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What do we want to keep from these COVID-19 times | Biosecurity Act in SA | Taking COVID action: Different & Digital

15 May 2020

What do we want to keep from these COVID-19 times

Hi everyone,

I heard of the concept of 'COVID Time' last week; meaning that during something so momentous and at a time of great change, time itself seems to stretch out.

Over these two weeks many of us are talking about what we want to keep from these times. I think of bluer skies, more time with Peter, great neighbourhood sharing and caring for each other (home baked bread, puzzles, soups), participating in Couch Choir, early morning sing-a-longs with my mum, more connection (albeit virtually) with friends and family, a walk every day.  I’m sure we all have a list. 

That is also true for us at Red Cross. We have been reaching out and supporting more people, working really differently together, undertaking different roles in support of the community, connecting with each other better and so much more.

As terrible as the impact of COVID-19 is on lives and livelihoods there are things we will want to keep. 

I’ve included in this week’s blog some examples.

How have we changed in cartoons

Last Thursday more than 100 representatives from National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and guests from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Bank and others joined a Cartoonathon.

Cartoonists from The New Yorker and joined small group discussions on the topic “How have we had to change in order to respond to COVID-19”.  The cartoonists then drew cartoons in real-time to provide insight into the challenges and innovations being experienced across the Movement.

For example, how Andorra Red Cross was tackling the challenge of taking on something like 1,300 spontaneous volunteers (nearly 2% of the population of Andorra) whilst isolated from their usually close Spanish and French partners.

For many of our programs, we have introduced digital solutions to overcome social distancing challenges. Hind Bakour from Syrian Arab Red Crescent, described the additional challenge of awareness raising and advocating for behaviour change in her work in a complex context in which devices and internet connectivity are simply unavailable for significant portions of the population. The importance of recognising equity issues including with respect to technology, was captured in this cartoon:

We also heard from Roberta Fusacchia from Italian Red Cross about how they adapted to the rapidly developing crisis. She described the most innovative initiatives at Italian Red Cross as being: the deployment, through a partnership with Land Rover, of aerial drones, used to deliver messages,  medical supplies and other items to remote villages; and also the introduction of online voting for positions on regional and national boards, which had never been attempted before. A cartoon reflecting some of these trends is:

Perhaps these stories and the cartoons might spur some reflections of your own on how we are adapting to COVID-19 and how we might use our new skills and practices as we emerge into the new normal.

You can see all the cartoons and results here. It was an excellent session and the cartoons are really cool and provide some interesting reflections on our work.

Here in Australia we have also moved fast to change and we will want to keep many of them. Below are a few examples.

Taking COVID action: Different & Digital

A lot of exciting things are happening on the digital front. Our growing digital network that bridges Digital Advocates and REDxYouth has had a great presence on Facebook and Instagram. We have around 8,000 participants across these digital communities – taking various levels of action to support others through COVID-19.

REDxYouth has established an Instagram TV Channel that reaches out to the youth network, inspiring young people to take action with "top tips" as well as crowd-led ideas around ways to take action in your community. Young people are highlighting their different ideas for action through storytelling and teaching - with videos ranging from practical actions you can take, all the way through to comedic skits, spoken word poetry or how to create your own humanitarian zine. We've also seen new and diverse ways that young people are taking action, with many of them excited about the concept of Digital Volunteering. 

Since we launched Digital Advocates, we now have over 700 followers with some great collaborators (including the Matildas!). For World Red Cross Day last week, SA Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee hosted an event to share insights into our humanitarian work in 2020. The NSW Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee created a video to thank IFRC volunteers on World Red Cross Day. Digital Advocates member Sarah Ramantanis wrote an article for KOS magazine promoting REDxYouth and the Digital Advocates movement. Other Digital Advocates started a YouTube channel called the Kindness Pandemic TV to keep supporting, educating and entertaining people during COVID-19. We also had Matildas players Karly Roestbakken, Charlotte Grant and Indiah-Page Riley create a video and social media campaign to reinforce the #StayAtHome message.

Stay tuned for some more exciting educational content creation to come on Playing in Isolation with Daniel Teitelbaum and Social Media for Good with Tim Middlemiss, as well as an Ask Me Anything session with some of our resident epidemiologists in conjunction with Dr Lisa Natoli (Health Technical Lead). This week we will also be launching our Action Pack and Kindness Kit to inspire more success stories. 

Don’t forget to have a listen to Episode 3: Playing by New Rules of the COVID Collective podcast where Stephanie Catley of the Matildas and Andrew Clark from Football Federation Australia share practical advice on maintaining your mental and physical condition.

