Over the weekend we lost a monumental figure and global leader for peace. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, was a humanitarian who devoted his life to international peacekeeping and security.
In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good… His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us.”
I want to give you an update on the disaster relief and recovery appeal to ‘Help Aussie Farmers’. To date, we have raised more than $7 million, thanks to the thousands of donations from individual Australians and organisations. Thank you for all your work towards helping our farmers and their communities. We know the funds are already getting through to those farming families who need it through our partnership with the Country Women’s Association. We also know that many continue to raise funds for the appeal and our drought programs including from Red Cross people across the country. For example, I heard last week that one of our Branches donated $15,000 from the Currabubula Art Show which they run each year to the Let’s Talk program.
I was in SA for most of last week. Read on for more on my visit, my thoughts on the Mobilong Prison co-designed project and the Deakin Oration.
A warm welcome to our two new Board Members
Before diving into last week though I want to introduce you to our two new Board Members – Dr Melissa Phillips and Cris Topfner who join us this week.
Melissa is delighted to join the Board of Australian Red Cross having started her career with the organisation as a member of the NSW Tracing and Refugee Services team where she worked on restoring family links and visited people in immigration detention. She has had a long career working with asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Australia, the UK other countries as an aid worker with the United Nations and non-government organisations including in South Sudan, the Horn of Africa, Libya and Jordan. Melissa completed her Doctorate at the University of Melbourne in 2013 as part of an Australian Research Council project on refugee settlement in regional and rural Australia and is an Honorary Fellow with the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Fellow at Western Sydney University. Melissa's family have also been involved in Red Cross work, most especially her mother who was a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in Forest Hill.
The honour to serve is of major personal significance for Cris. She was an asylum seeker in Germany in 1990s and arrived to Australia with support from the Red Cross as an independent migrant with dreams, $200 and a suitcase, knowing nothing and no one. Cris is looking forward to serving as a Board Member to help strengthen and build a Red Cross for tomorrow and beyond. Over a 20-year career, she has built successful strategic partnerships, managed security and risk, led teams through significant transformation and helped establish national frameworks, specialising in digital transformation. She is a wife, a mother of two and enjoys reading, walking and learning about different cultures and people.
Back to South Australia - Health, wellbeing and safety
In July last year the team in Adelaide started working with Richard, Matt, Walter, Andrew and Syna to develop a program to suit the needs of their fellow prisoners in Mobilong Prison (near Adelaide).
They are building a program to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of their fellow prisoners and the prison community as a whole. The six-week program supports inmates to become facilitators and empowers them to support their peers. When I visited last week, we first went through an ice-breaker and a ‘check-in’ with how everyone was feeling. Richard and the team had prepared a bunch of questions for me, which then triggered a good discussion.
The questions included: If you were corrections minister for a day, what changes would you make? What does Red Cross do in immigration detention centres and how do we support asylum seekers? What is the most problematic issue that arises across the country in justice? We had a good discussion where I also had the chance to ask questions.
Readiness and resilience in South Australia
A theme of my trip was the great work being led by our South Australian colleagues on readiness and resilience in the face of adverse weather and events. One is called ‘Out of the Storm’ which supports people sleeping rough to manage their health and safety through adverse weather. It was co-designed with people who sleep rough and includes a really practical kit like this map.
Another initiative is our Climate Ready Champion training to help people be better equipped and supported to take local action to support community adaptation. By the end of August, 70 people had been trained. I had lunch with a few of them who all talked about how helpful and practical the approach is. “It’s a fantastic volunteer model – guided, very flexible, in my own time and about my interests”. Another initiative called ‘Energy for Life’ works with people dependent on power to live. The program involves volunteers working with clients to prepare for blackout events with a Rediplan in place.
There was so much more to the visit including discussions with lots of staff and catching up generally on what’s happening in South Australia. The trip was jam-packed including time with members, staff, those involved with our programs and visiting our amazing Kidman Street Superstore. The first day was with the annual zone representatives meeting and the Divisional Advisory Board (DAB) meeting in the evening. We talked over their drought fundraising initiatives, the forthcoming City to Bay run, the initiative in Mt Gambier called 'Conversational English' (to support migrants in transition to learn English) and the sign-ups to our Ethical Framework. In a fascinating link up at the end of the DAB meeting, those involved in the youth committee and our International Humanitarian Law work in SA talked about whether and how we could take advantage of the NASA Space Apps Challenge in October.
There’s never enough room in this blog!
Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
I also attended the Deakin Oration which is an annual presentation at Parliament House honouring Australia’s second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, and giving a contemporary context to the issues he was interested in during his parliamentary career.
This year it was given by Dr Ruff, the founding co-chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which started as a grassroots movement in Melbourne and in 2017 won the Nobel Peace Prize.
We were invited to be part of the event given the significant role the Red Cross, Red Crescent Movement has played on this critical humanitarian issue since 1945 when the Movement called on all countries to ensure nuclear weapons are never used again and to prohibit their use.
Dr Ruff spoke about the existential risk of nuclear conflict or accident and what’s been done to encourage all countries to sign up to the landmark treaty agreed last year to ban nuclear weapons. As a reminder, here's the ICRC release from last year.