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Our efforts for Myanmar, and supporting more refugees in Australia...

31 October 2017

Hi everyone,

A bit of advice: avoid skipping while on your morning walk! I was feeling happy so I skipped, then I tripped, fell, and now I have three broken bones in my foot. I’ll be hobbling around in a moon boot for quite a while. The good news is that my husband Peter has rented a knee-scooter so I’m actually quite mobile and enjoying whizzing around the place for now.

This was on Saturday morning before we started the Board meeting which was being held in Canberra. As you can imagine, being surrounded by the Red Cross Board members after injuring yourself means you get the best possible first aid and care – ice, strapping, physical rest, elevation of my foot and lots of TLC.

As always it was a full Board meeting. We went through progress towards our annual goals, took stock of our finances, how we’re tracking on child protection, data protection and workplace health and safety. We discussed strategy for our international programs, refugees and asylum seekers and the treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. We also received an update on the Blood Service from Shelly Park (CEO), and we were treated to a showcase of what we’re doing in Canberra and the surrounding regions. More on that next week.

We have such a high calibre of volunteer Board members who devote their Fridays and Saturdays to Red Cross every two months, I really am very grateful for their time and expertise.

Maximising our efforts for Myanmar

You may have noticed two weeks ago that the Federal Government announced some extra support for those affected by violence in Myanmar.

More than 600,000 people have arrived in Bangladesh from Rakhine State across the border since late August and more and more people arrive daily. The magnitude of the humanitarian need is huge – it is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.

Red Cross and Red Crescent colleagues are there on the ground on both sides of the border helping with medical care, food, water and putting a roof over people’s heads to protect them from the rain and hot sun.

Last week we were working out the details for a special appeal for funds. I will be able to update you on this shortly. In the meantime, can you put your thinking caps on about how you can engage your networks in supporting this effort? I was running through my networks in my head. Obviously I will be sharing Red Cross’ announcement on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, but then I started thinking about other groups, organisations and contacts. Quite quickly it got to a large group of people who might be interested in helping out. So, over to you to think about how you can give the appeal a big push in coming days.

Supporting more refugees through the Humanitarian Settlement Program

Yesterday we welcomed 452 new refugees from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, Congo and Eritrea as we launched our support for refugees settling in Western Australia, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and Albury.

Over the next five years we will welcome over 7,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants including families from around the world, many of whom are incredibly vulnerable and have been in refugee camps and urban settings for a very long time. We should feel proud of our contribution in this area, and always remember that in providing this humanitarian support, every Red Cross engagement, every interaction, every time we listen, and every conversation we have could be the moment that our new Australians feel welcome, safe, dignified, and start to build their own sense of belonging.

If you have a moment, read this great article on one of our volunteers in WA. Taler Anjer-Koushian. Taler arrived here from Syria and is going to university, working full-time, and now volunteering with us to help other refugees. She has some words of advice:

"They might get afraid people won't be welcoming of them, so they won't approach others…They will be closed and always questioning themselves, 'are we good enough, are we OK to approach and to talk to others, and form friendships and meet other people?’"

I want to acknowledge the huge amount of work from Red Cross people across the country to get ready for this. It’s been a great example of cooperation across many parts of Red Cross. A big thank you from me.

Falling through the Gaps Report

In an effort to highlight the gaps in vital services faced by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, we have released a new report called ‘Falling through the Gaps’. It looks in detail at the experiences of vulnerable migrants – people who are awaiting the outcome of their visa applications – and gives an insight into what ‘just getting by’ in the Australian community is like. We’re finding that due to particular barriers and service gaps, many people are highly susceptible to poverty and destitution while living in Australia.

Please read the report or speak to your local MSP manager if you would like a hard copy (or email back and ask me for one). Our team is distributing the report to government, peak bodies, housing services, charitable organisations and other groups working with vulnerable migrants so that we can continue to be agents of change in this important humanitarian issue.

On Wednesday, I'll be leaving with my knee-scooter for Turkey, for the Red Cross Red Crescent Statutory Meetings. I am going as part of the Australian Red Cross delegation which will be led by our President, Michael Legge. These meetings are an opportunity for the Movement to come together to discuss key issues, and affirm policies for the ways we can collectively address those issues. Strategies for migration and eliminating nuclear weapons will be high on the list of priorities.

Cam Power will be the acting CEO for 10 days and will do the blog next week (including an update on the Canberra showcase mentioned above).