Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Supporting others during tough times, Our Pulse + Heat

26 March 2019

Hi everyone,

What an amazing bunch of people you are

Everywhere I looked last week I saw Red Cross people doing what we do best – supporting others during tough times

Some of you had the most difficult of jobs. Two of our teams worked with New Zealand Red Cross to reach out to loved ones (in New Zealand and around the globe) of those missing and those who died in the attacks in Christchurch.

Some of you made amazing efforts to connect in our communities - such as the team in WA who supported nine vigils and events being held. Others knitted Red Cross Trauma Teddies for those that needed that comfort.

Others still helped translate our guidance notes on how to manage distress into Arabic, Somali and Farsi (see below). We received several grateful ‘thank you’s’ from Muslim communities across Australia and from New Zealand Red Cross.

Left: Red Cross volunteer Jannie Turner-Gill talks with Stephen Kumwenda during our response to TC Trevor. Right: Red Cross volunteer Georgie Mumford kicks a footy with Fantasia Mamarika from Groote Eylandt.

Many Red Cross people did whatever was needed to support thousands of people taking shelter from Tropical Cyclone Trevor. Others, supporting the evacuation centre in Katherine, had to cope with an unexpected and violent storm during the handover causing tents to go flying.

And then of course there was our ongoing support for people affected by floods in Townsville, as shown in this tweet. 

Further afield, the growing humanitarian impact of Cyclone Idai and its aftermath in southern Africa loomed large. Our International team is working with colleagues from the International Federation to galvanise people, medical support and emergency supplies.

I’ve included more information on the translation of resources and our Cyclone Trevor response below.

We were able to have these translated and distributed to many in the Muslim community and to New Zealand Red Cross. I remember from a previous organisation I worked with, how much communities appreciated communications in their own mother tongue. This was an extra special part of our response last week.

Supporting those evacuated during TC Trevor

Elder Joyce Dirdi describes what it is like to be evacuated and how it feels in this article.

“I’m tired and anxious to go home,” she says. “We’re wondering what happened to our home. It’s traumatic to leave home and come up here to Darwin. The kids are closed in the stadium and all the clans are sleeping together – it’s the first time we’re sharing a space. But some good things have happened. We’re used to having community meetings and we’re still getting together every day.”

There were 60 Red Cross people per shift per evacuation centre providing support 24 hours a day since last Thursday to people evacuated.

Over the past three months we’ve responded to 10 domestic major disasters. This is all part of our 2020 commitment to be there 100% of the time during emergencies. Most importantly, it is about well-trained and professional volunteers and staff doing a remarkable job in tricky circumstances. Thank you for what you do.

Our Pulse

Thanks again to all of you who are participating in the monthly staff Pulse survey. As you know, the questions change each month and help us all create a great working environment at Red Cross. 

In my blog three weeks ago, I summarised the most important issues from last month’s Pulse survey. We also covered these in yesterday’s all staff Q&A (which about 90 people attended).

Helping all Red Cross people see where and how they fit in the future of Red Cross, the value they contribute and how we will get there together.  Explaining what will happen after the end of 2020

  • There is a lot in this one. For the past two months we’ve worked with the broader leadership group to give them the information they need to outline to you how we’re going and how various teams are contributing. Later in April we’ll also explain the approach we’ll take post 2020. 

More transparency for everyone on how we are tracking and what’s coming up in the next months 

  • Yesterday in the all staff bulletin we launched our scorecard on progress for you all to see. You can find it here. We’ll be doing this on a quarterly basis from now on. It will cover how we’re tracking against our 2020 outcomes, our budget and the important items we monitor (such as work, health and safety, child protection, etc).

Much more transparency about how we are going financially, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have

  • In yesterday’s Q&A session I gave an overview. We are also developing a specific presentation on our finances which we’ll have ready for the leadership group so they can give you more information. 

I read through all the Pulse results from all Divisions and all States and Territories last month as I do every month. We in the leadership team also go through them and share examples of how we are working through the results with our teams. We do this to learn from each other and share what is working. 

Red Cross Calling – I’m In – Week 4

You’ll remember that during March for Red Cross Calling I am posting a piece on social media about a different aspect of our work.

The first week’s post was called ‘Kilts, paper planes and my fundraising challenge’, the second week was ‘Maps, Galiwin’ku and a song’ and last week was ‘Supporting communities through trauma’.  This week my social media post is simply called ‘Heat’.

In amongst each one I encourage people on my social media channels to donate to my Red Cross Calling page. I have to say that my attempts to raise funds this year have not yet yielded as much as they did when I wore skirts for a month last year. Go figure! So, this week in the final week of Red Cross Calling I’ll be ramping up my efforts. 

Here is what I’ll be posting on ‘Heat’.


