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Further immediate bushfire assistance | Coronavirus | Are you game for Liferun?

5 February 2020

Further immediate bushfire assistance

Hi everyone,

On Monday morning, we began rolling out further immediate assistance for people who have been impacted by bushfires and are in financial hardship. Last week, our Red Cross Bushfire Advisory Panel met to discuss the needs of communities and individuals and how the $127 million raised so far can best support immediate and long-term recovery needs.

We’ve announced additional grants available for people who have lost their home and new grants for people who were hospitalised and for home owners whose home need structural repairs. These grants are part of $61.5 million committed to immediate financial assistance for people affected by the bushfires.

In addition we are contacting the senior next of kin of people who have died in the fires to provide a bereavement payment of $20,000. We’ve also committed $18 million to fund tailored recovery programs in the affected communities for at least the next three years in coordination with communities, government and community agencies. $5 million is allocated to fund Red Cross emergency teams of staff and volunteers to be on the ground and respond to emergencies, helping people with practical and emotional support, so far this year this has been mainly in the bushfire affected areas around the country. And a further $42.5 million will be used for additional bushfire support as people rebuild and recover.

There are two information sheets available that can help you talk about the financial assistance we are providing to people, and help you counter misinformation and answer questions about how we are using the funds. We've also updated our “How we use funds” webpage and are talking to the media and the public about our response. I encourage you to read them. 

Collaborative effort

And while we are working hard to get these grants out to people who need them, I’m also aware of the work our staff, members and volunteers have put in to raise funds, work with our partners and make sure our systems and processes work in the midst of changes taking place daily. A huge thank you to each and every one of you for your tireless contributions. The photos above were taken by our team (both staff and volunteers) in NSW who ran the Bunnings Sausage Sizzles across the state in the months of November and December. They raised a total of $20,000 for our Festive Appeal and in January the Bunnings team raised a total of $850,000 for our Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. What a massive team effort!

There’s another a lovely story from Queensland where a local SES Controller walked into the Volunteer Emergency Services Meeting to present a cheque of $8,407 to the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. Students from the University of Queensland also dedicated a day in the middle of their camp week to fundraise and support us.

New Red Cross shop in Brisbane

Our Red Cross shops are celebrating the newest store in Brisbane which opened over the weekend.

“Our newest store in Annerley (Brisbane), opened for trade this morning. It won't be the newest for long. Darlinghurst in Sydney is scheduled to open this weekend.” -  Richard Wood, Head of Retail.

And across the organisation, we’ve also had amazing stories highlighting the different areas of our work. Here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to across some of our programs.

Modern slavery and forced marriage

Australian Red Cross has been working in response to modern slavery since 2009 when we first began delivering the Support for Trafficked People Program. As of last month, we have provided support to over 440 individuals affected by human trafficking and slavery, including forced marriage, in Australia. Our work includes research projects, designing and delivering community engagement programs, facilitating state and territory human trafficking and forced marriage networks and conferences/events, and undertaking training with stakeholders and community groups. Red Cross is a member of the member of the Ministerial National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery where we work with other civil society and government agencies to address these matters nationally.

In December we presented on Red Cross’ work in response to Modern Slavery at this roundtable held at Parliament House in Canberra. We also released a public data snapshot of our work supporting people affected by trafficking and slavery and welcomed an announcement by Government who will be integrating the Forced Marriage trial into an ongoing stream of the Support for Trafficked Person Program. We agree with Government that “these changes recognise the need to provide comprehensive, effective and tailored support without requiring forced marriage victims to participate in the criminal justice process” however we will also continue to encourage government implement the full recommendations from an evaluation of this trial, complete in September 2019.

On the 1 January 2019, the Australian Government’s Modern Slavery Act (2018) came into force which requires organisations with revenue over $100 million to report annually on their actions to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains. Red Cross is a reporting entity under this Act and therefore a Modern Slavery Working Group has been established, leading the work to prepare our first modern slavery statement, due at the latest in December 2020. The Government has announced plans to establish a Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group including representatives from business, academia and civil society to strengthen implementation of the Modern Slavery Act.

A briefing for all staff on our work in response to modern slavery and the activities of the Modern Slavery Act Working Group so far was held on 4 February 2020 which over 140 staff attended.

Australian AID Conference

The Australian Aid Conference is an annual meeting that brings together researchers from across Australia, the Pacific, Asia and beyond, who are working on aid and international development policy. Participants share insights, promote collaboration, and help develop the research community.

