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Farewell and thank you

18 September 2020

One last time

Hi everyone,

After a crazy two weeks of handing over, Kym Pfitzner is about to take off the ‘training wheels’ as he describes it. We are lucky to have his human and calm leadership as we continue to navigate this uncertain pandemic world.  I know you're keen to get to know Kym better, so I asked him a few questions for you... 

Q&A with Kym Pfitzner, Interim CEO

As you've settled into the role of CEO of Australian Red Cross over the fortnight, what has struck you the most?

I've seen the deepest admiration for you Judy - coming from everywhere and everyone inside and outside the organisation.  And that it is so well deserved.

The talent and the interaction of the senior leadership team and executive teams – they are collectively focused on what is best for Red Cross. They actively debate, but there is also a unified sense of humanitarian outcomes and performance. They work collaboratively, while also listening to different views and perspectives. They have genuine admiration for their teams and the capability within this organisation. Creating teams like this takes years. We are in good hands.

I have been so very impressed by everyone I have had time with. There is a real depth of talent, knowledge and experience – all focused on achieving better humanitarian outcomes.

A depth of progress, forward thinking, and humanitarian focus is imbued across the organisation.  My eyes have been opened to the depth and breadth of what exists. Together the people of Red Cross have created an organisation that is empowered to support those most vulnerable. 

I have also been impressed by strength of the relationships we nurture, the networks we are a part of and our ability to influence stakeholders.

Just one small example, I was blown away by the Bushfire panel meeting yesterday. Such commitment, wisdom and professionalism from our volunteer panel members supported by comprehensive and high quality work from Red Cross.

What’s most important to you in the next few months? 

To continue the journey and momentum that you and the Executive Team have created – driving towards achieving our Future Focus ambitions.

To work out ways to take pressure off people - everyone is so committed, so passionate and working so hard.  We have to find a way to prioritise further.

Finishing our work on the bushfires, making sure we are prepared for a pandemic impacted disaster season, continuing to support those most impacted by COVID-19, transitioning those who are on temporary visas to more sustainable outcomes, the list goes on.

Plus our culture survey. I am delighted that we are doing the culture survey to identify the culture we want in order to be the best Red Cross can be. Very few organisations understand there are ways of measuring culture and are brave enough to do this so comprehensively and transparently.

Tell us about some the proudest moments in your life?

When Mandy and I got married – she has been and is my rock.  We have done so much together and have so much more to do. 

My kids – Samuel and Rachel – from their birth, through their lives and to all they are doing now in their 20s; they always enrich me and teach me. 

When I suddenly realised that the key to success is through other people, and it’s not about me. It was a watershed moment where I felt the deep satisfaction of seeing the great outcomes others around you can deliver, so long as they have the right environment to work in.

Finally, seeing the people who you employ and support, take over and go on to bigger and more impactful careers.

Tell us about living in Yulara? 

It is in the middle of Australia. We lived and worked in the Uluru Resort. I was responsible for the resort’s corporate finance. I lived at work, literally, so learning to build working relationships which would sustain living so closely together was an essential skill.

It was so remote. This is showing my age, but at the time, the internet was in its infancy.  We would devour three day old newspapers. 

Given this remoteness, I had to plan ahead – for the first time always looking forward, planning and managing for what might be. In doing so, I realised the importance using the future as a resource today.

Tell us about living in China? 

China was magnificent. Being a Caucasian living in China was incredibly interesting and challenging. I loved the richness of the environment, of the country. I loved the city of Shanghai. Everyone was incredibly friendly and really helpful.

It was so fast moving. It has such enormous scale. There was so much complexity in navigating the relationships. China developed how I interact with people. I had to keep checking in - what do you think, give me feedback, what's working or not. 

Working in China really taught me about collaboration – listening, not judging, getting different points of view. Really respecting diverse points of view in being able to get to an outcome which was right for the organisation.

You’ve come from chartered accountant, to corporate finance to advertising.  Wow! How has this transition been? 

