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Take care during bushfire emergency | QBE partnerships | 11/11

13 November 2019

  • Staff, members and volunteers have been asked to take safety precautions as bushfire conditions in NSW, SA and QLD continue.
  • Commonwealth Bank and Australia Post have come on board to accept donations over the counter with funds going to the Disaster Relief and Appeal. 
  • 11/11: Remembering the people who lost their lives in wars and armed conflict around the world, the devastation of war and the continuing need to have laws of war respected by countries in conflicts.
  • We’ve launched a partnership with QBE and Save the Children to build resilient communities together.
  • Red Cross team in SA is working on initiatives to build disaster preparedness and community resilience across the State.  

Bushfires in NSW, QLD and SA

Hi everyone,

No matter where I am and what I am doing, I always stop and reflect, just for a minute, on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. So much to reflect on and so many learnings to take with us into the future. It is an important event for Red Cross too and I have included more on that below.

It has also been an emotional and tough week with bushfires across the country. In NSW 73 fires are still burning as of this morning, with 37 uncontained. Over 30 people have been injured, 19 of them firefighters. There have also been five deaths and approximately 200 properties lost.

As of yesterday in QLD, 62 fires are burning with 11 now at ‘watch and act’. Authorities have confirmed at least 16 homes have been destroyed.

And in SA, the fire warning has been downgraded. ABC News reports that two people have been hospitalised and 280 hectares and two houses have been destroyed in the fires.

Red Cross Response

The response of our members, volunteers and staff has been amazing.  Since late last week, we have had around 140 Red Cross people supporting evacuation centres and communities across NSW and QLD. These teams have been supported by many more in the background – in our National Coordination Centre and in our State offices.  Our colleagues in the Blood Service who are in areas affected by the fires have been offering their help and support as well.

I have had the chance to talk to many of our Branch Presidents and zone representatives, everyone more concerned about others than themselves even though their property and family face risks. Amazing people doing an amazing job supporting the communities of which they are a part of.

I spoke to Garry Page today (Director, QLD) to check in on how the teams are doing out in the field. This is what Garry shared with me:

“Yesterday I learnt of an impactful story from one of our volunteers Judith, who is supporting the community of Noosa. The Council contacted Red Cross seeking assistance to comfort a couple with a young child whose property was severely damaged by fires in Noosa. Judith visited the couple’s home and recalled that upon arrival 'the front of their house looked normal. 

‘But out the back it was black,’ said Judith. ‘We provided psychological first aid, shared information and listened. They were still trying to make sense of it all. Whilst they weren’t ready for counselling support, they were so grateful for a Red Cross visit and our assistance in organising additional support,' she said.

I would like to thank and acknowledge the outstanding contribution of our amazing volunteers and staff. Whether it is in evacuation centres, in recovery hubs or the team who are coordinating our operations from Milton, our people are there for people, they listen, and they go above and beyond, just like Judith and the team did in Noosa. 

As bushfire conditions across Queensland are expected to escalate today and continue through to at least the weekend, I urge everyone to be prepared and to remain vigilant. Please keep up-to-date on the latest warnings and advices by visiting the Qld Fire and Emergency Services website and social media channels, and tune into local radio. Ensure you have a bushfire survival plan and learn how to be prepared.”

I’ve also been talking with Poppy Brown regularly (Director, NSW) to see how they are going in NSW and to make sure she is looking after herself too.

“In terms of the bushfire activity since last week we have had approximately 3,000 people register at NSW evacuation centres (at any one time we have had up to 14 evacuation centres operating across the state with over 90 volunteers involved). A big thank you to the Emergency Services teams (staff and volunteers) for all their efforts supporting their communities through the evacuation centres and the Public Information hotline.

We have been supporting communities mainly across mid north coast, northern NSW and Hunter regions as needed. People coming into the evacuation centres have been shocked at the speed of the fires with some people arriving at the evacuation centre with only the clothes that they stood up in.

We are continually appreciative of all the efforts of our teams to support our communities at this difficult time,” said Poppy.

Poppy also shared this photo of our members and volunteers from Rappville:

Betty Braithwaite and Barbara Thorley, Red Cross Casino Club members, lost property in the recent Rappville fires but have been out supporting others in their community who are doing it tough due to the extensive fire damage in the community showing true Red Cross Spirit.

We’ve partnered with Commonwealth Bank and Australia Post who are accepting donations over-the-counter with funds going to the disaster relief and recovery to support communities in the regions devastated by the bushfires as well as other emergencies as and when they happen.

Wherever you are, please take care and think about your safety. If travelling will put you at risk, consider working from home or make use of our office locations if you need a safe place to be away from your home.

We know this is part of a long, hot, dry season on top of serious drought conditions. We will be doing everything we can to support Australian communities through these events and to recover from them. Our members, volunteers and staff are highly trained professionals with heart, warmth and kindness who work alongside the incredible efforts of others involved such as the fire fighters, other agencies and the communities themselves. While we are all shocked by the severity of these fires and the impact they are having it is also reassuring to see the training, planning and Red Cross commitment come to the fore.