This year, the conference will be held from 17-19 February at the Australian National University. Fiona Tarpey (Head of Influence and Advocacy) and Louise McCosker (International Humanitarian Diplomacy Lead) will represent Australian Red Cross on a number of panels including:

  • Humanitarian challenges, presenting Disaster Law, together with the Vanuatu Red Cross who will discuss Menstrual Hygiene Management 
  • Still broken: Global humanitarian reform and the Asia Pacific, discussing the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Response
  • ACFID humanitarian strategy, which we contributed to. This panel is timely in light of the review of the Australian aid program

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is currently touring the Asia Pacific on the Peace Boat to advocate for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the introduction of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

We were active participants in events organised by ICAN while the Peace Boat was docked in Fremantle, Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne where they talked about the role of Red Cross in advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons. They also shared how our global experience and expertise in responding to conflicts and disasters has taught us that there is no adequate humanitarian response to the detonation of nuclear weapons, and how their use cannot be compliant with the laws of war. We heard wonderful feedback from ICAN and members of the public about the crucial role of the Red Cross in this area, and how they believe that it is essential that Australian Red Cross continues to speak out in support of the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Top End Volunteer of the Year Awards

From left: Mohomed Nihad (Project Officer NT, MSP,) Nora Bewazier, Manjula Karunthaliake (previous Acting NT Lead, Migration Support Program, Sabeeha Nihad (current Acting NT Lead, Migration Support Program), Lucy Frost and Amy Frost (Lucy's sister).

What wonderful recognition in the 2019 Top End Volunteer of the Year Awards:

  • Lucy Frost - Winner Chief Minister’s Top End Youth Volunteer of the Year. Lucy dedicated over 500 volunteering hours in just eight months to our In Search of Safety program with primary school children.
  • Nora Bawazier - Nominee Chief Minister’s Top End Volunteer of the Year. Nora joined the MSP team only less than a year ago in the role as a volunteer coordinator (in a volunteer capacity).
  • Peachy Tugano - Volunteer Certificate of Appreciation. Peachy continues to be the glue that keeps the volunteer group together.

The awards was held in Darwin last year and celebrate the exemplary volunteer work and recognise the contribution that volunteers make to communities in the Northern Territory. Huge congratulations to Lucy, Nora and Peachy.

Are you game for Liferun?

Our colleagues at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have teamed up with the makers of Fortnite – one of the world’s biggest video games, to create a game called Liferun that provides a glimpse into Red Cross humanitarian work.

The game consists of a series of challenges that recreate tasks the ICRC is involved in. From building houses for families in war-afflicted areas to delivering aid in the form of food and bandages and searching for civilians in a war-torn city. Liferun takes your typical third-person shooter and adds an educational spin. It’s a really cool collaboration, developing ideas targeting different segments of the public to raise awareness of the work that we do in conflict-stricken areas in the world. You can read more about Liferun on VICE and SBS.

Coronavirus - How we're supporting the global response

Coronavirus continues to capture media attention and the situation is changing daily.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent is working to stop the spread of the Novel Coronavirus and international, Red Cross Red Crescent are:

  • supporting communities to prepare for and respond to any outbreak
  • organising a global supply of resources such as medical and protective equipment
  • sending specialist aid workers to affected areas
  • providing information to people on how to protect themselves
  • Australian Red Cross is closely supporting this global response.

Here at home, Australian Red Cross is working with Federal and State health authorities to prepare a coordinated response to any potential spike in cases. We have established a taskforce to identify key roles, drawing on our existing programs and experience in this area. 

If you become unwell and suspect you may have symptoms of Coronavirus, please seek medical attention. It is a good idea to ring ahead of time to book your appointment. This will help make your doctor aware of your symptoms and your travel history.

Anniversary of the Apology

13 February marks the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, which remains a momentous turning point that demonstrates the importance of historical acceptance in paving the road to reconciliation.

We will be hosting an event at our Villiers St office in Melbourne on Thursday 13 February to mark this day.

Red Cross board member Ian Hamm will speak at the event. Ian is a Yorta Yorta man who has been actively involved in the Victorian Indigenous community for over 30 years. Ian was forcibly removed from his family in 1964 when he was just three weeks old.

Previously the CEO of a major Aboriginal community organisation until August 2018, he now devotes himself to improving the representation of Aboriginal people on boards and other high level governance, through strategic action, advocacy and mentoring. 

Take care everyone. Talk to you next week.