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Leading from lockdown | Big weather | Global perspectives

24 September

Honoured, grateful and astounded

Hello everyone. 

I am honoured to officially have the training wheels taken off this week as the Interim CEO, and feeling very grateful to Judy and many of you for taking the time to bring me up to speed. Thank you for the warm welcome and your patience as I learn from you ‘on the go’.   

I already feel at home. In my six months on the Board I've witnessed the great work you’re doing, and helped shape the direction we’re headed. As Interim CEO, I’m here to help maintain this momentum and deliver our Future Focus aspirations, for as long as it takes to find a new CEO. 

I already knew you are talented and dedicated people, but I’ve learned just how deep and wide that knowledge and experience is – just astounding!  

What has surprised me is, despite the challenges of bushfires and COVID-19, not only do you remain focused on our humanitarian mission, but you do it with a positive attitude. That said, it’s important we take time to recharge, including making use of our upcoming organisation day off on Friday 2 October. 

I am looking forward to the insights our culture survey will bring. This is important work for us all. You will have received an email from Human Synergistics with the survey link last week. So far 27% of our people have completed the survey, and we hope everyone will before the end of this month. Your feedback is essential to help consciously create a culture we all feel proud to be part of. The survey is comprehensive, so please do not be put off by the level of detail. The quality of the results will be well worth our efforts.  

Culture can be described as what we do when nobody is watching. A such, I was absolutely delighted to hear this week about a volunteer in one of our retail stores found $5,000 in cash inside a donated pair of shoes! She turned it in to the police, and if it’s unclaimed it could well end up being donated to our work. How fabulous is that? 

This week I’m pleased to see so many Red Cross people taking part in the Go Without Challenge. Shout out to the Red Cross CCT team who have raised over $2,000 already, and staff member Jade Wisely and her family (pictured below) who’ve raised more than $1,300 to date, by going without everyday essentials to walk in the shoes of people impacted by disasters. Well done! 

Going forward I am keen to share this blog space with the Executive Team and others. This week I’ve asked Noel to share what he’s learnt about leading from lockdown.  

I am also always keen to hear from you, so email me anytime if you have any questions or comments. 

Looking forward to meeting more of you soon. 

Leading from lockdown

by Noel Clement, Director, Australian Programs

I’ve got myself into a new lockdown groove. While many people have worked from home since March (and I greatly admire your endurance), I hung on to some sense of normality by working from the office during the first wave. When the second Victorian lockdown came in July, I was on leave painting the side of my house, so I’ve stayed here and worked from the spare bedroom/study/gym/office (yep it’s a small adaptive space). 

It took me several weeks to find this new groove. Early morning exercise is not new to me but I’m now strictly adhering to daily exertion – it’s been critical to my wellbeing. Once the day starts, I disappear into my new work space and emerge for rest stops… sadly regular snacks are a downside but heck, I’m working out daily. My job means I’m engaging with people across the country (and sometimes globally), so while my physical world has shrunk dramatically, my virtual world has exploded. Like most of you, I’m switching between meetings in Teams, Skype, Zoom and other platforms – often every 30 minutes. But essentially my job hasn’t changed – I spend much of my time talking to Red Cross people within Australian Programs and beyond; supporting them to progress their work, helping to navigate decision making, shaping strategic directions and ensuring our support for vulnerable people continues and improves. And I’m still representing the organisation externally - attending inquiry hearings, advocating to Ministers and bureaucrats on the needs of vulnerable people, engaging with supporters and working in partnership with other organisations. In my new groove I still get to input to program outcome reports, letters to governments, press releases, proposals for new initiatives, tender submissions for new programs and risks assessments. 

I miss face to face catch ups (with anyone other than my partner and dog), I miss seeing our amazing teams on the ground, and I miss water cooler conversations. But despite that, I feel as close to our work as ever, and I’m grateful that I can continue to do my bit. There’s nothing like a pandemic to remind you what really matters – to me that’s being there for people doing it tough, continuing to show up (even if only possible virtually) and using our reach and influence to drive positive change. From this small room, I still see Red Cross people doing that every day. 

Kyla's story – Insights from the world’s largest refugee camp 

Kyla Raby from our Migration Support team recently returned from six months in Bangladesh helping to prevent trafficking in the world’s largest refugee camp. Kyla shared her insights with the Women’s Agenda this week. She talks about working alongside Bangladesh Red Crescent teams to help women and children stay safe from violence, exploitation and now COVID-19. 

“I arrived in March... within three short weeks, the whole world had changed, and on top of an already protracted protection crisis, we were also responding to a public health and economic crisis, then later during monsoon season, the worst flooding the camps have seen to-date… many international aid workers were pulled out… moved to remote support… leaving Bangladesh at the time of their highest need was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do…. Midnight meetings, hundreds of WhatsApp notifications and Zoom selfies became regular features of my week, and despite the distance, I was incredibly privileged to experience first-hand the compassion, dedication, skill and resilience of the Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers working tirelessly to respond. Through their efforts, mothers became more aware of ways in which people were looking to exploit them and their children, and could consider these risks to avoid further loss, harm and trauma… The risks, vulnerabilities and needs in the camps have never been higher, but the beating heart of the response has never been louder.” 

The article is well worth a read. Thank you to all involved in this important work every day.  

Big Weather - Exclusive preview of new ABC series

“Big weather and how to survive it” will air on ABC from 13 October.  

Host Craig Reucassel (The Chaser, War on Waste, Fight for Planet A) and volunteers from our Red Cross emergency services teams gave us an exclusive first look and behind the scenes commentary. 

If you missed this live, then I urge you to review the replay because it’s impactful viewing.  

The show explores Australia’s extreme weather and aims to empower people to prepare, survive and recover from disasters. The creators expressed their admiration and gratitude for Red Cross people and how we help. 

Feedback from Red Cross attendees at Monday’s session was fabulous: 

Francesca - I will definitely be telling everyone in my network.

Jess - ​So proud to be a Red Cross person. This is an excellent partnership with ABC.

Bridget​ - So wonderful to be part of this.

Kirsty - ​That was a great start to the week. I feel very motivated and humbled.

Overlapping vulnerabilities worldwide

Overnight the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre revealed that at least 51.6 million people worldwide have been affected by floods, droughts or storms and COVID-19. 

The analysis shows that out of 132 identified unique extreme weather events so far in 2020, 92 have overlapped with the pandemic. 

IFRC President Francesco Rocca, said: “The massive global investment in recovering from the pandemic proves governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats – we urgently need this same energy on climate, and it is critical that the recovery from COVID-19 is green, resilient, and inclusive if we are to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable communities.” 

Read more here. 

That's all for now. 
Kym