Coming from structure, clear rules and guidelines, when I started in advertising I thought crikey, these people are different. But I soon realised their brilliance was not how they looked, or dressed, or the rules they followed, but their amazing ability to do their jobs with creativity and innovation. I saw the genius in that.

Thanks Kym. 

Bushfire recovery update

I am so very proud to report that Australian Red Cross has now disbursed $166.82 million via 7,621 grants to 5,246 individuals who were directly impacted by last summer’s bushfires.

We have raised $239M as at 31 August 2020.

For the full year to 30 June 2020:

·  $5M allowed our Emergency Services teams to support 49,718 people through 37 fires across 6 states and territories at 176 evacuation, relief and recovery centres.

·  A total of 3,351 volunteers and staff contributed over 60,000 hours to the response and recovery effort.

·  $8M funded necessary admin costs, less than 4c of each dollar donated.

·  We've established a recovery footprint in 47 local government areas with our three-year $18M recovery program.

We are now developing a needs-based, points system grant for those experiencing ongoing financial hardship, to respond to emergent, unmet needs over the medium-long term recovery. The grant will provide more extensive critical financial support to the most vulnerable. We intend to launch this needs-based grant in October.

Big Weather: Exclusive invitation

Don't forget, you are invited to join series host Craig Reucassel (The Chaser, War on Waste and Fight for Planet A), Stephen Oliver from the ABC, as well as staff and volunteers from our own Red Cross emergency services teams on Monday at 10am for an exclusive webinar and first look at the new ABC series “Big Weather and how to survive it”.

The show explores Australia’s extreme weather and aims to empower communities, families and individuals to prepare, survive and recover from disasters.

No registration required – just jump online at 10am on Monday 21 September.

So the time has come to say a final goodbye

It is a sad day for me today. 

After nearly five years of seeing the humanitarian outcomes you deliver every week and every month; this is my last day.  I have such mixed emotions, but it is mostly a deep sadness with also deep pride in what has been achieved since 29 February 2016. 

Thank you so much for your well wishes, support and messages. I will cherish these. 

I have enjoyed each moment I have had with you in the past five years. In Narrandera hearing Jen talk of the Learner Driver program. Sharing fresh caught whiting (courtesy of Brenton) with members and community members in Ceduna. Seeing your faces as you supported the families impacted by the Christchurch massacre. Hearing how our Finance team worked to bring in every donation in June. Talking with business leaders about the social impact they want their organisation to achieve and agreeing how we can work in partnership to achieve it. Seeing the millions around the world connect to answer the question ‘does dragon fire breach the laws of war’ as we assessed every episode of the Game of Thrones in terms of the ‘laws of war’. Drinking Ethiopian coffee with those involved in our refugee program in Coffs Harbour. Learning the song Wiyathul in language - by Geoffrey Yunupingu, album Gurrumul as part of “I Will” under the Reconciliation Action Plan. In Morwell, with the members, hearing the stories from Ben of his work in the justice system and the creation of Trauma Teddies in the colours of the Aboriginal flag, and eating the most delicious sponge cake I have ever tasted. To seeing the difference we're making for people recovering from the bushfires, like Bill who told us "It gives me a chance. Old as I am, it gives me a chance".

So many memories.  So many stories. 

I want to thank the team who worked so closely with me – Jeni, Brenda, Chris and Sarah - who supported me so well. Who challenged me. Who coped with my brain fade episodes. And who told me ‘enough was enough’ or gave me courage and confidence to go further. I also want to thank the amazing team who lead us all – Noel, Penny, Michael, Belinda, Lloyd, Caroline, Chris, Tara, Adrian, Veronica – calm, capable, people-focused professionals. 

Finally, thank you to all of you. We have achieved so much together in the past few years. You are poised to achieve so much more together in the future. I have learnt from you. I have done my best to enable you to be your best. Thank you for everything.


Editor's note

Judy, on behalf of all Red Cross people, THANK YOU! You have had a profound impact. We are a stronger organisation, and better people, for being led by you. We'll miss you very much. Sending our very best wishes with you, always.