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Queensland bushfires, Responsible business conduct + International Volunteer Day

4 December 2018

Hi everyone,

Queensland bushfires

On Monday 3 December, there were still 105 currently active bushfires across Queensland. Many properties have been damaged including homes. A 21-year-old man has died while clearing a fire break on his family’s property.

Almost 200 of our volunteers and staff have supported individuals and communities affected by the fires providing psychological first aid, reunification services and management support services in evacuation centres. Red Cross people have also been providing psychological first aid in Recovery Hubs and on outreach visits. We also have teams on the ground in Rockhampton, Mackay and Gladstone.

Register.Find.Reunite was activated on 26 November. Since the beginning of the fires, there have been 1,870 registrations and 60 enquiries resulting in eight matches.

We will continue to provide support services into the near future. Our National Emergency Services Coordination Centre has been stood up and is working closely with the team in Queensland and will arrange back-up if necessary, this is being closely monitored and will be implemented quickly if required.

To everyone working in these areas, we are all thinking of you during this difficult time, with so many fires still burning across Queensland.

Please take care of yourselves and each other. If you need to chat with someone, you can access free confidential counselling and support through the Employee Assistance Program, Converge, by phoning 1300 687 327 or via email

I’m away this week but here’s a quick update on what we were working on over the last week.

Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities

The Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities met last week to progress the review of ways in which we work and focus for future efforts. We have been a member of the Roundtable since its inception in late 2012. We remain committed to the work of the group, particularly given its ability to support a number of our strategic outcomes.

An independent review highlighted the impact of the Roundtable’s work to date. To ensure greatest possible influence Roundtable members agreed that the focus should remain on improving disaster resilience for safer communities. Members also agreed that all levels of government and relevant external bodies should be targeted.

Efforts of the Roundtable will focus on the three key areas of; policy change, systems change and leadership. Key activities as part of the renewed focus will likely include:

  • Refreshed approach but continued leverage of research.
  • Recognition of the importance of impact at scale, via rules and system level change.
  • Expanding focus to work more with and influence state/territory and local governments.
  • Updating language and terminology to identify and address climate change more directly.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, currently being finalised, and the upcoming Asian Ministers Disaster Risk Reduction Forum (to be held in Australia in 2020) provide ideal vehicles to progress much of the Roundtable’s work.

Responsible business conduct in conflict zones

L-R: Dr Jonathan Kolieb (Lecturer, RMIT University); Judy Slatyer (CEO, Australian Red Cross); Claude Voillat (Economic Adviser, ICRC Geneva); Kylie Porter (Executive Director, Global Compact Network Australia); Heidi Roberts (Diversity and Inclusion Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth)

Last week we hosted Claude Voillat, Economic Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Melbourne. We kicked off with a corporate breakfast on ‘Responsible Business Conduct in Conflict Zones’ held in partnership with RMIT University and the Global Compact Network Australia, and hosted by law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth. This is the first public event we have held as part of our work towards Goal 3, Outcome 9. It follows 18 months of consultations between us and the private sector to better understand if and how IHL is integrated into their organisational policies, risks assessments, training and reporting.

The breakfast brought together Australian businesses, industry groups, the ICRC and us. It included presentations from Claude and me, and a Q&A discussion. We talked about why the laws of war are relevant to businesses today, and what the Movement is doing to support private sector organisations globally and locally to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. You can find a link to my speech here.

Claude and the IHL team also met with a range of businesses and other relevant stakeholders. It was a great example of strong Movement coordination and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Claude and his team as our activities on this outcome progress. Next year, we plan to co-design a series of online resources with interested businesses so they can start to integrate IHL into their existing operations and policies. We also want to start working with select businesses to test out some concepts relating to this outcome. Watch this space! Well done to Fauve Kurnadi and her team for their great work so far on this part of the outcome.

Thank you for your contributions

It’s International Volunteer Day tomorrow. My heartfelt thanks goes to all volunteers for their contributions in making our community a better place.

Red Cross began with volunteers tending the wounded on battlefields and to this day, volunteers enable everything we do. Volunteers create a place where people feel supported and included. 

In the past year, our volunteers made 1,103,033 phone calls to 4,667 people living alone, made over 40,000 visits to people in their homes, and drove 6,490 people to 57,922 medical or social appointments

Volunteering isn’t always with an organisation – some might regularly work at an op-shop or host a fundraiser, but others are simply taking out the bins for their elderly neighbour, cooking a meal for a family facing a cancer diagnosis or reaching out to offer help to someone in their community going through a rough patch. These actions connect people and make our communities better places for all of us.

There are many stories from our volunteers that make me smile and I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration from them too. Here’s a video showcasing some of our volunteers, why they do what they do and what their work means to those who receive them.

Thank you again for contributing your hearts, minds, efforts and energy to make our world a better place.

Blog takeover

I’m inviting you to submit your stories for my blog takeover next week. Let us know what you’re proud of in 2018 and send your stories and photographs to Mel at by Monday, 10 December at 12pm. It can be your greatest achievements; it can be something you experienced this year with your colleague or family member, or an event that changes you.

I look forward to reading your entries.