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An important statement | Australian Bushfires: Six-month report | COVID-19 – Emerging needs and thinking ahead

9 July 2020

Walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Hi everyone,

Today we released an important statement. It reaffirms our commitment to walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – particularly at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is exposing the hurt, trauma and impact of racism and discrimination.  

We make this statement because we care and because we want to highlight the humanitarian impact of racism and discrimination and the choice we all have to make change – within ourselves and with others.

You can find the statement here

We acknowledge the deep hurt and trauma that First Nations peoples are experiencing at this time.

There are many resources for you to refer to, to help you with understanding the issues around racism. You can find more background and supporting information on this information sheet. If you missed getting tickets to the film In My Blood It Runs, you can now catch it on ABC iview. You can also watch the documentary The Final Quarter on Channel 10. We also had a live YouTube session earlier today. You can watch the video here.  

Let us all encourage one another to look within ourselves and think about how we can contribute to positive change.

Further restrictions in Victoria

On Tuesday we heard further announcement on COVID-19 restrictions by the Victorian Government. This is impacting around 5 million people.

I realise this creates extra pressures for our Red Cross people – juggling family needs and emotions and changing plans again.

For me, I am working on setting boundaries around my work, taking advantage of flexibility, making time for those around me and reaching out to connect with people. Unfortunately, yoga is off again so I'll go back to my online version.  

I encourage everyone affected to find your ways of managing your own health and wellbeing and prioritise this while we respond to the rapidly growing vulnerability in communities around us.

Thankfully, we have all lived through this experience before and we are able to apply the lessons from before. We continue to actively review our business continuity plans for some impacted programs and services, and our retail stores and for first aid mental health training, to ensure we strike the right balance of continuing to respond to the needs of people experiencing the most vulnerability and ensuring the safety of our people.

To all our Victorian colleagues, take care and if you need someone to talk to, you can access confidential support through our employee and volunteer assistance provider Converge International by calling 1300 687 327 (1300 287 432 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples helpline) or email eap@convergeinternational.com.au.

COVID-19 – Emerging needs and thinking ahead

By walking alongside and supporting those impacted by COVID-19, we have seen an emerging need to ensure people's mental health and emotional wellbeing are looked after. We've seen this across people who may be particularly vulnerable such as, in bushfire affected communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and people on temporary or insecure visas. Across all these groups of people, we are seeing impacts on children and families. We also know people in these groups need housing and healthcare support as well as more accessible information that is in the right language, is culturally appropriate and that bridges the digital divide.

We continue to offer support and guidance to hundreds of thousands of Australians. We are also looking to the future and monitoring and responding to the longer term social and economic impacts of COVID-19. We are so mindful of the social and economic impacts that will follow when most government assistance is expected to end in September. As part of looking ahead, we recently joined a virtual Think Tank led by the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent’s Solferino Academy. We joined other national societies (from 192 countries) to share ideas and insights on how we as a global humanitarian movement can better support those in need and drive greater community-led responses.

Spread of virus around the world  

Photo: (Vanuatu Red Cross) Volunteers promoting handwashing

The pandemic is accelerating in many parts of the world. Collectively we are approaching 11.7 million confirmed cases and 539,000 deaths, with the epicentre currently focussed on South America. There has been an increase in cases in a number of countries as lockdown measures are eased.

This highlights the complex nature of COVID-19 control, and the need to carefully adhere to basic hygiene and physical distancing measures as restrictions are eased and we re-set to the ‘new normal’.

Within the Asia Pacific region we closely monitoring the situation in a number of countries, with Indonesia being of greatest concern.

While the country reports almost 65,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths, experts are concerned that the low rate of testing does not reflect the true burden of disease; this makes disease control difficult, as cases need to be identified and isolated and contacts traced and quarantined- in order to slow onward transmission. In Bangladesh, humanitarian efforts focus on strengthening preparedness and response capacity in the camp communities in Cox’s Bazar, where there have been 50 confirmed cases and five deaths from COVID-19.

Fortunately, the situation in the Pacific remains relatively stable, but there is a high level of awareness of the threat that COVID-19 poses to countries like Papua New Guinea with weak public health infrastructure; basic preparedness and prevention efforts including health and hygiene promotion are especially important in such contexts, and National Societies across the Pacific are playing an important role in this regard.

Australian Bushfires: Six-month report

We’ve just published our six-month bushfire report, a testament to the strength of those who endured the Black Summer bushfires, the kindness of those who donated, and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

Through these six months we have been able to:
•    support 49,718 people through 37 fires from September to March
•    disburse $133m at 30 June, including grants for 4,380 people (and counting!)
•    establish a recovery footprint in 47 local government areas 

The report provides a full account of how funds are being used, plus insight into the triple burden of drought, bushfires and COVID-19, the key components of our recovery program, and our recommendations to the Natural Disasters Royal Commission. I encourage you to take some time to read the report and share it with your contacts. 

You can also hear first-hand from people who have received grants. And look out for more stories in the coming weeks – including from First Nations people and deep sense of loss they feel at the damage of their lands, who fought the fires, defended sacred places, and cared for each other in the aftermath.  

Thank you to every single one of you who has played a role in helping the people affected and assisted us in many ways. We know this will continue for some time.

We are humbled by the goodwill and giving spirit that surrounds those affected by the fires. We are grateful to every single person and organisation who gave, raised funds and donated time and effort to help out. We also acknowledge the governments who, together with their Red Cross Red Crescent Societies in their home countries, supported our response to the bushfires.

That’s all for this week. Take care and talk to you next week.
Judy