2018 – The Year that Was
I don't know about you but the week leading up to Christmas for me is always a mix of craziness and reflection.
Craziness in trying to get things ready for the break and finishing up everything at work. But also reflection as I look back on 2018.
I remember what we did for thousands of asylum seekers through the year but also that we had to wind down our primary program. I remember the one weekend in March when we had disasters across the country - fires, floods and cyclones from Bega to Mt Garnet – and the response of our volunteers. I remember the work of our branches in supporting those facing severe drought and the huge community response to our drought appeal. I remember Red Cross volunteers 'being there' for 4,000 people in Sydney on Anzac Day with tea, coffee and biscuits. Or 'being there' after the Bourke Street incident. Or 'being there' late at night for the teenager in remand or someone at home on their own. I remember our colleagues in the Pacific talking about how helpful they find their partnership with us. I remember the great work being done in our IHL team including on the elimination of nuclear weapons. I remember my 'I Will' commitments in our Reconciliation Action Plan and how fulfilling them is helping me go from 'head to heart' in my own reconciliation journey. And, finally, I remember the simply amazing work by our teams on solving the challenging internal issues we have and making improvements where they can.
I am also very conscious that 2018 was an exceptionally tough year for many given all the changes and the fact that many wonderful humanitarians left us. Plus on top of that, the problems we uncovered on pay and in other areas.
In looking back over the year I feel a mix of admiration for what's been achieved, sadness for those who have left and awareness that uncertainty lingers on and will do for a little while.
Thank you for what you have done for Red Cross this year. I appreciate your energy, enthusiasm, efforts and dedication through the ups and downs of 2018. I think we're all hoping for 2019 to be interesting and challenging but also a little more settled with less upheaval. I certainly am!
I wish you all the best over the holidays and that you get some space to do whatever it is you love to do.
See you in 2019.
Honouring our fallen colleagues
Each year on 17 December the Red Cross Movement pauses to honour our colleagues around the world who have been killed while performing their humanitarian duties. Events were held around the country enabling us to gather with colleagues take a moment to reflect and pay our respects.
These events commemorate a tragic incident 22 years ago where six ICRC staff working at a field hospital in Chechnya were murdered, yet we are forced to revisit this pain each time we learn of another colleague's passing while simply doing their job. There have been more than 500 Red Cross and Red Crescent people killed in the line of duty since that fateful day in Chechnya, including 17 this year. While we recognise that our work is not without danger, we cannot accept that humanitarian workers should ever become targets and as a Movement we will continue to broaden everyone's understanding that even wars have limits.
This year we lost colleagues in Bangladesh, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Indonesia, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the West Bank. Some of these deaths were the result of road accidents, while others involved abductions, murders and armed attacks. One of the most tragic events involved ICRC Midwives Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Korsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman who were abducted and murdered in Nigeria while providing antenatal care to new mothers. Another colleague - a patient transport volunteer, Mohammed Abdulgader Ali Abdulagader died days after the ambulance he was driving came under attack in Libya.
These were Red Cross Red Crescent people simply doing their job, simply wanting to help others. They, along with all the others who have died, should never have been a target.
Dorsa Nazemi-Salman is an Australian Red Cross delegate based in South Sudan and working with the ICRC. Dorsa has written an article featured here which tells of the risks that she and many of her colleagues face, but also her fierce defence of the right to feel safe while providing humanitarian services.
Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty book launch
Last Thursday we were invited to give a short speech at a launch event for a new book on the 2017 Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at Victoria University. The book was launched by former High Court Judge the Honourable Michael Kirby. Associate Professor Tilman Ruff from International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Dr Lisa Carson (coordinator, young Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) and one of the editors of the book Associate Professor Joseph Camilleri OAM who also spoke at the event.
The book is a timely one – released just one year after the treaty opened for signature last year. It covers the rationale and significance of the treaty, the important role of civil society in advocating for the treaty (including a chapter written by ICRC on the role of the Movement), national and regional perspectives on the treaty and paths forward to see the treaty brought into force.
I spoke about the different ways that the Movement is working towards a world without nuclear weapons and urged those in the room to continue to think in creative and innovative ways to work towards this shared aim – both through promotion of the treaty and through other avenues. You can find my speech here.
Giving blood this Christmas
Yesterday I caught up with Shelly Park, CEO of the Red Cross Blood Service. We shared a drink and a snack but not at a café. We were at the Melbourne Blood Donor Centre on Collins St, chatting over the hum of centrifuges as we both donated plasma.
It was the first time I had donated plasma. I have to say it was rather intriguing watching my blood leave my body, go into a 'swirling machine' to separate the plasma and then return to my body. I was really chuffed to see the bag of plasma at the end knowing that there are 18 ways Australians use plasma. And it is always good to have time with Shelly.
The Christmas period is a challenging time for the nation's blood and plasma supply. Many donors take a break and there are fewer days when donor centres are open over this time. The blood can't be stockpiled because some blood products like platelets only have a shelf life of four to five days.
Join our Red Cross team to donate and you'll also contribute to our Red25 summer blood drive tally. We have until the end of summer make as many donations as we can, so roll up those sleeves!