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Board update | reflecting on FY19 | Farewell to three humanitarians

4 September 2019

Meeting of the Red Cross Board

Last Friday and Saturday we held the Australian Red Cross Society Board meeting.  The Board meets every two months on average.  The Board members are a passionate and committed group of people who all volunteer their time and dedicate their knowledge, expertise and perspectives.  We have a diverse Board.  Men and women, young and old and with a mix of expertise (from international experience to financial expertise) along with a mix of life experiences (former refugees, volunteers, members, small business people, Blood Service representatives and people from the social and the corporate sectors).  In other words, a rich mix of committed individuals who take their role to govern and steer Red Cross very seriously.

This blog outlines a few of the bigger items we covered.

Blood Service Microbiome pilot

This is an extract from CEO of the Blood Service, Shelly Park's blog from 3 September 2019:

I’m delighted to share that our Blood Service Microbiome pilot was approved to move into the pilot phase by the Blood Service Board on 20 August, and then the Red Cross Board last Friday (as this is non-deed work our governance required that both Boards approve this).

"This exciting new business line will see us provide Fiona Stanley Hospital in Western Australia with a reliable supply of faecal microbiota transplants to treat patients suffering from the debilitating and life-threatening recurrent Clostridium difficile infection. We’ll also supply product for research in Western Australia into other conditions which may benefit such as Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease, and develop a plan to potentially supply clinical trials and research programs nationally. This new business initiative has a real potential to help many Australians live their best lives and to reduce burden on the healthcare system.”

How did we go last year?

The second major focus for the Board was reviewing our performance for the financial year just finished and talking about what we learnt and what we’re changing as a result.  It was a year of ups and downs.  While some of the downs were tough there were also fantastic humanitarian outcomes.  Here are just three examples – we’ll have more in our annual report after it audited and approved by the Board at the next meeting.

Emergencies and disasters.  In the past year we supported nearly 65,000 Australians affected by 51 emergencies and disasters (25 fires, 4 floods, 3 cyclones, 3 heatwaves and 16 collective trauma events). We showed people how to get prepared, we provided personal support at the scene and made follow-up welfare visits in the weeks afterwards. We also sent 87 aid workers to support emergency operations in 36 countries, provided 7,452 grants worth $11.5 million in total to farming families facing drought, and  trained over 38,000 people in first aid.

Supporting thousands of refugees and asylum seekers throughout the year to settle into Australia and to support them in difficult times.  We also worked with more than 1000 families who had lost contact with 2,348 loved ones due to conflict, migration or disaster.

Some 1.9 million Australians did their bit for humanity through the year with us; volunteers, members and donors contributing to or supporting initiatives in their communities across the country. It included volunteers who are experts in the ‘laws of war’ using the blood thirsty acts of violence in the TV series Game of Thrones, to explain the laws of war to new audiences.  This great work had a cumulative global reach of some 6.5 million people.

It was good to take time on Saturday to reflect and learn from what we achieved last year and on some of the challenges we faced. We had some tremendous humanitarian outcomes. We appreciate the effort that went into this and commend all Red Cross people on a year we should be proud of.

~ Ross Pinney, President, Australian Red Cross

Looking outward to learn

The Board always makes a point of looking outward and to others to see what they can learn.  Here are just a few examples:

  • The recent UK Charity Commission’s Ethical Principles. The four principles include a responsibility to: 1) act in the interest of the beneficiary and for the public benefit; 2) uphold ‘the highest level of institutional integrity and personal conduct’; 3) create ‘a culture and space where donors and supporters, as the wider public, can see and understand how they work’; and ensure anyone who comes into contact with a charity feels safe.  When we apply these to Australian Red Cross we can see we have made good progress on each principle but still have a way to go.  We see them as a good standard to measure ourselves against. 
  • Our involvement in the Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre funded Recovery Capitals project. The project, led by the University of Melbourne and Massey University in New Zealand, looks at what assistssuccessful recovery and what the barriers are. The aim is to identify areas for improvement and understanding what has worked well in the past. This will be a guide for more effective planning.
  • We have completed piloting community-based disaster resilience projects in Daly River, the Tiwi Islands and Galiwin’ku in the Northern Territory. The Reimagining Resilience project builds resilience and creates opportunities for two-way learning between remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the emergency management sector. The results show strong potential for the emergency services sector to draw upon traditional knowledge to improve community resilience and work better with the Northern Territory’s diverse population.
  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people at the Garma Youth Forum presented The Imagination Declaration to the Prime Minister and Education Minister’s across Australia, a powerful call to leaders.

Farewelling amazing people

Perhaps the most thought provoking part of the weekend was the farewell speeches of Di Buckles, Kerry McGrath and Cam Power. What an amazing contribution they have made. 

Di started with a quote from Winston Churchill – “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.  She left us in awe of how much she has contributed to our cause.  “Over the course of the last twenty years as a passionate and active Red Cross volunteer, member and for the last six years as Chairman of the WA Division and member of this Board, I have thrown my mind, body … heart and soul into getting the job done.  I have had many wonderful experiences volunteering with some incredible people, and each of these interactions have taught me a great deal, but what has stood out the most, has been witnessing the power of the human tough and the difference that small gesture can have on people’s lives and how rewarding it is to simply give of oneself to help others.

Kerry, who contributed so much to those we care about, chose to speak about people in the justice system.  “Australia’s criminal justice system indicates a system, which is in crisis.  We know that gender, race, income, demographics and age play a part in who ends up in prison. People experiencing extreme vulnerability are often more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system and their over-representation results in dire humanitarian impacts. This is a tough, unpopular space, impacting some of the most vulnerable in our community.  But we can do good work leveraging our fundamental principles – voluntary service, impartiality, neutrality and humanity; our trusted emblem and name; our work in immigration detention facilities, and the learnings of the international movement.  ….. We are having real impact in people’s lives which then impacts their families and communities.  …. And because it’s the trusted brand of Red Cross taking a stand, others are gravitating and connecting to us and seeing the humanity behind this vexed polarised issue and that changes are possible.” 

Finally, Cam who dedicated many years to Red Cross. While we will thank Cam more before he leaves in October, it was great to have him to talk about what he is most proud of since he started with the Blood Service in 2005. Cam is a true humanitarian. He cares deeply about the issues we work on.  He shows his humanitarian spirit every day in the way he approaches his work.  He brings a unique mix of humanitarian spirit and financial acumen which is hard to find. We will miss him. 

That's all for this week.