We’ve just had the hottest January on record. On one of those 45°C days, as I walked just 15 minutes from one place to the next, I wondered:

How many cricket matches and social gatherings were cancelled because of the heat?
How many people had to forgo income because it was too hot to work outside or to move about outside?
How many people were impacted by sleep deprivation?
How many people felt even more isolated and lonely as they closed up their houses and stayed inside?
How many people had to pay more for energy use affecting already tight budgets?
How many missed out on family and social time due to public transport delays caused by the heat?
How did the 200,000 Australians who are homeless cope?How many people suffered extreme health impacts and even died?

This article on climate change and extreme weather is the final article in a series of social media conversations I am hosting during March for the Red Cross Calling, our biggest community fundraiser of the year. If after reading this you feel inspired to support the important work Red Cross does please consider donating to my Red Cross Calling fundraising page.

I remember watching a video made by a young Bangladeshi fellow – Ramesh Warbhatt – called Heat Wave – “Severe summer heat in summer is well known but heatwaves are new.” Ramesh made the video on his mobile phone.

Last year it won a prize at an Asia Pacific ministerial conference. That conference was about reducing the risk of natural disasters including those which are more silent such as heatwaves, drought and water scarcity (as we are seeing with our own rivers in Australia).

Extreme weather impacts on people

In our work with communities here and overseas, we can see the human impacts of extreme heat and other changes in weather patterns are rapidly on the rise. The undermining effects of extreme heat can be among the most dangerous and debilitating.

More people died during the heatwave in the week prior to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires than in the fires. We hear farmers say that while drought and heat are normal for Australia it is the extreme that‘s sucking our land dry. 

We hear firefighters talk about the incendiary conditions created by extreme heat and dry.  We hear health professionals express concerns about rising overnight temperatures and the impact of increasing heat to our health. 

Beyond that, changes in our weather patterns are causing problems all over the world.  Whether it is the Mongolian herders who have to cope with the Dzud (severe summer drought followed by extreme cold) or the communities affected by increasing intensity of cyclones – people’s lives, livelihoods, health and futures are impacted by a changing climate.

At the release of the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the President of the International Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies, Peter Maurer, said “More than half of our operations are now in direct response to weather-related events, and many others are compounded by climate shocks and stresses. If this is the situation now, then it is difficult to comprehend the scale of crises confronting vulnerable communities in a world that is 1.5°C or 2.0°C hotter.”

Mongolian Red Cross Society staff is conducting dzud assessments in the field. Photo: IFRC/CCST Beijing

Helping people get prepared

Here in Australia, Red Cross is working closely with people, communities, governments and businesses providing practical advice and support to help prepare for and adapt to the changing climate.

We support people all over Australia to prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies. Indeed we’re aiming to have three million Australians prepared by 2020. Our members and volunteers offer training on how to get prepared, we run first aid courses across the country, our First Aid app is simple, free and saves lives. And last year we launched our Get Prepared app.

Our volunteers reach out to those who are vulnerable and isolated to check they are okay and ensure they have what they need. We also have a specific service that operates in South Australia for checking in on vulnerable people during heatwaves.

We have developed Climate-Ready Communities: A Guide to Getting Started to support communities to have their own conversations about how the things they value will be impacted by climate change, and what they can do to continue to thrive.

This guide is for anyone wanting to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change, whether they be individuals, a self-organised community group, local council or community service provider.

Our members support farming communities in NSW, some of who are suffering the impacts of drought, to stay connected and cope with stress through our Let’s Talk program. In addition we were able to distribute $11m in funds from Australians to help those suffering financial distress from the drought.

Working together

With our peers on the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities, we have partnered with Deloitte Access Economics to assess future risks. Their 2017 report found the economic cost of natural disasters will reach $39 billion per year by 2050. Half of that relates to the human costs, including death, injury, the impacts on employment, education, community networks, health and wellbeing.

The report outlined steps we can take to reduce this figure, such as building resilient infrastructure, as well as community measures, such as preparedness programs – which is the area we work in.

Across the Asia Pacific, we work with our Red Cross counterparts and their communities to help them prepare well in advance for the impact of changing weather.  Read about our work in these case studies on disaster risk reduction and what works at the local level.

And, of course, we respond 100% of the time to natural disasters and then we stay to support these communities through recovery after the crisis is over. As one example of this, since last Thursday in the Northern Territory 60 Red Cross people have been providing 24-hour a day support to those evacuated because of Tropical Cyclone Trevor.

Heat and the changing climate is here to stay.  What is vitally important now is how we all prepare and adapt.

My song for this week’s theme is Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil – “Out where the river broke. The bloodwood and the desert oak.  Holden wrecks and boiling diesels. Steam in 45 degrees.” 

And a poem by Les Murray, Late Summer Fires.

That’s all for this week.