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The magic + Making a world of difference

22 May 2019

Hi everyone,

Can you remember when you learnt to drive or taught someone to drive? 

I remember it as being full of 'thrills and spills' with patience, perseverance and dedication needed in equal parts by the teacher and the student. So imagine signing up to help someone you don't know learn to drive, someone who is going through tough times and someone you'll be spending at least 120 hours on the road together, with at least 10 of those hours being at night. 

That's what Red Cross volunteers do in our learner driver mentor program in the Wagga Wagga region.  Jen Cameron, our learner driver community programs officer, described the program to Red Cross members in the Greater Western region of NSW.

"The mentoring is where the magic happens," she said quoting one of the participants as saying "Finally I have someone to talk to".  She illustrated the role of the volunteer in the program. 

The learner driver program in Wagga Wagga helps disadvantaged people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to gain their driver license. Since the program started, we’ve helped 120 people get their P plates.  61% of them have gone on to full or part time employment16% are now studying.

More than that they have the freedom to do what a licence allows - going to and from work, to the supermarket, picking up children from school, going out for lunch, taking children to after school events, visiting family in other towns, going on holiday, keeping in contact with friends, going to appointments such as doctors, taking day trips and so much more.

The magic enablers (or volunteers) come from all walks of life: retired English teachers, police, juvenile justice workers, tradespersons, bus drivers and many more. 

You can see a video of some of the magic here. Thanks so much to Jen whose presentation I have used to write this and for the amazing work she does for everyone involved. 

It was also great to spend time with our members in Narrandera as they got together for a joint zone meeting led by representative Mary Irons. We heard about the work of each of the Branches from the last year and we had a session with Councillor Neville Kshenka, Mayor of Narrandera Shire Council.

It was interesting to hear about a major solar power farm being established and even charging stations being installed for electric cars, as well as the community pride in their food exports and the local music scene. But also important to hear about just how dry it is and the deep and insidious impact of that, the increasing loneliness and concern about mental health challenges and drug use. In amongst all these is a group of tremendous Red Cross women and men – part of the community, supporting the community and supporting each other.  

You've made a world of difference

This is just one example of the amazing contribution volunteers make.  And of course this week is National Volunteer Week – it is a nationwide recognition of those who make a world of difference. 

There is so much in volunteering that creates magic. The magic of human connection, of learning from each other, of being there for each other, of navigating hurdles and tough times together, of contributing time, effort and funds to what’s important. To me it’s also about the well-known African proverb: 

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk with others."

Australians collectively volunteer around 900 million hours in their local communities each year.  And we know from our research that 9 million Australians want to do more for their local communities. 

From the teddy knitters to the patient transport driver, our 17,000 volunteers give their heart and time creating change and impacting lives all over the country including the remarkable women who lead the Bindaring Clothing Sale (which I mentioned last week which raised $190,000 for Red Cross work on Saturday).

Every day with your support, volunteering and work, we achieve a lot of good for people and communities going through tough times.

So, happy National Volunteer Week and thank you.

After the action

As things quieten down a bit after our busy summer of fires, floods and cyclones, we’re doing our ‘after action review’. Until recently we did this each year.  Now, due to the increasing frequency of events, we are going to do this twice a year. It is all about celebrating and recognising what’s been done but also learning and adapting. Between July 2018 and April 2019:

  • We responded to 48 events including 35 emergency activations and 13 collective trauma events
  • We assisted approximately 64,656 people over nine months
  • More than 1,878 of you, our staff and volunteers, were activated

We stuck with communities in Queensland and northern NSW to assist with long-term recovery. For example, our response to floods in Queensland saw us activated for 65 days, deploying 431 trained staff and volunteers to help coordinate and manage evacuation centres and recovery hubs. In this event alone, we assisted 48,602 people.

And in response to Tropical Cyclone Trevor in the Northern Territory, we deployed 119 staff and volunteers who assisted over 2,340 people, and managed evacuation centres in Darwin and Katherine.

Over 300 volunteers worked interstate in areas needing intense support so our ability to move people around the country quickly remains critical.  Equally important is ensuring that everyone is trained in the same techniques and approaches so that anyone new to a location can get up and running straight away, confident that they are doing the right thing in times of crisis. 

