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Looking after yourself | New bushfire grants | Importance of donating blood

20 March 2020

Looking after yourself

Hi everyone,

Here in Australia and across the world, we are all taking extra precautions to ensure that we are safe from COVID-19 and to minimise the spread of the virus. It’s been tough. We are all adjusting. Some of us are working from home or preparing to, some are making plans to ensure we practise social distancing if we have to be out in public. We are all gearing the whole of Red Cross to be able to respond at this scale and to make sure we prioritise humanitarian support for Australians. While we are doing all these, please take care of yourselves and others.

At the cross-organisation meeting I had yesterday, some of us were dialling in from home and for some of us in the office, we made sure we stayed at least 1.5 metres away from one another (you can zoom in to the VIC meeting room to see this). 

It is normal to have a range of feelings: you may feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or even angry.

There are things you can do to feel better.

For 106 years, Red Cross has stood with Australians through disasters, emergencies and the other challenges life throws at us. This is no exception. We are working with federal and state governments, thousands of volunteers across the country, and millions across the world to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are guided by our fundamental principles and our commitment to protect life, health, respect and dignity.

  • We are supporting the community by making daily check-in calls to people who are in mandatory self-isolation, with a focus on those who might be especially vulnerable. We are putting together plans with all state and territory governments to expand this support.
  • We share health and safety messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • We will compile and share ideas from the community on how to maintain wellbeing and social connections during periods of self-isolation.
  • We will ‘spread kindness’ – encouraging safe and practical ways for people to look after each other and support those who may be more vulnerable at this time.

We are also taking critical steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our clients and people. This includes limiting face-to-face contact, providing services by phone and email wherever possible, and working with each service to ensure that people have the support they need.

Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide are working to contain the spread of COVID-19 and support those who are affected. Australian Red Cross aid workers are part of this response, supporting pandemic preparedness, emergency operations and emergency health services.

And during this difficult time, we are also getting stories of kindness that are coming from around the world. From the two young friends from Queensland who spent their pocket money to get toilet paper for the elderly, to the fitness instructor in Spain who hosted a workout session from a rooftop, these beautiful stories help to lift our spirits in times like this.

There’s also a beautiful story that was shared by John Richardson (National Resilience Adviser) on social distancing, working from home and helping businesses during times like this, that I thought I’d pass along. 

You can spread some kindness too. Check in on your friends and neighbours or make a phone call to connect with them. Whatever your living situation is, have a read at these useful tips to help you and your families stay happy and hopeful during self-isolation.

Importance of donating blood

In and amongst all this, our colleagues at Lifeblood are calling on eligible Australians to become blood donors and for existing donors to make and honour their appointments to prevent a potential shortage of blood supplies. 

Some 14,000 donors are needed to make an appointment over the next few weeks, including the Easter long weekend, to bolster supplies. The Easter period is a time when many regular donors take a break, but the need for blood never stops.  

If you’re healthy, and haven’t been overseas in the last 28 days, please make an appointment to donate blood. Here’s some information on how Lifeblood is keeping their donor centres safe.

Bushfire Relief and Recovery – New grants introduced

Our Bushfires Fund Advisory Panel have recently endorsed a number of changes to existing grants or introduced new grants to provide financial assistance to individuals and families who have been impacted by bushfires since July 2019.

We increased the funding for the Primary Residence Repair grant from $10m to $20m and broadened the eligibility criteria to include water tanks, septic tanks and power infrastructure. This was based on the information we received from our volunteers and staff on the ground telling us that there is a significant need for financial support to repair or replace these critical things. The expanded grant was made available on Thursday 12 March 2020.

We also increased the funding for the Injury grant from $500k to $2m as we continue to receive applications for people who have been physically injured or experienced mental health issues as a direct result of bushfires from July 2019.  Our Panel wanted to ensure that we have enough funds available to provide this support.

We allocated $70m of the Disaster Relief & Recovery Fund to people facing financial hardship to help people rebuild their destroyed homes. This is a new grant and the team are in the process of developing the application and assessment process with the aim to launch at the end of March 2020.

The Bushfires fund Advisory Panel endorsed another new grant focused on Financial Hardship. We know there are many people who are experiencing financial hardship due to a broad range of issues as a direct result of bushfire and really need some financial support. We are working with state teams to establish a process with key government agencies to identify the simplest and fastest way to deliver Financial Hardship grants. We look forward to sharing more on this soon.

We have supported the loved ones of those who lost their lives as a direct result of bushfires by providing a Bereavement grant to their senior next of kin. We know there others who lost loved ones during the bushfires, for example people who had heart attacks while evacuating or people who had pre-existing conditions exacerbated by the bushfire or the stress, and died. If their family members are facing financial hardship they will soon also be provided with support through a referral from Services Australia.

This week our team has been critically focused on finalising and testing our business continuity plan for the delivery of the bushfire grant payments. This is in response to potential disruption to our current grant payment model due to COVID-19 concerns. Today we have all 45 of our payment team staff and the Secretariat team working off site to understand and test our ability to run remotely. We need to ensure we can continue to deliver this critical support to people over the coming days and weeks.

Syria Crisis, nine years on

Across the world, there are still people facing different forms of crises. Last Sunday marked the anniversary of the Syria Crisis. Nine years ago, no one expected that the conflict in Syria would create the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, but the renewed fighting in the country’s North-West is a stark reminder that the conflict is far from over.

11 million men, women and children in need of humanitarian aid in order to survive, 5 million of whom are in urgent need of immediate life-saving help.

Over one million people injured, and close to half a million killed (this number is an estimate. Tallying the deaths became less accurate in 2014 due to lack of resources). The real death toll is likely much higher.

Have a read at this piece on our website, to mark the anniversary.

Making it big in Tanzania

Before I end this blog, I’d like to share this story from Richard Wood (Head of Retail). Richard shared these pictures of the Derrimut Distribution Centre team. They just packed a 20 foot container full of great quality donations to be sent to the Tanzania Red Cross Society. 

We had excess stock of new products that we received in bulk. Our customers asked us not to keep sending the same styles so we saw an opportunity. We’ve worked directly with Tanzania Red Cross who were in need of good quality clothing. 

“We think Tanzania Red Cross will be delighted with their ‘treasure chest’ which will be used to support their most vulnerable clients,” said Richard.

The team remembered to stick a photo of themselves in with a message to our colleagues in Tanzania. 

Con (pictured on the right) is a champion, providing 21 years of dedicated service to Red Cross. He is a great person to be around in challenging times. Con has also gladly taken up a new challenge. He’s the first of his team to be redeployed on a temporary basis, as we rebalance some of our Operational Team into support roles.

Thanks Con and the Derrimut team for the far-reaching support we are now providing.

Talk to you next week.