Looking to global disaster relief

Last week, I joined QBE CEO Pat Regan and Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds for the launch of a new multi-year global disaster relief partnership with Red Cross and Save the Children. The partnership provides us with over $900,000 over three years to help us respond quickly and effectively to natural disaster around the world, to save lives and help communities recover. These early funds in any disaster are critical to support those who are already responding on the ground and at a local level when a disaster hits.

This partnership was in part motivated by an increasing interest from QBE employees to work for a purpose driven company and expectations that their employer is investing in to the communities where they work. We facilitated initial meetings across QBE Foundation managers in the UK, USA, Singapore, Philippines with the respective national societies.

Over time these partnerships will open up opportunities to create value via strategic long-term disaster risk reduction and resilience initiatives that leverage the skills and expertise of QBE.

Remembrance Day

On Monday, wherever you were and whatever you were doing, many of you would have paused at 11am to remember the millions of people who died during wars in which Australia has fought. 

At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. This first modern world conflict had brought about the mobilisation of over 70 million people and left between nine and 13 million dead, perhaps as many as one-third of them with no known grave. Since the end of World War II, it has been known as ‘Remembrance Day’ commemorating all those who have died in wars and armed conflict around the world.

For over 150 years the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has known only too well the devastation of war, of lives lost or changed forever. Remembrance Day serves to underscore the continuing need to see the laws of war respected by all those who are party to a conflict.

For the Movement, international humanitarian law – IHL – is in our DNA. And even though today’s wars look very different from those that served in World War I, war continues to be a terrible reality around the world. So, like Henry Dunant, we remain as committed as ever to limiting the suffering it causes in a rapidly changing environment. In addition to cyber and urban-based warfare, there is the push to increase AI in the development of new weapons systems. The complexity of the battlefield is growing and the humanitarian space to assist affected communities is challenged by counter-terrorism measures. 

There is no doubt too that climate change will also add to tensions. Nuclear weapons – weapons that cause catastrophic humanitarian suffering and for which there is no adequate humanitarian response – continue to exist. These are just some of the issues that the IHL team and others across the Movement are grappling with every day to ensure that our work to promote the laws of war remains as relevant and persuasive as it did when Henry Dunant first introduced the idea of the Geneva Conventions over a century ago. Many of these topics will be the focus of discussions with Governments at the upcoming quadrennial International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December.

As we look towards the future and how we can make a positive impact for those caught up in armed conflict around the world, 11 November remains a time for deep reflection and we pay our respects to all those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

What do Mighty Kingdom and ‘Leave it to Z’ have in common?

The answer is our team in SA. 

We had a great session yesterday talking about the work they are doing to support communities and individuals to prepare for emergencies and build their resilience to recover from them. ‘Leave it to Z’ is all about generation Z being able to influence and participate in decision making in emergency preparedness and recovery, and drive change in how emergency services and state government work with young people. 

And in partnership with SA kids and Mighty Kingdom, an Adelaide based gaming development company (largest in Australia) who have released over 20 games with 42 million players worldwide and 7 million players every month, the SA ES team is creating an online game designed to make it fun, educational and thought-provoking. 

And maybe it won’t just be kids who play the game. Did you know that 62% of adult aged Australians play online games? 

“Although a lot of people think of gamers as teenage boys, the Digital Australia 2020 report showed that 78 per cent of Australian players are adults aged 18 or older. Though the average age of gamers had steadily risen from 24 years old in 2005 to 34 years old in 2015, that seems to have now levelled out with the figure sticking at 34 for this year…

The report also looked into why people play video games, with 74 per cent of respondents saying games contributed to their emotional wellbeing, and 67 per cent saying they helped maintain social connections. Interestingly 42 per cent of people aged 65 years or older play games, with many in that age category saying that they played to keep their minds active. In total 91 per cent of Australian households have a device on which games have been played.”

More than that though, the team in SA is also working closely with schools, the Girl Guides, Surf Life Saving Club, the Scouts, local Councils and other partners on a whole range of initiatives to build disaster preparedness and community resilience across the State. This includes working with those who experience homelessness. You might remember I mentioned a while ago the good initiative the SA team had built called ‘Out of the Storm’ which is about ensuring people experiencing homelessness prepare for extreme weather. The team in SA is now building on that with a new initiative for those experiencing homelessness called ‘Escape the Elements’, the initiative focuses on equipping homelessness service providers across SA to embed extreme weather preparedness into their everyday work with clients.

Importantly, through all of these partnerships, the SA team is successfully embedding our principles of psychological first aid and emergency preparedness into the core community based work of other organisations in a sustainable model and increasing our reach into communities.

Overall, the team is doing a great job of engaging on a people-to-people, community-to-community level whether it is face to face or online and linking the two together.

I was also impressed with the work the team is doing to support people seeking asylum, particularly in finding employment. They are working closely with other organisations so that our support is all connected and complementary. In October they also invited a select group of 40 business leaders to attend and network at a World CafĂ© event focussing on the employment of people seeking asylum and refugees. This is part of a new initiative in SA (and across Australia) to increase the number of new migrants find and stay in employment and making sure it meets the needs of businesses as well as those looking for employment.

That’s all for this week. Take care and I’ll chat to you soon.