential as the journalist, ABC correspondent Liam Cochrane could not make it to Rakhine State to film Katrina due to visa restrictions. After careful negotiations in December, Katrina was released from work for a special film shoot and interview with Liam on the Thai-Myanmar border at Hellfire Pass and River Kwai, where Katrina’s grandfather, Bob, was forced to work on the Burma Railway while a prisoner of war in World War Two. What an amazing story! Huge thanks to Antony for persevering and getting the story out there.
The Identity Project
I've been working with Penny Harrison and Amanda Robinson on The Identity Project and we are starting to get excited about it.
Around 6 million Australians volunteer every year. More than 40% volunteer with more than one organisation. Every time each volunteer signs up to an organisation they have to go through the process of getting checks (such as a police check, a working with children check and then, over time, make sure those checks are kept up to date). Equally, each organisation like us, has to verify each individual’s certifications when the person first starts volunteering and then re-verify them on a semi-regular basis. It is a really manual process and is frustrating for everyone – most of all those who simply want to volunteer.
Now we think we have found a way to do this really simply by giving volunteers the means to store their certifications online, get them verified regularly and register them with any volunteering organisation (or de-register them if they stop volunteering) – all just using a simple app on their smartphone to share the information.
We have done the tests and the technology works. We now want to pilot it because while the option will be simple for volunteers – there is a lot which needs to sit behind it to ensure people’s security and privacy and to make sure that the certifications remain valid and verified. But we think we can do it. Wouldn’t that be a breakthrough!
It’s all about making it really easy to volunteer with any organisation that people want to. The next step is a pilot which we’ll be running between April and July.
Talking of using technology to help volunteers do what they love to do and humanitarians to do their work; at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently, Francesco Rocca (President, IFRC) shared that the IFRC is on a digital transformation journey.
The Virtual Volunteer stands out for me. It’s a web-based application that helps people who are migrating to access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. This portal is currently being rolled out in Columbia and is used by volunteers at Safe Point who assist migrants upon their arrival. Francesco also highlighted the role of private sector partnerships in addressing social needs and responses through responsible technological innovation. An example is the foundation called TECSOS (made jointly by Spanish Red Cross and Vodafone).
These are just a few ways technology enable us to assist the most vulnerable and make a huge difference in people’s lives.
Red Cross Calling – I’m In! – Week 2
You’ll remember that for Red Cross Calling this year I am writing about my thoughts on our work with one theme for each week of March. Last week was about social connection. I posted it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So far I’ve been able to raise $560 so I have a way to go to achieve my fundraising goal for the month of $3,000!
This week my theme will be reconciliation. I’ve included what I’ll be posting in italics below to differentiate it from this blog.
Maps, Galiwin’ku and magic
I am a person who loves maps. They are built up in layers over years and years. They represent both history and today.
They are filled within interesting information – sometimes practical, sometimes controversial, sometimes show linkages but always adding more and more depth. Maps contain stories and they show how things are connected to one another.
This is one map of Indigenous Australia which fascinates me. I am in awe of it. It awakens my mind. It makes me wonder about all those languages, all those customs, all those relationships, all those connections that have been lost and those that have been retained and those that are being reignited. It makes me wonder how vibrant our country was and how we continue to evolve and shine in different ways.
It makes me wonder what an amazing nation of peoples we will be when more of us know about and respect those different lands and the peoples who live in them and care for them. It’s no wonder that Indigenous peoples ask us to acknowledge these lands and their traditional ownership of them. It’s no wonder Indigenous peoples talk with pride of the country they come from. It’s no wonder Indigenous peoples have such close ties to their lands.
At Australian Red Cross we are focussed on mapping our own reconciliation journey – ‘From the head to the heart’. Our vision is for a unified Australia, 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 their ancient histories, cultures and achievements, where we enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s to implement their own solutions and where we walk alongside them.
An example of our approach is seen in the community of Galiwin’ku, in the Northern Territory, where we have had the privilege of working for 11 years.
In 2014, Galiwin’ku was hit by a strong cyclone and a lot community buildings suffered major damage. With the people of Galiwin’ku we agreed what role we could play in rebuilding and over the next few years we designed and built a new community centre together. That centre is now an important part of the community including for the Yolgnu Wananhamirr Mitj (YWM) women.
When we visited Galiwin’ku for the centre’s official opening last year the YWM women shared with us their Dhatam, a document which explains their history and their journey with the Yalu Marnithinyaraw Indigenous Corporation and Red Cross.
The Dhatam explains processes and the ways we work alongside each other. It sets out strengths of this way of working, of desires and reflects on the journey past and ongoing. It is a powerful piece of work and Red Cross are proud to have received it.
This is what the Galiwin'ku Vision for Dhatam model says:
And my song for the week Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu's music video 'Wiyathul'. This music is just so beautiful.
Kenya Red Cross Volunteers – The Toughest of Jobs
I want to finish my blog for the week by acknowledging the extraordinary work of some Red Cross volunteers. On Sunday morning, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed killing all on board. The crash took the lives of many Kenyans, Ethiopians and people from countries all over the world including people who work in our peer organisations and one of our colleagues from Norwegian Red Cross. Kenya Red Cross volunteers are providing psychosocial support to relatives of the deceased and have been since very soon after the accident.
That’s all for now.