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Humanitarian Impact of Climate Change | Social Connection | Register.Find.Reunite stood down

20 February 2020

Register.Find.Reunite closed for the first time in months

Hi everyone,

I am sure many of you have watched as the fire fighters have celebrated each time one of the major fires has officially gone out. I have. Now we have our own celebration - our Register.Find.Reunite service has been stood down for the first time since September. The service will be back up for the next emergency but for now, enjoy the quiet and comfort knowing that there are no current emergencies.

Since September, we’ve registered 68,400 people mostly at evacuation and relief centres during bushfires, floods and a tropical cyclone. By registering we help them stay in touch with family and friends, and to set them up to link in with further support. A big thank you to everyone – volunteers, members and staff - who have spent days and nights supporting this service and talking to thousands of people impacted by the fires and other disasters.

It’s thanks to you that we keep on keeping on during tough times and can continue providing support in recovery. I spent time with the team taking calls. I’m not (yet) trained to take the calls but I was able to help with the backlog of forms. As always, our volunteers support people during the calls and provide information in a way which is full of heart but also practical and helpful, it's an honour to work alongside you.

In terms of our bushfire funds, to date we’ve distributed $44 million in immediate payments and our teams are working hard in order to process and distribute the funds to people affected by the Australian bushfires.


Since last week we have been making 1,100 calls a day to those who are in quarantine and isolation, powered by around 30 Red Cross people (mostly volunteers). The number of calls rises and falls as people come in and out of their 14-day quarantine and isolation period.

In fact Red Cross in many places around the world is supporting the response and will continue to do so.

More than 1.8 million Red Cross volunteers in China are providing health education on Coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention, distribution of personal protective equipment, psychosocial support to those in quarantine and others affected by the crisis, and critical patient transport and clinical care.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has distributed emergency funds for national society preparedness and response activities. IFRC has also increased staff numbers in its Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva offices, and is working with WHO to purchase and pre-position personal protective equipment stocks.

As the global response continues to increase in scale, more resources are being deployed across Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

Visit from Governor General

Last week we were very honoured to have the Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Mrs Hurley visit us at the Villiers Street office in Melbourne. The Governor General gave words of encouragement and thanks to everyone involved in the bushfire response on the frontline and behind the scenes, and acknowledged the ongoing efforts to help communities recover and rebuild.

The Humanitarian Impact of Climate Change

Climate of the Nation is the longest running research project by the Australia Institute which looks at attitudes towards climate change in Australia. In January, the Australia Institute commissioned a bushfire update which reveals that bushfires cost 1.8 million work days and left five million sick from smoke.

  • 57% of respondents reported some kind of direct impact from the bushfires and smoke.
  • 26% of survey respondents experienced negative health impacts from the fires’ smoke, representing 5.1 million Australian adults. Health impacts were more widely reported in NSW (35%) and Victoria (29%).
  • 17% of full time workers and 8% of part time workers, representing 1.8 million Australians, reported they had missed work due to the fires. This alone is estimated to have costed more than $1.3 billion in lost economic production, assuming only one lost day per worker.
  • Direct experience of impacts was associated with stronger concern about climate change.

In the work we do, we support those whose lives and health are most affected by climate change, and empower people to take their own actions to adapt and reduce risk. From our Get Prepared App to the Climate Ready Champions in South Australia and the Pillowcase Program helping build children's knowledge, skills and confidence to act in times of adversity.

We are working with communities, building capacity, responding to their needs, and, empowering them to take their own actions, to adapt and reduce risks before, during and after an emergency.

These findings paint a sobering picture of the humanitarian impacts of climate change, calling on us to do more with others so we can successfully adapt and mitigate these challenges together.

Social Connection

What is the future of healthy social connections? That’s what Australian Red Cross, through the leadership of Penny Harrison and Ebony Gaylor are exploring, in partnership with Swinburne University.

Our social connections have the power to positively affect our health and wellbeing. They can foster community development and provide resilience during times of crisis. With this research, the concept of Social Connection has been expanded from traditional face-to-face relationships to include technologies, places, spaces and verbal or sensory experiences. The broadening of human social networks, from kin and community to a global context means that the nature of social relationships are changing.

Recent research has given a much better picture of social isolation and loneliness - its impact on people as well as the role of social connection in alleviating it. By understanding this, the team has developed, and been testing a model for maintaining healthy social connection. The Healthy Social Connections Model helps us understand:

  • Social connection circles: Based on the ‘social brain hypothesis’ of primate anthropologist Robin Dunbar, there is a limit on the number of connections an individual can maintain, which is based on time and emotional attachment.
  • Inputs, or personal resources that need to be invested to develop and maintain social connections: There are two key things people invest in their social connections—time and emotional attachment. More or less time and emotional attachment is required for different relationships based on where those relationships sit within a person’s social connection circles.
  • Outputs, or personal feelings and resources that people get from social connections: To maintain wellbeing, people need the feelings and resources they get from social connections.
  • Connection types: Connections are most commonly human connections (e.g. with friends or family members that people connect with face-to-face, by phone, online or through social media). People can have other types of connections, such as with pets and technologies like robots, and these types of connections are increasingly being researched.

This is an exciting piece of work, with Swinburne University bringing academic depth and Red Cross bringing practical knowledge. Thanks to this partnership we can further the research and practical application of the model.

Nurturing storytellers through #GoodHumans

Last year I shared the #GoodHumans campaign with you. An initiative run by our REDxYouth members to uncover and celebrate the ways young people are making a difference big or small in our communities. It’s a wonderful way for young people to share stories of taking action on issues that matter to them; from mental health to climate change and homelessness, to name a few.

Recently, the team organised a six-week digital storytelling campaign that called for young people to share stories of everyday action from their networks, which led to a physical event that brought together and celebrated the stories and the people who had been sharing them.

Throughout the campaign, the team saw 80 posts, 65 shout-outs from people within the REDxYouth network, 17,000 audience interactions - beyond link clicks (e.g. likes, comments, reactions, shares, page likes) and 30 participants at the event. Here are some of the learnings that they’ve shared with me.

  • Young Australians are taking action in diverse and often informal ways, much of which goes unseen.
  • We can nurture the ‘storytellers’ to further connect and amplify the efforts of young Australians.
  • Existing Red Cross youth are eager to play a greater role in mobilising others, but need a clear invitation and support.
  • Sharing stories helps young people to explore issues, but more is needed to spark a contribution to these issues.
  • User-generated storytelling and collaborative networks take dedicated community building, to create trust and authenticity.
  • Recognition and celebration starts new conversations, but it needs to be built upon to better support young people to take further action.
  • Getting people to create content is a big ask and people want to get some value out of their contribution.
  • Recognition and celebration needs to be treated with some sensitivity, as it can bring up complex responses relating to trust and authenticity, and play into ‘tall poppy’ syndrome.

It’s a great opportunity to mobilise the power of people and the team did so by supporting people to take their first steps as ‘changemakers’, capturing their interest and attention at the right time, inspiring through stories, and supporting them to build connection and recognition amongst peers and communities as someone making a difference.

That’s all for this week. Chat to you soon.