We All Connect
Cootamundra – the connections we find! What do the Cootamundra wattle and our amazing Cootamundra Branch have in common? Well, the Cootamundra Branch turned 100 this year and had their celebration yesterday. Or is it 103 years old? I think they can claim the latter because Cootamundra has been supporting Red Cross by selling sprigs of wattle (on Wattle Day) to raise money for Red Cross since before the Branch was officially formed in 1919 to support the war effort. I love wattle – even though it makes me sneeze I love putting my face in the blossoms and smelling the scent.
Next question. What do the Cootamundra Branch and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have in common? Well, apart from both being part of the Red Cross movement, both are doing their bit to support kids who require prosthetic limbs. The folks from Cootamundra Branch support ‘Lids for Kids’ by collecting bottle lids which are turned into prosthetic limbs using 3D printing technology.
The ICRC is a leader in the field of physical rehabilitation for those who have been injured in conflict. The technologies they use produce high quality prosthetic and orthotic devices at low cost for the people who can most benefit.
The Cootamundra Branch’s 100th year celebration was a great event, kicked off by grade 2 kids from the local school singing A Million Dreams – ‘…for the world we are going to make’. They were wonderful, singing their hearts out. The Branch continues to play a major role in the community from working with CWA to support people impacted by the drought, creating handbags filled with toiletries for women fleeing domestic violence and for refugee women to the fantastic Cootamundra Shop which is like the proverbial Aladdin’s Cave with its amazing mix of clothes, books, plants and jewellery all surrounded by a welcoming spirit and the offer of a cup of tea. This year they won the Cootamundra Development Corporation Community Award for their relentless generosity, tenacity and humanitarian work.
Congratulations Cootamundra Branch for your 100 (103) years.
First Corroboree in 150 years
Speaking of history and connection, while I was in Cootamundra I also heard about this amazing event. Last weekend, members of the NSW ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership team participated in the Corroboree in Wagga Wagga.
The Wiradjuri people welcomed more than 2,000 people to Wagga Wagga Marrambidya Wetlands next to the Murrumbidgee River. We supported the event by supplying first aid and water (alongside St John Ambulance) and helping some to navigate the parking.
The event was the first corroboree held in Wagga Wagga city in 150 years uniting generations to pay respect to Mother Earth, while acknowledging deep concerns about climate change and drought. It reminds us all that we need to take care and respect our communities, the land we walk on and the water we use.
One of the Cootamundra Branch members described the scene for me. The corroboree itself was held about 500 metres down a long path. She said the ‘hairs stood up on her neck’ as the men came down the path to the corroboree chanting and stomping.
Thanks to members of the NSW ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership team and the Aboriginal community for sharing such a deep and powerful moment.
Back in Victoria, I also heard about an even held in Bairnsdale - 75 volunteers, workers and community members from 20 local organisations gathered on 17 October for We All Connect. It's a grassroots event organised by Australian Red Cross in collaboration with our members, volunteers and other volunteer-based organisations in the region, with a focus on supporting the community through drought.
True to its name, the event was shaped by connecting minds through an extensive community consultation and co-planning process over five months. Through this process, we found many ways that we can continue to provide support including training for volunteers to respond appropriately to mental health concerns, both for themselves and with the people they support.
We've also received great feedback from participants:
“Rediplan presentation was excellent. Red Cross apps - Get Prepared, My Team mental health. Good to hear about the Gippsland Volunteering platform.”
“I am also a CFA volunteer. I will keep a close eye on my colleagues in both emergency services to make sure that people are not struggling in silence.”
We All Connect has given our local Red Cross members and volunteers a boost in thinking about how they can be part of mobilising to meet local humanitarian needs in collaboration with others in their community.
Taking preparedness action to scale
As the fires continue in NSW and we all start to prepare for the coming summer season, the team at Red Cross continue to work at helping Australians get more prepared for disasters.
Over the last four years, we have been facing a challenge to our domestic emergency services program: to get three million people in Australia equipped to prepare for and recover from a disaster by 2020.
From programs such as our Emergency Rediplan and the Pillowcase Program, we have collaborated internally and externally to explore alternative activities, tools and processes to better understand what works and what doesn’t when scaling preparedness action.
We’ve also explored new ways with different types of technology to help us understand our audience better and design solutions to broaden our impact.
How have we gone so far? Jacqui Pringle has written a great article for the Australian Journal of Emergency Management on how we’re taking preparedness action to scale. Have a read of her article.
It is a challenge. Most often when you hear from people who have been through an unexpected disaster the first thing they say is – “I just grabbed what I could”.
You’ll see from Jacqui’s article our research tells us that unless someone is facing an emergency or has experienced one, people just aren’t thinking about them, let alone preparing for them, so the work Jacqui and the team are doing to think differently about how to get millions of Australians prepared is really important.
We have so much more to do to support Australians and Australian communities to prepare and recover from disasters and to adapt to the changing climate.
#WomenInRed - Women’s Leadership in the Humanitarian Sector
#WomeninRed is an international conference that discussed “Women’s Leadership in the Humanitarian Sector”. Held in Milan from 9-11 October, the sessions looked at the role of women in driving new forms of leadership for the 21st century, identifying the inspiring women leaders in the world today and an overview of women’s leadership in the past in Red Cross Red Crescent, progress, achievements, and challenges, to name a few.
I’ve asked Lyndal Herbert (Deputy President) to share her thoughts about the event.
By Lyndal Herbert
Enlightening, thought provoking, challenging, humbling and inspiring - that is how I would describe the two days spent with 60 men and women from 45 countries from all parts of the world.
Enlightening - no matter what language, religion or country of origin, so many of the issues faced by women around the globe are the same. It was amazing to hear stories told in Russian, Spanish, Italian, French and English of gender pay gaps, glass ceilings, discrimination, violence and hardship.
Thought provoking - an acknowledgement that, in spite of these issues, all those who attended were privileged - to be educated, to hold leadership positions, to have our place at this table, to be in the discussion - this highlighted the need to consider all our sisters, especially those who may not have the same voice, the same experience or the same opportunities.
Challenging - there are many studies on the benefits of diversity, but less on the practical approaches to enhance equality. We discussed power imbalance, the fear of change to traditional power structures, the need to bring everyone on this journey, and importantly to extend the discussion to all forms of diversity not just gender.
Humbling - hearing the struggles and hardship faced by some of the participants, to get an education, to be heard, to escape violence, and their triumph over adversity, their confidence, strength and empowerment.
Inspiring - the common hope and desire to make change, to learn from each other, to support and mentor, to hear minority voices and collectively move forward to create a more effective and impactful global Red Cross Red Crescent movement, one which inspires the next generation to become great humanitarians.
The Australian contingent in Milan (from left) - Shaun Hazeldine (Head - Innovation and Futures, IFRC), Zahra Al Hilaly, Lyndal Herbert, Aarathi Krishnan (Global Futures Coordinator, IFRC) and Greg Vickery (Member of the Standing Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and Former President of Australian Red Cross).
I’ve also asked our REDxYouth member Zahra Al Hilaly on her experience attending the conference.