Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Australian Red Cross

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (22:09): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that the Australian Red Cross has been supporting communities in need through its humanitarian work and community support services since 1914;

2. Acknowledges the significant contributions that the Australian Red Cross makes in providing a wide range of programs and support to refugees, asylum seekers, immigration detainees, and migrant communities; and

3. Notes the success of the Australian Red Cross’ partnership with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health in delivering the Health in My Language program to support bilingual health education for vulnerable women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in South Australia.

It is a great honour to rise today to move this motion in my name to acknowledge the significant contributions made by Australian Red Cross since 1914. For more than a century, the Red Cross has been one of the leading humanitarian organisations in Australia, bringing people and communities together in times of need and collectively strengthening the human capacity to rebuild communities.

The Australian Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, with millions of members and volunteers operating in over 190 countries around the world. The Australian Red Cross was first formed in August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War by Lady Helen Munro Ferguson as a branch of the British Red Cross Society. Even before that, its roots stretched back even further to the formation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was formed in Geneva, Switzerland in 1863.

The idea of the Red Cross was a simple one: to create a worldwide organisation of volunteers to assist, firstly, those on the battlefield and, later, civilians, through the Geneva Conventions. Within months of its formation in the turbulence of World War I, the Australian Red Cross became a household name and the leading wartime charity. Focusing on assisting the sick and wounded in war, including soldiers, their dependents and Allied civilians overseas, the Australian Red Cross played a vital role both in Australia and overseas.

By the Second World War, the Australian Red Cross had become the largest voluntary organisation in Australia, made up of over 450,000 members, 95 per cent of whom were women. The period after the Second World War saw reconstruction and regeneration that focused on social welfare, national emergencies, national disasters such as floods and bushfires, and the development of a world-class blood donation and transfusion service. Today, a network of around 25,000 staff members and volunteers across the country provides support for Australians through a wide range of community services, disaster relief and help in emergencies, and support programs for migrants in transition.

Out of the thousands of staff who work for the Red Cross, I would like to mention that my husband's brother, Dr Yew-Wah Liew, is a proud member of this dedicated workforce. My brother-in-law has worked for the Australian Red Cross for over 32 years. He started on 1 June 1990 and he has held many high-level management positions within the Australian Red Cross over three decades of his career. He currently manages the Red Cell Reference Laboratory unit in Brisbane. He is always very passionate about increasing the blood bank of Australia to ensure there is enough blood, and different types of blood, available to save lives.

He noted that I often praised multicultural organisations in South Australia about their active involvement in the Red Cross. He said he was very impressed by the blood donation drives by so many multicultural individuals and community groups on an annual basis. I place on the record my special thanks to everyone who participates in blood donations on a regular basis.

As shadow minister for communities I am passionate about supporting the most vulnerable members of our community and ensuring that everyone has the right to feel safe, to have a place to live, food on the table, access to health, education and jobs, and is given equal opportunity to participate in our society. The Australian Red Cross is a vital component within the non-government community service sector, and its motto of the 'power of humanity' encourages small acts of kindness when times are tough.

I had the great honour of joining the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, for a meeting with Jai O'Toole earlier this year. I want to commend Jai for doing a great job as the South Australian director for Australian Red Cross, who is responsible for leading Red Cross operations across the state.

In addition to Jai O'Toole, I would like to make very special mention of the dedicated team whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. Some of the team members include Migration Support Programs team leader Sue McNamara, Catherine Maynard and the Health in My Language project coordinator, Ms Dulce Diaz-Llanos Montes.

The best way to illustrate the type of work done by the Red Cross is for me to provide some snapshots from the 2021-22 annual report. The report highlights the scale of the Red Cross's impact across Australia. The COVID pandemic plus natural disasters have certainly placed intense pressures on emergency services and community sectors over the last couple of years. The Australian Red Cross supported 131,000 people during 42 emergency activities, including bushfires and devastating floods across Australia.

As the shadow minister for multicultural South Australia, I would like to take this opportunity to also highlight the important work done by Red Cross to assist multicultural communities. The Red Cross provides a wide range of support services to refugees, people seeking asylum, people in immigration detention and other people who are vulnerable as a result of migration. As we watch the terrible conflicts and war events unfolding in Ukraine and the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, in Myanmar and in other parts of the world, the services of Red Cross include tracing and reconnecting families who have lost contacts as a result of international or internal conflict, war and disaster, and providing emergency financial support to temporary visa holders and those who have an uncertain visa status.

The Red Cross is also involved in helping migrants and refugees to overcome employment barriers through programs such as Connect. Match. Support, which provides detailed client support to jobseekers and employees. Connect. Match. Support builds capacity by connecting migrants with an English language course, training and education, and digital literacy training, while supporting business during and after the recruitment process to increase the chance of sustainable employment outcomes.

Another fantastic program Red Cross that runs in partnership with the Muslim Women's Association of South Australia is a wonderful Learning English Through Food Project. Women from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, Jordan and Egypt learn conversational English while they cook and have an opportunity to share their personal migration stories, recipes and cultural customs in a warm and welcoming environment. The participants have undertaken food safety training and are developing a recipe book as part of the program and have the opportunity to put their skills on display at the Adelaide Central Markets during Refugee Week each year. I have had the honour to be invited as a special guest speaker to this event and it is always very enjoyable.

Another program I would like to highlight to honourable members today is the Health in My Language Program that was launched in South Australia earlier this year. The Australian Red Cross received commonwealth government funding to partner with the Multicultural Centre for Women's Health to deliver this important health project to improve COVID-19 vaccine literacy and decrease barriers to vaccination for migrant and refugee communities.

Through the Health in My Language Program, a team of bilingual health educators were trained to deliver in-language education sessions about the COVID vaccine to community groups and multicultural organisations in South Australia. In multicultural health education in South Australia, educators are all women and are delivering education sessions across a range of health topics, including healthy relationships, wellbeing, parenting skills, healthy eating and managing anxiety.

I was honoured to attend the launch of Health in My Language in August 2022 and meet the incredible women who are undertaking these important health education sessions. It was a fabulous event, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and accessibility to health information, and it was really a wonderful opportunity to meet all the contributors.

Congratulations to the Red Cross SA team and volunteers for their amazing work every day to mobilise the power of humanity and make significant differences in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable South Australians. It is a great honour to move this motion today, and I encourage all honourable members to support this motion to recognise Red Cross in parliament. I commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.