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Our Myanmar Crisis Appeal, community spirit in Cairns and more…

19 September 2017

Hi everyone,

We've been following the crisis in Myanmar closely and working with colleagues internationally. Yesterday we launched a fundraising appeal to help the tens of thousands of families affected by the violence in northern Rakhine. Our Director, International, Peter Walton issued a media release and I'd like to echo his sentiments:

"Donations could help a family find a place to sleep out of the rain. It could provide medical care and support to someone who's been injured in violence. It could help children get nutritious meals or keep them safe from abuse and exploitation.

"We have a chance to save lives and help ease the suffering of thousands of women, children and men who are in a critical situation," Peter said.

If you or someone you know would like to help, please direct them to our Myanmar Crisis Appeal webpage.

"You belong": Community spirit in Cairns

"You belong here on our street. You belong here in our community".

These words are from a song written by kids who go to the Manoora Community Centre in Cairns. Our involvement in this part of Cairns started in 2014, when eight children lost their lives through domestic violence. Red Cross was asked to help the community heal.

Initially, Michael White (who was Community Healing Project Coordinator at the time), walked alongside the community, reaching out to everyone, right through to the family's ancestral lands. Javier Suarez then came on board, re-energising the Manoora Community Centre (on the corner of Murray Street) with support from the community, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Cairns Regional Council.

Javier and Luke Wenitong, our Regional Coordinator for Far North Queensland, have been committed to this community project ever since. You can see Javier in the photo below, standing with their 'Take the Oath' poster. He leads gently and humbly, with clear ground rules, a sense of humour and community spirit. The oath this poster refers to, is one the kids take when they start at the Community Centre. The message is simple - "If something is not right, I speak up."

When I was there on Friday, Javier and the team were finalising plans for the upcoming school holidays: two weeks of activities which complement existing daily initiatives like their 'walking bus' which gets the kids to school, or visits from a women's group. They've also been working on a second CD, the first of which was called "Songs of Murray Street". I started this update with a line from one of their songs. Here it is in full - it's magic:

Walking in the door, I get a big hug. And a frozen cup. I feel so happy.
All walks of life. All boys and girls. All around the world. I feel so loved.
Your Aunty, your mother, your uncle, your father, your sister, your brother, your best friend.
You belong here on our street. You belong here in our community.
You belong yeah, yeah, yeah; you belong yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tomorrow you are welcome. Heart is always open. Come back to our place to play. Like a second home. Feel safe with us. With family.
Your Aunty, your mother, your uncle, your father, your sister, your brother, your best friend.
You belong here on our street. You belong here in our community.
You belong yeah, yeah, yeah; you belong yeah, yeah, yeah.

I was in Cairns as part of a broader Queensland trip with Chair of the Queensland Divisional Advisory Board, John Pinney. We had time for a good discussion and Q&A session with everyone in Brisbane. In Caboolture we learned that those who use 'couch surfing' as a way of getting a roof over their heads each night aren't considered homeless by the local housing representative and therefore aren't prioritised for support to find permanent housing.

In Townsville and Cairns we visited the Red Cross Wellbeing Centres which provide temporary accommodation for patients and families from remote areas who need medical treatment or emergency support. These centres were originally set up (including the raising of funds) by Red Cross branches and the members are still actively running and contributing to the centres – they're just amazing. We also went out with Gay and Gavin from the Townsville team as part of their 'Street to Home' outreach service.

15 disposable cameras

In our Townsville office, there are 15 photos proudly displayed. They were inspired by a a project in New York, where people who sleep on the streets were given disposable cameras to 'capture things they hoped others might see.'

Our team in Townsville liked this idea and bought 15 disposable cameras to encourage people to take photos about what being homeless means to them. 'My Side of the Street' was one of the photos.

With $1,000 from a Red Cross diversity and inclusion award (recognising the team's work creating a Sister Girls Retreat for Indigenous transgender folks in Townsville), they purchased

cameras and then developed and framed the best shots. The team is excited to expand on this idea - to spend more time with people who are sleeping rough and use their photographs to build greater community support for their needs.

One simple thing to make you safer

It's emergency preparedness week - one of our flagship initiatives to help Australians prepare for disasters and emergencies of all kinds. One in three Australians are affected by an emergency in their lifetime, so please help us spread the word by engaging with our social media, sharing our news coverage and speaking with family and friends about the importance of being prepared.

We've all seen the impact of record-breaking emergencies in South Asia and the Americas - it's easy to think that there's no way to be ready for such devastation. But there are simple steps that can help, from getting to know your neighbours, to completing a Rediplan, packing an emergency kit (or planning what you might take) and preparing your mind.

Take a look at the website the team has put together to help you, your families, and all Australians prepare.

Related to this, it was great to hear last week in Cairns about a Resilient Communities in Disaster course we'll be running across eight communities in North Queensland and Cape York. The program is three days long and includes first aid and psychological first aid. We'll be doing this in partnership with James Cook University, who were successful in obtaining $400,000 to fund this initial stage of what we hope will be a longer term and more widespread rollout.

Developing our next Reconciliation Action Plan

With our second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) coming to an end in June 2018, it's time to ask: What additional practical on-the-ground initiatives can we contribute to? Can we play a greater role in helping the whole sector shift to a place-based, community-led model? How can we get more Red Cross people involved? And many other questions.

So we're starting the development of our third plan led by Jenny Brown, National Lead Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement. Our first step involves a broad consultation process kicking off with a short survey to help us understand the impact of our current Reconciliation Action Plan and seeking your input into shaping our future initiatives. We can all play a part in reconciliation.

Have your say about our next RAP.

Final Strategy 2020 sessions

Have you managed to attend any of our Strategy 2020 sessions? We've found they're the best way to involve as many people as possible in the progress we're making towards our goals. It's been great to hear your questions and get your input. There's only one more week to go so please check out the calendar and attend as many as you can.