Our strong focus on volunteer and staff wellbeing helped a lot particularly in Queensland with the long activation period.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff played a critical role during the activations in the Northern Territory along with other volunteers and other staff.  We’re seeing an even stronger need for psychological first aid during the response which we will work on.

The review continues but these are the early learnings.   

We also looked at Lombok Island and Central Sulawesi – an area in Indonesia where nine significant earthquakes hit during 2018. Overall more than 2,200 people were killed, 68,000 houses were destroyed or damaged and more than 430,000 people impacted. The local Red Cross responded at scale from the outset – fully mobilising its ready and prepared network of volunteers at scale. The Indonesian Government gave Indonesia Red Cross additional responsibilities and together they launched an appeal (with the support of the International Federation). The Indonesian Government did not request overall international assistance but rather asked for specific support to fill the gaps that existed. 

Our international team has been working on what we call ‘locally-led’ responses and how we need to change to enable them. This week they launched ‘Lessons Learned from a Locally-Led Emergency Response’. We are also participating in this week’s 2019 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Leadership Conference. We’ll be doing this alongside Dr Hugo Slim, Head of Policy and Humanitarian Diplomacy at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Working together in one team

We’ve been hearing recently from our colleagues at the Blood Service about a  new approach they have adopted called ‘one-team’. This approach encourages working together across borders: both geographical and the borders inside a business. 

A great example of this approach is the Start Network.  After nine years operating as a consortium of major not-for-profits and funders, the Start Network very recently became ‘independent’ from their host organisation Save the Children UK. The new group aims to transform the global humanitarian sector, deliver more effective emergency aid, harnessing the power and knowledge of the network to help people affected by crises. …advocate for radical change in the system so that the world can deal better with the humanitarian challenges of today, and of the future”.

Working this way recognises that the world and its vulnerabilities are interconnected and ever-changing. 

This is the strength of the Start Network – bringing non-government-organisations, corporates, governments, and others together to respond to emergencies and other humanitarian needs. This same strength lives within us too. From within our own Movement, we have a rich and diverse network that’s local and global, and cuts across various social needs and expertise.

We have privileged access to decision makers and we are expanding our engagement with different sectors. How can we bring more people together so we can make a world of difference, like the theme of this year’s National Volunteer Week? We can do more personally and together to connect, collaborate and leverage from our position of strength across geographies, areas of our humanitarian work, and outside of our organisation.

Our Pulse

For those of you who work at Red Cross, this month’s Pulse survey is open until midnight on 29 May.

Here are the questions for the month of May:

  • I believe there are opportunities to progress my career within Red Cross.
  • I connect with others outside of Red Cross to achieve better outcomes.
  • I am part of a trustworthy team.
  • We share our success as a team beyond our immediate team.
  • I would recommend Red Cross to others as a good place to work.
  • It is safe to make a mistake at Red Cross when trying something different.

Plus of course there is space for you to provide suggestions, feedback and ideas. 

Each month we go through the results in detail – this triggers changes and tweaks locally, regionally and nationally. When I say 'we' – I mean me, Cam  Power, Noel Clement, Kerry McGrath, Chris Wheatley, Belinda Dimovski, Penny Harrison, Peter Walton, Garry Page, Mark Groote, Linda Crumlin, Kate Siebert, Sharon Wachtel, Andy Kenyon and Poppy Brown. We do this at our monthly meeting to go through how things are going overall.

I see great examples of how local teams are using the Pulse results to improve how they work together, solve what they can solve locally and feed into other changes across the organisation.  

At the end of March, a message from your Pulse results showed we needed to better explain rationales behind our decisions and be more transparent. In response, we:

  • shared our performance report which goes to the Board every quarter. The latest quarterly performance report will be available to team leaders via Microsoft Teams very shortly.
  • published our Strategy 2020 Scorecard outlining what we’ve achieved, and how we’re tracking against our targets for the year.
  • are continuing the monthly Q&A session for everyone plus individual sessions in different groups.
  • will share with you in a couple of weeks the significant milestones coming up over the next six months in each area.

National Sorry Day

National Sorry Day is this Sunday and it’s a time where we acknowledge and recognise the Stolen Generations.  

It is a good time to discuss these issues with your team members, have a coffee and chat to your friends, or read more about how you can contribute. Every effort counts. Here’s a list of events that you can join to commemorate this day.

Next week, I’ll share with you what I’m doing to further my knowledge and deepen my understanding through my commitments towards reconciliation.

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