Finally, the first aid team have moved fast to shift their training online over the past few weeks; remarkably also doing this at a time when we had to stand down our face-to-face first aid training. We are now offering Mental Health, First Aid and CPR theory online as short courses. Working with seven key influencers. And with more people at home with their pets, our new online Pet First Aid course is growing in bookings…so far dog owners rule over cat owners!

Working closely with Emergency Services we will soon offer Introduction to Psychological First Aid online to our corporate partners.

Another example is the team have created new webinars addressing mental health concerns and educating people in first aid whilst at home. Currently with over 300 booking we are providing mental health and first aid knowledge and skills to over 4,500 people in our community. 

Of course there are many other examples but I thought it was worth highlighting these.

Biosecurity Act in SA

Many of our community members in the Far West Coast of South Australia have been affected by the implementation of the Biosecurity Act, which restricts and limits the movement of people in and out of remote communities. This includes the communities of Yalata, Oak Valley and the wider Maralinga Tjarutja area, impacting many hundreds of people.

The Biosecurity Act has never been used in this way before and quite quickly we could see gaps emerging in the process for people wanting to return to community.

We are now assisting throughout the entire process to ensure people are well supported and understand the process to ensure their wellbeing and that of their community.

Working with our two major stakeholders, SA Police and SA Housing Authority who are the lead agencies for Emergency Management in SA, we redesigned the implementation of the biosecurity process. This was to ensure there is a streamlined process for people needing to quarantine, that there are appropriate supports in place to assist whilst in quarantine, and most importantly that Community’s voice was heard throughout the process.

Our folks in Ceduna are now the lead agency for people required to go into quarantine under the Biosecurity Act and we work with our partners and community controlled organisations to provide a complete through-care model where people are supported to apply for re-entry, sourcing accommodation, securing food, social and service supports in place, right through to being transported back to community in line with biosecurity protocols.

The Power of Connection

Townsville Bridge (top left), the Kurilpa Bridge and the Bell Tower in Perth were lit up on World Red Cross Day. 

Thanks to so many of you who participated last week. It’s the day we celebrate the people who make up Red Cross – over 14 million staff and active volunteers around the world who connect with over 160 million people each year. Every one of those people is a part of something bigger, a global movement to alleviate suffering and provide comfort and support when times are tough. Right now, 159 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we are all in this together through the power of connection, as part of the incredible movement Henry Dunant started.

I loved these pictures which came through from Townsville, Brisbane and Perth, where landmarks were lit up to commemorate this day.

The University of Melbourne Archives showcased an Australian Red Cross Collection which includes lantern slides that were used for talks about the war effort, for engaging the community about the need for membership, fundraising and blood donations through cinema screenings, and for rehabilitation activities after World War II. Before photography and film, images were painted onto glass and projected via candlelight. Have a look at this beautiful collection which captured the work of Australian Red Cross for many years now. 

I’ve also included below a snippet of a message sent by IFRC President Francesco Rocca and Secretary General Jagan Chapagain on World Red Cross Day.

Today’s world is in a state of constant upheaval and permanent crisis, but whatever the problem – a natural hazard, the climate crisis, conflict or migration – Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are visible ambassadors for peace and solidarity and active players in shaping the future of our communities and countries. In these trying times, their commitment and dedication, as first responders and local actors, to alleviating human suffering remains strong and powerful.

Today we celebrate our women and men, the young and old, every single person who continues to make the idea of the Red Cross and Red Crescent a reality each day. We celebrate our efforts to reach the most vulnerable and ensure that no one is left behind. We celebrate the support of our families for our dedication to humanity. And we celebrate our Red Cross and Red Crescent Family. We can truly say we are needed now more than ever. To quote our founder Henry Dunant: “Everyone can, in one way or another, each in their sphere and according to their strength, contribute to some extent to this good work.”

Our approach to lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

The National Cabinet made an announcement on 8 May about lifting physical distancing restrictions. This included a 3-step plan for now until July. After carefully considering the needs of those we support and our people (staff, members and volunteers), we have decided to continue our current working from home or other appropriate work arrangements until 30 June (with some limited exceptions).

In the meantime, we will continue to respond to the challenges COVID-19 presents, from supporting people in isolation, to advocating for the needs of people hit by the economic hardships.

Have a read at this article by Health Technical Lead Dr Lisa Natoli and National Resilience Advisor John Richardson looking at contact tracing and why tracking down and containing outbreaks of the virus could help life go back to normal more quickly.

We have also prepared a wellbeing poster in multiple languages with ways to help if you are feeling worried (or know someone who is) or need ideas to maintain wellbeing during this time. You can also use this card to help you stay connected with older neighbours and relatives while physically distancing. Print the card out, then post it or drop one in their letterbox. Or call them and use the ideas listed below to connect. And remember to please take all necessary steps to protect yourself and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Talk to you next week.