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Reconciliation Action Plan + World Disasters Report

5 November 2018

Hi everyone,

It was another big week last week starting in Melbourne and finishing in Wellington. It was hard to capture it all in the blog so grab a cup of tea and get ready for a long read.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Last Tuesday we launched From the head to the heart - our third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

We had Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Di Kerr who conducted the cleansing ceremony and the Traditional Welcome to Country prior to the launch. It was a special moment when Aunty Di shared her thoughts about reconciliation, the work that we do at Red Cross and encouraged each one of us to be part of the journey. Our guests Richard Weston, CEO of Healing Foundation and Andrea Kelly, Deputy CEO of Reconciliation Australia also spoke at the event.

During the launch, I shared my own plan, my commitment to reconciliation in Australia – see below.

To connect the head and the heart…
I will learn some language; because language is all about identity and culture
I will learn the truth about my city’s history

To connect with others…
I will learn who the traditional owners are of the places I visit on holiday
I will share stories and successes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends and colleagues.

To create culturally safe spaces…
I will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are included and celebrated, and
I will use what I learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in my own work practices.

I encourage you to join me and if you haven’t already, start thinking about ways to express your own commitments to reconciliation, at work and beyond. 

Ross and I were invited to the 87th meeting of the New Zealand Red Cross National Council involving all parts of the country as well as Australian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). 

The main focus of the meeting was their Annual General Meeting and planning for the future – 2030 to be exact. The meeting took place over the weekend and started with pōwhiri welcoming ceremony of the Taranaki Whanui who are from the Wellington area (see below for more).

Red Cross New Zealand – Preparing their 2030 strategy

From left: The winning piece from the New Zealand Red Cross art competition, imagining headlines in 2030, New Zealand Red Cross' Here for Good initiative and a tsunami safe zone in Wellington.

Their work since the strategy 2030 process was launched in May has included holding 51 workshops around the country involving 550 people who have reflected on what the future will look like as well as 400 individual responses from every geographic area of the country. 

From this they have identified several key trends they need to adapt to: the impact of climate change and increasing disasters, advancements in technology and its impact on lives; new communities; cities; social isolation, social-economic disparities and poverty, growing mental health needs, changing nature of volunteering and membership, data security and privacy. 

Amongst this was a wonderful spirit.

  • Optimism about how they might face the future together
  • A small country with a big heart
  • Potential leader in a rapidly changing world in maintaining a stable, safe and democratic society
  • Providing the anchor and voice for the vulnerable
  • The All Blacks (actually, they didn’t say that, just made many comments about All Blacks’ superiority so I included it!)

The sessions last weekend were all about applying these trends to every region in New Zealand and talking about how to tackle them. It finished with a fun session imagining 2030 headlines for Red Cross. Things like:

  • “Red Cross’ 86,000 drones enable rapid response to devastating earthquake”
  • “First refugee team member for the All Blacks”
  • “Hug a grandparent” – real time virtual hugs
  • “Meals on wheels finishes due to rise in Uber Eats”
  • “New Zealand Red Cross goes Beyond Blockchain”
  • “Red Cross Dunedin Choir Takes Out Eurovision

A few interesting snippets from other parts of the weekend

  • New Zealand Red Cross provided much needed support for first aid training in the Pacific generally including funding the translation of the training material into Fijian with work now starting on a Hindi translation.
  • The Pacific Islands appreciate very much how we and New Zealand Red Cross complement each other and work together in the Pacific.
  • ICRC and the Pacific National Societies have created Red Cross in the Pacific on Facebook.
  • With strong leadership from the Pacific IFRC, the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific – 2017 to 2030 is now available. This is a framework to build resilience to climate change and focus on disasters risk reduction. The new Pacific Resilience Partnership Taskforce was launched this year to implement the framework. 
  • The New Zealand Red Cross ‘tap and go’ fundraising initiative for their face-to-face fund raisers is going strongly.
  • The folks leading the work of New Zealand Red Cross on International Humanitarian Law ran an art competition for schools as a way of increasing understanding. This was the winning piece (see photo). The words on the painting are a quote from Antonio Guterres, “To be called a refugee is the opposition of an insult; it is a badge of strength, courage and victory….

The tsunami safe zone in Wellington from where we were in hotel was about a 20 minute run uphill for those who can run – that single line in the road which I found on one of my walks, brought into stark contrast what tsunamis mean for everyone (see photo).


The Maori Tikanga welcoming customs and protocols differ depending on the iwi (tribes & extended kinship groups) involved. We were welcomed under the Taranaki Whanui from Wellington.  The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes. The women start with a ceremonial call to the visitors who then enter the room (males in front, females behind). There is then a formal whaikoreno (speech) made by the elder male. This includes a karakia (declaration), mini ki the share tupuna (acknowledge ancestral house), mini ki a Papatuanuku (acknowledging Mother Earth), mini ki te hunga mate (acknowledging of the dead), mini kit te hunga ora (acknowledging the living) and te take o te hui (purpose of the meeting). After that, both the hosts and the visitors sing and then sing together. The welcoming greeting includes the hongi (touching noses).

