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New Board Members, International Day of People with Disability + Our Pulse

27 November 2018

Hi everyone,

Deepwater Fires

On Sunday 25 November, a bushfire hit Deepwater in Queensland, and residents were evacuated to Miriam Vale. Two houses and other property have been destroyed.

Yesterday our Emergency Services was asked to activate Register.Find.Reunite in response to the Deepwater Fires.

This morning, we were again activated by the Department of Communities to support the Miriam Vale Evacuation centre with seven Red Cross people providing psychological first aid and outreach services. 

Our committed and diverse Board

Wonderful news! Our Board member Melissa Phillips had her baby on Saturday morning, a little boy named Tariq. All are doing well! We are all excited to have our first ‘Board baby’ and are looking forward to having a lovely new dynamic at the meetings for at least the first few months. This is one of a few changes on our Board coming up. We have another new Board member joining us from 1 December: Dr Akin Falaki who was elected as the new Chair of the Tasmanian Divisional Advisory Board last week.

We also have two others likely to join after a decision by the Council on 1 December. 

The National Youth Advisory Committee has recommended to Council that Eveline Kuang be appointed as the Youth Member of the Board. Peter Lewinsky has been recommended to Council to be elected as the new Chair of our Audit & Risk Committee and as such would also be appointed to the Board. Peter has been selected after a thorough search process, and will replace Jan West AM who has made a huge contribution to the Society during her term in that role.

You can find the details of our other Board members here.

Still on governance matters, we have our AGM and Board meeting this Friday and Saturday. I included our Annual Report in last week’s blog. You can find the Blood Service Annual Report here.

Each year at the AGM we have a speaker deliver the Henri Dunant Address. This year it will be the wonderful Jody Broun, our immediate past Director NSW/ACT. Last week, we bid farewell to Jody who has taken up the Chief Executive Officer role of Aboriginal Housing with the NSW Government.

Jody joined us in 2014 and during this time, provided calm, strong and supportive leadership to the ACT/NSW teams as well as making significant contributions nationally.

Jody is a passionate humanitarian and will be sorely missed by us all.

The Board meeting will take place after the AGM on Saturday. I’ve included below just a few of the matters the Board will spend time on.

• Our Indonesia (Sulawesi) earthquakes and tsunami appeal has now raised over $1 million. We have seen the local community respond really well alongside regional support throughout this emergency. We have also provided five aid workers to provide specialist support.

Google has launched an initiative called AI for Good which offers US$25 million in grants for initiatives designed to use AI for the good of humanity. We are brainstorming ideas. For example: improving our preparedness and response to disasters through better forecasting and predicting, early warnings and real-time/automated decision making to improve efficiency and efficacy.

• You can find here a recent submission we made on the protection and management of identity information. We used our submission to flag our humanitarian interest relating to digital identity, ensuring the protection and management of identity information takes into account the profound impacts this may particularly have on people in vulnerable circumstances, such as refugees and asylum seekers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and people experiencing homelessness.

• 'Connecting people to your cause' - Facebook has a platform which connects their social network members to charities.  Globally there are some 750,000 charities involved, connected to 1.8 billion Facebook users. So far 150 million people have connected to causes which interest them. Facebook states that so far it has helped to raise ‘hundreds of millions’. They have just launched in Australia.

• More than $8 million from our Help Aussie Farmers Appeal has been sent to the Country Women’s Association and the Rural Financial Counselling Service in Gippsland to be distributed to farming families. The average grant is around $1,900.

• Across the country we are ramping up preparations for summer. Early forecasts are for warmer than average conditions in the southeast, while fewer cyclones than in recent years are expected up north. While we are seeing an increase in operational activations at all times of year, at the moment particular attention is being given to our capacity to put well trained and supported teams into the field over the summer.

• The Get Prepared App has seen a spike in downloads due to support of some corporate partners.

Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders

I’ll also update the Board on great progress by what is now a 56-strong member humanitarian network called the Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders. So far this group have raised more than $2 million to support our work (approx $600,000 last financial year). 

This contribution has made a difference to vulnerable young parents adjusting to life with children while trying to finish school and get a job; supported communities in Indonesia; supported people seeking asylum and vulnerable refugees; supported the community of Kwinana, Western Australia by helping us to run healing workshops; and helped us to develop some of our women aid workers by funding invaluable training courses.

The 56 humanitarians are a much-needed injection of commitment, generosity, empathy, action and support to our cause.

I look forward to hearing about the initiatives they will support this year.

International Day of People with Disability


In Australia, 4.3 million people live with a disability. Every year on 3 December, we mark the International Day of People with Disability. The day aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. The focus this year is on empowering people with disabilities, for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

This reminds me of the story of a remarkable Australian working overseas. Jean Calder has dedicated her life to helping others. Jean is Dean of the Palestinian Red Crescent University College of Ability Development - in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Jean is a world leader in physical education and structured play for children with disabilities - a difficult job in any situation, let alone in the Gaza Strip, where the electricity is out for hours each day and conflict is always bubbling away.

In 1981, Jean was asked to work with five-year-old Dalal Al Taji, at Haifa Rehabilitation Hospital in the Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp, established by the UN in 1948 for Palestinians who fled from the Galilee in what is now Israel.

Jean ended up unofficially adopting Dalal, who is now an accomplished academic and the director of continuing education at the College of Ability and Development in Gaza. She travels for work both independently and with Jean Calder.

Lastly, we’re about to update Our Pulse survey. The new survey will be launched on Monday, 3 December. 

Talk to you next week.