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Victoria fires, Modern slavery + My first theme for Red Cross Calling

6 March 2019

Hi everyone,

Victoria fires

Over the weekend Victorians faced high temperatures and unpredictable northerly winds that created extreme bushfire conditions. As many as 30 fires started across the state.

Our volunteers have been providing psychological first aid, food and water and are supporting people at relief centres, as well as using Register.Find.Reunite to help people make contact with their loved ones. More than 600 Victorians have been supported so far.

A huge thank you to the emergency services team for their ongoing work in supporting those affected by the bushfires and emergencies across the country.

Modern Slavery Act

Slavery is not a thing of the past. Right now it is estimated that there are more than 40 million people held in slavery – including children. That’s more people in slavery than in Australia. Today’s global slave trade is so lucrative that it nets traffickers more than US$150 billion each year. This article explains it well.

On 1 January 2019 the Modern Slavery Act came into force. Any organisation with revenue over $100 million (that’s us too) have to report annually on their actions to address modern slavery in their operations. This was a major breakthrough and something we advocated for and celebrated.

Our trafficking program is assisting more people now than we ever have before. We know the people we support in this program are only a small proportion of people impacted by slavery in Australia. Research released last month by the Australian Institute of Criminology found for every victim that is identified, there are approximately another four victims who are not.

The momentum created by the new legislation means we can use our expertise to do more and to work with others as they adapt to the new legislation. We think we have something unique to offer and can bring a strong humanitarian focus to the work of reviewing operations and supply chains. If you want to know more about our plans, please contact Kyla Raby. The team on this includes folks in migration, legal and procurement. It is great to see the team spirit as they work on this.

As to our own operations and supply chains and those of the Blood Service, we had already started work under a more general ethical supply focus. The procurement teams from both organisations will work closely on this together.

Last Week

Last week was Melbourne based for me. I had also hoped to get to Queensland but unfortunately Pete picked up the lurgy that I brought back from Europe and needed some TLC.

We had a full day Skype session as a leadership group on what’s bubbling, how we’re going and working through the Pulse results group by group.

1. What’s Bubbling

Andy Kenyon talked about the tough time in the Northern Territory given the significant economic challenges and how that is flowing into the community services sector. We brainstormed ideas on what he could do, such as holding a roundtable on those most vulnerable to shifts in funding and linking up other sources of funding to critical programs. We also talked about the terrible situation with youth suicide in the Kimberley and what we can do to support Linda Crumlin and her team. We noted the great work by Kevin Doolan and team on Tiwi to dramatically reduce youth suicide, to see what could be learnt and we discussed the partnership we are forming with The Healing Foundation. We touched on how we best approach the changes flowing from the medical evacuation legislation relating to Manus and Nauru. The great work underway in the ACT on justice reinvestment and how we can share the learnings from it. We also talked about where we might focus our efforts in the lead up to the Federal election. How we make the most of the My Team Digi launch which I mentioned last week.

2. How we are going

We went through in detail how we are tracking against our annual plan and our budget and what’s coming up in the next six months. Each of your State and Territory Directors and each Executive team member have all the information they need to brief their teams which they will be doing over the coming weeks.

3. How are we all feeling working at Red Cross – Our Pulse Results

There has been some good improvement but there are still some challenges. We talked about the month’s results and shared examples of what’s working and what’s not within different areas. 

We also talked about the things we need to do much, much better as a leadership group overall. They are:

  • Helping all Red Cross people see where and how they fit in the future of Red Cross, the value they contribute and how we will get there together
  • Explaining what will happen after the end of 2020
  • More transparency for everyone on how we are tracking and what’s coming up in the next months – we’ll work out how to do this without overloading everyone
  • Much more transparency about how we are going financially, the challenges we face and the opportunities we have

We’ll come back to you with how we plan to do this soon.

Balance for Better

Every year on 8 March we celebrate the International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter looking into ways to raise awareness against bias, taking action for equality and building a more gender-balanced world. I think these are great points and ones that we are already building on here at Red Cross. On Friday, Lyndal Moore (Deputy President) and I will be talking about the work we are doing to support better gender balance in the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, and our work in protection, gender and inclusion. Join us on Skype as we celebrate this day.

On the international front, the ICRC and the IFRC will host a Movement event to highlight the benefits of achieving gender balance across all our organisations. I encourage you to catch the panel discussion on Balance for Humanity that will be available via webcast.

Encounter, Embrace, Empower

Red Cross Calling – I’m In!

Remember last year when I wore skirts for a month except while riding my bike? It was a challenge cause I am a trousers kinda gal. I did it as part of our annual Red Cross Calling campaign. You together donated a whopping $7,000 for my efforts and I realised that skirts can be fun for twirling around and a feeling of freedom but that stockings suck (which I knew anyway) and on windy days skirts can expose things that are best left unseen!

I’ve heard of some great ideas for Red Cross Calling this year including a paper plane competition, turning book clubs and other events into Red Cross Calling events and the craziest of them all – Andy Kenyon is going to wear kilts for a month. 

As I mentioned last week, I have decided to be a bit more serious this year. I kicked it off yesterday on my social networks with - Absolutely Everybody… “Everybody needs a little loving. Everybody needs somebody thinking of them. Everybody needs a little respect…

Then each Wednesday in March I’ll post some thoughts on one theme. The first is about Social Connection – “The State of The Nation Starts in Your Street” by Hugh Mackay.

Pete and I have been a bit crook lately with a flu which I brought back from Europe and shared.

What’s been lovely is this bowl of ratatouille turning up on the door step, followed by a delicious chicken turmeric noodle soup from our caring neighbours. Pete has always been fantastic at tapping into the local community and it just feels so much better to be able to have a chat over the fence, check in if something is amiss, and just ‘be there’. 

At Red Cross, our volunteers catch up with tens of thousands of people who are on their own more than they should be. Having strong local connections can be a major factor helping people recover from disasters, rebuild lives after tough times and provide a social glue to prevent people falling through the cracks. 

Hugh Mackay rightly points to the growing challenge of loneliness, being deeply excluded, mental health and increasingly isolated and polarized lives. David Brooks talks of one antidote ‘A Nation of Weavers - The social renaissance is happening from the ground up’. 

In addition to the amazing work of Red Cross people in their communities every day, we have an aspiration. That we, with others, build a humanitarian nation of millions of Australians. We know from our research that 9 million Australians want to do more in their communities and much more.  So we’re working on a bunch of ways to help this. A single identity for volunteers to use no matter which organisation they support, a ‘marketplace’ for people to post and find opportunities; our Get Prepared app which is all about helping you and your community be prepared for disasters; and My Team for people living with mental health concerns (which we are launching soon with Beyond Blue, Black Dog and Lifeline). We are also doing research with Swinburne University on bringing more science and understanding to what it takes to build healthy social connections in today’s times. All this is building on the tens of thousands of connections we already make with people every day across the country.

One thing we love about our social connection work is the unintended magic. Here’s a story. A volunteer in NSW who had always wanted to paint. An elderly woman living on her own, a wonderful and successful painter, slowly losing her eyesight. They joined up under our Community Visitors Scheme. Soon after they got to know each other the volunteer turned up to find the paints and painting materials in the lounge room – and so started some wonderful painting lessons. 

And my song of the week – What about us by Pink  “We are searchlights we can see in the dark. We are rockets pointed up at the stars. We are billions of beautiful hearts….

Next week – my theme for Red Cross Calling will be about reconciliation! The following week will be on the humanitarian impact of climate change. The last week will be on the future, today – Humanitech.  

That's all for now.