World Disasters Report + Dr Jemilah’s visit

Another key highlight of last week was the release of the World Disasters Report, which reveals that 134 million people will need humanitarian assistance. The report, entitled Leaving No One Behind, also shows that only 73 per cent of those will be selected to receive this assistance, and even fewer will actually receive it.

Those who miss out are people who need assistance the most. This includes people without identification papers, sexual or ethnic minorities, and those isolated by armed conflict or remote locations.

Jemilah Mahmood, Under Secretary General, IFRC and I presented the findings in Canberra and Jemilah was in our Melbourne office last Friday to speak about the report which calls on the international humanitarian sector to do more to respond to the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people. It also offers five key reasons why millions of people are being left behind – and what the international humanitarian sector can do about it.

Out of money: Only 60% of the USD 23.5 billion appealed for by the UN was received in 2017.

Out of reach: Many communities are cut off by geography, insecurity, bureaucratic bottlenecks or donor policies.

Out of sight: Lack of identification papers, poor mapping and fast-growing urban slums means people can fall through the cracks.

Out of the loop: People who are elderly, living with disabilities or with multiple vulnerabilities can find themselves unable to receive assistance because of the barriers to access.

Out of scope: If a crisis is seen as falling outside the remit of the humanitarian system and no aid is provided by government, people in real need may receive no assistance.

If you haven’t had the chance to read it, you can download the report here.

Jemilah also discussed Strategy 2030, which looks at the collective ambitions of all National Societies and lays out a vision for the organisation of the future.

Human Rights in the 21st Century

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) brought together nearly 400 people from the broader development and humanitarian sector for its annual national conference. The theme this year was Human Rights in the 21st Century: People. Planet. Peace looking into ways on how can we as a sector can promote and realise universal human rights in the context of rapid global transformations and challenges.

As part of this we ran on the transformational implications of technology for humanity and how we can together develop and use technology in ways that enrich and protect human dignity and safety. This is part of our work under the Humanitech initiative, which seeks to explore the opportunities at the intersection of emerging tech and humanity.

I hosted Ellie Rennie (from RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre and Blockchain Innovation Hub), Nick Byrne (from TypeHuman), Elsa Carnaby from (Oxfam Australia) and Simon Goff (from Purpose). Their organisations are partnering with us on a number of initiatives that are using technology to amplify social progress and humanitarian outcomes. We talked about how artificial intelligence, digital platforms and connectivity, blockchain and other technologies are advancing fast and reaching far across our society and, in the process, fundamentally changing how the world works.

Some of the fantastic examples that came up include JIACTIVATE, a new coalition helping to bring Kenya’s nearly 10 million youth into politics and community activism with SMS-driven user research, culturally creative engagement and youth-led campaigning; how Oxfam is testing blockchain in Cambodia for the organic rice value chain to boost transparency and ensure a decent price and conditions for local farmers; our own work with ID2020 alliance seeking to bring identity to more than 1 billion un- or under-documented people in the world; and research led by RMIT on the automation of decision-making and how this might impact society.

Our panel discussion ended up being a full house with standing room (or ‘sitting on the floor’ room) only! It was lively and interactive with fantastic audience engagement. In keeping with the theme of our panel we used a tech platform called to get the audience involved in the conversation - you can have a look at the summary here. At the end of the session we asked the audience how they felt about the opportunities presented by tech for humanity. As you can see in the wordcloud image above, their responses ranged from ambivalent to excited with a general sense of cautious optimism across the room.

The Roots of Restraint in War

We had a great lunch and learn session last week with Dr Helen Durham, Director of Law and Policy at ICRC and Dr Fiona Terry, Head of the Centre for Operational Research and Evaluation who shared with us a new ICRC study, The Roots of Restraint in War. The report aims to better identify the ‘roots of restraint’ for both State Armed Forces and non-state armed groups. Helen also discussed the factors that induce weapon bearers to observe certain limits when engaging in armed violence, even in the heat of battle. The study deals with these, and other pressing questions facing the ICRC in its field operations.

The report investigates how the behaviour of fighters is influenced depending on the type of armed group they belong to, as well as the operating environment within those groups. The report is based on eight case studies across five countries. It provides a framework for humanitarian actors to help them identify the best approach to persuade armed groups to respect IHL, based on a group’s particular structure and values.  

You can download the report here and a summary here. Or have a listen at Helen’s interview on ABC RN Drive and her interview with Jon Faine on 774 ABC Melbourne.

That’s all for this week.