Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

How COVID is impacting our Future Focus plans | Reimagining Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda | 25 years since the Srebrenica Massacre

16 July 2020

Staying safe in Victoria

Hi everyone,

For most of us in Victoria, we’re stepping into the second week of the lockdown.

It is sad to see the increasing numbers of people in hospital with COVID, so many people impacted, so many local street scenes go quiet and community and sporting events being cancelled or changed. This time it is harder, more uncertain. It is taking real resilience and the impact is greater because the reserves which existed last time are not always there to rely on this time. People are still supporting each other and helping out which is so important. I’ll update more on our response in next week’s blog.

In terms of those of us at Red Cross, I know it can be a difficult time for some of us juggling home, family and work.

If you live an area under Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria, you should wear a face mask such as a cloth mask or surgical mask if it is difficult to keep 1.5 metres apart from others. 

There's more information from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the set of do’s and don’ts from the Victorian Government that you can refer to during this time.

And do what you need to do juggle home, family and work. Make sure you look after yourselves. Please speak with your manager if you need to make special arrangements. 

I also know many of you will have planned holidays which now can’t go ahead – this is really tough given how hard we’ve been working hard over the past year. I was planning to have a holiday in NSW with my family in the first week of August – at the lovely Guthega in amongst the snow and snow gums and getting lots of fresh air. Obviously, that is not to be. So, I’m trying to work out how to have a holiday at home. Pete suggested I could go camping in the backyard. Hmmm. Either way, it is really important to have a break, so I encourage you to take the holidays you had planned even if they are different to what you hoped.

How COVID is impacting our Future Focus plans

In December the board made decisions about our Future Focus, setting us up to respond to a rapidly changing world and focusing us on what Red Cross does best.

The past couple of weeks have shown us just how quickly things can change in a pandemic and that being an agile and adaptable organisation has never been so important. I’ve been so impressed at how people have not only managed the many changes we’ve experienced recently but truly shifted their mindsets to be open and ready to shift gears quickly and do things differently. While COVID has delayed some of our future focus planning it has also set us up to be in a better position to implement them and has reinforced the initial drivers.

The lack formal plans for our focus areas hasn't stopped us using them to guide us in our COVID work. We’re doing a huge amount to support vulnerable migrants in transition, and we’re working on ways to address the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people impacted by the justice system through this crisis.

It’s also created opportunities to work in new ways that we know will be essential to our future. We are partnering with new organisations such as Food-Bank to better meet the needs of vulnerable people, with each organisation bringing their own expertise to the partnership.

The IHL team have been analysing both IHL and related ‘market’ trends to help refine their future focus. For example with the increased investment and activity on IHL and new technologies in Australia and globally, the team are thinking about what our role might be in shaping these developments.

How does the protective emblem in armed conflict painted on buildings transfer into the digital realm? Should we start engaging with Australia’s rapidly expanding defence industry which includes research into embedding automation and removing human input into new weapons systems? How do we continue to grow our work influencing Australians who work in conflict zones, noting that there are far more diverse actors that are now operating in these contexts? With all this in mind and in the wake of COVID-19, how effective is it to promote IHL to the general public along solely geographic boundaries as opposed to coordinating initiatives across the country? Is the future of IHL dissemination a virtual one?

We’re also focussing more and more on securing funding to grow work in our focus areas. You’ll be hearing more about this and the transformations that are happening at Red Cross in coming weeks, with people working hard to finalise the ambitions for our focus areas.

This work is not just about the services and programs we deliver. We can’t expect to change without also building up the structures and supports that sit behind what we deliver. From refreshing our brand, to understanding how to work flexibly and updating our systems – there is so much happening to ensure we’re in the best position to rise to the challenges ahead.

Reimagining Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda

A virtual meeting co-chaired by the IFRC and UN Volunteers programme is taking place right now until Thursday 16 July.

The Global Technical Meeting “Reimagining Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda" is part of a special event that takes place during the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

It is aimed at recognising volunteering for sustainable development under the 2030 Agenda, sharing lessons learnt and new and innovative volunteering solutions to better contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The outcome of the meeting will be a global call to action on next-generation volunteering to help deliver the 2030 Agenda.

The IFRC is leading the work stream on “Next Generation Volunteering”, looking at “What does an enabling environment for volunteering look like in the 21st Century?

This will consider how to facilitate inclusive participation, ensure the safety and security of volunteers, while enabling all types of volunteer efforts to strategically contribute to development priorities. 

There are also regional breakout sessions featuring various National Societies. These sessions aim to bring in regional perspectives and will result in a call to action, which will be the main outcome of the Global Technical Meeting.

Unfortunately, the invitation to participate was very last-minute. Otherwise we would have encouraged many to attend. If you want to attend the last day (ie tonight), you can still register here

I’ll update you all on some of the ideas in next week’s blog. 

Lives remembered - 25 years since the Srebrenica Massacre

Twenty five years ago, Srebrenica, a small town in eastern Bosnia, was the centre of suffering and sorrow. 11 July is the anniversary of a tragedy that saw 8,372 people killed and many more forced to flee. Over 1,000 of them are still unaccounted for.

At Australian Red Cross, we still have 67 active cases from the former Yugoslavia conflict with this representing more than 67 missing persons, as some cases have more than one family member who remains unaccounted for.

Many of these cases have been opened with us for years, as we continue to support those families who are awaiting a final outcome, usually meaning clarification of their loved ones’ fate and the exhumation and positive identification of remains. Our Restoring Family Links team works every day to support families and recognise that they have a right to know what happened to their loved ones.

The ICRC works closely with the families of the missing faced with the prolonged suffering of having no certain information of what happened to their loved ones, while often facing social, legal, and economic consequences.

Together with partners like the local Red Cross organisations and many family associations, the ICRC provides psychosocial support to the families, advocates for their right to know, and draws attention to their needs – not only in Bosnia-Herzegovina but across the Western Balkans.

Overall, more than 10,000 people are still missing from the 1990s conflicts in the region, of which 7,000 are missing from Bosnia-Herzegovina alone. 

This week we remember the lives that are lost including our Red Cross colleagues who were killed 25 years ago, and those who are still missing.

You can read more about them from this ICRC article and the Sydney Morning Herald news story. It is sobering to read these stories. However, it is always important to remember and reflect.