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Inclusion, diversity and innovation

26 September 2017

Hi everyone,

Have you ever heard our national anthem sung in one of the languages of our First Peoples?

Last week was one of those weeks with huge variety and a highlight for me was hearing Advance Australia Fair sung in the Bundjalung-Yugembah language by Tahlia Brice, a Bundjalung and Gamilaroi woman. She said:

"I really wanted to do something special that hadn't been done before so I thought what better way than to incorporate a verse in Yugembah language. I really want my generation to keep our Indigenous culture and language following through us and onto our children."

Tahlia performed in memory of her grandfather at our Zones 2 and 27 Conference, held in Tintenbar on the NSW Far North Coast. This is where I started my week.

Red Cross branches in this region have been through an incredibly tough time following Cyclone Debbie. The Lismore Branch tearooms were flooded right up to the ceiling and 100 years' worth of documents and photographs were lost. To get a sense of what it meant for Branch President Lyn Felsch and the team take a look at this video.

At the conference, we talked about how the branches are active in their communities, from helping out in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie to supporting the Ballina Women's Refuge and much more. We also touched on some training delivered by Telstra Digital Learning program, which focussed on how to get the most out of iPads and iPhones. As Kerrie Gray, our Zone Representative said in her report: "It's amazing what's on those devices we own that some didn't know was there."

The Zones 2 and 27 Conference, Tintenbar NSW.

Zone Representative, Kerrie Gray is pictured with me, right.

Australian National Outlook to explore our opportunities to 2060

My next stop was Sydney to participate in the Australian National Outlook. It is a collective of more than 50 businesses, research organisations and non-government leaders, steered by CSIRO and NAB with the vision of identifying what will make the biggest difference to our country's future.

I will be attending this group regularly with Tasman Bain, who was nominated by our youth groups, contributing perspectives on inclusive growth, community development, diversity, reconciliation, intergenerational disadvantage and overcoming inequality. We will also be able to give our thoughts on other issues like energy, economic productivity and future cities. It is great to be part of this important dialogue.

The changing nature of international humanitarian aid

Next I headed to Canberra for discussions on the future of international humanitarian aid. There are some big shifts underway and our team in International programs are thought leaders on how the whole sector might adapt, including us.

We're investigating forecast-based financing to better predict exactly where support might be needed before disaster strikes, using technology and data to speed up and improve humanitarian assistance, local supply of goods and services needed for our responses and cash-based programming. This last one is a really interesting development. Cash-based programming is where funds go directly to the people impacted by disasters versus through intermediaries – including organisations like ours. It will fundamentally change how aid money might be delivered. This article gives you an idea of how things are changing: How Blockchain Could Transform the Way International Aid is Delivered.

These developments and others will significantly shift the way we do our international work and it is great to see the International team taking the lead.

Innovations by the ICRC

Funding scheme for rehab services

About 90 million people around the world need a mobility aid. Only 10% have access to adequate rehabilitation. The ICRC runs rehabilitation centres but has struggled with the constraints of annual funding. Their solution is a world-first: the Humanitarian Impact Bond.

This innovative funding mechanism brings together social and private investors and humanitarian organisations towards a common target: $US27 million to help transform the way services for people with disabilities are financed in conflict-affected countries.

The ICRC is the world's largest provider of physical rehabilitation services in developing and fragile countries and I know how diligently its team worked to develop this important initiative.

Embedding International Humanitarian Law into video games

There are now 1.8 billion gamers in the world, almost a quarter of the world's population. Unlike the stereotype that gamers are all teenage boys, the average gamer is 35 years old and only 56% are men. Video games are now mainstream entertainment and the people playing them are no longer part of a niche community - they are army officers, CEOs and lawyers.

The ICRC is tapping into this growing trend working with gaming studios to integrate complex legal rules into their games to enhance realism. What a unique opportunity to reach millions of people and teach them about IHL.

The Myanmar refugee crisis

In my last update I wrote about the Myanmar crisis and the appeal we've launched to help the more than 420,000 people who are seeking refuge from violence. You've no doubt also seen the crisis on the news but what you might not know is how sensitive and complex it is.

In Rakhine State, Myanmar, international assistance has been suspended and left huge needs among the affected communities. Our colleagues at Myanmar Red Cross, the ICRC and the IFRC are doing their best to respond. They are building and strengthening community acceptance of their presence in Rakhine State and speaking with authorities to highlight their role as a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organisation. There is a lot of misinformation circulating in central and northern Rakhine State about the role local and international organisations play in responding to humanitarian needs, but we are hopeful that through these discussions we will be able to reach more vulnerable communities with vital aid.

In Bangladesh, temporary settlements are overflowing, and people are seeking shelter wherever they can; in makeshift tents, on hillsides and roadsides. We're providing drinking water and shelter, healthcare and hygiene kits, and creating safe spaces for women and children.

I ask you all to respect our neutrality and impartiality when talking publically about this crisis.

Inclusion and diversity

In March this year, we updated our inclusion and diversity policy. It's the foundation for a workplace culture where everyone can bring their full selves to what they do. A Red Cross where people work together effectively, reflect the communities they serve and in an environment where everyone feels valued and can contribute.

Here are some practical tools for us all:

  • We have increased the number of sessions on cultural awareness. These are interactive sessions with pre-reading and examples of books and movies that will help you build further knowledge and awareness.
  • Learn more about LGBTI workplace inclusion through our e-module. At the end of the module there are resources to download on showing support, terminology, definitions and answers to questions. There's also a great sexual and gender diversity group on our Yammer network, and social services organisation ACON has some tips on staying strong - these are helpful for anyone facing discrimination.

Speaking of inclusion and diversity, I thought this was a wonderful story from the week: In its 59 years, WA's Science Teachers Association's Secondary School of the Year award has never gone to an institution outside Perth until now. These kids, living 500km east of Perth, have broken through, showing that they are up with the best. Read the article: Remote Aboriginal school takes out top science award never won outside Perth.

Red Talks: Another example of the wonders of diversity

I'm always excited by the possibilities of technology. Last Tuesday in Melbourne we hosted a Red Talks in which the topic of migration was brought to life by a speed painter, a musical performance by Ethiopian Oromo band, and stand-up comedian and writer Sami Shah. Sami facilitated a panel who shared their experiences through humour, poetry and reflection. What's wonderful is that their insights weren't exclusively for the viewing of our Melbourne guests - they were streamed live over Facebook and reached more than 75,000 people. Congratulations to the team involved. Here's a link to the Red Talks video if you missed it.

Have a great week,

Cheers, Judy

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