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An accidental ethicist, Getting Agile + Justice work in SA

5 June 2019

An accidental ethicist!

Dr Hugo Slim from the International Committee of the Red Cross was in Australia last week. I find him tremendously helpful to listen to and learn from. He calls himself an 'accidental ethicist' but he is being too humble as this is one area where I find him most useful to listen to – humanitarian ethics. 

In a recent podcast he talks about the different aspects of humanitarian ethics – these are some of his examples:

  • The absolute value of a human life and the dignity of that human life – our humanity.
  • We must value that humanity in everyone, everywhere – responding all people on the basis of need – not discriminating in any way on politics, religion or other issues.
  • We can’t cover everything – save every life, support every individual – but we want to do so for as many people as possible – numbers matter. It would be wrong to spend time and money on 10 if there are another 100 we can reach. We care about numbers.
  • We care about treating people - being wise, seeing things clearly and making good judgements.
  • We care about caring. A lot of our work is informed by caring professions – eg medical, social – caring for the individual and expressing humanity interpersonally. 
  • The most profound? We are about the person, not the politics. Only the person. We are not concerned with creating the ideal political system or how governments and governance is organised. We are concerned with the human person and many persons.

He says that we, as humanitarians, live with these tensions. He then gives guidance on how to balance them.  If you want to learn more from him too, listen to this podcast or read his book Humanitarian Ethics - A Guide to the Morality of Aid in Conflict and Disasters

Pop-up shop event in Paddington

Last weekend we had a massive pop-up shop event at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney where over 20,000 plus items of pre-loved and new clothing homewares and accessories were on offer. I love shopping at our Red Cross shops, and I’m always impressed with the range and quality.   

Over 200 volunteers helped out during the three days, with many attendees complimenting their enthusiasm and hard work.

The event generated over $110,000 in important income for our humanitarian work. The efforts of those involved was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald, Concrete Playground, Timeout, Broadsheet and support from 20 sustainable fashion influencers. We also had visitors like former footballer and radio presenter Ryan Fitzgerald “Fitzy” and Olympic swimming sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell. What a great job!

Our justice work in SA

Earlier this week Kerry McGrath visited Ceduna and Port Adelaide, with Wendy Lewis and Amanda Milledge from Colliers Charitable Trust (which has funded our justice work in Ceduna for the past three years) and David MacDermott (Head of Donor Partnerships).

They met with Brenton Niemz (Regional Manager Far West Coast – Community Programs SA) and his amazing team at our Ceduna Community Hub. Red Cross works closely with the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation, Corrections, Police, courts, government, local government and other agencies to ensure people are diverted from prison. Our approaches include learner driver mentoring which includes two local police as Red Cross volunteers, restorative justice (rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large), employment and volunteer pathways, and building pride, hope and connection across the community.

Brenton and his team’s energy, drive and passion were infectious and inspiring. We also met with Dulce and Bobby from our Ceduna Branch who have been active in the community for over 60 years.

Kerry and the team also visited our community justice hub in Port Adelaide co-located with Tauondi Aboriginal College to hear about our Justice Reinvestment project there. Red Cross is the backbone and we are supporting the Aboriginal-led Leadership Team, Turaapendi Wodli (which means “protect the home” in Kaurna language).

They also met with Deb Moyle (leading our work) and Abbie Patterson from our SA team, Sid Sparrow (Chair of Aboriginal-led Leadership Team), Robyn Layton QC (Chair of Justice Reinvestment SA) and community members. The project is about practical actions to prevent people entering the justice system. This includes support for primary school children and their families to engage with school, focus on young people (mentoring, wellbeing, learner driver, employment etc), focus on men to positively reengage men in community, and finally supporting families to access other services. The work is strong, compelling and impactful.

Oracle Markie Awards

The NRMA & Red Cross Learner Driver Program was a Global Finalist for the 'Heartstrings People's Choice Award'.  This category focussed on video content that was heartfelt and represented not only the brand products and programs, but equally the brand ethos. Our video entry hit both of these requirements excellently. 

The annual Markie Awards recognise marketing strategy and production excellence from brands globally that are using the Oracle Marketing Cloud. Out of hundreds of entries globally, we made it through as one of the five finalists - a massive achievement.  

Congratulations to the whole team involved!

Getting Agile

“When I went to meet and visit the CIO Nigel Dalton of REA Group over two years ago they were two years into their Agile Transformation and they were not finished. It didn’t make sense at the time, it does now.”
~ Veronica Frost (Chief Information Officer)

That was what Veronica shared with me about how we’re tracking with our agile transformation journey. You would have noticed that some parts of the organisation are already taking on an agile approach in our day-to-day work.

We are very much at the start of our journey. Here are the outcomes we hope to achieve through an agile transformation of IT.

  1. Improved prioritisation of our work. Agile forces us to be focused, interrogate and understand the value and need of an initiative or task. In order to pick up speed this is critical.
  2. Increased collaboration within IT. Out of necessity, agile ensures that we break our own departmental silos of subject matter expertise and work together to achieve agreed goals.
  3. Empowerment. In the creation of squads, agile ensures that team members own the work and are empowered to speak up, have a say and provide input into the way work is delivered.
  4. Increased business engagement, collaboration, transparency of the work to the organisation and understanding of cost. We are not there yet but we can see how over time working in this manner will improve all these areas.

The focus until the end of June is to learn the practice and ensure we have the foundations of agile embedded into the team.

“I am really proud of the IT team and how they have embraced agile and how far we have all come in such a short period of time,” Veronica added.

We are all closer to the work, we are starting to understand the trade-offs, seeing the potential and we are having the important conversations that need to be had.

Florence Nightingale Medal

A couple of weeks back I wrote about three Red Cross aid workers Denise, Yvonne and Cristina who are among 29 outstanding nurses from 19 countries awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal this year.

What a great response it’s been since then! Theirs stories have since caught the attention of media like Channel 10 The Project, ABC Radio News and even Xinhua and China TV News.

Well done to our media team for pushing these wonderful stories out!

Eid Mubarak

Lastly, yesterday marked the last day of Ramadan and the start of Eid. To all our Muslim staff, members and volunteers, I wish you a blessed and happy Eid ul Fitr.

Talk to you next week.


P.S. Some good news and a reward for hard work and vigilance on the issue of safety at work. In May we recorded the lowest ‘injury frequency rate’ we have had for the past two years.  It’s great to see our SAFE campaign is working!